Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Danny's Oscar Predictions 2010

Stephen King said it best in his latest Entertainment Weekly column: To paraphrase: "The Oscars are most important for people who like movies, not for those who love them."

And that's why the Oscars can be so frustrating for those of us who are true film fans - so much of the awards and the awards build-up is about politics, politics, politics. Whenever you hear so-called experts making their predictions, you hear every reason in the book why a particular movie or talent will win, but only rarely do you hear "because they were the best."

This year, there are ten Best Picture nominees, presumably with the idea that expanding the number of nominated films helps to make the Oscars more populist. That's great, but should that automatically mean that the highest-grossing movie of the year wins? I hope not. Personally, I like having ten nominees. Even if certain films seem like odd choices, there are others that 100% deserve to be there, like A Serious Man or District 9, that probably would not have gotten a shot if there were still only five slots. That said, some people seem to get so bent out of shape because they think that the Oscars typically favor smaller, more obscure films. If the best film of the year is small and obscure, then I say it should be awarded regardless of box-office gross. This year, the best film of 2009 was The Hurt Locker. There are other movies that came close, very close. Personally I could make a case for A Serious Man, Inglorious Basterds, or even District 9, at least in terms of other nominated films. But was Avatar in the same league as those films? At first, upon its release, many wanted to say yes. But I think that as time has passed, reaction has cooled. The visuals of Avatar were indeed spectacular and award-worthy, but the movie, as a whole ... well, it was great, but not in that very top, absolute elite category.

That's why I hate having to speculate on box office gross or populist appeal or which director is more likable or anything else that's tangential to the movie itself. I say may the best movie win. And in 2009, that movie was, I think, The Hurt Locker.

But hey, predicting things can be fun, and even if to me an Oscar isn't necessary for creative validation, it's still cool when your favorite movie, or director, or actor wins. So here are my picks - who should win, and who I think will win. And yeah, I tend to be optimistic and predict that some of my should-wins will win. But ... the Oscars have actually had a pretty good track record these last few years, in my opinion. In fact, Best Picture winners like The Departed, Slumdog Millionaire, and No Country For Old Men all correllated with my own picks for the #1 movie of their respective years of release. So I've been somewhat in tune with Oscar over the last few years, I guess. We'll see if the same holds true this time around ...



Should Win: The Hurt Locker

- As I said above, this to me was the best film of 2009. No other movie from this past year could claim to be as complete of a package. Hurt Locker boasts an incredible cast, stunning, ultra-intense direction, a deep and memorable script, and themes that really hit home during this tumultuous era of international conflict. To me, Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man are right up there. So is District 9. Precious is another one that it's hard not to root for. But ultimately, it's Hurt Locker FTW.

Will Win: The Hurt Locker

- Hey, I've got to go with my streak of best movie pics ending up winning Best Picture. I think that enough people have seen this movie on DVD and blu ray at this point that it has widespread awareness. And I think that people who have seen it are largely blown away. I think that having ten nominees dividing votes will ultimately help the one film that has few real detractors.


Should Win: Kathryn Bigelow

- This one is tough. Of the nominees, I think both James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino are very deserving. Avatar was a visual tour de force, and Inglorious Basterds combined action, suspense, and comedy like few other movies before it. But ultimately, I think Kathryn Bigelow deserves the win. Hurt Locker was one of THE most intense movie-going experiences I've ever had. It's amazing, because I remember seeing the movie in close proximity with Transformers 2, supposedly the summer's big action blockbuster. In one fell swoop, The Hurt Locker and Bigelow showed Michael Bay how to do action the right way, and she did it in the context of a movie that was also cerebral, layered, and nuanced. Bigelow delivered her masterwork with The Hurt Locker.

Will Win: Kathryn Bigelow

- James Cameron may be the biggest name in this pool, but I think Bigelow is the favorite. She has momentum on her side and I think she's easy to root for. She's a woman making action movies bolder and ballsier than her male counterparts. She knocked it out of the park with The Hurt Locker. I think this is her moment.


Should Win: Jeremy Renner

- As great as Jeff Bridges was in Crazy Heart, The Hurt Locker was the better movie, and it was Jeremy Renner who delivered what was, to me, the year's most memorable performance. Bridges was great, but he was Jeff Bridges. Renner in this one broke through to the other side. He's now at the top of my list to play every badass action movie role there is. He played a character both iconic and nuanced. He deserves to win. And for the record, this category is missing numerous deserving nominees. Sam Rockwell in Moon, Sharlto Copley in District 9, Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man, and Viggo Mortenson for The Road ... for starters.

Will Win: Jeff Bridges

- Everyone loves Jeff Bridges. The guy is awesome. He's The Dude, fer crying out loud. And in Crazy Heart, he was vintage Jeff Bridges. It was an awesome performance, but more so it was a sort of reminder of how great this guy has always been. For that, I think he's the favorite to win.


Should Win: Gabourey Sidibe

- To me this is absolutely no contest. Gabourey was phenomenal in Precious. It was a transformation. It was an iconic role. It was a powerful performance. A breakthrough performance. This is a category where I'm pretty surprised by who was and wasn't nominated, but at the end of the day, Sidibe's Precious performance was the year's best.

Will Win: Gabourey Sidibe

- I don't think many are predicting Gabourey to win, for some reason, but I am. I mean, like I said above, this was an AMAZING performance. I can't honestly see how anyone can put Streep in Julie & Julia or Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side in the same league. Those are the big names, but I predict something of an upset, because Gabourey was too good to ignore.


Should Win: Christoph Waltz

- No contest. For one thing, the nominee pool is incredibly weak other than Waltz. Matt Damon's five minutes of blandness in Invictus? Are you serious? Where are the supporting actors from The Hurt Locker?! But yeah, Waltz was awesome in Inglourious Basterds - a villain for the ages, and one of Tarantino's most memorable characters to date.

Will Win: Christoph Waltz

- Again, no contest. It's a weak pool of nominees. And Basterds needs a couple of bones thrown its way since it likely won't win for Best Picture or Director. An wasy win for Waltz.


Should Win: Mo'nique

- Similar to the Best Actress category, I think Mo'niqe's performance in Precious was just crazy-intense and ultra-memorable, and it's hands-down the best in this category. Anna Kendrick, Vera Farmiga, and Maggie Gyllenhaal were excellent in Up In the Air and Crazy Heart, but Mo'nique delivers a gut-wrenching performance that stands heads and shoulders above the pack.

Will Win: Mo'nique

- Unlike in the Best Actress category, Mo'nique has no huge, big-name competition to distract from her breakthrough performance in Precious. Farmiga and Gyllenhaal might be more glamorous choices, but still, I think this will be a fairly easy win for Mo'nique.


Should Win: Coraline or The Princess and the Frog

- Sorry, I just don't think this was Pixar's year. Up was great, but much moreso in its first fifteen minutes. After that, it became standard kids-movie fare. On the other hand, I thought that Coraline was an amazingly-realized, wholly unique animated fantasy film that seemed to really capture the spirit of Neil Gaiman's dreamlike writing. It was a dark, creepy movie full of wonder and spectacular imagery. By the same token, The Princess and the Frog was a spectacular return for traditional Disney animation. To me, it skillfully blended classic Disney themes with a more modern sensibility, and it worked wonderfully. Both of these films were great animated movies. Pixar had its shining moment with Wall-E, and to me Up was not in that same league of greatness. Meanwhile, I thought Fantastic Mr. Fox was a bit overrated - Wes Anderson in animated form didn't quite work for me.

Will Win: Up

- I think there's this weird consensus that Pixar must be honored this year. There's still leftover resentment that Wall-E wasn't nominated for Best Picture, and now you see Up in the Best Picture race. To that end, it basically has to win *at least* Best Animated Feature, right?


Should Win: ???

- Unfortunately, I haven't yet see any of the nominated films. I am really intrigued by the Israeli film Ajami though, and I'm hearing amazing things about A Prophet, which is currently in theaters in limited release.

Will Win: A Prophet

- From the sheer buzz that A Prophet is getting, with people comparing it favorably to the likes of The Godfather, I feel like it has to be the favorite. Then again, this category tends to be pretty unpredictable, so you never know.


Should Win: A Serious Man

- This is a tough one, but I think the Coens are geniuses, and their screenplays are consistently works of art in and of themselves. The dialogue in A Serious Man is so rich, the characters so funny, the situations so darkly hilarious, that to me this one is right up there with the Coen's best. And it's a tough call, because The Hurt Locker had an amazingly-structured screenplay that hit all the right beats. And man, Inglourious Basterds was just crackling. Those three movies had three of the best scripts of the decade, so it's tough to pick one. But to me, the Coens are the best screenwriters working today. Most movies make you think "yeah, I could do better." Not A Serious Man. Instead you think "man, *how* do they do it?"

Will Win: Inglorious Basterds

- I think this one boils down to the fact that a lot of people saw this movie, and a lot of people surely came away highly impressed by the great script. The Hurt Locker also has a strong shot. And it'd be a cool surprise if A Serious Man wins. But I think this might be Tarantino's to win - I mean, I can't remember the last time so many people were writing reviews OF A SCREENPLAY when a draft of the script got leaked way back when.


Should Win: District 9

- There's something to be said for a sci-fi movie that's a burst of originality and imagination. District 9 works so well, I think, in part because the script continually defies all expectations. It dared to make its main character a complete asshole. It dared to morph from faux-documentary into balls-to-the-wall action movie. It dared to mix sci-fi and horror and socio-political commentary. If only more sci-fi movies were made out of scripts as unique and daring as this one.

Will Win: Up in the Air

- I think it's ultimately going to be a tough night for Up In the Air, but this one will be its token prize. And look, it is a great, great screenplay, with many memorable moments, and some really great interactions between its main characters. It's also a story that feels relevant and timely. I think it's probably the favorite to win here.


Should Win: ???

- Another category where, unfortunately, I haven't seen any of the nominated features. Honestly, none have really jumped out at me as must-sees, but I'm sure I'm missing out on one or two great films. I have to say though, one of my absolute favorite movies of 2009 was Anvil: The Story of Anvil - one of the best rock-docs I've ever seen - funny, sad, and endlessly entertaining. How or why it wasn't nominated, I have no idea.

Will Win: The Cove

- Most of the buzz seems to be around eco-doc The Cove, so that's my pick to win it. I haven't really heard much about any of the other nominees, to be honest.


Should Win: ???

- I honestly don't remember the scores for any of the nominees being all that memorable, but I may need an additional viewing to really get a better handle on it. I do distinctly remember wishing that Avatar had had a better, more epic score given how cool the rest of the movie's aesthetics were.

Will Win: Up

- Just a feeling that Up could take this one by default. We shall see.


Should Win: The Weary Kind (from Crazy Heart)

- I really enjoyed the music from The Princess and the Frog, but I think Crazy Heart nailed it with this key anthem from the movie. For Crazy Heart to work, you really had to buy Bad Blake as a legit country music legend, and a song like The Weary Kind accomplished that, while also being a nice thematic tie-in to the movie's central themes.

Will Win: The Weary Kind (from Crazy Heart)

- I think it's probably a shoe-in. When you get a memorable song like this one that's so deeply tied to the fabric of a movie, it tends to win.


Should Win: The Hurt Locker

- Like I said earlier, The Hurt Locker showed up summer action movies with more hype and bigger budgets by showcasing some of the most intense, visceral action of this past year, or this past decade. Some of the credit for that, I think, has to go to the movie's great editing.

Will Win: The Hurt Locker

- For all the reasons mentioned above ...


Should Win: Avatar

- I'm not an Avatar hater. In fact, I'm a huge fan. I just don't think it was on the same level, storytelling-wise, as movies like The Hurt Locker or District 9. That said, Avatar's visuals were absolutely jaw-dropping, and a lot of that was the sweeping cinematography that took us on a journey through a breathtaking alien landscape. Avatar deserves the win.

Will Win: Avatar

- Again, for all the reasons mentioned above.


Should Win: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

- Terry Gilliam and his team winning an Oscar ... yep, that would be awesome.

Will Win: Nine

- It has to win something, right?


Should Win: Avatar

Will Win: Avatar

- No contest - this was the year's f/x game-changer. Avatar deserves to win for its revolutionary visuals.


Should Win: Star Trek

Will Win: Star Trek

Hmm ... pretty weak entries in this category. Star Trek I guess is the winner by default, even if your basic Vulcan makeup job has been around since, what, the 60's? I guess it wins for Zoe Saldana's green roommate?


Should Win: The Hurt Locker

Will Win: The Hurt Locker

- The single movie "sound" from 2009 that sticks with me? The sniper-fire from that one amazing scene in The Hurt Locker. I'll go out on a limb and predict that others had a similar experience.


Should Win: Star Trek

Will Win: Avatar

- If you've seen Star Trek on Blu Ray, you've gotta appreciate just how slick this movie is from an A/V perspective. But look, I think Avatar will sweep just about all of these more technical categories.


Should Win: Avatar

Will Win: Avatar

- Part of me wants to root for Dr. Parnassus, but I think the game-changing nature of Avatar ultimately wins out.


Should Win: ???

Will Win: Logorama

- Why not? I say let's start a movement - LOGORAMA FTW!


Should win: ???

Will Win: Instead of Abracadabra

- Hmm ... intriguing title, right?


Should Win: ???

Will Win: The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant

- Hmm ... sounds timely and important.

- Okay, those are my picks. Again, most of the time I'd rather the best movies win even if it invalidates my predictions. I'll be rooting for The Hurt Locker, for Inglorious Basterds, for A Serious Man, and District 9. Of the nominated movies this year, those were my favorites. I think the women of Precious should win big. I think Avatar is a lock for visual f/x. I think there are a number of amazing films that were barely nominated, if at all, so at the end of the day, these awards are by no means definitive. But here you go. May the best movies win.

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