Below is our complete 2010 Oscar Predictions list. If we’re correct, The Hurt Locker will win a total of six Oscars, followed by Avatar with three (Titanic won 11 back in 1998), and Crazy Heart and Up with two each. The White Ribbon, The Cove, The Blind Side, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air, The Young Victoria, Star Trek, Instead of Abracadabra, The Lady and the Reaper, and The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner will have one win each.
In a few categories – such as short film nominations – the field is wide open because the nominated films have received little publicity and the winner will be decided by those relatively few Academy members who have watched all five nominees. That’s also why Best Foreign Language Film nominee The White Ribbon can be bypassed not only by A Prophet, but by some lesser-known effort such as The Milk of Sorrow or The Secret in Their Eyes. Unless a major upset takes place, however, The Cove has its Best Documentary Feature Oscar guaranteed.
Among the locks are Up in the Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score categories, Christoph Waltz, Mo’Nique, Kathryn Bigelow, Jeff Bridges, Up in the Air for Best Adapted Screenplay, Avatar for Best Visual Effects, and the Crazy Heart song “The Weary Kind.”
Sandra Bullock is a near-lock for The Blind Side, but Meryl Streep may pull an upset for her Julia Child in Julie & Julia. In the technical categories, Avatar and The Hurt Locker are near-locks in almost all of them.
Iffier categories are Best Picture, with Avatar and – to a considerably lesser extent – Inglourious Basterds as possible winners; Best Original Screenplay, which could well go to Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds; and Best Make-Up, which may go to The Young Victoria.
Note: The predictions below were originally posted on March 2.
Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Best Foreign Language Film: The White Ribbon
Best Documentary: The Cove
Best Animated Feature: Up
Best Dir.: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious
Best Original Screenplay Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Best Adapted Screenplay Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Best Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker
Best Editing: Bob Murawski and Chris Innis, The Hurt Locker
Best Original Score: Michael Giacchino, Up
Best Song: “The Weary Kind” by T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham, Crazy Heart
Best Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair, Avatar
Best Costume Design: Sandy Powell, The Young Victoria
Best Visual Effects: Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones, Avatar
Best Sound Mixing: Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett, The Hurt Locker
Best Sound Editing: Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Avatar
Best Make-Up: Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow, Star Trek
Best Live Action Short: Instead of Abracadabra
Best Animated Short: The Lady and the Reaper
Best Documentary Short: The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
Photos: The Hurt Locker (Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment); Avatar (WETA / 20th Century Fox); Crazy Heart (Lorey Sebastian / 20th Century Fox); The Blind Side (Ralph Nelson / Warner Bros.)
Best motion picture of the year
- Avatar (20th Century Fox), A Lightstorm Entertainment Production, James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
- The Blind Side (Warner Bros.), An Alcon Entertainment Production, Nominees to be determined
- District 9 (Sony Pictures Releasing), A Block/Hanson Production, Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
- An Education (Sony Pictures Classics), A Finola Dwyer/Wildgaze Films Production, Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
- * The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment), A Voltage Pictures Production, Nominees to be determined
- Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company), A Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures/A Band Apart/Zehnte Babelsberg Production, Lawrence Bender, Producer
- Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (Lionsgate), A Lee Daniels Entertainment/Smokewood Entertainment Production, Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
- A Serious Man (Focus Features), A Working Title Films Production, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
- Up (Walt Disney), A Pixar Production, Jonas Rivera, Producer
- Up in the Air (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios), A Montecito Picture Company Production, Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producers
Best foreign language film of the year
- Ajami (Kino International), An Inosan Production, Israel
- * El Secreto de Sus Ojos (Sony Pictures Classics), A Haddock Films Production, Argentina
- The Milk of Sorrow, A Wanda Visión/Oberon Cinematogrà/Vela Production, Peru
- Un Prophète (Sony Pictures Classics), A Why Not/Page 114/Chic Films Production, France
- The White Ribbon (Sony Pictures Classics), An X Filme Creative Pool/Wega Film/Les Films du Losange/Lucky Red Production, Germany
Best documentary feature
- Burma VJ (Oscilloscope Laboratories), A Magic Hour Films Production, Anders østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
- * The Cove (Roadside Attractions), An Oceanic Preservation Society Production, Nominees to be determined
- Food, Inc. (Magnolia Pictures), A Robert Kenner Films Production, Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein
- The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, A Kovno Communications Production, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
- Which Way Home, A Mr. Mudd Production, Rebecca Cammisa
Best animated feature film of the year
- Coraline (Focus Features), Henry Selick
- Fantastic Mr. Fox (20th Century Fox), Wes Anderson
- The Princess and the Frog (Walt Disney), John Musker and Ron Clements
- The Secret of Kells (GKIDS), Tomm Moore
- * Up (Walt Disney), Pete Docter
Achievement in directing
- Avatar (20th Century Fox), James Cameron
- * The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment), Kathryn Bigelow
- Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company), Quentin Tarantino
- Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (Lionsgate), Lee Daniels
- Up in the Air (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios), Jason Reitman
Performance by an actor in a leading role
- * Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight)
- George Clooney in Up in the Air (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
- Colin Firth in A Single Man (The Weinstein Company)
- Morgan Freeman in Invictus (Warner Bros.)
- Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment)
Performance by an actress in a leading role
- * Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side (Warner Bros.)
- Helen Mirren in The Last Station (Sony Pictures Classics)
- Carey Mulligan in An Education (Sony Pictures Classics)
- Gabourey Sidibe in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (Lionsgate)
- Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
- Matt Damon in Invictus (Warner Bros.)
- Woody Harrelson in The Messenger (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
- Christopher Plummer in The Last Station (Sony Pictures Classics)
- Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones (DreamWorks in association with Film4, Distributed by Paramount)
- * Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company)
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
- Penélope Cruz in Nine (The Weinstein Company)
- Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
- Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight)
- Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)
- * Mo’Nique in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (Lionsgate)
- District 9 (Sony Pictures Releasing), Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
- An Education (Sony Pictures Classics), Screenplay by Nick Hornby
- In the Loop (IFC Films), Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
- * Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (Lionsgate), Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
- Up in the Air (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios) , Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
- * The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment), Written by Mark Boal
- Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company), Written by Quentin Tarantino
- The Messenger (Oscilloscope Laboratories), Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
- A Serious Man (Focus Features), Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
- Up (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy
Achievement in cinematography
- * Avatar (20th Century Fox), Mauro Fiore
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros.), Bruno Delbonnel
- The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment), Barry Ackroyd
- Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company), Robert Richardson
- The White Ribbon (Sony Pictures Classics), Christian Berger
Achievement in film editing
- Avatar (20th Century Fox), Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
- District 9 (Sony Pictures Releasing), Julian Clarke
- * The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment), Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
- Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company), Sally Menke
- Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (Lionsgate), Joe Klotz
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
- Avatar (20th Century Fox), James Horner
- Fantastic Mr. Fox (20th Century Fox), Alexandre Desplat
- The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment), Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
- Sherlock Holmes (Warner Bros.), Hans Zimmer
- * Up (Walt Disney), Michael Giacchino
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
- Almost There from The Princess and the Frog (Walt Disney), Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
- Down in New Orleans from The Princess and the Frog (Walt Disney), Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
- Loin de Paname from Paris 36 (Sony Pictures Classics), Music by Reinhardt Wagner, Lyric by Frank Thomas
- Take It All from Nine (The Weinstein Company), Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
- * The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart) from Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight), Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Achievement in art direction
- * Avatar (20th Century Fox), Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg, Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
- The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Sony Pictures Classics), Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro, Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
- Nine (The Weinstein Company), Art Direction: John Myhre, Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
- Sherlock Holmes (Warner Bros.), Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood, Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
- The Young Victoria (Apparition), Art Direction: Patrice Vermette, Set Decoration: Maggie Gray
Achievement in costume design
- Bright Star (Apparition), Janet Patterson
- Coco before Chanel (Sony Pictures Classics), Catherine Leterrier
- The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Sony Pictures Classics), Monique Prudhomme
- Nine (The Weinstein Company), Colleen Atwood
- * The Young Victoria (Apparition), Sandy Powell
Achievement in makeup
- Il Divo (MPI Media Group through Music Box), Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
- * Star Trek (Paramount and Spyglass Entertainment), Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
- The Young Victoria (Apparition), Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore
Achievement in sound editing
- Avatar (20th Century Fox), Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
- * The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment), Paul N.J. Ottosson
- Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company), Wylie Stateman
- Star Trek (Paramount and Spyglass Entertainment), Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
- Up (Walt Disney), Michael Silvers and Tom Myers
Achievement in sound mixing
- Avatar (20th Century Fox), Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
- * The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment), Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
- Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company), Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
- Star Trek (Paramount and Spyglass Entertainment), Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro, Distributed by Paramount), Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson
Achievement in visual effects
- * Avatar (20th Century Fox), Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
- District 9 (Sony Pictures Releasing) , Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
- Star Trek (Paramount and Spyglass Entertainment), Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton
Best animated short film
- French Roast , A Pumpkin Factory/Bibo Films Production, Fabrice O. Joubert
- Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (Brown Bag Films), A Brown Bag Films Production, Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell
- The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte), A Kandor Graphics and Green Moon Production, Javier Recio Gracia
- * Logorama (Autour de Minuit), An Autour de Minuit Production, Nicolas Schmerkin
- A Matter of Loaf and Death (Aardman Animations), An Aardman Animations Production, Nick Park
Best live action short film
- The Door (Network Ireland Television), An Octagon Films Production, Juanita Wilson and James Flynn
- Instead of Abracadabra, (The Swedish Film Institute), A Directörn & Fabrikörn Production, Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström
- Kavi, A Gregg Helvey Production, Gregg Helvey
- Miracle Fish, (Premium Films), A Druid Films Production, Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey
- * The New Tenants, A Park Pictures and M & M Production, Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson
Best documentary short subject
- China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan, Province, A Downtown Community Television Center Production, Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
- The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner, A Just Media Production, Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbacher
- The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, A Community Media Production, Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert
- * Music by Prudence, An iThemba Production, Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett
- Rabbit à la Berlin (Deckert Distribution), An MS Films Production, Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Other nominees: Helen Mirren, The Last Station; Carey Mulligan, An Education; Gabourey Sidibe, Precious; Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia.
Sandra Bullock was under no one’s Oscar 2010 radar a mere eight weeks ago. Then John Lee Hancock’s sentimental family drama The Blind Side opened to lukewarm reviews and great box office. From then on, it was all about Bullock. Or almost. The vast majority of critics’ groups ignored her when announcing their 2009 winners and runner-ups, but she and Meryl Streep tied for the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s best actress award, Bullock was chosen the top moneymaking star of 2009, and she took home both the Golden Globe for best actress (drama) and the SAG Award for best actress.
Just as importantly, she received raves for her funny/touching speeches. And she has made a wildly successful comeback. And she looks and sounds like such a good trouper.
Not surprisingly, some say Sandra Bullock is as much a shoo-in at the Oscars as Christoph Waltz, Mo’Nique, and Jeff Bridges. We don’t quite see it that way, though Bullock is certainly the odds-on favorite at this stage. The one who might possibly snatch the Oscar from Bullock’s fingernails is Meryl Streep, the Oscar’s most nominated performer and most frequent loser in the acting categories.
Streep has won kudos from critics for her portrayal of Julia Child in Julie & Julia, a movie that did quite well at the box office, too. She has also given some pretty good speeches, remembering her mother, global disasters, and all. So, expect Sandra Bullock to win, but don’t be too surprised if Meryl Streep is called to ascend the podium.
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious
Other nominees: Penélope Cruz, Nine; Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air; Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart; Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air.
Like Christoph Waltz, Mo’Nique will have to come up with new ways of saying thank you once she is called onstage to pick up her Oscar statuette. The comedienne’s highly dramatic performance as Gabourey Sidibe’s abusive mother in Lee Daniels’ Precious has earned praise across the board – across the Atlantic, even.
Mo’Nique has won just about every best supporting actress award available in the United States, in addition to a best actress trophy at the Stockholm Film Festival. Initially, the actress gained a reputation of being “difficult” because she wasn’t showing up at every awards ceremony in the country, she refused to campaign (though she could be seen in at least one talk show a few weeks ago), and was allegedly asking for hard cash to make personal appearances.
Even then the Oscar statuette had Mo’Nique’s name already engraved on it – figuratively speaking, that is. After a couple of teary speeches, thank-yous to those usually forgotten at awards time, and declarations of love and hope, the only way for Mo’Nique not to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar is if the Academy decides to do away with the category before March 7.
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Other nominees: Matt Damon, Invictus; Woody Harrelson, The Messenger; Christopher Plummer, The Last Station; Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones.
The Academy has announced that this year’s nameless Academy Award statuettes will have engraved nameplates affixed to them at the post-Oscar ceremony Governors Ball. When it comes to the Best Supporting Actor race, they may as well have Christoph Waltz’s nameplate affixed on some anonymous statuette before the show even begins.
For his portrayal of a cool, vicious Nazi in Quentin Tarantino’s World War II revenge fantasy Inglourious Basterds, Waltz has won just about every best supporting actor award there is in the United States, in addition to a best actor Cannes prize last spring. True, his award acceptance speeches have been a little on the what-the-heck-is-he-thinking side (ridiculous as it may sound, those things do count for some) while veteran Christopher Plummer has The Sound of Music‘s Von Trappists backing him up, but there’s no way to avoid the fact that Waltz’s is the Supporting Actor Performance of the Year.
Get ready for one more Waltzy acceptance speech on Oscar night.
Photo: Inglourious Basterds (François Duhamel / The Weinstein Co.)
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Other nominees: George Clooney, Up in the Air; Colin Firth, A Single Man; Morgan Freeman, Invictus; Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker.
Whenever we went out on a limb in our Oscar nomination predictions we fell off the tree. Thanks to the Academy’s decision to be (mostly) unpredictably predictable this year, we’ve decided to stick to the tried and true in our Oscar winner predictions, beginning with the best actor category: Jeff Bridges, for both his troubled country singer in Crazy Heart and his 40+-year career as an actor in films such as The Last Picture Show, Fat City, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Starman, The Fisher King, The Contender (but not King Kong).
Following critics awards in Los Angeles and Boston, the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association really got the ball rolling when they chose to screw up Bridges’ underappreciated status (we’re paraphrasing one of his acceptance speeches here) by picking his troubled country singer instead of George Clooney’s downsizing expert in Up in the Air. Then came the best actor SAG Award. And now the best actor Academy Award seems all but inevitable.
Some say that what matters is what’s on screen, etc. etc. Don’t you believe it. Several actors have won career achievement awards under the guise of a best actor or best supporting actor statuette, e.g., John Wayne (True Grit), John Gielgud (Arthur), Don Ameche (Cocoon), Sean Connery (The Untouchables). And what’s more, Bridges’ performance has garnered some pretty good notices.
Best Director Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Other nominees: James Cameron, Avatar; Lee Daniels, Precious; Jason Reitman, Up in the Air; Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds.
Kathryn Bigelow is about to become the first woman to win the Best Director Academy Award. She has already won the Directors Guild Award, while The Hurt Locker has won the Producers Guild Award. The Iraq War drama has also won most best film awards announced by film critics’ groups. Bigelow has both the momentum and the moment – as in, it’s time to give a Best Director Oscar to a woman. To date, only three other female directors have been nominated in that category: Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties, 1976), Jane Campion (The Piano, 1993), and Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, 2003).
Bigelow’s only real competition is former husband James Cameron, in the running for the 3D blockbuster Avatar. But Cameron already has a Best Director Oscar (for Titanic). His Golden Globe win was a fluke of sorts – even he looked surprised. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been. After all, Hollywood Foreign Press Association voters have always loved big movies; to date, Avatar has grossed more than $600 million domestically; The Hurt Locker grossed less than $15 million.
Academy members also love success stories. Even though The Hurt Locker was one more Iraq War box office flop, Kathryn Bigelow herself is the embodiment of a success story if ever there was one.
Photo: The Hurt Locker (Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment)
Best Foreign Language Film: Michael Haneke’s ‘The White Ribbon’
Other nominees: Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s Ajami (Israel), Juan José Campanella’s The Secret of Her Eyes (Argentina), Claudia Llosa’s The Milk of Sorrow (Peru), Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet (France).
Because only a relatively small group of Academy members vote in the special categories – short films, documentaries, foreign language films – winners often surprise and shock, e.g., last year’s Departures over shoo-in Waltz with Bashir. Compounding matters, oftentimes those voters tend to be (much) older than the average Academy member, and their tastes are usually much more conservative. They’re probably the people who placed The Blind Side at the top of their Best Film ballot, thus earning Sandra Bullock’s sentimental drama a slot in that category.
In other words: any of the five nominated films in the Best Foreign Language Film category could win, though Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon is the one that to date has found the most favor, chiefly because it happens to be the only one that actually received a 2009 US release. Also on the side of Haneke’s stark, black-and-white drama is the fact that it’s set in Germany right before the outbreak of World War I.
True, the Academy love World War II movies, but in The White Ribbon Haneke clearly makes a connection between the youth of 1914 and the adults of the Third Reich. Kids do grow up, you know? And they become what they become. The problem is that voters (those who love The Blind Side) may find that fact too disturbing and opt for something else. But what?
Ajami is set in a violent Jaffa neighborhood; The Secret in Their Eyes revolves around an unsolved murder and deadly politics; The Milk of Sorrow deals with the consequences of rape, racism, and sexism; and A Prophet is set in a tough French prison. The closest to a “feel-good flick” is the allegorical The Milk of Sorrow and perhaps The Secret in Their Eyes, which in addition to death and politics also features a bit of romance. Even so, we’re sticking to the safest – if downbeat – bet: The White Ribbon.
Best Picture, The Hurt Locker
Also in the running: Avatar, District 9, The Blind Side, A Serious Man, Precious, Inglourious Basterds, An Education, Up, Up in the Air.
Having won most guild awards, The Hurt Locker is the favorite to take home the 2010 Academy Award for Best Picture. Even so, the Iraq war drama isn’t a lock (no pun intended) in that category. That has been the case even before veterans began complaining about inaccuracies in the film and before the e-mail scandal – about a couple of weeks ago, Nicolas Chartier, one of the Hurt Locker producers, sent out e-mails to various Academy members asking them to vote for his film and not for Avatar. Things haven’t really changed.
In other words, even if Kathryn Bigelow wins the Best Director Oscar – and that’s a given – James Cameron’s Avatar could well win the Best Picture Oscar. We’re not sure if the preferential voting system will change matters all that much here. It might alter the rankings of movies with fewer #1 votes – say, fourth or fifth or sixth place – but not necessarily the ranking of the top couple of films, those that’ll be most often placed at or very near the top of voting Academy members’ top-ten lists. (Once one movie gets 50 percent plus one of the vote, it’s the official winner. In previous years, an absolute majority was all that was needed; so, a movie could win the Oscar with a mere 20 percent plus one vote.)
Inglourious Basterds, the SAG Award winner for Best Cast, is another possibility, but Quentin Tarantino’s World War II revenge fantasy will probably have to content itself with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Christoph Waltz and possibly another statuette for Best Original Screenplay. The other seven movies have almost no chance at all of winning.
Best Original Screenplay, The Hurt Locker + Best Adapted Screenplay, Up in the Air
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner’s win for Up in the Air, about an expert corporate-downsizer played by George Clooney, is all but assured. Reitman and Turner’s screenplay has been the most honored by US film critics and it has won the Writers Guild Award.
Mark Boal’s The Hurt Locker screenplay is somewhat more problematic in that the Iraq War drama has been chiefly seen as a director’s movie, which explains why filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow has won most awards out there in that category. It’s true that The Hurt Locker won the WGA Award in the Best Original Screenplay category, but Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds screenplay – The Hurt Locker‘s strongest competitor – was ineligible for the award (Tarantino isn’t a WGA member).
Yet, since the Academy as a whole will be voting for the winners – and The Hurt Locker is the favorite to win Best Picture – we believe that Boal’s screenplay will be recognized along with The Hurt Locker‘s direction, editing, cinematography, and sound mixing.
The other contenders are:
Best Original Screenplay The Messenger, Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman; A Serious Man, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen; Up, screenplay by Bob Peterson and Pete Docter, story by Docter, Peterson, and Tom McCarthy.
Best Adapted Screenplay Precious, Geoffrey Fletcher; In the Loop, Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche; District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell; and An Education, Nick Hornby.
Photos: George Clooney in Up in the Air (Dale Robinette / Paramount); Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker (Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment)
Best Documentary, The Cove
Louie Psihoyos’ The Cove, about the abuse and indiscriminate slaughter of dolphins at a secluded cove near Taiji, Japan, has been the most honored documentary of 2009. The Cove has won awards from various US critics groups, in addition to top awards from the 2010 Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild (for Mark Monroe), and the American Cinema Editors (for Geoffrey Richman). It’s the clear favorite to win the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award.
The Cove‘s competitors are The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, Which Way Home, Burma VJ, and Food, Inc. None of them has much of a chance.
Best Animated Feature, Up
Pete Docter’s Up as the next Best Animated Feature Oscar winner is a foregone conclusion. The film about an old man traveling to the Amazon with his house (!) received excellent reviews, has won tons of awards, and became a blockbuster hit. You can’t have a more Academy-friendly pedigree than that.
The competition this year, however, is unusually strong. The other nominated films are The Secret of Kells, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, and Coraline. And there were some well-received animated films that didn’t even get shortlisted. It was that kind of a year for animation. Even so, Up is unbeatable much like last year’s winner, WALL-E, was unbeatable.