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TBTS Prognosticates: Today’s Oscar Noms Kick Off the “Buzz Season”

January 25, 2011

There seem to be so many awards programs from January to February — among them The Critics’ Choice Awards, The Golden Globes, The SAG Awards, The Independent Spirit Awards, The Sundance Jury Awards — that by the time the actual Oscars roll around, everyone’s pretty tired of hearing about any of 2010’s films. But as we know, Hollywood subscribes to the “everyone’s a winner!” theory widely employed by kindergarten soccer leagues, so we can’t get to February’s big finale before everyone gets hugged and praised for whatever they did in the previous year.

These numerous awards galas aren’t without some sort of merit, however. In days past (before accusations of bribery and voter corruption), for instance, the Golden Globes have been widely known as a reliable harbinger of Oscar’s winners, and Sundance is usually good for a couple of artsier nominations. This morning saw the Academy Awards announce its nominees for 2011’s ceremony, to be held on February 27,  and because we care so much, TBTS takes a look at the list to break down the possible winners:

Best Motion Picture of the Year
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
127 Hours
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

The Breakdown: Many, many critics are hailing Winter’s Bone as the best film of the year, but not enough people saw it to make it a favorite (despite several backup nominations for the film’s players). Everyone also loved Toy Story 3, but we all know it already has a category it’s undoubtedly going to win (Best Animated Film), so it can slide on Best Picture. And with the advent of last year’s newly expanded Best Picture nominee list, it seems like the larger pool makes things tougher to call. The Kids Are Alright is this year’s Little Miss Sunshine, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to win. The King’s Speech probably has this one locked up (Best Picture hasn’t gone to a British period film since 1998’s Shakespeare in Love, so it’s time). Both The King’s Speech and The Social Network are important movies detailing specific historical and cultural moments, but in the end the oldsters are going to give the edge to King George.

Achievement in Directing
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
David O. Russell (The Fighter)
Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit)

The Breakdown: Here and in Screenplay are where The Social Network gets its due. Darren Oronofsky’s in vogue right now, but David O. Russell is widely disliked in some Hollywood circles and the Coens, despite their consistent brilliance, can’t buy one of these statues unless they make something unavoidable like No Country for Old Men. Fincher deserves this one — he stepped out of his comfort zone (freaks and murderers) and tempered his own sensibilities to make a movie that was just as cool, sleek and hip as the streamlined design of Facebook itself. Despite great performances in the film by Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, this was always the Sorkin/Fincher show, and the evening will ensure they both get their credit. And rightfully so.

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)

The Breakdown: This is a tough one. I can tell you who won’t win: Nicole Kidman or Jennifer Lawrence. Annette Bening and Natalie Portman are the frontrunners for Best Actress, the former being a traditional Oscar darling and the latter being the new hotness, but don’t count out a sleeper surprise by Michelle Williams, since Blue Valentine is really turning some heads as a serious acting tour de force. Portman could be derailed by the poorly reviewed rom-com Friends With Benefits in theaters now (Eddie Murphy fell similarly to such a situation, with many attributing the awful Oscar-season slough-off Norbit as diluting the opinion of his performance in Dreamgirls), but if she can survive this seems like Portman’s trophy, especially since she’s come out and said that after 2011 she’s going to disappear for a while as she gives birth and raises a baby.

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
James Franco (127 Hours)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)

The Breakdown: Though Julia Roberts is apparently begging anyone who’ll listen to vote for Javier Bardem, Biutiful wasn’t a big enough splash in the US to net him a win, and Eisenberg was great but his Zuckerberg wasn’t exactly dynamic. Last year was Jeff Bridges’ year, so he won’t get it again, though James Franco could be the joker in the deck if the Academy is feeling froggy. Still, I have to believe this is Colin Firth’s to lose — he’s classy, likeable, a great actor and a past nominee with no wins.

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)

The Breakdown: This comes down, realistically, to a streetfight between Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush, and it could come down to whether The King’s Speech is making a run or not. If it’s looking like Speech is going to tear it up, give an edge to Rush — but Bale won the Golden Globe and I defy you to take a look at Bale’s character in The Fighter next to the real person it’s based upon and not tell me he’s an amazing chameleon. While Rush could swoop in, I’m going to have to go with Batman for this prize.

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

The Breakdown: This is probably the toughest race to call of the entire evening. On one hand, two Fighter gals are nominated, but the Academy loves a.) anyone playing the Queen of England, and b.) young girls as supporting actresses. And since it’s the Supporting Actress Category — a category notorious for going with the popular, fun choice (see: Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny) — I’m actually going to put my chips on young Hailee Steinfeld, following in the footsteps of past nominees Anna Paquin (who won), Abigail Breslin and Jodi Foster.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

The Breakdown: How to Train Your Dragon was loved by critics and The Illusionist has been hailed as a worthy follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Triplets of Belleville. But since Toy Story 3 is not only the touching end of a franchise but a legitimate number one film of the year for many critics, fan favorites Buzz and Woody are going to take this one handily.

Achievement in Art Direction
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Inception
The King’s Speech
True Grit

The Breakdown: Word has it that all the dazzling stuff is in Deathly Hallows Part 2, which means the boy wizard gets another chance, and The King’s Speech and True Grit aren’t eye-popping enough to win this type of award. Inception’s mind-bending effects could snatch this, but Alice in Wonderland is the kind of movie for which this category was made, and Pan’s Labyrinth, Moulin Rouge and Avatar have won this trophy in the past, so I’d have to say Wonderland stands a strong shot.

Best Documentary Feature
Exit through the Gift Shop, Banksy, director (Paranoid Pictures)
Gasland, Josh Fox, director (Gasland Productions, LLC)
Inside Job, Charles Ferguson, director (Representational Pictures)
Restrepo, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, directors (Outpost Films)
Waste Land, Lucy Walker, director (Almega Projects)

The Breakdown: Full disclosure — from this list, I’ve only seen Inside Job and Exit Through the Gift Shop, but I’ll admit Gift Shop was one of my favorite movies of the entire year. It’s an interesting, hip and funny film, and I’d personally like to see it win. Hey, we all have our opinions.

What say you of this year’s nominations?

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3 Comments
  1. Zach permalink
    January 27, 2011 2:06 pm

    I agree with about everything you pick. You may want to correct the fact that 127 Hours was nominted for best picture instead of The Town.

  2. January 27, 2011 3:29 pm

    Thanks Zach, much appreciated. The morning the nominations came out was a hectic one — but that mistake has been remedied. Just for the record, it doesn’t change my pick much. I don’t think 127 Hours will win best pic either, since Danny Boyle had such big wins so recently with Slumdog Millionaire. But 127 Hours’ nominations further point to Boyle’s becoming a more massive force in filmmaking, which is well-deserved. Again, thanks for the sharp eye.

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