Friday, February 25, 2011

Danny's 2011 Oscar Picks and Predictions

- Well, it's going to be a very interesting year for the Oscars. If you've read my blog over the last few years, then you know that I've had a pretty good track record of picking some of the main categories, and my record for picking Best Picture in particular has been perfect over the last couple of years. To be honest though, I've been pretty certain of my Best Picture pick for several years running, but this year, I'm finding it a little tougher to call. Same goes for the major acting awards. There were a lot of great, great movies in 2010, and a lot of amazing performances. But there also weren't a lot of once-in-a-lifetime, knockout-punch performances that are guaranteed Oscar winners (think Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood). I think that top to bottom, the Best Picture nominees are all awesome films. I wouldn't be particularly upset if any (well, most) of them won, even though yes, I have my favorites, and yes, there are certain films I do think got snubbed. As always, the academy has certain genres they favor, and certain others they ignore year after year. At the same time, it's kind of funny to see all of the campaigning that goes on and all of the speculation about who will or won't win, about who is or isn't a favorite or a front-runner. There is so much back-and-forth, and you wonder how much actual merit or basis in reality a lot of these conversations actually have.

I mean, all of a sudden, The King's Speech is considered a front-runner for Best Picture, and I know that many are picking it to win. To that I say: "Really?" Talk to people who see a lot of movies and ask them their favorite film of 2010 - most will say they loved The King's Speech, sure, but how many will say it was their #1 movie of the last year? Now, it could still win Best Picture. It wouldn't be a surprise or a shock, but I also wouldn't bank on it. To me, there are three true front-runners for Best Picture in terms of sheer odds of winning - The King's Speech, Black Swan, and The Social Network. It will be very interesting to see which of these comes out on top, but to say right now that one is an odds-on favorite is very, very premature in my opinion. Still, as I'll talk more about below, I think that the overall momentum is still on the side of The Social Network. I'm confident in calling it the best movie of 2010, and I think many feel the same.

At the end of the day though, I am happy to see so many great movies in the running. I was lucky enough to see all ten of this year's Best Picture nominees, and like I said, they are all excellent, top-tier films. The Kids Are All Right, True Grit, Inception, Winter's Bone, Toy Story 3 ... I don't know how much of a chance these movies have to win the top prize at the Oscars, but again, I wouldn't necessarilly be upset if any of them did.

At the same time, I do think it's a continual shame that great-but-nontraditional movies like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Let Me In are so overlooked come awards season. It feels fairly futile to argue that these sorts of movies deserve to be mentioned alongside more traditional prestige pics, but to me, they should be right up there in the running for multiple Oscars. Will horror, sci-fi, or comedy films ever get their due? It makes you wonder if the Oscars should in fact introduce some new categories to represent a more diverse array of titles. On the other hand, thank god that the Oscars are not yet at the level of the Golden Globes, where duds like Alice In Wonderland and The Tourist are honored for little more than their relative star-power. Screw that. I'm happy to see under-the-radar (for now) actors like Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, and Jackie Weaver get well-deserved nominations.

And hey, as much as I dismiss most of these big awards shows as self-congratulatory and lame, it's still fun to make predictions and root for your favorites. So that being said, here are my picks and predictions for this year's Oscars.



Should Win: The Social Network
Will Win: The Social Network

- The Social Network was my pick for the best film of 2011, and to me it deserves to win the Oscar for its sheer quality and for its relevance and timeliness. Of all the films I saw in 2010, this was the one that really and truly blew my mind. And it's for that reason that I also think it WILL win. Yes, Oscar voters sometimes go with classic prestige pictures like The King's Speech over hipper, edgier fare. But it's 2011, and there are enough younger Oscar voters to tip the scales. I can't imagine many of those younger voters picking King's Speech over Social Network. Black Swan will probably get some of those younger votes, and deservedly so. If there's any one movie that to me was neck and neck with Social Network, it's Black Swan, a movie that might just be Aranofsky's best. But Social Network, despite claims to the contrary, is still the movie to beat.


Should Win: Jesse Eisenberg
Will Win: Colin Firth
- This is one of the toughest categories to call. I feel like Jesse Eisenberg deserves this one. His performance in The Social Network was awesome, and was a true breakthrough turn. I didn't 100% think of him as a great actor before ... now I do. We all know that Firth is a great actor, and his turn in The King's Speech was another very Firth-ian role. It was an amazing performance, no doubt - but I actually felt like Geoffrey Rush stole the movie a bit and was the real standout as compared to Firth. Overall, I think Oscar voters tend to go with more experienced actors who have that old-school sort of gravitas, and for that reason I think Eisenberg's performance may get overlooked a bit. Firth is the safe bet, though I do think there is room for an Eisenberg upset - something I personally would like to see. Otherwise, Bridges was great as always, but it was more of a supporting role than a true lead. Franco was also great, but not mind-blowing. Javier Bardem was superb in Buitiful, but the movie overall was only okay.


Should Win: Annette Benning
Will Win: Annette Benning

- This is the other one that is incredibly tough to call, and it's another battle between old and new (even though Natalie Portman is very well established at this point). In this case though, I actually think that Annette Benning deserves the win. As good as Portman was in Black Swan, I think it was a director-driven performance. Meaning, Portman's memorable performance was so effective partly thanks to her, and partly thanks to Darren Aronofsky's mind-melting direction and storytelling. It was great work, but I think other actresses could also have pulled it off. On the other hand, Benning flat-out blew me away in The Kids Are All Right. It was a naturalistic, funny, emotional performance that might just be a career-best milestone. And I do think that voters will recognize that, and ultimately give the gold to Benning, even though Portman's turn has been more hyped. By the way, Jennifer Lawrence was awesome in Winter's Bone, and is right up there with the best in the category. She probably won't win this year, but she's a definite dark horse.


Should Win: Geoffrey Rush
Will Win: Geoffrey Rush

- This is a tough one, if only because Christian Bale has been so historically passed over by the Oscars, and because he's so good in The Fighter. But to me, The Fighter is probably the lesser of all of the major films nominated for multiple Oscars. It's a very good movie, maybe even great, but not on the same level as The King's Speech or The Social Network. So I like to award the best actor, but also the best overall part, the best overall character. Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech was that in my opinion. It was just one of those timeless performances that people will remember for a long time to come. As for Bale, he really took it to another level in The Fighter - it's just that the rest of the movie didn't quite live up to that performance. Otherwise, this is a super loaded category. Jeremy Renner was fantastic in The Town, as was John Hawkes in Winter's Bone and Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right. And there are so many other deserving actors that didn't even get a nomination: Andrew Garfield in The Social Network, Michael Shannon in the underrated Runaways, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception. Anyways, part of me wants to give the nod to Bale, but overall, I think that Rush should and will win.


Should Win: Amy Adams
Will Win: Amy Adams

- This is one of the weakest of the major Oscar categories, lacking a true standout in my opinion. Amy Adams was outstanding in The Fighter, and she's my overall pick here. It's odd though in that I think Bale is the star of the movie, so it's more a case of Adams winning by default thanks to weaker competition in her category. I would definitely pick Adams over Melissa Leo though. Leo was funny in the movie, but Adams played a much more fleshed=out character. I also liked Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, but she was really a lead actress, and despite that was probably a bit overshadowed by Jeff Bridges. Helena Bonham Carter was also very solid in The King's Speech, but didn't make quite the same impact as the movie's two male leads. I say this one goes to Adams, although I think the category is pretty lacking overall. No love for Chloe Moretz in Let Me In? How about Marion Cotillard for Inception?


Should Win: David Fincher
Will Win: David Fincher

- Look, Fincher is easily one of the best, most visionary directors of the last two decades, and The Social Network might just be his best movie to date. What's so amazing about his work with this one is that he took a dialogue-heavy script that could have looked and felt like a TV episode, and made it into an intense, ominous, apocalyptic epic. I think the voters will acknowledge that achievement. Now, right behind him in my opinion is Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan, which was just an amazing directorial achievement. And of course the Coens are always right up there as well, though I don't think True Grit is them at their absolute best. This category contains easily the biggest, most glaring omission of the awards, though. I mean, how is David O. Russell nominated but NOT Chritopher Nolan? Ridiculous!


Should Win: Toy Story 3
Will Win: Toy Story 3

- First, let me just say that I absolutely loved How To Train your Dragon. It's Dreamworks' best animated feature to date, and is really right up there with Toy Story 3. But I think that Toy Story was just a little bit better and more impactful, so I give it the edge. Now, in terms of predicting who will win, this one has got to be a no-brainer, right? How can Toy Story lose if it's also nominated for Best Picture? That said, I do wish that this category had more than three nominees. I think that both Tangled and Megamind (and maybe Legend of the Guardians) deserved to at least get a nomination.


Should Win: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Will Win: Exit Through the Gift Shop

- Hmm, this is an interesting category. On one hand, Exit was one of the year's best films - a fascinating, thought-provoking look at the nature of art. On the other hand ... was it even "real" ...? I came away from the movie with the impression that the whole thing was an elaborately-staged bit of meta-fiction from Banksy, and I don't know to what extent that ambiguity will influence Oscar voters. But, there's no other huge standout in the category, so Exit is still probably the favorite to win. There is certainly room for an upset though, as voters may want to pick a more straightforward doc. Something like Restrepo could pick up a surprise win.


Should Win: ?
Will Win: Biutiful

- Of the nominees, I've so far only seen Biutiful. Javier Bardem was fantastic in it, but it didn't 100% work for me in terms of its narrative. I imagine others will feel the same, but I'm also not sure what the alternative is. I've been curious to see Dogtooth, but it seems way too out-there for the Oscars. Biutiful, for all its flaws, is a very Oscar-ish sort of movie, so even though I found it to be sort of pointless and needlessly depressing, I'd still predict it to nab a trophy.


Should Win: True Grit
Will Win: True Grit

- I pick True Grit because the Coens are always the best in terms of creating these detailed, left-of-center worlds for their films. Doing a Western really gave the brothers a chance to cut loose in that respect, and all the little visual details in True Grit add up to a totally engrossing genre excercise. True Grit will get a bone or two thrown its way, and this will be one of them.


Should Win: Black Swan
Will Win: Black Swan
- While I think that David Fincher will take the directing award, I think Black Swan will be recognized for cinematography. The film does an amazing job of creating this immersive, nightmarish world, and the overall choreography and dynamism of the film is off the charts. Inception could upset - that zero gravity fight scene alone was stunning enough to make the movie deserving. But I think the haunting cinematography of Black Swan will prevail.


Should Win: True Grit
Will Win: The King's Speech

- When I think of the Coen Bros., I think of memorable, iconic characters. And what would characters be without their costumes? With the help of Jeff Bridges, True Grit's Rooster was that same sort of iconic character, and you've got to give a lot of credit to the costuming department for making it all come together. That said, Oscar loves a British period drama in this category, so I just can't bet against The King's Speech.


Should Win: The Social Network
Will Win: The Social Network

- I'm pretty surprised that Inception isn't nominated in this category. If it was, it might be my pick. But of the nominees, I think The Social Network can and should win, easily. The way that Fincher and co. blended images, music, dialogue, etc. was really pretty incredible. They "mixed" the script in such a way that they somehow, against all odds, created one of the most visually dynamic movies of the year.


Should Win: Tie: The Way Back / The Wolfman
Will Win: The Wolfman

- Man, I wish that THE WAY BACK had been able to get more attention from the public and from the Oscars. Just an epic, badass movie from Peter Weir, featuring an awesome turn from Ed Harris to boot. One thing I actually did notice in the movie was how you really felt like you were going on this epic, crazy journey with its characters, and the makeup was certainly a big contributing factor. When the characters braved the icy tundra, the arid desert, etc. - you could see in their faces the physical toll that they had endured. Really effective makeup in that movie. And yet, I do love a good creature feature, and The Wolfman (which I thought was underrated overall) had some truly kickass creatures, courtesy of monster makeup legend Rick Baker. I think that overall, voters will vote with an eye towards nostalgia for the Universal monster movies of old, and give The Wolfman the prize.


Should Win: The Social Network
Will Win: The Social Network

- A lot of good scores in this category (although, WTF!, where is Tron?! Daft Punk's score was phenomenal). To me it comes down to The Social Network and Inception. But I think that NIN frontman Trent Reznor has the edge - his moody music fit The Social Network to a T, whereas Hans Zimmer's score for Inception was good, but perhaps a bit one-note.


Should Win: ?
Will Win: Toy Story 3

- I don't like the nominees here. For one thing, why is one of Tangled's least memorable songs the one that's nominated? I think that will hurt its chances, unless people just automatically vote for the Disney musical on the list. Also, again, no Tron! Daft Punk's Derezzed and End of Line say hello. Ultimately, I think voters will simply vote for the familiar and proven combo of Toy Story and Randy Newman, based more on name recognition than anything else.


Should Win: Tron!
Will Win: Inception

- Yes, a nomination for Tron! Seriously though, Tron Legacy was total sensory overload, and the sound in the film was awesome. The potent mix of Daft Punk's amazing score, all the crazy-electro-sound f/x, and all the other ambient noise make this my pick. But, I think Inception will get the nod here, more as a way to give it some small semblance of recognition on Oscar night than anything else.


Should Win: The Social Network
Will Win: The Social Network

- Again, it's amazing to me how dynamic The Social Network was on an audio-visual level. The sound mix in the movie was just awesome, and very immersive. I think about the scene where Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake meet up at a club. The music was so pulsating, the wall of sound so thik, that you practically felt that you were right there with them.


Should Win: Inception
Will Win: Inception

- No questions about this one. Inception had the most badass f/x of 2010, bar none. From cities turning sideways to zero-G combat, you've got to give the nod to Inception here.


Should Win: The Social Network
Will Win: The Social Network

- I've had issues with Aaron Sorkin's writing in the past (Studio 60, anyone?), but The Social Network is probably the best thing he's ever written, and one of the snappiest screenplays ever put to film. The dialogue is just crackling, and structurally, the movie couldn't be more tightly-composed. And it ends with such a great exclamation point to boot. Yes, I do still think that the Coens are, overall, the best screenwriters and most ingenius storytellers in the business today - and True Grit was rich with great dialogue and character moments. But this is the year of Sorkin and The Social Network.


Should Win: Tie: The Kids Are All Right / Inception / The King's Speech
Will Win: The King's Speech

- This is a really, really tough one for me to pick. The three screenplays I singled out above are all completely different from one another but each fantastic in their own way. The Kids Are All Right was such a humanistic, heartfelt, authentic-feeling screenplay. It might be my sentimental favorite to win, just because the movie will probably end up being overlooked by the Oscars on the whole. Meanwhile, Inception was one hell of a mind-bending script. Just the sheer thought that had to have gone in to it - the complexity of the plotting - it's amazing. And then, The King's Speech is just one of those classic stories that is filled with great little exchanges and moments. I think The King's Speech will end up winning, just because there is a great human interest story behind the screenplay, and because it's the least divisive of the movies I listed above.

Should Win: ?
Will Win: no clue, really, so I'll just guess ... The Crush

- I feel like short films about precocious kids always have a good chance of winning, so I'll go with the one about the eight-year-old boy with a hopeless crush on his teacher.


Should Win: Day & Night
Will Win: Day & Night

- Okay, so I've only seen Day & Night (I assume most of you are in the same boat), but I have to admit - it was a pretty darn brilliant little short. And hey, never bet against Pixar - right?


Should Win: ?
Will Win: Killing in the Name

- Haven't seen any of the nominees, unfortunately ... but I've heard some good things about Killing In the Name, and it seems like it covers some pretty timely, relevant subject matter ... so I will go with that one.

And there you have it - my 2011 Oscar picks. May the best movies win.

No comments:

Post a Comment