Oscar season is once again upon us! Alas, I have been a bad movie go-er this past year and haven’t been able to view all of the nominated films. (Most of, but not all. This mean you, The Blind Side). Nevertheless, I will make my picks laced with wit and sarcasm for all. I will also note that I was right on all counts last year with the exception of Best Actor. I never should have replaced Sean Penn with Mickey Rourke. The Academy eats up biopics. What ever was I thinking? Oh well.
Oscar Picks 2010
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart; Unfortunately, this is one of the films I have yet had a chance to see. I hear nothing but spectacular things about Jeff Bridges and I feel as though this is really his to lose. This may even work out to be one of those Morgan Freeman/Kate Winslet Career Oscars. Bridges, at 60 years old, has given fine performance after fine performance. In Crazy Heart he plays country singer Bad Blake, a tortured man who has nothing left but his music.
George Clooney for Up in the Air; As a career-transition counselor, Clooney’s humor goes beyond laugh out loud funny and resonates as heart-breaking. Here is a man who lives on the road (or in the air rather) for nearly 300 days a year and relies on a routine that none of us would be able to handle. Clooney is spectacular as Ryan Bingham, with that familiar gleam in his eye and charming smile that we all know and love. Will he take home another statue at this years awards? It’s unlikely as there are many strong contenders in this category.
Colin Firth for A Single Man; Again, another movie I haven’t had a chance to see. (Damn Lethbridge and their non-carrying of wonderful films!). From countless hours of reading and research, the conclusion is that this movie belongs to Colin Firth. Matthew Goode and Julianne Moore are brilliant additions to the film – but it is Firth as a gay teacher mourning the recent death of his lover that he gives the performance of his career. If anyone is to give Jeff Bridges a run for his money, it’s Firth.
Morgan Freeman for Invictus; I’m feeling as though I can’t make credible judgment calls as this is another movie I haven’t seen. (But I don’t any other predictions on here, so bite me). Here, Morgan plays Nelson Mandela facing the challenge of making peace with the forces who held him captive for thirty years. Freeman seems like an obvious choice to play the former South African President, capable of both the calm and powerful presence of a man who wants only to pave the way to a new nation.
Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker; The Underdog. I normally don’t enjoy movies involving war, but Renner is so completely captivating that I was hooked from the moment he appeared onscreen. He has such a swagger and confidence as a military bomb diffuser it’s hard to believe that this isn’t his job in reality. It’s also hard to believe that Renner hasn’t really received any buzz from previous work until now. Either way, he is electrifying as a man who lives for a thrill and I would love to see him walk away with a statue on Sunday.
PREDICTION: JEFF BRIDGES for CRAZY HEART
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon for Invictus; I am a Matt Damon fan. Go on, make fun. Alas, I must not be that good of a fan seeing as how I didn’t trudge to the theater to see this film. Damon plays François Pienaar, a rugby player who becomes an unlikely ally of Morgan Freeman’s Nelson Mandela. Peter Travers’ of Rolling Stone claims that ‘Damon brings athletic grace to the role, and a sense of burning conscience.” If that isn’t a glowing review, I don’t know what is.
Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds; The man who will walk away with the Oscar. Maniacal, magnetic, and buckets of fun are a few words to describe Waltz. The Austrian actor steps into the role of Hans Landa, a sinister Nazi officer with the unofficial title of “The Jew Hunter.” He remains utterly terrifying in four languages and is easily the most enjoyable part of the film. He is deserving in all of the accolades and praise he receives and I wait wait to see him win on Sunday.
Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones; *Sigh* I had high hopes for this film, I really did. While it may be been directed by the mighty Peter Jackson and have outstanding source material, the movie is a disappointment as a whole. That being said, Tucci gives an incredibly creepy performance as George Harvey, a man guilty of raping and killing his 14-year old neighbour Susie. With a comb-over for the ages, Tucci keeps the audience of the edge of their seat as they watch him try to save face and keep a constant cover over his tracks. It’s nice to see him finally get recognition for his work, but I’m afraid the competition is much too strong in this category.
Christopher Plummer for The Last Station; Again, another film that Lethbridge refused to pick up. But from experience, it is safe to say that Plummer does a damn fine job of acting in this film. In The Last Station, Plummer portrays Tolstoy, the great Russian writer who finds himself torn in his final years between his wife and his devoted admirers. He delves into the mind of a conflicted man, father of 13 children, and an occasional not-so-loving husband of 48 years.
Woody Harrelson for The Messenger; While the movie as a whole is decent, Harrelson is really the glue holding it together. Which is quite ironic, given that he plays a military officer struggling to maintain his sobriety while showing a young sergeant the ropes of the Army’s Casualties Notification Service. There is a pivotal scene near the end of the movie, after Ben Foster’s character describes a specific experience, that we see Harrelson utterly break down but still maintains a sense of vitality. Breathtaking.
PREDICTION: CHRISTOPH WALTZ for INGLORIOUS BASTERDS
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Helen Mirren for The Last Station; What can’t Helen Mirren do? She’s played The Queen, taken her clothes off for Calendar Girls, and now she is portraying the wife of author Leo Tolstoy, a woman locked in a battle with her husband’s admirers over his lucrative royalties. Mirren takes the same approach here as with all of her roles, carrying herself with poise, tenderness and a dash of fury. While she may give another powerhouse performance, I don’t think her Oscar will be getting any company this year.
Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side; Wait, Miss Congeniality is nominated for an Academy Award? Really, you mean the brunette from Practical Magic? Honestly, Ben Affleck’s co-star in Forces of Nature? Seriously. While I haven’t had a chance to see this film yet, James, my fellow Spotless Mind, tells me that Bullock gives a dynamite performance as Leigh Anne, a suburban mother who takes in an African-American teenager and encourages his talents as a football player. Bullock picked up both the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards and I feel as though we’ll see her onstage to accept the Oscar this weekend.
Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia; Oh c’mon. I had the same issue last year with Meryl Streep. She’s a PHENOMENAL actress, we get it. I think the Academy is simply nominating her for novelty’s sake. That being said, she gives another fine performance as Julia Child, the famous cookbook author known for her goose-honk voice and towering height. Once you get past the ridiculousness of Child’s mannerisms, you’ll find Streep to be very loving and vivacious as the popular cook of French cuisine.
Gabourey Sidibe for Precious; The rookie. Sidibe plays Precious, a pregnant teen trying to overcome the years of abuse from both her mother and father. The latter, in fact being the father of her own two children. While this may only be her first feature film, Sidibe gives such a heart-breaking, convincing performance that you’d think she’d been doing this for years. Through the guidance of Lee Daniel’s stunning direction, this performance will leave you depressed, tearful and very grateful for not having suffered as this poor girl has.
Carey Mulligan for An Education; First off, this was a spectacular film and I think everyone should see it. Secondly, Carey Mulligan is adorable. Here she plays Jenny, a bright 16-year old schoolgirl whose plans of attending Oxford University halt after being charmed by a much older man. Jenny dreams of the days where she is able to live freely in Paris, visiting cafe’s and discuss literature – but first she must have her heart broken. Throughout the film she exudes such an elegance and charm it is very hard not to compare her to Audrey Hepburn.Mulligan does a superb job of acting sweet yet suspecting and plays out for the audience the age old story of a girl becoming a woman. I would absolutely love to see her win on Sunday, but I’m afraid Sandra Bullock remains the front-runner.
PREDICTION: SANDRA BULLOCK for THE BLIND SIDE
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Vera Farmiga for Up in the Air; I really hope this is the role that makes Vera Farmiga a household name. Indie fans will know her from boatloads of films and a lot more will recognize her from The Departed, but this really is Fargima’s breakout role. In Up in the Air, she plays Alex Goran, a traveling businesswoman who begins a no-strings attached affair with George Clooney (or his character rather). She is undeniably sexy and has the pleasure of spouting off some of the films greatest dialogue. “We all fall for the prick. Pricks are spontaneous, they’re unpredictable and they’re fun. And then we’re surprised when they turn out to be pricks.” She’s the perfect counterpart to Clooney’s Bingham and the confidence she carries herself with makes her damn near irresistible.
Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air; We all know a Natalie Keener. She’s smart as a whip and loves to prove people wrong. Kendrick’s portrayal of an ambitious young woman sent on the road with an experienced veteran garners some of the biggest laughs of the film. The scene where Natalie loses her fiance is both hysterical and heartbreaking. And never in a million years did I think an actress from Twilight would ever be nominated for an Academy Award. While I don’t think Kendrick will walk away a winner this year, I do believe that this won’t be the last time we see her nominated.
Penelope Cruz for Nine; I wanted to enjoy this movie, I really did. While it had its moments of enjoyment – it really remains as nothing special. “A Call from the Vatican,” Cruz’s musical number, is one of those enjoyable moments. She struts onstage with fiery sex appeal which leaves no wonder as to why she is Guido’s mistress. While Cruz’s breathes depth and passion into her character Carla – I don’t think she’s a very serious contender this year. Besides, she won last year and that would just be greedy.
Mo’Nique for Precious; The shoe-in for this year’s awards. And again, another surprise. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the lead from Phat Girls would be up for an Oscar. But after watching her as Mary, the abusive mother to Precious, it becomes quite apparent that the nomination is warranted. Mo’Nique is a goddamn powerhouse. Mary is a tortured woman who despises her daughter for stealing her husband and treats her so horribly it leaves you feeling nothing short of depressed. I honestly believe Mo’Nique, of all people, deserves the Academy Award she will no doubt take home this weekend.
Maggie Gyllenhaal for Crazy Heart; Gyllenhaal takes on the role of Jean, a single mother who may be the saving grace Jeff Bridges’ aging country star needs. While it may seem like a basic, contrived role – Gyllenhaal brings her adorable charm and subtle sexiness to the aspiring journalist divorcee. Although I would have rather seen her nominated for 2002’s Secretary, it’s nice to finally see this fine actress receive praise for the outstanding work she does.
PREDICTIONS: MO’NIQUE for PRECIOUS.
Lee Daniels for Precious; From the opening scene and voice-over from our main character, Daniels hits the ground and starts running. He takes a heavy subject and attempts to add light into the dark world the audience and Precious live in. His direction is fearless and unapologetic and creates such memorable scenes for his actors that it’s easy to tell that this man knows what he is doing. Unfortunately for Daniels though, the timing for him is poor as he is up against some very heavy hitters.
James Cameron for Avatar; Humans are the worst. Or that’s what Cameron leads us to believe, with the film that has taken up the last twelve years of his life. In Avatar, Cameron creates one hell of a spectacle, with brilliant colors, dazzling effects and undeniable beauty. As many people have said though, he could have spent a few more years on character development and dialogue. Cameron orchestrates a rush for his audience, taking them on a ground-breaking thrill ride that truly shows what film is capable of.
Jason Reitman for Up in the Air; Another Canadian! (And one more enjoyable than James Cameron). Reitman, just as he did with Thank You For Smoking and Juno, creates a charming, gem of a movie that leaves a smile on your face hours after leaving the theatre. Although still very young in age, the Montreal native, has the technique and finesse of a directing master. He treats his characters as real people and allows them to recite the wonderfully crafted dialogue the script has to offer.
Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker; If there has to be one female director to open the gates for others, I hope that woman is Kathryn Bigelow. (It would also be a plus for to beat out ex-husband James Cameron). Bigelow’s film will completely blindside you and move you in ways you never thought possible. The only word to describe her direction; brilliant. Her shots are breathtaking, epic, and terrifying all rolled into one. She took home the Director’s Guild Award and deserves this award over her fellow nominees. (And I’m not just saying that because I’m a woman, so there).
Quentin Taratino for Inglorious Basterds; Ol’ Quentin will always have his share of haters. I think that just comes with the territory of being Quentin Tarantino. But Basterds, just as Aldo Raine states in the end of the film, may in fact be Tarantino’s masterpiece. He takes a historic story we all know and gives it a complete 180 degree spin…and then some. True of his fashion, the audience is treated with quick cuts, snappy dialogue and brash gore. We should expect nothing less from the man who gave us Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill and triumphs as his unapologetic self.
PREDICTION: KATHRYN BIGELOW for THE HURT LOCKER
Best Animated Feature
Up; The winner. Really, is there any doubt in your mind? Pixar’s latest venture, of a cranky old man’s travels after the passing of his wife, is one of the most touching, emotional movies in years. It makes us laugh, makes us cry and will inevitably make us cheer when it takes home the prize for Best Animated Feature.
Fantastic Mr.Fox; A wonderful, wonderful film. If any other nominee were to give Up an run for its money, it would be this. Wes Anderson has taken the Roald Dahl children’s classic and shaped it into an elegant stop-motion animation flick that is undeniably enjoyable. The voice actors are all perfectly cast, and the soundtrack rightfully deserves its nomination for Best Score.
The Secret of Kells; I have yet to see this film (surprise) although I really would like to. Since I have nothing to offer you, I’ll have you read the film synopsis. [Brendan, a 12-year-old Irish boy, has spent his young life living among monks in an abbey. When a new monk, Brother Aidan, and his unusual cat help Brendan discover his hidden talents as an illustrator, the boy soon finds himself on a dangerous quest to complete the legendary Book of Kells.] It’s a shame it will be losing to Up.
The Princess & the Frog; I’m completely poaching from Alan’s review. [In the end, The Princess and the Frog is a fun if unmemorable effort from Disney, and the question now becomes if they can keep it up and perhaps bring in a second Golden Age.] So, apparently unmemorable and no comparison to Up.
Coraline; A film I absolutely adore. Coraline is the story of a bratty young girl who becomes trapped in an alternate reality after discovering a door in her new home’s living room. The film is sweet, thrilling and the stop-motion animation is phenomenal. This film, unlike many animated features these days, has an innate depth and challenges the viewer to look closer. And just as Up, the film in 3D was an added bonus, although it should get ready to lose to the previously mentioned film.
Avatar; I have my fingers crossed that James Cameron will not be onstage once again shouting, “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD!” (Or in this case, “I SEE YOU!”). Visually arresting, yes…Best Picture worthy…no. Those who say Avatar is the greatest film to be released in years should watch it again. It’s a mediocre story that somehow gets surpassed by the eye-gasm it offers. While it might display some of the most brilliant CGI ever to appear on film, I just feel as though the hype was bigger than the payoff. Please, please don’t win.
The Hurt Locker; It’s a shame that a bonehead producer sent out e-mails urging voters to select The Hurt Locker over Avatar. It was a stupid move that wasn’t needed. The Hurt Locker is clearly the better film. Every single person working on this film knew what the hell they were doing. The cinematography, editing, direction, and performances are all so cohesive and tight that I will be outraged (OUTRAGED!) if it doesn’t take home the prize.
A Serious Man; The Coen Brothers are the Beck of the film industry. They release a high profile film and then a low key film. While they all might be fantastic films – some of them just don’t receive the same exposure as others. A Serious Man is one of their low key films. While it may have been great, I don’t think it was prolific enough to win Best Picture.
Up in the Air; It’s funny how a film about longing for human connection can touch so many people. Canadian Jason Reitman has directed a beautiful movie about the hardships of work, love, and personal relationships. I am quite dumbfounded when I read that people didn’t enjoy this film. A killer soundtrack is set to a charming, lovely film that is easily one of the best of 2009. That being said, The Hurt Locker has the edge over it.
Up; As a shoe-in for the winner of Best Animated Picture, I don’t really feel as though Up is any competition for The Hurt Locker and Avatar. While it’s nice to see Pixar finally be recognized for their ingenious storytelling – I’m afraid it wouldn’t have been nominated had the Academy not added another 5 spots on the ballot.
An Education; The story of a precocious 16 year-old lured into a luxurious life by an older man may be a fantastic movie overall – I just feel as though the timing is poor for it in 2009. Had the movie not been up against strong competitors such as Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker – it might have had a better shot. I’m also a little perturbed by the fact that Alfred Molina (as Jenny’s weary father) was denied a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The same can be said for Peter Saarsgard, who portrays Jenny’s much older seducer. Oh well, I guess any recognition is better than none.
Inglorious Basterds; Tarantino’s opus. It is entirely evident that he put his heart and soul into this movie, crafting a stylistic rewriting of history. While it might be utterly epic, featuring four languages and stellar performances from a stacked cast – I don’t think it holds up next to its competitors. I hope they don’t cut to Taratino for a “gracious loser shot,” because I don’t think he’ll give one.
District 9; District 9 will be using the ever-safe quote of, “It was a pleasure just to be nominated.” A thrill of a film, yes – but not an Oscar winner. If you haven’t seen this one yet though, it’s definitely worth the watch!
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire; While this is a truly moving movie, full of great performances (Lenny Kravtiz AND Mariah Carey) and superb directing – the film of a 16 year-old illiterate teen isn’t as strong as it’s fellow nominees.
The Blind Side; I have yet to see it, although I am confident in saying the movie is not strong enough to be a serious contender. Take that, Sandra Bullock!
PREDICTION: THE HURT LOCKER
There you have it, folks. I’m sorry this entry took so long to post. It’s actually a lot more work picking apart and judging films than I remember. (That and I accidently didn’t save my page and wiped half of my entry clean).
Hopefully my picks are bang-on this year to warrant some bragging rights.