Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

2011 Oscar Nominations Official Report

Academy Awards? Who loves ‘em? What’s that you say? Not reflective of either the state of cinema or of the general public’s taste? It's a broken system? Who wins has more to do with hype then actual quality? The Academy Awards is a masturbatory ceremony of Hollywood bigwigs patting each other on the back?

Fuck you. That’s right, fuck all of you. I LIKE the Academy Awards. I recognize all of its flaws and when they screws up, boy howdy do they screw up. But I’m too much of an obsessive compulsive movie slut not to obsess over them. The guessing game is too much fun. The glitz, the glamor, it’s all great amusement. When compared to the Golden Globes, the Oscars still mean a lot more then cynics are willing to acknowledge.

Honestly, the saddest thing about the Oscar, more then anything else, are their desperate attempts to stay hip in the face of today’s completely ambivalent youth audience and constantly flagging ratings. This year’s hosts, Anne Hathaway and James “James Franco” Franco, were apparently chosen out of a hat completely at random. I’m eagerly looking forward to watching these two non-host hosts awkwardly stumble through a three hour ceremony. Seriously Academy, Stephen Colbert, Joel McCale or Tina Fey’s name didn’t even blip across your radar?

Anyway, the nominations have been officially announced. This year, out of the 40 films nominated in the major categories, I’ve seen 15, including 7 of the 10 best picture nods. That’s actually a pretty good margarine considering how far out of my interest the Oscars picks usually are. So enough yammering, here’s my OFFICIAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS!

I’m happy “Winter’s Bone” managed a best picture nomination. I suppose, with ten slots to fill, its chances were good but, considering its independent origins, lack of star power, and the Academy’s short memory-span, I was nervous it wouldn’t happen at all.

What surprised me was the lack of a nomination for “Blue Valentine.” I expected the Weinsteins to push it like a motherfucker but I guess they figured “The King’s Speech” was a safer bet. (It is.) The NC-17 sex probably scared the Academy. “The Fighter” took its slot. That movie has being getting more praise for its supporting performance then for its actual content but clearly the Academy loves an underdog story, doubly so if boxing is involved.

The race for Best Picture comes down to two movies: “The Social Network” and “The King’s Speech.” And honestly it could go either way. The Academy’s love for stodgy old costume dramas is well-documented. Once upon a time, the historical period piece was always a sure bet. However, in the last decade, they've shown a surprising willingness to go with more modern, character oriented films. Wither this has to do with quality or the aforementioned desperation, I can’t say. Both of these represent either side of that spectrum perfectly. (It would be harder to make a film more modern then one about Facebook. Unless it was about an iPhone 4’s adventures in Twittering. That would be pretty modern.) “The King’s Speech” is probably the surer bet but my gut is going with “The Social Network,” simply because not only is it clearly one of the most critically beloved films of the year, but has also been making away with best picture awards like some sort of best picture award bandit.

The rest of the noms provide little competition. Despite “Inception,” “Winter’s Bone,” and “Toy Story 3” all being the best films of the year, they won’t win. “Black Swan” is too dark and surreal. “127 Hours,” despite good reviews, doesn’t have nearly enough hype behind it. “The Kids Are All Right’ is ostensibly a comedy, so it won’t win either.

Official Prediction: “The Social Network”

The films battling for best picture are also battling for best actor. Colin Firth is a beloved veteran, whose non-threatening Britishness has made him a favorite. Jesse Eisenberg is a relative newcomer who, until his star-making turn as Mark Zuckerberg, was most widely regarded as “The poor man’s Michael Cera.” (If things keep going the way they are, Michael Cera might soon be the poor man’s Michael Cera…) The hype machine is pumping heavily for both. I think Eisenberg gave the better performance. However, much like high school girls, the Academy tends the favor the more experienced, better looking, older man. If Firth wins Best Actor, the chance of “The King Speech” winning the top prize increases and vice-versa.

The Academy has the rare opportunity this year of one of its hosts also being nominated in a top tier category. How James Franco translated from pop culture punch line to Oscar Nominated Thespian properly involves a pact with the devil. After years of working as a well-respected but never high-grossing performer, Jeff Bridges is suddenly in position to win two best actor statues two years in a row. (He won’t, but he is in that position.) Javier Bardem was nominated mostly to steam Julia Roberts’ eldritch wrath.

Official Prediction: Colin Firth.

Natalie Portman’s nervous, fragile, tragically graceful performance in “Black Swan” is both the obvious and favored pick. However, not so fast! Annette Bening has been nominated thrice before! Always remember that seniority and legacy have just as much, if not more, to do with winning as actual talent. Portman’s talent is far more divisive, and the Academy only likes conflict they themselves are responsible for. Bening’s role as a butch lesbian nurse might not be her best performance, or even the best performance in that film, but that might not stop her from taking home gold. (It worked for Al Pacino. The legacy part, not the butch lesbian part…)

Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone” is truly the best of the group and the best performances of the year. Her acting will be the most fondly reflected about in future years. She should win but she most likely won’t. Michele Williams’ part in “Blue Valentine” is arguably just as nervous and gracefully tragic as Portman’s. Williams also seems to be more widely liked Portman by the critical community. She’s the dark horse candidate for me.

Oh yeah, Nicole Kidman is nominated too. Seeing as how it’s not 1999, nobody cares.

Official Prediction: Annette Bening

I was totally off in my prediction for the Best Supporting Actor category. The only two I accurately guessed are the two most likely to win. Christian Bale’s method actor intensity has won him a lot of fans. His general intensity has turned a lot of people off too. Of all the nominated actors, he’s the one I’d least like to fight. (Even 90-pound “Machinist” Bale could probably kick my ass.) His turn in “The Fighter” is his most acclaimed part this side of Patrick Bateman. But will he win?

He might. But Geoffrey Rush, despite all ready having an Oscar, has more money and Hollywood power pumping behind him right now. If it was my decision, I would honor as many films as possible with a win. But with the Academy, if a film wins once, it’ll probably win a few more. Christian Bale has plenty of years left and will certainly be nominated again. If Firth wins, Rush will certainly win. Even if Firth doesn’t win, Rush has a higher chance of victory.

Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, and even John Hawkes’ nomination surprised me. They are all odd choices in my opinion and I’ll be shocked if any of them get it.

Official Prediction: Geoffrey Rush
All of that guess work and uncertainty present in the other categories? Not here in this one. Best Supporting Actress is one of the few categories where the Academy likes to honor newcomers and first-timers. Hailee Steinfeld has all ready won it. I’ve got no doubt. That’s why the studio campaigned her for this category despite her clearly being the lead character in “True Grit.” They knew she would win here.

Melissa Leo’s Golden Globe win increases her chances some but not enough. Amy Adams and Helena Bohnam Carter’s nomination probably had more to do with needing to fill out the category. I haven’t seen “Animal Kingdom,” haven’t even heard much about it, so I can’t comment on Jacki Weaver’s talent but it’s nice that the Academy threw a smaller film a bone.

Official Prediction: Mattie Ross, one hundred percent.

I don’t even really like David Fincher. I like all of his movies. I like some of them a lot. I even like “Alien 3!” But for some reason I’ve never been as fanatically devoted to him as many of his followers are. But he should win. “The Social Network” is some of his best direction and, generally speaking, Fincher has been under-recognized by the Academy. If he doesn’t win for a blatantly mainstream, critics-courting character study such as this one, he never will.

Darren Afronofsky is in the bucket that Fincher was previously in. His films are too weird, dark, nerdy, and cult-ish to get proper Academy love. “The Wrestler” was his bold-face grab for mainstream recognition and he wasn’t even nominated for that. The Coens’ have won before but won’t win for an impersonal genre exercise, David O. Russell is probably too much of an asshole to win, and who the fuck is Tom Hopper and why am I even talking about him?
Official Prediction: Fincher. Or else a million teenage boys with a screen-name copied from “Fight Club” will firebomb the ceremony.

Why are films based on true events covered under the Written for the Screen category? “The Fighter” and “The King’s Speech” both took direct inspiration from true events, so why are they considered originals? That’s mostly unrelated but it’s something that’s always bothered me.

“The Kids Are All Right” is considered an indie film despite having several major stars and a medium range budget. It’s the kind of small film that usually wins the writing award because the voters like to pretend they care about “independent” film. I personally hope “Inception,” because it is such a meticulously constructed and hugely ambitious screenplay, wins. “Another Year” is another odd, one-off nomination.

The Adapted Screenplay award is a little more exciting. I want “Winter’s Bone” to win and this is the category were a win is most likely for it. However, “The Social Network” has two things going for it. First off, Aaron Sorkin is a rare superstar screenwriter. Secondly, that movie is likely to dominate most of the categories it’s nominated in.

“Toy Story 3” might just take it as well. The Academy has proved in the past it favored Pixar’s writing staff. “127 Hours” is unlikely to win in any other category, so it could happen here. “True Grit” won’t win since the Coens just took the 1969 screenplay and put their names on it. (I kid because I care.)

Official Prediction: “The Kids Are All Right” and “The Social Network.”

What’s most remarkable about this category is what films didn’t get nominated. The Academy seems dead set against there being more then three films nominated for Best Animated Film these days, probably as part of some wide-sweeping conspiracy to keep animation down. “Tangled” and “Despicable Me” both should have grab nominations, easily.

What did get nominated was expected. “How to Train Your Dragon” was beloved animation while “The Illusionist” was the sure-fire “serious art” animation pick.

Who will win is so obvious that I’m not even going to bother to mention it. Pixar is probably adding a new wing to their building strictly to hold all their Oscars right now.

Official Prediction: “Toy Story 3.” Duh.
Trent Razor, of all people, might win an Oscar. His electronic score for “The Social Network” is certainly the favorite to win because it is so evocative. But it’s also an electronic score, not something the old fogies at the Academy tend to go for. (Yes, fanboys, that’s the other reason Daft Punk’s boring score for “Tron: Legacy” didn’t get one.)

All the other nominations are far more traditional. Hans Zimmer’s work on “Inception” is certainly the most recognized of any of these choices and the most likely of the secondary choices to win. None of the other scores really strike me as particularly exciting or innovative, but Oscar likes boring shit sometimes. (Most times.)

None of the best song choices are particularly inspiring. The songs in “Tangled” were all pretty great but the love ballad “I Saw the Light” was easily the weakest among them. (No love for the funny and catchy “I’ve Got a Dream?”) Despite that, it might be the best of these picks. Randy Newman has written better songs for Pixar then his subpar contribution to “Toy Story 3,” “We Belong Together.” “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” and “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” both strike me as some real office-radio disposable boring nonsense. But, as previously established, Oscar sometimes likes that stuff.

Official Prediction: “The Social Network” with a cautious nod and “Tangled” with a shrug.

I haven’t heard much of anything about the Best Foreign Film nominations, besides “Biutiful” being underwhelming. “Dogteeth” has some favorable buzz behind it, so it’s my choice mostly by default. The documentary choices are mostly unknown to me as well. “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” the most popular documentary of the year, wasn’t even nominated. “Restrepo” and “GasLand” are critically beloved but “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is certainly the most buzzed about.

Best Cinematography is going to be interesting. “Inception” and “True Grit” both have a big scope that will win them a lot of points, while “Black Swan” had a sweeping, personal, fantastic point-of-view. Honestly, any of them could get it.

True Grit” seems primed to win both Costume Design and Art Design, though the British movie about the king might get the former and “Alice in Wonderland” could grab the latter. “Inception” will probably dominate both sound categories, as well as best visual effects though, once again, Tim Burton’s mediocre latest film might win.

It’s kind of cool that Rick Baker’s underrated work on “The Wolfman” got nominated and, considering the low-key nature of the other two picks, the monster movie seems the likeliest to win. Rick Baker and the Academy do have a good track record when it comes to werewolves.


On February 27, I will once again live-blog the actual show. I had a lot of fun doing it last year even if I’m sure nobody was following along. Look for it!

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