Sunday, January 23, 2011

2011 Academy Award Nomination Predictions

I've had the great fortune to see most of the movies tipped for Oscar nominations (to be announced Tuesday morning at 5:30 in California). Following are my predictions in all categories excluding the documentary and short film categories for which I've not seen anything in contention.

Best Picture
The Social Network, Toy Story 3, The King's Speech, The Fighter, Inception, 127 Hours, True Grit and Black Swan are basically locks for 8 of the 10 spots on the list. The last two will go to The Kids Are All Right, The Way Back, The Town or Winter's Bone. Taking a kind of stab in the dark I would say The Kids Are All Right and Winter's Bone. But neither is going to win, so it hardly matters.

The real best five, and the probable nominees if the Academy hadn't expanded to a field of ten last year, would be The Social Network, Black Swan, The King's Speech, The Fighter and either Inception or 127 Hours.

Best Director
Tougher to call this category. The sure things are likely David Fincher for The Social Network, Tom Hooper for The King's Speech and Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan.

The final two spots could go to any of four including Joel and Ethan Coen for True Grit, David O. Russell for The Fighter, Christopher Nolan for Inception and Danny Boyle for 127 Hours. From those I'd have to say Russell is almost definite because he's a well-established director of some fine films who has still gone unrecognized by the Academy. The Coen brothers are a probable no because they're likely to get their names on the Adapted Screenplay list, they've won the award previously and True Grit is probably mostly viewed as a triumph of acting. Because the Director's Guild usually aligns perfectly with the Oscars, I will say Christopher Nolan over Danny Boyle because Inception is quite clearly an incredible feat of direction.

Best Actress
The three locks for nominations are Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right, Natalie Portman for Black Swan and Jennifer Lawrence for Winter's Bone. After that it gets a bit tricky.

There's Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine, who has received some year end awards and accolades.

Hilary Swank got the SAG nomination for Conviction.

There's Lesley Manville in Mike Leigh's Another Year, still unseen by me and many other people which may not give her enough steam to get the nomination.

There's Bening's co-star, Julianne Moore, an Oscar favorite and a truly marvelous actress, but she could wind up in the Supporting Actress category despite sharing lead screen time with Bening.

Finally there's Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole - a fine performance and a typical attention-getting role (grieving mother).

If there were any justice, Tilda Swinton in I Am Love would be a significant part of this conversation. She out-Streeps Meryl Streep by giving a performance in Italian with a Russian accent. But that's just the least of the reasons why her performance is great.

So from those 6 women, two will be among the final five. This is one of the strongest Best Actress years I can recall. I will go with Kidman and Williams to make the cut.

Best Actor
Although it's a big field, as usual, there seem to be fewer with a real chance of grabbing a nomination than normal. Again there are three locks: Colin Firth in The King's Speech, James Franco in 127 Hours and Robert Duvall in Get Low. Many would call Jeff Bridges in True Grit a sure thing as well, but I'm not quite ready to call it that. I will put him on my prediction list, but wouldn't be surprised to see him left out, especially considering he just won the thing last year.

So for the final spot we are looking at Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network, Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine, Javier Bardem in Biutiful, perennial snub victim Paul Giamatti in Barney's Version, Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter, Leonardo DiCaprio in either Inception or Shutter Island, Kevin Spacey in Casino Jack, Michael Douglas in Solitary Man and Aaron Eckhart in Rabbit Hole.

That's a lot of choices, but it doesn't really look like Spacey, DiCaprio and Giamatti have any chance at a nomination. Douglas is probably getting more attention in the supporting category for his role in Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps and Wahlberg is completely overshadowed by his co-star Christian Bale.

My vote would be for Eckhart, but it ain't gonna happen.

Eisenberg got the SAG nod, but I'm not so sure the Academy is ready to recognize him yet. Anyway, I don't think his performance was that good.

So I think it's down to Bardem and Gosling. Both are previous nominees. I'd say Gosling and Williams will both be nominated or neither will be, but not just one, so I'll put Gosling in my final position.

Best Supporting Actor
In this category it really only looks like there are five possibilities: Christian Bale in The Fighter and Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right are both long overdue for an Oscar nomination and they'll both get it this year. Also Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech, Jeremy Renner in The Town and Andrew Garfield in The Social Network, possibly the weakest of the bunch.

The problem is there's no other performance that's hot on their heels. Possibly one of the men from The Way Back (Ed Harris at the top, but also Colin Farrell). John Hawkes got the SAG nomination for Winter's Bone and there is a possibility of his nabbing the spot away from Garfield. No one is really talking about Bill Murray in Get Low, so scratch him off. And Matt Damon in True Grit is a bit of a non-starter.

Actually, I've changed my mind. I'm going with Hawkes in favor of Garfield for the fifth spot.

Best Supporting Actress
Here's where there's a whole lot of variance. It looks to me like the only sure things are Melissa Leo for The Fighter and Helena Bonham Carter for The King's Speech. Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit is probably a pretty good bet, but the Academy hasn't always been kind to children.

Other candidates are Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom, who has been nabbing various awards for her role (but missed out on SAG), Amy Adams in The Fighter, Barbara Hershey and Mila Kunis from Black Swan and Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right.

Kunis and Adams both got the SAG and the Golden Globe nominations, so I would put them on my list before any of the others. Weaver also got the GG nod. But the Golden Globes are a not always accurate predictor of the Oscars, not least because they separate their top categories by drama and comedy. So Moore was nominated as a lead actress in a comedy.

My three guesses after Carter and Leo are for Adams, Weaver and Moore.

Best Animated Feature
This year will only allow for three nominees. So Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon. After that probably Despicable Me or possibly Tangled, but my prediction is for the former.

Best Original Screenplay
The front runners have to be Inception, Black Swan, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, Another Year and The Fighter. Damn, that's six and the Academy only nominates five. So which ones are the sure things? I'd say The King's Speech and The Kids Are All Right. Inception and Black Swan are probably close enough to call them locks. The fifth spot is a tough call. Mike Leigh has to be considered a favorite for his Oscar pedigree (four nominations since 1996), but The Fighter is likely to get the Best Picture and possibly Best Director nod.

It is quite common for something on the Best Picture list to fail to get a screenplay nomination. This is because nominations are done by individual branches. So members of the writer's branch are the only ones submitting nominations in the writing categories while Best Picture is open to all members. Therefore I'll go with Mike Leigh scoring a fifth nomination.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Let's go ahead and get The Social Network and 127 Hours out of the way because they will be nominated. Next comes True Grit - very likely to be nominated.

Next there's Winter's Bone, The Town, Rabbit Hole, and Toy Story 3 (some are calling for it, but I don't see it happening). Maybe Rabbit Hole has no chance, but I think it absolutely deserves it. The Town got the WGA nod and the studio is pushing hard, so I'll go with that one.

The final spot is probably for Winter's Bone, unless the Academy has fallen in love with The Way Back. But I'm going with the first.

Best Foreign Language Film
También la lluvia (Even the Rain) from Spain
Biutiful from Mexico
Dogtooth from Greece
Confessions from Japan
Outside the Law from Algeria

Best Film Editing
The Social Network
Shutter Island
127 Hours
Black Swan

There's sometimes a wild card thrown into this category and Thelma Schoonmaker has done such great work and been nominated several times for her work on Martin Scorsese films. So I'm throwing in Shutter Island along with a list of film's I think honestly had the best editing of the year.

Best Cinematography
Wally Pfister - Inception
Jeff Cronenweth - The Social Network
Matthew Libatique - Black Swan
Roger Deakins - True Grit
Danny Cohen - The King's Speech

This list aligns perfectly with the American Society of Cinematographers Awards, which is rare, but I think those five look like good bets.

Best Art Direction
The King's Speech
Alice in Wonderland
True Grit
TRON: Legacy

Best Costume Design
Alice in Wonderland
The King's Speech
Black Swan
The Tempest
True Grit

Best Original Score *
Hans Zimmer - Inception
*A.R. Rahman - 127 Hours
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Social Network
Alexandre Desplat - The King's Speech
John Powell - How to Train Your Dragon

Best Original Song
I don't really know where to begin with this category, which almost always includes at least one nominated film that isn't nominated in any other category. It just happens to have an original song tacked onto the end credits. It has always seemed to me that the rules should be modified to only allow songs that are used during the film, although not necessarily incorporated into the plot. Did "My Heart Will Go On" add anything to Titanic as a story?

"You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" from Burlesque
"I See the Light" from Tangled
"Coming Home" from Country Strong
"We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3
"If I Rise" from 127 Hours

Best Makeup
Alice in Wonderland
True Grit

Best Sound
Iron Man 2
Toy Story 3
TRON: Legacy

Best Sound Editing
Toy Story 3
Iron Man 2
Robin Hood
How to Train Your Dragon

Best Visual Effects *
Alice in Wonderland
TRON: Legacy
*Iron Man 2
*Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

*Update: My choices for Original Score changed because at the time of writing I was not aware that Carter Burwell's score for True Grit had been ruled ineligible.

Also, I added two more films to the Visual Effects category because my head is still stuck in format that category had for many many years, which was to have only three nominees.

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