Internal industry politics and sentiment are always a decisive factor in the Oscar beauty contest, and must always be accounted for (despite the assertions by many that Mickey Rourke would win for The Wrestler a few years ago, I was certain he wouldn’t as he pissed a lot of people off in the early years of his stardom). After a stretch of some years in which darker films have received a lot of accolades (The Hurt Locker, No Country For Old Men, and The Departed), my guess is that the AMPAS voters will go lighter, making for a more predictable Academy Awards shows.
With no further blather then (keeping my speech SHORT!), here’s how I think it will play out on Sunday evening for the top awards (note that these are my predictions, not a consensus of the HeyUGuys contributors):
Writing (Original Screenplay): One would hope the Academy voters would be generous enough to give it to Christopher Nolan’s challenging and demanding script for Inception, but I think that the film is too cerebral (and thus confusing) for many of them. I admire Inception, and what it represents (a studio spending a huge amount of money on an art house heist movie), but don’t love it as it felt it was too coldly mechanical much of the time. I think this is one of several major awards that are going to go to The King’s Speech.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Aaron Sorkin’s superb script for The Social Network, an adaptation of Ben Mezzrich’s ‘The Accidental Billionaires’, is a shoe in; if it wasn’t in the running I would think the Coen’s sublime adaptation of Charles Portis’ ‘True Grit’ would grab the brass ring (‘Fill your hand you son-of-a-bitch!’).
Actress in a Supporting Role: It’s Melissa Leo’s to lose. She is nominated for her turn as a vile matriarch in The Fighter, but Leo’s statuette will also be the Academy’s acknowledgment of all great work she has done previously (including her Best Actress nominated turn in 2009′s Frozen River). Jacki Weaver delivers a performance of almost Shakespearean majesty as another evil mutha in Animal Kingdom, and I’d vote for her, but I don’t think many actual voters will have watched this very downbeat Australian crime drama; if they have cued up their screeners she could be a dark horse surprise however, as she is truly amazing.
Actor in a Supporting Role: I would absolutely love to see John Hawkes win for his hillbilly hard-ass Teardrop in Winter’s Bone; his chilling roadside standoff with lawman Garrett Dillahunt, conducted entirely via a wing mirror, is one of the most heart-stoppingly intense scenes I watched in the past year. However, I think sentimentality will rule the day here as well, and Geoffrey Rush will win for The King’s Speech. And I think Andrew Garfield should have been nominated for The Social Network rather than Mark Ruffalo for the lightweight The Kids Are All Right.
Actress in a Leading Role: Natalie Portman for The Black Swan. The Academy often favors performances that involve a lot of overt heavy lifting, and her fragile ballerina who suffers a mental breakdown is the heaviest by far of the nominated performances in this category. My vote is for Jennifer Lawrence as the determined teenage detective Bree in Winter’s Bone, but alas, it’s not to be.
Actor in a Leading Role: Colin Firth for The King’s Speech, of course; Firth’s emotionally strangled upper class Englishman, his stock in trade, is unstoppable this year. I wish Jesse Eisenberg would nab it for his riveting portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in the best American film of 2010, but he won’t. Javier Bardem was tremendous and heartbreaking in Biutiful, but this isn’t a heartbreaking and downbeat year for Oscar.
Directing: David Fincher for The Social Network. The Academy will acknowledge Fincher, arguably the greatest director of his generation, for his work on this masterful film and his influential earlier works like Seven, Fight Club and Zodiac.
Foreign Language Film: Bardem’s excellent work will be acknowledged here: Biutiful will take it.
Documentary Feature: Banksy’s the man: Exit Through the Gift Shop. The lefties could surprise me though; Matt Damon may rally the troops and Inside Job could take it, but I’m doubtful.
Animated Feature Film: Three words (ok, two words and a number): Toy Story 3.
Best Picture: The King’s Speech. I enjoyed this film as much as anyone else, but never shook off the feeling that I was watching a BBC drama that had been elevated to the level of a theatrical feature. There’s really nothing much that’s cinematic about it, unlike Inception orThe Black Swan or The Social Network or the lovely to look at True Grit (here’s hoping Roger Deakins nabs the Cinematography award). But, as America struggles to find its way forward and out of its social, political and economic morass, a film about overcoming severe personal adversity, starring a stuttering royal and his eccentric ‘advisor’ set in the quaint England of the not too distant past, is just the sort of feel good fare that voters will embrace as an escapist antidote.
Feel free to return to this article on Monday and thumb your nose at me for every one I got wrong…if I do get any wrong. As for me, the Oscars are on far too late but I’ll be up early Monday morning with my tea and toast to watch a recording of the show before I look at email or any broadcast television.