Monday, January 25, 2010

Oscar Nomination Predictions, Round 1

Getting a late start with the Oscar charts this year, but several updates will be forthcoming, a few of them even coming before nominations are announced in just over a week. The chart is ever-evolving, even though most of the eventual winners are all but set in stone.

The announcement comes February 2nd at 5:30am, Pacific time. And by the way: nominations closed over the weekend. Nothing to do now but mull over the possibilities.

1. Avatar
2. The Hurt Locker
3. Up in the Air
4. Inglourious Basterds
5. Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire
6. Up
7. An Education
8. Invictus
9. A Serious Man
The Messenger

Outside looking in: District 9, Star Trek, Nine

Note: The expanded field opens the possibility for wonderful smaller pictures to get deserving recognition, like An Education and, hopefully, possibly, just maybe The Messenger. It also complicates matters. If there were still five BP slots, the top five on my list would be virtual locks, the most predictable best pic field in years -- and that's saying something. But the opening to a bottom five (and let's face it, in the Academy's mindset, that's exactly what it is...a bottom five) gets messy, because there are so few films that are actually deserving. Invictus gets a nod because of Eastwood's clout and nothing else, Up becomes the first animated film since Beauty and the Beast to get a BP nod, and I already mentioned An Education. That leaves two. Nine likely killed its chances by sucking (though if it were directed by Eastwood, it would still get nominated...yeah, I'm still swipin' at you, Invictus) and Star Trek probably lost momentum long ago, in spite of its PGA nod. There is a lot of love for District 9 out there, and it could sneak into the ten. For now, I will go with A Serious Man, though it seems to have faded a bit, and The Messenger, which could sneak in without anyone realizing.

1. James Cameron, Avatar
2. Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
3. Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
4. Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
5. Clint Eastwood, Invictus

Outside looking in: Lee Daniels, Precious; Lone Scherfig, An Education; Neill Blomkamp, District 9; Pete Docter, Up

Note: It was a three-person race between Cameron, Bigelow, and Reitman. Then it became a one-man show, with Cameron the presumed winner. Now it's a two-person race between ex-spouses Cameron and Bigelow, Cameron representing the juggernaut and Bigelow fronting the most widely respected picture of the year. The great news for Bigelow is that there is still time -- time for Avatar to run its course, time for the backlash to cement itself, time for Bigelow's stunning work to become the year's showcase once again. The DGA announces its winner on January 30th, which will give a stronger indication of the eventual winner...but for now the campaign is on.

As for the other nominees, the top four are locked and I assume Eastwood will nab the fifth on pedigree alone. But Daniels could get the nod for Precious, or Scherfig for An Education. An outside spoiler to watch out for is District 9's Blomkamp, whose ingenuity is the primary reason why so many loved that film.

1. Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
2. Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
3. Carey Mulligan, An Education
4. Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
5. Helen Mirren, The Last Station

Outside looking in: Zoe Saldana, Avatar; Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria; Marion Cotillard, Nine

Note: Out of nowhere, Sandra Bullock became the Oscar front-runner. It happened right there before my very eyes, and yet I still never saw it coming. Nevertheless, there she is, sporting her career-best performance and -- even more important to her chances -- those wonderful self-effacing acceptance speeches she gives. She must now be considered the favorite, by a few votes (though the margin may be widening) over Meryl Streep, who for months was considered a lock. The other three are probably foregone conclusions as well, though Helen Mirren might want to watch out for Zoe Saldana, whose work is the heart and soul of Avatar, and who could swoop right in and steal that nomination away.

1. Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
2. George Clooney, Up in the Air
3. Colin Firth, A Single Man
4. Morgan Freeman, Invictus
5. Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Outside looking in: Tobey Maguire, Brothers; Viggo Mortensen, The Road; Ben Foster, The Messenger; Peter Sarsgaard, An Education

Note: Getting fairly predictable. Bridges will win, and it seems inevitable. But Clooney will be there as the distant second, and Firth and Freeman will fill the three and four slots, respectively. For now, with all the Hurt Locker love out there, I will go with Jeremy Renner to round out the five, though we could get a surprise pick like Tobey Maguire, whose Brothers performance attracted a lot of heat, and if voters overlook the overall disappointment of the film. One other possibility: Christopher Plummer, who seems like a lock in the supporting category, might end up getting placed in this category, which could surprise everyone on nomination morning.

1. Mo'Nique, Precious
2. Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
3. Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
4. Penelope Cruz, Nine
5. Julianne Moore, A Single Man

Outside looking in: Samantha Morton, The Messenger; Susan Sarandon, The Lovely Bones; Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds

Note: A locked-in category if there ever was one. Not many substitutes for the top five. The strongest shot for a nomination spoiler is Samantha Morton, whose work in The Messenger is absolutely wonderful. Sarandon lost traction when the film failed to garner much praise. And Kruger got the boost from a SAG nod, but is still unlikely. For the win? Please. This category only needs one nominee to determine that.

1. Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
2. Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
3. Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
4. Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
5. Matt Damon, Invictus

Outside looking in: Alfred Molina, An Education; Alec Baldwin, It's Complicated
Note: Waltz is likely your winner. It was one of the year's most memorable performances, one of its most delightful characters, and you can tell every time he walks up on stage to accept his awards that he just loves being there. That will play well with Oscar voters. Rounding out the five should be Plummer (unless he shifts to Lead), Harrelson (the one sure bet nod for The Messenger), Tucci (the only love for Bones), and Damon, who gets in by default, since he's a respected guy in a movie by Eastwood. But it is a solid performance, not necessarily an Oscar performance. And if you want a spoiler, look at Alfred Molina, whose work in An Education seemed like a sure bet when the film was released, but then he faded. He could very likely take Damon's place.

One week until the nomination hoopla ends and the "Who's Gonna Win?" hoopla begins. More updates to come...

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