Day Sixty-Six – Oscar Predictions: Best Picture and Director

7 03 2010

It’s the big night. The Oscars are mere hours away and it’s time for the Best Picture and Best Director to be decided.

This year has been interesting. They included an extra 5 nominees for Best Picture to make sure that a snub, like The Dark Knight from last year, wouldn’t happen again. Instead, even with all the extra nominations, it has become a three picture race. I think the Best Director category is a good signal of what would have made the cut had the extra five slots not been introduced.

Without stalling any further, here are my predictions for Best Director and Best Picture:

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Jim Cameron said it himself that the Academy wouldn’t be able to resist giving the Best Director to a woman for the very first time in the Oscars’ 82 year history. Though the fact that she’s a woman had very little to do with the influence on the movie, which is as macho a film as you can get, it will have something to do with the voting. Sadly, the Oscars isn’t always about the merits of the films, but what voting for certain films can symbolize. In this case, it’s a sign of “equality”, which is kind of a joke when the purpose of an award is setting something above all others. Much like a member’s Facebook page, they put a lot of thought into the image they’ll have as much as, if not more than, the actual films themselves. Given that, Bigelow is a safe bet to win.

Best Picture
Avatar
The Blind Side

District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

Although I wasn’t its biggest fan, Avatar will likely win Best Picture. This year, particularly, is trying to get a mainstream audience to watch the Oscars get handed out. You don’t get much more mainstream than Avatar. Many have said it “changed the way films are made”. I don’t believe that statement to be true, but I think the Academy will. Also, if you win the box office, you’ll likely win Best Picture. That is, unless you’re Star Wars.

Those are my picks. I’ll post all my picks and the Academy’s picks tomorrow and tally them up. Any predictions of your own? Feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Enjoy the show and see you tomorrow.

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Day Sixty-Five – Oscar Predictions: Acting

6 03 2010

Acting is a weird category. Much like the big categories, Best Director and Best Picture, the awards can often go to people who are “owed” the Oscar rather than to the best performance. There are certain things you can look for to guarantee a win as well. Play a living person. Wear a ton of make-up. Be a drunk or drug addicted person. For the supporting categories specifically, play a villain.

Given that, you can guess pretty safely who is going to win:

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Jeff Bridges hasn’t won an Oscar, but he’s been around for a while. This is his fifth time nominated without a win, so it seems like it’ll probably go to him. Plus, he played a drunk and he actually sang in his movie. I want to say George Clooney or Colin Firth should win, but Jeff Bridges was great as Bad Blake, plus the odds are in his favor.

Best Actress
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Meryl Streep has been here before. Sixteen times before. Yet she hasn’t won since 1982 when she won for Sophie’s Choice. Now, she’s playing a celebrity and does a dead-on impersonation. The person herself, Julia Child, is very much like a cartoon, so someone who doesn’t know of her may not understand how close Streep is to Julia herself. I’d rather see Carey Mulligan take it home for An Education, but it’s very hard to bet against Streep. Still, it could always go to Sandra Bullock.

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Last year, Heath Ledger won this category for recreating a villain that’ll go down in movie history as one of the creepiest and best ever. In Inglourious Basterds, Waltz creates the happiest and scariest multi-lingual Nazi ever. He was easily the best part of Basterds and the movie was pretty strong all around anyway. I’ve heard Stanley Tucci played an excellent villain in The Lovely Bones as well, and I haven’t seen it myself, but it would be a tragedy not to honor Waltz for this performance.

Best Supporting Actress
Penélope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo’Nique, Precious

I was not crazy about Mo’Nique in Precious. She screams and yells. A lot. That seems to be enough to be considered great performance, but she’s also the only one that seems to follow the rules to predict this type of thing. Not to mention that every prediction out there seems to have Mo’Nique as a lock. I’d rather see it go to either of the ladies from Up in the Air, but it almost definitely won’t go to them.

Next and finally: Best Director and Best Picture.





Day Sixty-Four – Oscar Predictions: Screenplays

5 03 2010

The Screenplay category doesn’t get nearly enough respect come Oscar time. It’s the glue that holds the picture together or the wrecking ball that completely tears it apart. Realistically, if you don’t win the Screenplay Oscar, you shouldn’t even qualify to win Best Picture. Avatar has a chance to break this unwritten rule, as Titanic did with its win, since it’s not even nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category.

I didn’t get through all the screenplays quite yet, but I have seen majority of the movies nominated so I’m making my predictions that way.

Here are the pictures that are:

Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson & Tom McCarthy, Up
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

When I was in film school, I remember reading  that Tarantino was finally going to move forward with his long awaited Inglourious Basterds. Many years later, it’s finally out and it was definitely worth the wait. No one else is able to create as much tension as Tarantino with only two people sitting in a room, chatting over a glass of milk. I’m not a Tarantino die-hard at all. I haven’t really liked much of his work since Pulp Fiction, but this film, and screenplay, made me a fan once again. Such skill and craft in the writing that can’t be duplicated.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, In the Loop
Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
Nick Hornby, An Education
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air

Jason Reitman is easily becoming one of my favorite film-makers ever. When he writes a screenplay, they are so perfectly crafted. There isn’t a wasted word in Up in the Air or his prior screenplay Thank You for Smoking. Every word of dialogue is either there for plot or to shed light on the main character. Regardless of what they are saying or who is saying it, every single word and every single action serves a purpose. It would be horrible if anything but Up in the Air took the win for this category.

I thought I’d have more to say about this category, but I’m getting it up here pretty late. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about these films in the future. Those are my predictions for now.

Next: Acting.





Day Thirty-Five – Reviews: Three Docs and a Best Picture Hopeful

4 02 2010

I love documentaries. As much as I enjoy a well written film, I think there’s something to be said for a documentary that gets you thinking. Documentaries have a democratic quality to them, where the events shape the film, rather than the film-maker shaping the events.

I just wish more people would go see them. The more people go see, the more good documentaries will get funded and made.

Here’s a good start.

Today, I have three reviews for docs and one of the best written films of last year.

Up in the Air

There is not one wasted line in ‘Up in the Air’. Every single word uttered sheds light on the main character, Ryan Bingham. As he lives his seemingly happy life, the people around him bring out the true him, opposed to the one he portrays himself to be when in a room full of admirers. He puts up a hard exterior in order to do that job he does, but with each new person he meets, he loses part of his defenses. In the end, he’s still the same person, just a little more aware of himself than before.

Rating: 95 (4.5 Stars)

Cleanflix

‘Cleanflix’ is more of an examination of Mormon culture than a story about film piracy. How the customers of these video stores justify what is essentially theft is funny, but how much cutting essential scenes can completely change the context of the film is hilarious. I don’t understand why someone completely against violence, drinking and sex would want to watch a Soderbergh movie, but that’s part of its charm. The twist ending of what becomes the main character couldn’t be written this well.

Rating: 95 (4.5 Stars)

Religulous

I’m not usually a fan of Bill Maher. He has arrogance to him that I find annoying. Still, I was a big fan of ‘Religulous’. Rather than Maher just going off on religion, he goes to the people, giving them enough rope to hang themselves with. It’s almost as if he wants to be proven wrong. The thesis that faith isn’t actually proof of anything is pretty solid in that sense. Though his argument is for atheism, I think he makes a better case for agnosticism. Disproving a theory isn’t proof either.

Rating: 90 (4.5 Stars)

Bra Boys

A documentary that has a point to make can still be fair and balanced, but ‘Bra Boys’ is not that film. They openly admit to their transgressions, yet take pride in barely legal behavior. At any given time, they blame the police, the government or the locals for putting them in the corner, without acknowledging that their lewd actions are what get them there in the first place. When they talk about surfing, the doc is at its best, but they really need to leave the politics out of it. Just surf.

Rating: 55 (2.5 Stars)

If you don’t want to take my suggestions, you could always get your own Criticker account by clicking the link below.

Cleanflix is an excellent documentary I got to catch at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, but chances are you won’t be able to see so easily. I’m hoping they get a distributor. Join their Facebook page for updates.

Hopefully they can get this movie out there, it was probably my favorite of the Festival.