If you know me at all, you would know that award shows such as the Oscars and the Grammys have left me quite jaded. I am particularly tough on the Oscars in part as a result of the deathly seriousness with which the Academy takes itself. I am also critical of the fact that for the most part, the Oscars has descended into a popularity contest very easily swayed by public sentiment and big marketing campaigns.
To the uninitiated, the Oscars often get things WRONG. How else can one explain the awards doled out to the likes of Mira Sorvino, Cuba Gooding Jr and even Roberto Begnini in the past twenty years alone.
Of course my criticism and cynicism comes with the benefit of hindsight. Would the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have given an Oscar to Cuba for instance if they could have peered into the future and seen the body (nay, cadaver) of work (Snow Dogs, anyone? Boat Trip? Daddy Day Camp?) to come?
Personally, I cringe every time I watch a trailer that seeks to have the audacity to make mention of the fact that someone associated with the film is a past winner at the Oscars. Worse yet, the even more ridiculous trend, of mentioning mere nominees as the hype and shill crap not even worthy of late night on basic cable.
In spite of the above, I will probably watch the Red Carpet procession of stars, celebrities and show business types this Sunday and then, depending on how good a job Alec Baldwin does, I will watch the actual award show with a view to being vindicated by my choices or by my skepticism. Either way, people will lose. Fewer still will win. And careers will be made or lost based on their reactions.
So, gazing into my crystal ball and with some appreciation for the popularity 'game', here are my predictions for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards:
Best Foreign Film:
For this award, I am going to have to go with my gut and go solely with the benefit of hearsay and yes, hype. Une prophete (http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1213205-prophet/) has reviewed well and performed admirably in a slew of awards shows since it made its debut at Cannes last May. With all the notice that this film has received, one would would think its a 'sure thing' on Sunday. But given the way 'popularity contests' often work, the award could easily go to Ajami (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1077262/) for its latent message of Israeli integration.
Best Animated Film:
I have seen 'Up' and although I liked Coraline for its visual style, and Fantastic Mr Fox for reviving 'stop-motion' animation, I really think that once again the guys at Pixar have produced a winner. Up is touching, well written and fun - and above all else has an ability to connect with audiences of all ages. (See trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkqzFUhGPJg )
Best Original Screenplay:
This category is wide-open this year and will be largely influenced by the way that some of the bigger awards go on Sunday. Should for example 'Hurt Locker' be destined not to win the Best Director award, it would probably have garnered enough love and kudos for it to win this award. Should that not be the case however, my money is on Quentin Tarantino to repeat his 1994 win in this category and for Inglorious Basterds to take the prize. Perhaps its some deep ingrained desire to make the nazi phantoms to continue to pay for their sins against the jewish people. Or just a well played out fantasy of every jewish boy cum Hollywood executive since 1945 - but the world has taken a shine to Inglorious Basterds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sQhTVz5IjQ&feature=fvst) and have conveniently ignored the fact that this bloody romp conveniently re-writes history and simplifies the whys and wherefores of the Second World War. Still, this was a throughly engaging and enjoyable movie.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Many would recall that even before the Awards Season had begun, many were predicting that Up in the Air (http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117940965.html?categoryid=3222&cs=1) would be figuring among the awards. It quickly became the darling of the season. Some kind of existential exploration of one's raison d'etre with the economic recession as its backdrop. Its a solid film with good performances all around. But the territory is somewhat familiar in this one and hardly original. Still, Up in the Air has been making much of the pace throughout the season. And as is the case with the previous award, the Academy are a loyal lot, and if they anoint you its darling, you should be good for at least one award when the Oscars come around. So my prediction is that this film will win here provided it is not in line to win any of the other awards its nominated for (Best Actor / Supporting Actress) and in spite of the fact that I still maintain that District Nine (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6PDlMggROA&feature=fvst) was probably the most original and thought provoking movie of 2009.
Best Supporting Actress:
Penelope Cruz has won before. And I fully expect that Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick will cancel each other out leaving Mo'nique and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the likely choices. Mo'nique has traditionally played to the less dramatic in her career and could well suffer as much from her less deserving body of work as from her less recognizable brand. By contrast, Maggie Gyllenhaal not only has recognizability on her side, as well as a solid body of work that includes starmaking turns in Sherrybaby and Secretary (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28W3d3brIf0.) (If you havent seen these please do yourself a favour and pick it up - NOW!) And as a consequence could well find herself taking a certain Mr Oscar to be with her come Sunday night.
Best Supporting Actor:
Woody Harrelson has received many good notices for his work in the Messenger. And Christoph Waltz has so far won twenty six awards for his role in Inglorious Basterds - a fact that on the face of it should shorten his odds. Still, at the end of the day, the Academy are a sentimental bunch as well and given the fact that Christopher Plummer has never won an Oscar in his long illustrious career, Sunday could well be his night.
Things get sticky when we get to this one. Jeff Bridges has been making much of the pace this season for what can only be described as a reworking of the role that earned Robert Duvall an Oscar for Tender Mercies in 1984. Will the similarities dawn on the Academy this year? Bridges has made a career of playing likeable characters but he has never received any love from the Academy in the past and this is in fact his fourth nomination - his first in twenty six years! Similarly, Morgan Freeman is nominated for playing one of the most beloved figures in the world today, Nelson Mandela, in Invictus. Although this is fifth nomination and in spite of the fact that he has won previously (Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby) there may be a growing sentiment that could earn him the 'big prize'. Lastly, as deserving as Colin Firth's performance in a Single Man might be, it is unlikely that this first time nominee will walk away with the prize on Sunday night - although bigger surprises have been known to happen on Oscar night.
Of the acting categories, this one is possibly the most difficult to predict this year. We have heard the chorus of kudos sung for most if not all of the nominees. I'd hate to stick my head out on this one, but it seems likely that Sandra Bullock, America's Sweetheart, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaoJbMOUkcE&feature=related) will win the Oscar this year. But dont be too surprised or disappointed should the veteran (Meryl Streep) or the rookie (Gabourey Sidibe) were to win instead.
Its no secret that I am less than impressed by Avatar and as a result it would never get my vote for any of these non-technical awards. My dislike aside, history has shown us that the movie that wins the DGA wins the Oscar. And in 2010, that movie is the Hurt Locker. No woman has ever won the Oscar for Best Director and it appears more than likely, the 82nd Edition of the Academy Awards will finally put that bogey to rest.
As unimpressed as I am by Avatar, there is one feat which will probably swing the pendulum (and the award) its way on Sunday: the fact that it singlehandedly saved the movie industry. Will James Cameron's peers gratefully surrender the biggest jewel in the Oscar crown as a result we will find out soon enough. With the new format that includes ten nominees in this category, Avatar is by far the most recognizable 'brand' of the bunch and that as well as the unnecessary guilt that will come as a result of the fact that JC will NOT win the award for Best Director, will ensure that this BEHEMOTH of a movie will go down in history as one of the biggest films and biggest Oscar let downs of all time.