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
The Blind Side

District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
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.


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 Sixty-Three – Oscar Predictions: Genre Categories

4 03 2010

This is possibly one of the most interesting years in a while for the genre categories. I still think there’s a good argument for a couple more categories, which I’ll address once I’m through with the predictions, but the genre categories available now are almost more interesting than the big ones.

Starting with…

Best Animated Film
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells

Up is the safe bet here. Pixar has dominated the category since its inception, but this year is a little different. The Princess and the Frog represents a return to the Disney pictures of old and the Academy may be wanting to show their support with gold. Not to mention, Pixar got its first Best Picture nomination with Up, which might be seen as enough of an honor to keep Pixar from taking another Oscar home. Still, looking at the past of the category, it’s near impossible to go against Pixar – especially with Up being Pixar’s best film yet. (I wasn’t that fond of Wall-E).

Best Foreign Language Film
El Secreto do Sus Ojos (Argentina)
Un Prophete (France)
The White Ribbon (Germany)
Ajami (Israel)
The Milk of Sorrow (Peru)

This is the hardest category to predict for three reasons.

One – because I haven’t seen any of the nominees. Though they’ve been available at the art houses in downtown Toronto, it’s been hard to get myself down there to watch these nominees when I know they’ll be on DVD soon, not to mention there are other Oscar nominees I’ve yet to watch.

Two – because there’s been a new front-runner every week. When I was at the Toronto International Film Festival, all the talk was about The White Ribbon. I remember standing in line, in front of what must have been a group of film students fawning over Michael Haneke, the director of the US version of Funny Games. These are the people I didn’t fit in with when I was in film school. I couldn’t appreciate the “art” that these students did, preferring to spend my evenings with John McClane.

From there, the buzz moved to Ajami, which sounds a lot like last year’s Gomorrah, which I had also seen at TIFF. I was not much of a fan of Gomorrah, which focused more on just showing the characters and their crimes without any real purpose or point of view. It was applauded for being risky and not taking sides, but taking sides is what’s risky. I realize I’m attributing a lot of Gomorrah to Ajami, but that’s really all I have to go on without seeing it myself.

The Prophet seems to be the new front runner with it’s strategic release right before the Oscar ballots were due. It’ll be at the top of mind when voters mail in their ballots.

Three – because the voting system is unique to this and the Documentary category. These categories are unique because you are required to watch all of the nominees, unlike the big prizes and technical categories that don’t require voters to see the films. Given that, it’s a much more even playing field and the film is picked for its merits, rather than the game-play that’s involved with the bigger prizes. Knowing this, it makes it hard to pinpoint what people will actually like most, when all politics and “Oscars owed” are stripped from the equation.

KCRW’s The Business recently interviewed an executive from Sony Picture Classics who said even with three films in the running for Best Foreign Oscar, the voting system still makes him unsure of whether he’ll actually win.

For those reasons, I’m going to go with the film with the most recent buzz, which is The Prophet. This is probably the least predictable Oscar, so not having seen any of the films, I’m just as comfortable with this choice as I would be with any other.

Best Documentary
Burma VJ
The Cove
Food, Inc.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home

This is probably the most competitive category of them all. I wouldn’t be shocked if any of these documentaries took the prize home, but my gut tells me The Cove will be the one to do so. I wasn’t too much of a fan of The Most Dangerous Man… with its use of odd animation that really took you out of the story. Also, it seems to cater more to those who were around for these events, more as a “remember this?” than a retelling of the story. Daniel Ellsberg himself happened to be at the screening at TIFF and got a standing ovation. I stood too, but more for his work in life than the film.

Food Inc. is a documentary that made me so angry to watch. They’re convinced that watching the movie will change the way you look at food. Considering I don’t have the vendetta against corporations that his film does, I didn’t see too much of a problem. There are problems, but nothing I didn’t already know. Not to mention, much of the film relies on hearsay from one organic farmer. Clearly he’s biased, but the film takes everything he says as fact. A much better version of this film is King Corn, that takes a much less vindictive look at the influence glucose has on our food.

I haven’t seen Which Way Home, but I’m told that the film isn’t the most technically brilliant. I’m alright with that in most cases, but I don’t know if the voters would be.

Burma VJ is my close second pick. Not only is the subject matter interesting, similar to that of The Most Dangerous Man…, but it has a gimmick to it, intentionally or not, that voters will be able to easily embrace. “Reporting from a closed country” is something that is hard to resist honoring based on pure guts and the danger involved.

Still, The Cove, however one-sided it may be at times, goes after dolphin hunters. Hollywood, the land of paint-buckets being thrown at fur-wearing stars, can get behind what The Cove is trying to sell. It reminds me a little of Sharkwater, a Canadian documentary that focused just as much on the crimes against the shark-world as it did the film-maker and how “brave” he is. He reminded me of Taylor Lautner of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D.

Between The Cove and Burma VJ, I’d have to get behind The Cove since the Academy seems to love animals more than people at times. This will be one of those times.

Clearly I had a lot to say about these genre categories. I’m a huge fan of documentary and animated film, so I tend to watch everything in those categories before they’re even nominated. Really looking forward to Hot Docs in Toronto this year.

Tomorrow, I have just as much to say about the Screenplay categories.

Leave a comment and see you then.

Day Sixty-Two – Oscar Predictions: Music

3 03 2010

Music is a category that everyone can make a reasonable guess for. The problem with the category is it’s probably the most subjective of them all. There are agreed upon qualities that make a film a good film, but for music, there are so many different tastes and attributes that it’s hard to determine what the Academy will look for when thinking about the Best Score and Best Original Song.

My criteria is the most “hum-able” song and score.

Not that it has to be catchy or even “hum-able” in a literal sense, but what do I find myself humming when I’m doing menial tasks. Last year, I found myself humming the theme from The Dark Knight more often than not.

Though there isn’t a score that I find myself humming quite as much as that one, there is one clear winner…

Best Score
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes

I don’t even remember the Score from the other nominees. Avatar‘s was a little over-bearing at times, trying to fill in the gaps for character-development that the script didn’t provide. I didn’t even realize there was a score for The Hurt Locker, which is probably a good thing for the tone of the movie.

Up easily takes it as it conveys every emotion it needs to without ever trying to be the star of the show.

Download or sample the score to Up here.

Best Song
“Almost There,” The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman
“Down in New Orleans,” The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman
“Loin de Paname,” Paris 36, Reinhardt Wagner & Frank Thomas
“Take It All,” Nine, Maury Yeston
“The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart, T-Bone Burnett & Ryan Bingham

Crazy Heart‘s “The Weary Kind” made the film. Aside from how important it is to the plot, it’s the song that got people into the theatre to watch the movie. The music was good all around, but “The Weary Kind” carries most of the weight and does so very well. Though I believe the producers of the Oscars made a good decision in dropping the five seperate performances for each nominated song, this is one I would have enjoyed seeing on the telecast.

Listen to a sample or download the single for Crazy Heart here.

This was one of the easier categories to predict and I’m pretty confident in my choices. Anything other than this would be a shock.

Tomorrow, we guess the Genre categories – Documentary, Animated and Foreign.