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83rd Annual Academy Awards Poster

83rd Annual Academy Awards - Oscar Picks by Reviews by Matthew

This is the most fun, difficult work, I know.  Every year it’s a task that racks the brain and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  This year was a bit daunting, so many ways the Academy can go. Ha, Like that would stop me! I only missed 5 last year, leaving myself plenty of room to do much worse.  We’ve got 19 categories to go ladies and gentlemen, so C’mon all you Academy stalwarts, let’s see what you’ve brought me this year.

-m-




Oscars at a glance How many will I get Correct ? Totals - 14 out of 19 picked
Category -m-'s Picks The Oscar goes to
Best Picture – The King’s Speech The King's Speech – Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, and Gareth Unwin
Best Director – David Fincher (The Social Network) Tom Hooper – The King's Speech
Best Actor – Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) Colin Firth – The King's Speech as Prince Albert, Duke of York / King George VI
Best Actress – Natalie Portman (Black Swan) Natalie Portman – Black Swan as Nina Sayers
Best Supporting Actor – Christian Bale (The Fighter) Christian Bale – The Fighter as Dicky Eklund
Best Supporting Actress – Melissa Leo (The Fighter) Melissa Leo – The Fighter as Alice Ward
Best Animated Picture - Toy Story 3 Toy Story 3 – Lee Unkrich
Best Screenplany (Original) – Inception The King's Speech – David Seidler
Best Screenplay (Adapted) – The Social Network The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin from The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
Best Cinematography – Inception Inception – Wally Pfister
Best Art Direction – Alice In Wonderland Alice in Wonderland – Art Direction: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
Best Costume Design – The Tempest Alice in Wonderland – Colleen Atwood
Best Makeup – The Way Back The Wolfman – Rick Baker and Dave Elsey
Best Film Editing – The Social Network The Social Network – Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
Best Original Score – Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech) The Social Network – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Best Original Song – We Belong Together (Toy Story 3) "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3 – Randy Newman
Best Sound Mixing– The King’s Speech Inception – Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo, and Ed Novick
Best Sound Effects Editing – Inception Inception – Richard King
Best Visual Effects – Inception Inception – Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, and Peter Bebb
Best Foreign Language Film - No pick  
Best Documentary (Feature) - No pick  
Best Documentary (Short Subject) – No pick  
Best Short Film (Animation) – No pick  
Best Short Film (Live Action) – No pick  

PICTURE – A quick recap of the 10 nominee list:  Each Academy member selects his or her top 3 favorite films of the year.  Each selection is given a point value:  1st pick = 3 points, 2nd pick = 2 points, 3rd pick = 1 point.  Total the points at the end and you have your best picture.  Because this category is now based on points, theoretically, everyone’s 2nd place film could win the Oscar, but I don’t see that being an issue this year as all of the 1st place picks will be for The King’s Speech.  Nuf said.

DIRECTOR – A far more difficult category to pick this year as all of the nominees are fully deserving.  Joel & Ethan Coen are the only previous winners, recently too, and as such this year they’ll be removed from the running.  Darren Aronofsky, who has provided his most palatable work in Black Swan and David O. Russell who delivered one of the best films of the year in The Fighter are both 1st time nominees; both deserving of recognition but not yet an Oscar.  That leaves the real pickle:  Tom Hooper and David Fincher.  While some believe that the best picture winner follows the director I cannot see that happening this year, Tom has only 3 films to his credit (a lot of tv work, including the critically acclaimed John Adams) and I have a hard time picking him, I believe the Academy will too.  On the other hand is David Fincher, the Earl of Difficulty.  Even though he’s not well loved in Hollywood, its Fincher’s masterful touch that gives The
Social Network its undeniable breadth.  Over the last few years Fincher has made, what appears to be, for him and Hollywood “grown up” films; ie: Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  With The Social Network, David has taken the most recent Hallmark of society, Facebook, and given it, as well as himself, a clout that the Academy simply cannot deny.

ACTOR – The easiest category of the year, Colin Firth takes the Gold, but if you want the why and wherefore here you go:  I cannot help but toot my own horn in this category.  Last year I stated that both Jeff Bridges and Colin Firth would be back, but as the adage states: there can be only One.  So let’s weed the rest.  Javier Bardem, the recent Oscar winner (No Country For Old Men).  Personally I can’t wait to see Biutiful, I think the Academy wants to see it as well.  Jesse Eisenberg and James Franco are potential future Oscar winners, Franco moreso as he’s got his hands in Writing, Producing, and Directing, doing the footwork never hurts, am I right?  For Jeff Bridges, I’ve got simple reality, the Double Tap (winning the acting Oscar 2 years in a row, in the same category) is next to impossible. It’s happened 5 times in all of Oscar history.  Here’s my point: Jeff Bridges’ turn as Rooster Cogburn is not Forrest Gump.  The Academy
can and will pass, delivering a much deserved Oscar to Colin Firth, who’s absolutely earned it.

NOTE: The Double Tap - Luise Rainer: Best Actress 1936 & 37, Spencer Tracy: Best Actor 1937 & 38, Katharine Hepburn: Best Actress 1967 & 68, Jason Robards: Best Supp. Actor 1976 & 77, and Tom Hanks: Best Actor 1993 & 94.  

ACTRESS – I don’t think there’s any issue with seeing the winner here either, but the speculation can still be kinda fun.  I’ve got a pair of ‘easy outs’ whose roles are worth watching.  They’re Nicole Kidman (previous Oscar winner for The Hours) in Rabbit Hole and Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone.  Annette Bening, the 4-time Oscar nominee goes 0 for 5.  The ‘dark horse’ is Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine.  Now, I feel that she wants to win (and she will) an Oscar for the work that she’s done.  Williams in Blue Valentine is said to be raw, vulnerable, and emotionally naked; perfect Oscar pitch.  I didn’t get to see it, but I know her work.  I know what she’s capable of and I know (as does the Academy) the loss that she’s suffered, that of Heath Ledger.  She’s arguably, as good an actor as Heath, and alive.  I see Academy members leaning towards her because of her personal history, it’s not pretty, or even
attention that’s wanted, but it’s there and could pull this dark horse to the head of the pack.  However, we’ve got Natalie Portman to contend with.  Now, I’m not down playing her stellar performance in Black Swan but it’s a 90% ‘one trick pony’, I mean she plays the same frightened girl for almost the whole film.  But what a film, and what a swan, not white or black this time, but Gold on Oscar night.

SUPPORTING ACTOR – Let the difficulty begin.  John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) is great but it’s too small of a movie.  Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right) is qualified, but I simply hated his character and I’m sure the Academy hated him too.  Jeremy Renner was as good as The Town was, so we’ll easily see him again, in a more rewardable role.  The race is simply neck-and-neck between Geoffery Rush (The King’s Speech) and Christian Bale (The Fighter).  Both winning a pair of awards on each side of the Atlantic.  Rush, winning both the BAFTA (British Academy Award) and the British Independent Film Award.  While Bale has won both the Golden Globe and SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) awards.  This is Bale’s first Oscar nod and Geoffrey hasn’t won since 1997.  Both are due and are fantastic, respectively, in their films this year.  Picking this category this year is little more than a coin toss, and my coin’s turning up Christian Bale.  He’s
made Hollywood a ton of money, has a long tenured career, and the supporting Oscar is enough for the Academy to feel like they’ve returned the favor.  And man, Bale’s transformation into Dicky Eklund is fucking amazing!  From the opening frame, you’re Hooked.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS – This category gets even worse.  Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) is playing John Hawkes here.  Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) is simply fantastic, but ranks 4th when it comes to voting this year.  Amy Adams has been nominated for 3 Oscars and is simply a darling for the Academy (think Renee Zellweger) but she’s only won 1 award, individually, for this role and that’s from the Las Vegas Film Critics Soceity (she won 4 or 5 more for The Fighter’s Ensemble Cast).  But this is a classic split vote with Melissa Leo being nominated for the same film, and both women are as strong in their roles.  Historically, that leaves Helena Bonham Carter as the shoe-in but we have the exact same issue as the supporting actor category.  Carter won both the BAFTA and BIFA (just like Rush) while Melissa Leo has won both the Golden Globe and SAG.  Shit!  Bottom line: Helena Bonham Carter’s role is simply not as grand as Geoffery Rush’s, she
good, but there’s not as much of her on display as there is of Melissa Leo.  I’ve got to go with The Fighter again.  These characters are just too strong to vote against.

SCREENPLAY ORIGINAL – Hmmm.  Thinking , thinking, thinking…  Okay here goes, Another Year and The Kids Are All Right are small potatoes.  The Fighter is great, as good as True Grit, but like the western, can’t contend this year.  It’s either The King’s Speech or Inception that’ll walk with the Oscar.  The King’s Speech is really a script of smiles; it just feels good.  While Inception is the ‘thinking man’s’ movie and since Christopher Nolan got snubbed in the Director category, it seems only fitting to pay him some respect here.  That would be the Academy thing to do.

SCREENPLAY ADAPTED – I’m not sweating this one at all.  The Social Network is too damn good.

PRODUCTION DESIGN / ART DIRECTION – “An art director creates the setting in which a story unfolds, persuading moviegoers that what they see - whether ordinary or incredible - is real”.  Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows does not seem ordinary or incredible to me.  True Grit has a lot of camping, for lack of a better word.  The King’s Speech has some really nice designs, the way they make Lionel’s dingy office look artistic, homey almost, and a few of the scenes in Buckingham Palace come to mind.  To wit, we see that Inception has the ordinary and Alice In Wonderland has the incredible.  Go Alice!

CINEMATOGRAPHY – Frame up!  An interesting selection this year, with 4 of the 5 nominees serving as their respective director’s repeat cinematographers.  (there’s a sentence, huh?)  Danny Cohen (The King’s Speech) is the lone man; providing mostly tv work, this is his first nomination and although he provided some wonderful visuals, they were still a bit odd at times.  I have yet to see a Darren Aronofsky film pull off the amazing photography needed to win this category and while Black Swan is the best effort to date from Matthew Libatique, it’s still small, as small as Aronofsky’s films.  Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network) is my personal favorite and one of David Fincher’s as well, having shot both Fight Club and the upcoming Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Jeff may be my personal favorite this year but my vote doesn’t always sit well with the Academy.  The Social Network is shot almost entirely in wide shots, which gives the film it’s
grounded sense of age; it’s grown up feel if you will.  Kudos to Jeff but I’m afraid, no Oscar.  Moving on to an Academy favorite in Roger Deakins (True Grit), the 9 time nominated cinematographer is a member of the Academy’s Board of Governors and the longtime Coen brothers cameraman.  If he wins, I would not be surprised as he’s due and True Girt is bound to win at least one Oscar, right?  But this year, I’m going to go with Christopher Nolan’s longtime lensman, Wally Pfister (Inception), he’s shot everything for Nolan except Following.  This film is pure eye candy.  Short, wide, tight, slow-mo, action, long, close-ups, ocean waves, rain, hallways, vans falling off of bridges, you name it, Wally’s on the Oscar ball.

FILM EDITING – I love the Editing category.  I love to evaluate how these stories are told to me.  I cannot comment on 127 Hours cause I didn’t get to see it, but The King’s Speech spanning it’s years, The Fighter’s montages, Black Swan’s web of crumbling sanity are all dully credited this year.  However, it’s The Social Network’s seemless depositions that had me hooked.  Brilliantly cut and woven, this work is top-shelf, absolutely as good as Slumdog Millionaire.

COSTUME –Typically this category goes to the Royal English epic.  The King’s Speech fits that title but it’s kinda bland on robes and corsets.  I Am Love has some nice, single colored mod-like dresses but is too modern and not enough.  True Grit is simply (this is not a dig) western fare.  Alice In Wonderland has many-a royal get up and hats to boot, but it’s too animated for me to pick it out right.  The Tempest however…  Now there’s some costumes.  Dig that Raven!

MAKEUP – What the heck is this?  I fail to see how Barney’s Version, which looks solidly endearing as a film, qualifies here.  It may have some aging makeup but it appears to be from the 40-60 year old range, hardly the transformations I would expect when it comes to Oscar.  The Wolfman, really?  I believe this would be better suited for the Visual Effects category, and I have a hard time seeing the Academy take this movie, which was god-awful, seriously here.  That leaves The Way Back, which looks to do some serious element work on the human body.  I don’t know if it can be considered masterful, but it looks to be the best of what they’ve given us to vote on.  Sheesh…

ORIGINAL SCORE – Gotta go with my gut on this one.  A.R. Rahman, nominated for 127 Hours, won a few years back with the uplifting Slumdog Millionaire.  John Powell, is nominated again for animated fare, this year for How To Train Your Dragon; sorry John, we’re just not feeling the Love tonight.  Breaking down the rest is no small task.  Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are the trendy picks for their superb work in The Social Network.  I can see a win here for them, but I have trouble reconciling it with the quality of work delivered by the remaining 2 nominees, Hams Zimmer and Alexandre Desplat.  Hans, nominated for Inception, has 8 Oscar noms and only 1 win to his credit (1995 for The Lion King, he also has 10 Golden Globe noms with only 2 wins) and Inception is a sonic film.  Hans’ work is literally felt in the cinema this year.  Not sure how much of that has to do with the Sound Editing and Mixing, but it wouldn’t work at all if the notes
weren’t there.  Alexandre Desplat however, has turned in some of the most beautiful piano work in The King’s Speech.  He’s Oscar caliber talent and the Academy has been itching to show him their love.  Alexandre’s score wraps The King’s Speech in a cozy warmth that is as charming as the film’s script and acting performances. I believe this is simply his year.

ORIGINAL SONG – What a dull list for music in films this year.  I See The Light (Tangled) and If I Rise (127 Hours) being the first hatchlings that couldn’t fly.  Coming Home (Country Strong) is simply not country strong enough (and why was this song was nominated instead of the infinitely better Country Strong?).  Leaving us with the effervescent Randy Newman, whose 20 Oscar noms (and 1 win) have him leading this pack of horses (none of them dark) by a mile.  We Belong Together (Toy Story 3) is the winner because there is nothing else.

SOUND MIXING – Less is sometimes more, maybe.  This year we’ll go with the quiet stammer of The King’s Speech.  The scenes where Prince Albert stands before the microphone are simply deafening in their silence and pure Oscar gold.

SOUND EDITING – Last year I read a great description of this category.  The award goes to the film with the biggest “Boom!”.  There’s no Hurt Locker this year but there is Inception.  The biggest boom in this film comes from the score.  Inception is a film that’s as sonic as it is viscera,l so what the hell, give it the Oscar for the BWAHHH.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2yD4yDsiP4

VISUAL EFFECTS – Meat and Potatoes here.  Do you like Alice In Wonderland or Inception?  While Alice has some amazing visual CGI creations Inception has the rotating Hallway, amongst many other modern world dream elements.  Personally, I think the Academy will bestow credit on the realism of Inception’s visuals.  And damn, they went old-school for that Hallway, no CGI there.  I’m impressed and so is the Academy.

ANIMATED FEATURE - I was not able to get a glimpse at The Illusionist unfortunately but I don’t think I’ll need it to pick this one.  How To Train Your Dragon was great and for me, seems like the perfect pick, and then I saw Toy Story 3.  Man, the way this film ‘passed the torch’ and picked up a Best Picture nod makes its win here a sure thing.

QUICK PICKS IN CATEGORYS I’M NOT PICKING – Look for Biutiful in the Best Foreign Language Film.

Cincinnati Chili, Whoa!  I’ll see you all Sunday night.

-m-


Turn Down The Lights, Turn Up The Sound.

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