2011 Oscar Predictions (Part One)

Since 2006, the year this website began, I’ve been prognosticating the Academy Awards.  Well, here we are in 2011 and the tradition continues.  Without further ado, let’s forecast who the lucky winners will be this year, shall we?

BEST PICTURE – THE SOCIAL NETWORK

For the second year in a row, ten nominated features are competing for the Academy’s top prize.  And just like last year, most don’t have a chance in hell of winning. 

Toy Story 3 is only the third animated movie to ever be singled out in this category (Up and Beauty And The Beast are the others) and while, like its predecessors, it made a lot of money and received almost universal praise from critics, it’s not about to make history.  The animated drought will continue.

Also not likely to win is 127 Hours, the true story of a mountain climber who had to cut off his own arm in order to escape being trapped between two boulders.  The film was directed by Danny Boyle who also made Slumdog Millionaire which won in this category two years ago.  Another critical favourite, I don’t see the Academy rewarding Boyle again.

The lesbian-themed family drama The Kids Are All Right was also well reviewed but the last time a gay love story was nominated, it lost.  That would be Brokeback Mountain back in 2006 which was upset by Crash.  The losing trend will continue.

The Coen Brothers are back with a remake of True Grit which is reportedly more true to the spirit of the original novel than John Wayne’s 1969 version. It, too, won over the vast majority of reviewers.  Unfortunately, like Danny Boyle, The Coens already have a recent Best Picture win under their belts.  That would be No Country For Old Men which snagged the big gong in 2008.  Count them out in 2011.

Also count out Winter’s Bone, the dark drama that quietly came and went this past June despite great support from critics.  It’s just too unknown to compete with the higher profile titles.

Rocky and Million Dollar Baby are the only boxing movies to win past Best Picture Oscars.  The Fighter isn’t likely to join them. 

And then there’s the ballet thriller, Black Swan.  Directed by Darren Aronofsky, this isn’t the first time one of his movies has been a contender for the big prize.  The Wrestler was selected for consideration in 2009.  It lost to Slumdog Millionaire.  However, his slump won’t end this year.

That leaves three remaining nominees:  Inception, The King’s Speech and The Social Network.  After its spectacular summer run, Christopher Nolan’s thriller was already inspiring Oscar buzz.  But that seems to have died down quite a bit in recent months.  In the end, despite the mostly strong reviews it received, Inception might be just too complex for Academy members to champion.

For me, this Best Picture race boils down to a period film about an insecure ruler and a modern-day mercurial Internet genius.  Roger Ebert has said many times that the nominee that moves you the most tends to get the duke.  That makes The King’s Speech a pretty strong contender.

But David Fincher’s film about the origin of Facebook has been a monster success the second it landed in theatres this past October.  It has a 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  (The King’s Speech has a 95% rating.)  It has won a dozen Best Picture prizes already, mostly from critics organizations.  (Speech has only been able to win a quarter of that total.)  And it amassed 220 million in worldwide box office totals.  (Speech earned 210 million globally.)

Also in the film’s favour is its nominated screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, who is much beloved in Hollywood.  (The West Wing claimed 26 Emmys during its 7-year run.  Sorkin owns 5 of them.)

With a chance to look hipper than usual (much like the Grammys did recently by giving The Arcade Fire the Album Of The Year trophy), although The King’s Speech could squeak through with a victory, The Social Network has the edge.

BEST DIRECTOR – David Fincher (THE SOCIAL NETWORK)

Immediately eliminate The Coen Brothers.  They already won for No Country For Old Men.  Three of the remaining four nominees are enjoying their first trip to the Oscars.  But sadly, Darren Aronofsky, Tom Hooper and the notoriously tempermental David O. Russell won’t need to prepare speeches.  They don’t stand a chance.

That leaves two-time nominee David Fincher who oversaw The Social Network.  He’s come a long way from his debut feature, Alien 3, a difficult project that divided critics and audiences way back in 1992.  (I wasn’t a fan.)  He’s redeemed himself since then with fine thrillers like Seven and Panic Room.  (Fight Club would’ve been added to this list if it weren’t for that ridiculous twist ending.)  After being passed over in this category two years ago for helming The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and for sheer career perserverance, it’s his time for glory in 2011.  David Fincher for Best Director.

BEST ACTOR – Colin Firth (THE KING’S SPEECH)

Two of the nominees in this category have already won.  Javier Bardem, who played the heel in No Country For Old Men, and Jeff Bridges who finally won last year for his work in Crazy Heart.  The Academy rarely rewards an actor two consecutive years in a row (Tom Hanks was the last repeater) so Bridges is out.  And it’s not like Bardem’s performance in Biutiful is getting nearly as much traction as his portrayal of Anton did in Old Men.  Cross them both off your list of potential winners.

Jesse Eisenberg is young and will have plenty more opportunities to win in the future.  Ditto James Franco who’s co-hosting the ceremony this year.  They’re out, too.

That leaves Colin Firth, the 50-year-old Brit best known for playing dashing leading men in romantic dramas (Pride & Prejudice) and comedies (those awful Bridget Jones movies).  He’s already won 11 acting prizes for his acclaimed portrayal of King George VI.  The Oscar will make it a dozen.

BEST ACTRESS – Natalie Portman (BLACK SWAN)

Four frequent nominees compete against a newcomer in the race for Best Actress.  Right away we can discount Nicole Kidman.  She won in 2003 for playing the troubled Virginia Woolf in The Hours.  She won’t be winning a second.  Michelle Williams was previously nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Brokeback Mountain.  I don’t see her winning for Blue Valentine.

Annette Bening’s fourth attempt at securing a golden naked man will once again come up short.  Her third try for Best Actress won’t be the charm. 

That leaves first-time nominee Jennifer Lawrence and the very pregnant Natalie Portman.  Although Lawrence could prove a spoiler (she’s already snagged a number of acting trophies for her performance in Winter’s Bone), Portman is so beloved and respected (does anyone ever say anything bad about her?), I can’t see her losing.  Natalie Portman for Best Actress.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 21, 2011
9:42 p.m.

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Published in: on February 21, 2011 at 9:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

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