Predicting The 2010 Oscars (Part One)

10 Best Picture nominees.  No Best Original Song performances.  Two hosts.  And a banning.
 
Controversy has always enveloped the annual Academy Awards and this year is no exception.  For the first time since 1944, there are twice as many titles up for Best Picture.  (During each of the past 65 years, it’s always been five.)  The ABC telecast has dropped the nominated music performances to save time.  (Great idea.)  Even though he’s hosted the show brilliantly on his own during two previous ceremonies, the great Steve Martin returns to the job with actor Alec Baldwin by his side.  And one of the nominated producers of The Hurt Locker won’t be in attendance after the academy barred him.  His crime?  Urging members via email to vote for his movie instead of Avatar, or as he put it, that “$500M film”.  (Can you say “overreaction”?  I knew you could.)
 
At any event, despite all these unusual developments, one tradition remains intact:  my annual predictions of who will take home “the lord of all knick-knacks”, to borrow Jim Carrey’s memorably funny quip from the 1996 ceremony.  Let’s get started:
 
BEST PICTURE – AVATAR
 
The last time there were ten nominees in this category, Casablanca was the winner.  After criticism arose following the surprise snubbing of The Dark Knight (not to mention Wall-E) in 2009, the academy’s response was to revert back to a nominating policy that hadn’t been used in more than six decades.  As a result, this is the most eclectic list of titles recognized in years.  You’ve got comedy, science fiction, action and animation on top of the usual dramatic fare. 
 
Unfortunately, eight of these nominated features will have to settle for simply making the cut.  Like Beauty And The Beast, the first ever animated Best Picture nominee, Up won’t have the votes.  The Coen Brothers won for No Country For Old Men two years ago so they can forget about another triumph with A Serious Man.  District 9 doesn’t have a prayer.  Neither does An Education nor The Blind Side.  Up In The Air and Precious were early favourites but neither of them are likely to pull an upset.  Although some have made a case for Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, I just don’t see it winning despite its Holocaust theme.
 
That leaves James Cameron’s Avatar and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker.  The former is one of the biggest grossing movies ever (over 700 million on this continent alone).  The latter has made about 13 million domestically.  The former has an 82% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  The latter has a 97% rating.  Locker has pretty much cleaned up on the awards circuit so far with Best Film wins from BAFTA (the British Academy Awards), The Producers Guild Of America, and critics groups (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, among many others).  Avatar has only taken a bowling trophy (the meaningless Best Motion Picture (Drama) Golden Globe).  Bigelow has never seen one of her projects recognized by the academy.  Cameron’s Titanic was the big winner in this category 12 years ago.
 
Based on all of that, The Hurt Locker stands a very good chance of winning.  Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly and Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times are among many who say so.  Before I suffered from a 17-day condition known as Olympic Fever, it was my pick to win, too.  But recently, I’m starting to have second thoughts.  Despite its tremendous critical acclaim, the film was far from a commercial juggernaut when it debuted this past summer.  Although past winners like The Last Emperor and Crash made less than 100 million each during their theatrical runs, they made money for their respective studios.  (Locker, which was made for about 11 million, according to the Internet Movie Database, basically broke even.)  As far as I know, no nominated film has won with such meagre earnings.  Generally, most Best Picture winners are blockbusters.  Consider this past decade alone:  Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Million Dollar Baby, The Departed, Slumdog Millionaire.  Each one a big commercial success.
 
It shouldn’t matter, ultimately, but let’s not forget that the movie business is a business and a billion dollar boy’s club at that.  And while the academy hasn’t always recognized the biggest moneymakers in this category (think E.T. and the first Star Wars trilogy), it did prefer Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction, to name one such example.  Furthermore, considering the dire economic climate and the fact that ratings for the ceremony have dropped remarkably over the last decade or so (think tens of millions of viewers), giving its top prize to a movie that many, many people have seen and thoroughly enjoyed makes a lot of sense, as far that point of view is concerned.  (55 million or so saw Titanic clean up in 1998.  The ratings have steadily dropped ever since.)  While I wouldn’t be surprised if the conventional wisdom is correct about The Hurt Locker’s prospects for glory, Avatar has been far too successful to be ignored.  I pick it to win Best Picture.
 
BEST DIRECTOR – Kathryn Bigelow (THE HURT LOCKER)
 
When someone wins The Directors Guild Of America prize, they become a heavy favourite to win the Best Director Oscar because of its historically high conversion rate (about 90%).  This year, the ageless Kathryn Bigelow won for putting together The Hurt Locker.  That means that James Cameron, who won for Titanic, will have to pretend to smile as his supremely hot ex-wife goes up on stage to make history as she becomes the first woman to win in that category.  Lee Daniels, the second black man to be recognized (John Singleton was the first back in 1992 for his superb Boyz N The Hood), first-time nominee Jason Reitman (Ivan’s kid) and previous nominee Quentin Tarantino (he was previously singled out 15 years ago for the terrific Pulp Fiction) will need to be content with just being named to this short list.
 
Nearly 60 years old (but looking about 20 years younger), Bigelow has paid her dues long enough.  She’ll win Best Director and make history.
 
BEST ACTOR – Jeff Bridges (CRAZY HEART)
 
He is a wonderful actor who has consistently delivered fine performances for four decades.  On four previous tries, the last one in 2001, he has failed to snag a golden statuette.  No longer.  Now 60 years old, Jeff Bridges is finally going to become an Oscar winner, thanks to his critically acclaimed portrayal of a grizzled country singer in Crazy Heart.  This is his second Best Actor nomination (Starman was his first back in 1985; the other three nods were for supporting roles) and considering how talented he is and how long he’s waited, he’s this year’s Martin Scorsese, a long deserving candidate for a once elusive prize.  As for his competition, Morgan Freeman and George Clooney are previous Best Supporting Actor winners so count them out.  Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and A Serious Man’s Colin Firth are not foreseen as spoilers here.
 
Jeff Bridges will win Best Actor.  Expect a standing ovation.
 
BEST ACTRESS – Sandra Bullock (THE BLIND SIDE)
 
Two past winners and three first-time nominees are in the running for Best Actress this year.  Let’s eliminate the timeless sexpot Helen Mirren who won three years ago for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.  It’s not likely she’ll win again.  Carey Mulligan, nominated for her work in An Education, is pretty much a long shot, as well.  Perennial nominee Meryl Streep, who plays Julia Child in Julie & Julia, already has two Oscars and it’s not likely she’ll win a third this time around.   I initially believed that adorable Gabourey Sidibe, who has received tremendous raves playing the tortured, overweight, emotional mess that is Precious, was the actress to beat here.  She may still pull off an upset but it’s looking more and more like Sandra Bullock’s time to shine.  (She won the Screen Actors Guild award not too long ago.)  Considering how well-liked she is and how commercially successful The Blind Side was, not to mention the fact that she was criminally overlooked for her great supporting performance in Crash, like Best Actor and Best Director, she’s as sure a pick as you can imagine.  Bullock for Best Actress.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, March 4, 2010
9:59 p.m.
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Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 9:59 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] The Ottawa Senators would win the Stanley Cup (whoops) and that Avatar would win Best Picture (whoops again).  At the risk of looking like a dummy once more, it’s time to do something […]


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