Sunday, January 16, 2011

2011 Oscar Nominations Predictions

Greetings, avid moviegoers! Thank you all for being patient in waiting for the inevitable return of Chris the Critic in blog form. I had fun doing the TV segments but I'm back to doing these full-time. (But don't worry, I'm not totally done with TV either. I am in talks to do a monthly segment.)
Well, it's that time of year again, and if you don't know what I mean by that then you're probably reading the wrong blog. It's Oscar season! As usual I follow the films in the running very closely, inspect top-ten lists, study pre-Oscar awards nominees and winners, and look at professionals' nominations predictions. So, I proudly bring you my third annual predictions for the Academy Awards nominations in all the major categories.
One quick note before I begin: I never seem to get any of these predictions right, so I am now allowing myself an alternate film for every category, so I can put in one additional prediction. And Best Picture gets two alternates, because with double the nominees, they're doubly hard to predict.

Best Picture

127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit

Alternates: Blue Valentine, Winter's Bone

There are four shoo-ins here: The Social Network (and if the Oscars were held today, I think this would win), The King's Speech, The Fighter, and the dramedy The Kids Are All Right. Over the summer, saying Inception would get a nomination would sound like fantasy- a dream, if you will- but it's been doing well in the pre-Oscar awards and seems a pretty good lock for a nomination. There's also the strong argument that The Dark Knight not getting nominated for Best Picture two years ago is one of the reasons we now have ten nominees. Toy Story 3 has an uphill battle to get that nomination, but it looks like their hard work is going to pay off- animated films never get nominated, nor do sequels, but this is undeniably one of the best films of the year, not to mention the highest-grossing of the year. Black Swan is not your typical Oscar fare- too dark, too sexual, too weird- but it's expertly made and thrilling to watch, and has a good shot here. The Town is fairly old and Oscar tends to have a short memory, but the best crime movie of the year should still get recognized, even if director Ben Affleck won't be. A lot of professionals are leaving 127 Hours off their lists, probably with the explanation that the movie is really about James Franco's performance. Well, they clearly didn't see the movie, which is a piece of genius from the guy who won Best Picture two years ago, Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire. If it doesn't get the nomination, it sure as hell deserves it. And I went back and forth over True Grit. Only lukewarm critical reception and okay runnings at the box office suggest the film will be mostly forgotten by the Academy, but it is still racking up nominations from other sources. If my list is incorrect, it will most likely be here.
Winter's Bone is a beloved indie film from the summer. It is a lock for a Best Actress nomination, but the Academy may choose to nominate it here, if it can get out of its short-memory hold. Blue Valentine is also a lock for acting awards, but the movie itself looks so incredibly depressing I can't imagine the general public wanting to see it.

Best Director

Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Christopher Nolan, Inception
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
David Fincher, The Social Network

Alternate: David O. Russell, The Fighter

Fincher and Hooper are locks for their beloved films. Aronofsky and Nolan are the picks for more unusual films. And once again I may be betting too heavily on 127 Hours' chances, but when you stop to think about it, how do you create an engaging movie about a man who can't move? It's almost impossible, but Boyle found a way to do it. The film may be hard to watch at times, but it's still masterfully made. If Boyle doesn't get nominated, then Russell will for his great boxing film. It's just that he's relatively unknown, which hurts his chances at a major nomination here.

Best Actor

Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine

Alternate: Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter

Firth is the favorite to win at this point playing a proud king with a humiliating stutter. Franco is also a lock as the one-man band for the entire film. Eisenberg is pretty young for this category, but no one can deny his screen presence. I went back and forth over Bridges, but since the Western is getting attention, he may get recognized here. He just won last year, which will hurt his chances. And Gosling is pretty much a lock, although the film may end up getting forgotten altogether. There's been surprisingly little attention given to Wahlberg, the lead in his movie, especially considering the attention given the other cast members, but looking at all the other nominations the film is going to get, a Best Actor nomination would seal the deal.

Best Actress

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Alternate: Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole

The locks for this category are Bening, Lawrence, and Portman. Williams should get nominated for her heartrending performance as long as the film doesn't get forgotten. And since her costar (and onscreen wife) will surely get a nod, Moore's chances are limited, but she's a previous nominee and her work in the film is solid and emotionally raw. A twofer in a major category like this would be more than all right. And Kidman is definitely in the running as a greiving mother, but strong competition may keep her crying.
There's also been talk that Hailee Steinfeld, who's campaigning for Supporting Actress for True Grit, may get a surprise nomination here. She is the female lead in that movie, but because of her age, she's much more likely to be included in the lower award.

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Fighter
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Sam Rockwell, Conviction
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

Alternate: Michael Douglas, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Bale is a lock here, and so far is the favorite to win. The Batman actor has an impressive resume reaching back to childhood and he is overdue for his first nomination. Renner is also a good bet as an unstable bank robber. Garfield's age is against him, but his performance as the betrayed Facebook co-founder brings us the film's most memorable scene. And Rush is also a lock as the eccentric speech therapist. Rockwell is the dark horse here, and he's included mostly because I had trouble thinking of who else would fit. He's a strong actor who's also overdue for a nomination, and Conviction is pure Oscar bait material. The Wall Street sequel wasn't very well-received, but Douglas won his Oscar for the original film and is said to be the best part of this one.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Alternate: Mila Kunis, Black Swan

Bonham Carter is a lock here, even though her performance isn't exactly Oscar-worthy in my mind. Adams are Leo are also pretty good bets, and believe it or not, two nominations for the same film is not too uncommon for this category. Although if it happens, they will hurt each other's chances of winning. Steinfeld wowed everyone who saw her performance as a little girl in a man's world, and she is a lock, assuming she won't get upgraded to lead Actress status. Animal Kingdom is a foreign indie film, little-seen in the States, and Weaver's popularity stops at the critics' circle. I hope she doesn't get nominated, although signs point to it being so. If it doesn't happen, then Kunis' memorable performance as a young, partying ballerina is the perfect foil for Portman's high-strung character, and allows us to forget her That 70's Show fame.

Best Adapted Screenplay

127 Hours
The Social Network
The Town
Toy Story 3
Winter's Bone

Alternate: True Grit

The Social Network has all but a lock on the win here, for Aaron Sorkin's crackling whiplash of dialogue. Pixar films usually get a writing nomination, and Toy Story 3 is one of their best films. (And I know it's a sequel, but shouldn't it be for Original Screenplay?) The Town is also a pretty good bet, especially considering Ben Affleck already has an Oscar for writing. A nomination here for Winter's Bone will nicely complement the inevitable Actress nomination, while the script for 127 Hours is not what you'd expect after hearing the true story. The previous winner for Slumdog Millionaire should get nominated again. And the Academy are huge fans of the Coen brothers, so their adaptation of True Grit may just earn them a nod here, although I sense people are cooling on the film.

Best Original Screenplay

Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech

Alternate: Another Year

This race is difficult to predict the winner, but there are several favorites for the nominations. All five picks here should also get a Best Picture nomination, which will nicely complment it. (I'm particularly excited for Inception. It's being left out of all the acting races, and has a good chance here for one of the most original movies in years.) Another Year is pure Oscar bait, but the film entered the race really late and I think will end up being forgotten.

Best Animated Feature

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Alternate: Tangled

I usually don't predict this award, but with only three nominees this year I thought I'd give it a try. Obviously Toy Story 3 is a lock to win here- Pixar films usually are- but Dragon was surprisingly well-recieved by critics, despite it being pretty average. The Illusionist is a pleasant little French film that no one saw in the States, so it will naturally be nominated here. But if the Academy comes to their senses, they'll ignore the foreign trash and nominate the old-fashioned Disney-princess musical Tangled. (The Oscars were very much pro-Disney throughout the 80's and 90's.)

Well, that's everything! The nominations for the 83rd annual Academy Awards will be announced in the early morning hours of Tuesday, January 25th, while the show itself will be the night of Sunday, February 27th. Be sure to tune in and not be left out of the loop! After the actual nominations are out I'll be back to see how well I did. See you at the movies!

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