Another year, another chance to marvel at the hubris that drove the MPAA to expand the Best Picture category to ten nominees. As if last year's crop wasn't padded enough ("Inglourious Basterds" and "The Blind Side" for Best Picture? Really?), this year it's officially a two-horse race. If any nominee besides "The Social Network" and "The King's Speech" is even drawing odds, it would be a miracle. The good news is, both those movies are fantastic. The bad news: there should only be three others in contention, not eight.
But there's no sense complaining about that anymore. The Academy, in their infinite wisdom, will retain the ten nominees until, well, they arbitrarily decide not to anymore. But certainly not for any reason that shows that they are trying to remain relevant in a world of streaming video and massive home entertainment units that put stale, sweat-soaked, gum-on-the-seat multiplexes to shame. Don't forget, this is the same organization that still uses "PG" and "R" ratings.
But for now - like Martin Lawrence in some "Big Momma" sequel - we'll have to deal with the extra padding. And Big Picture Big Sound is here to help trim the fat. So here are my selections for the Academy Awards. As always, my picks are in italics.
See how my Oscar predictions pan out when the 83nd Annual Academy Awards broadcasts live on ABC, Sunday February 27, 2011 at 8pm EST.
Firth is a lock here. Javier's movie is too under-the-rader (despite Julia Roberts' campaigning), Bridges could (and did) do Rooster Cogburn in his sleep, and Jesse's mechanical Zuckerberg was great, but not Oscar-worthy. Franco did surprisingly good work, but this is his year to co-host the Awards, not carry one home. The King better start preparing his speech.
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
John Hawkes, " Winter's Bone "
Jeremy Renner, "The Town "
Mark Ruffalo, "The Kids Are All Right"
Geoffrey Rush, "The King's Speech"
Should win: Rush. Will win: Bale. The Academy loves showy performances like his, especially in the Supporting Actor category. Extra points for nominating excellent character actor John Hawkes in the "it's an honor just to be nominated" department.
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"
Nicole Kidman, "Rabbit Hole"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone"
Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Michelle Williams, "Blue Valentine"
To quote my colleague David Kempler: "It's Natalie's year, and it's not like she doesn't deserve it." Though her performance is remarkable more for its physicality than anything else, I'd still give her the statue. Everyone else is playing for second.
This is a case of who I want to win versus who will win. Melissa Leo has been sweeping up the Awards for her performance in "The Fighter", but I found it too close to caricature. I much prefered Amy Adams raw portrayal of the love interest. Again, the Academy likes "showy", so Leo will probably get it.
If the Academy likes "showy", there was nothing showier this year than "Alice in Wonderland". "Inception" or "The King's Speech" have a shot here, but the Academy may show a soft spot for Tim Burton.
This is the one award that I'll find acceptable for "True Grit".
See: Art Direction. "Alice" should take (and eat) the proverbial cake.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
"Exit Through The Gift Shop"
"Restrepo" was remarkable more as a filmmaking achievement than a film. And "Inside Job" is getting all the buzz.
ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
"The King's Speech"
"The Social Network"
How do you condense 127 Hours of a guy stuck under a rock into a 90-minute movie and make it interesting? For starters: great Editing.
ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SCORE)
"How to Train Your Dragon", John Powell
"Inception", Hans Zimmer
"The King's Speech", Alexandre Desplat
"127 Hours", A. R. Rahman
"The Social Network", Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
This is one of the few real races this year. "Inception", "Speech", "Hours" and "Network" all had memorable scores. Rahman is probably out since he won for "Slumdog Millionaire". "Speech" is the obvious choice since is skews classical. Reznor could be an upset. But I'd like to see Hans Zimmer walk away with it for "Inception".
ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SONG)
"We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3"
"Coming Home" from "Country Strong"
"I See the Light" from "Tangled"
"If I Rise" from "127 Hours"
Isn't this called The Randy Newman Award now?
"Inception" should walk away with the Technical categories.
This is Sorkin's all the way - and deservedly so.
Was there a more original script than "Inception" this year? No there was not. But the "I don't get it" backlash will skew the vote towards "The King's Speech". If "Inception" has to lose, I'm glad it'll be to "Speech".
It's unusual, but it does happen. The Academy will split the Best Picture and Best Director awards as a consolation prize for the Best Picture runner-up. (See "Saving Private Ryan" and "Shakespeare in Love"). This year, it makes perfect sense. "The King's Speech" was the best picture of the year - though the direction of the film was probably the least of its memorable qualities (no offense to Tom Hooper's fine work). Fincher, on the other hand, took a story full of words and nerds and made it one of the most compelling movies of the year. Truly an achievement in direction. (It's also worth noting that he finally kept his obsession with special effects in check). Give Fincher the Directing award and all hail "The King" as Best Picture.