Monday, March 1, 2010

The Oscars

Ok, I didn't do this last year, but I figure I'll do it now. The Academy Awards are on Sunday, and there has already been much (i.e. endless) discussion about who will and should win in all of the categories, but since nobody who reads this blog (including myself) has seen any of the nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject, I'll stick to talking a bit about the "important" categories. Important means different things to some people than it does to others, so me reviewing the nominees for Best Cinematography may not matter to you, but as it's an essential part of moviemaking, it's important to me as an appreciator of movies. Here we go:


"An Education"
"The Blind Side"
"District 9"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"A Serious Man"
"Up in the Air"

Having only seen 6 of the nominees, and only two of them making my top ten list of last year, it's no secret that I am a big fan of The Hurt Locker and Up. But even the movie I like the least (Avatar) I still enjoyed, so that's always encouraging.

Who I think will win: I'm leaning towards Avatar, since I think it's just too much of a cultural milestone to pass up for the Academy, much in the way Titanic was.
Who I think should win: The Hurt Locker, although neither of my top two of '09 were nominated

Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker"
James Cameron for "Avatar"
Lee Daniels for "Precious"
Jason Reitman for "Up in the Air"
Quentin Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds"

A year of celebrating diversity a bit more than usual, Kathryn Bigelow is just the fourth woman to be nominated for the directing prize (she's won most of the other major awards this year), and Lee Daniels just the second black director (after Boyz in the Hood's John Singleton nearly 20 years ago, amazingly the preeminent black American director, Spike Lee, has never been nominated). I truly hope James Cameron isn't rewarded again, since I think his direction was decidedly mediocre, while Quentin Tarantino deserved to be rewarded for Pulp Fiction and not his self-indulgent (if occasionally still very effective) work on Basterds. Jason Reitman could be the youngest winner in the history of the Oscars, but I think it's a "nomination is your award" type of situation for him.

Who will win: Kathryn Bigelow, could be a big moment for the Academy, even if they'd be rewarding a woman who makes "guy movies"
Who should win: Kathryn Bigelow

Jeff Bridges for "Crazy Heart"
George Clooney for "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth for "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman for "Invictus"
Jeremy Renner for "The Hurt Locker"

I was ecstatic to see that Jeremy Renner scored a nomination for his terrific and (by traditional Oscar standards) subtle performance. I've only seen two of the other nominees, Clooney (one of my favorite actors), who was more deserving of other performances in his career, and will likely be in the winners circle again in the future. But Jeff Bridges' turn in Crazy Heart is a shoo-in for the award. Bridges has been one of the best actors around for the past 40 years or so, and I have no reservations about him getting the award.

Who will win: Jeff Bridges
Who should win: Jeff Bridges

Sandra Bullock for "The Blind Side"
Helen Mirren for "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan for "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe for "Precious"
Meryl Streep for "Julie & Julia"

Meryl Streep added yet another nomination to her record amount, but I don't think she has a chance to win here (despite me thinking she was terrific in the movie). I've not seen any of the other nominees, but Helen Mirren was up at the podium accepting the award just a few years ago and not many have seen her movie. I have a feeling that Sidibe is in the same realm as Jason Reitman. Which leaves it to early favorite Carey Mulligan and current favorite Sandra Bullock. That's the race from the looks of it. Still, I love Meryl Streep and would also love to see her get just her second (only second!!) Best Actress statue.

Who will win: Sandra Bullock
Who should win: Meryl Streep, although that's because of what I've seen, I'd love a newcomer like Sidibe or Mulligan to take it home

Matt Damon for "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson for "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer for "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci for "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz for "Inglourious Basterds"

A category where your average moviegoer will know the name (or at least the face) of nearly all of the nominees. That is, except for the front runner Christoph Waltz, the Austrian actor who's been on a run of award wins since winning the Best Actor award at last years Cannes Film Festival. The others don't honestly have a chance, although it's nice to see Damon, Plummer, Harrelson, and especially (one of my favorite actors) Stanley Tucci get some recognition from the Academy.

Who will win: Waltz
Who should win: Waltz, but again, he's the only one whose work I've actually seen. I need to get to watching.

Penelope Cruz for "Nine"
Vera Farmiga for "Up in the Air"
Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Crazy Heart"
Anna Kendrick for "Up in the Air"
Mo'Nique for "Precious"

Penelope Cruz got nominated again simply because the Academy is in love with her, by most accounts Marion Cotillard's performance is the lone standout from Nine. Personally, I'm just waiting to see her in Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces, since she last (and only) blew me out of the water in Almodovar's Volver (for which she was nominated for Best Actress). Farmiga and Kendrick are both deserving of their nominations, but I think they'll split the votes between them. Gyllenhaal is fantastic (she always is), especially getting to play off of Jeff Bridges, she's my favorite here. Comedian Mo'Nique has cleaned up seemingly every possible Supporting Actress award as the abusive mother in Precious, so there's no reason to believe the Oscar's will be any different.

Who will win: Mo'Nique
Who should win: Gyllenhaal

"El Secreto de Sus Ojos"
"The Milk of Sorrow"
"A Prophet"
"The White Ribbon"

I've seen precisely zero of these movies, but foreign cinema is always important, so I just added these to remind me of movies I should probably be seeing in the near future.

Who will win: The White Ribbon is apparently the front runner, winning the Palme D'or at Cannes last year, and coming from the respected (if divisive) Austrian director Michael Haneke.
Who should win: How the hell would I know? I just told you I hadn't seen any of them.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
"The Princess and the Frog"
"The Secret of Kells"

The Secret of Kells was one of the big surprises in all of the nominations this year. It's a little known, not even released here yet, little animated movie from Ireland. Looking at the previews, looks like it could be cool, but we'll have to wait and see. The Princess and the Frog and Up were both on my '09 top ten list, and Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox weren't far off of it. So it was a good year in animation as far as I'm concerned. Many people were surprised that Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki's latest (and possibly last) movie, Ponyo, wasn't nominated. But since it's decidedly lesser Miyazaki, and there's no reason to nominate something just because it could be his last, I was sort of happy the Academy overlooked it. Of course, nothing stands a chance this year of breaking up Pixar's stronghold on this award. Especially since Up became just the second animated movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture (the very worthy Beauty and the Beast accomplished that feat back in the days of 5 nominees).

What will win: Up
What should win: The Princess and the Frog, although I won't be disappointed when it doesn't

"An Education"
"District 9"
"In the Loop"
"Up in the Air"

Having not read (or in District 9's case, seen the director's short film) any of the material these screenplay's are based on, I have no idea how deserving any of them are in an adaptation sense. That said, I thought Up in the Air was a well written little character movie, District 9 a smart sci-fi movie (at least in its beginning before it devolves into a standard, but very well done, action movie), and An Education is written by Nick Hornby, one of my favorite authors (High Fidelity, About a Boy). But I think the Academy will use this opportunity to honor Up in the Air, since it's unlikely to win any other awards.

Who will win: Up in the Air
Who should win: Up in the Air, though I'd love to see Hornby's acceptance speech, the British are great at that stuff

"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"The Messenger"
"A Serious Man"

The life montage in Up is the best thing in any movie this past year (attributable not only to the writer, but the movie's director as well), but I think Tarantino will take home his second writing Oscar, even if I would never count out the Coen brothers, especially when A Serious Man also snagged a Best Picture nom.

Who will win: Tarantino
Who should win: Up

"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"
"Sherlock Holmes"
"The Young Victoria"

I really only included this category to express my support for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to win some awards.

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"The White Ribbon"

Avatar could easily win this one for its "revolutionary" use of 3-D, and just might do it. Although I loved The Hurt Locker, I didn't think the cinematography was anything too special. I was quite impressed with the work in the new Harry Potter movie, but it doesn't have a chance of winning.

Who will win: Avatar
Who should win: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

"Bright Star"
"Coco Before Chanel"
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"
"The Young Victoria"

Same as Art Direction, viva Dr. Parnassus!

"Burma VJ"
"The Cove"
"Food Inc."
"The Most Dangerous Man in America"
"Which Way Home"

Same as Foreign category. Docs are important, but I'm sadly unversed in this years nominees.

"District 9"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"

I honestly have no idea who should or will win this category. Editing is quite possibly the most important step in the making of a movie, yet I've heard movie editors (I wanna say it was Scorsese's usual editor Thelma Schoonmaker) say that an editors job is invisible if done correctly. That said, this award has tended to go to the movie with the most editing in it (like the hyperactivity of the Bourne movies, or last year with Slumdog Millionaire), and having seen 4 of the 5 nominees, I can say that they all have their periods of feverish cutting (although Tarantino and his editor Sally Menke seem to be the biggest fans of the slow burn). I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that District 9 will win.

Who should win: I'll say The Hurt Locker, since the tension in it requires such delicate use of editing (as many action movies fail to understand).
Who will win: District 9, for no particular reason, really, it could be any of them.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Sherlock Holmes"

I'm not really sure who the buzz is predicting in this category, but Michael Giacchino has done superb work in the past for Pixar with The Incredibles and Ratatouille, both of which are better than his work here, so I think it's time they give him his due. I've actually seen all 5 nominated movies here, but none other than Up that left any sort of musical memory.

Who should win: Up
Who will win: Up

"Almost There" from "The Princess & the Frog"
"Down in New Orleans" from "The Princess & the Frog"
"Loin de Paname" from "Paris 36"
"Take it All" from "Nine"
"The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart"

Since not as many people were as crazy about The Princess and the Frog as I was, I see its double nomination here as mostly just filling out the spots, no offense to the brilliant Randy Newman. I see this being a win for the country charm of Crazy Heart, which I think will be fairly deserved.

Who should win: Crazy Heart, although I never object to love for Randy Newman in his New Orleans jazz element.
Who will win: Crazy Heart

"French Roast"
"Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty"
"The Lady and the Reaper"
"A Matter of Loaf and Death"

The only reason I included this category was to point out that the nominee A Matter of Loaf and Death is the latest from Wallace and Gromit and its genius creator Nick Park. I had hoped that there would be another Wallace and Gromit movie on the way, but maybe not. Either way, it's going to be the clear winner in this category, as 2 of the 3 other W&G shorts have been (the first short, A Grand Day Out, my favorite, lost to Creature Comforts, an hilarious short from who else but Nick Park).
Who should win: A Matter of Loaf and Death, based simply on the fact that it's Wallace and Gromit, I haven't actually seen any of the nominees yet
Who will win: A Matter of Loaf and Death

"District 9"
"Star Trek"

I said in my review of it that Avatar had the best special effects I'd ever seen in a movie, so I can't really go back on that (when I still believe it to be the truth anyway). Star Trek used its FX wonderfully, helping to create a surprisingly joyous blockbuster experience. District 9, when budgets are taken into account, is a much higher level of work than that in Avatar, which had around 10-times the money. But there's no doubt that regardless of its Best Picture and Director outcomes, Avatar will clean up in the technical awards.

Who should win: Avatar
Who will win: Avatar

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