By Sanriel Chris Ajero

It’s that time of the year again, when the most prestigious of all film awards will hand out its prizes. With a few changes for this year’s now-shorter telecast, we get to see how they accommodate all ten of the Best Picture nominees, we see how they do the Best Original Song category without actual song performances, and we see how they give chances for the second speech opportunities. But more than anything, it’s the awards that matter. I may not have been that much of a fan of the selected nominees, but the film enthusiast in me can’t resist the urge to do this annual prediction of the Oscars for yet another year. Here’s my take on the awards to be handed out tomorrow morning (Manila time).

 

BEST PICTURE

For the first time after Casablanca won over its 9 other competition, the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences released a long list of nominees for its top prize. Realistically speaking, however, out of the 10 nominees, only three actually have their chances of winning. The image that follows present my predictions for Best Picture – from the most likely to the utterly impossible. Up until now, people are still under the dilemma of choosing between The Hurt Locker and Avatar – both of which won a number of Best Picture trophies these past months. I, for one, go the other direction and choose The Hurt Locker as my predicted winner with Inglourious Basterds as a runner-up. This is a bold move and I know I could be wrong. Aside from being my personal favorite from the frontrunners, I think given the new Academy Awards voting system,  where a voter can now rank all the nominees and not just choose a winner, Inglourious Basterds may pull off a surprise spoiler. One thing is certain for me – out of the 6 top prizes (Picture, Director, Lead Actor and Actress, and Supporting Actor and Actress), the Academy always gives room for at least a single surprise. Since I’m pretty certain this won’t come from the acting branch (except for Lead Actress, hopefully), I am forced to think it may come in the Best Picture race. Pros (+) and cons (-) regarding each of the top 5 choices for Best Picture follows (the rest of the top 10 are almost irrelevant).
 

 

 

THE HURT LOCKER

+ Probably the clear frontrunner of the race as it won almost all possible precursor awards (PGA, DGA, BFCA and other Best Picture awards)
+ Tied with Avatar for gaining the most number of nominations (9 in total)
+ An all-around nominee (has nods for Picture, Directing, Acting, Editing, and other technical merits)

– Just last week, a scandal involving one of its producers – when he sent black propaganda emails to Academy voters against Avatar that caused him to be dis-invited to the program.
– After everything that’s been said and done, it is still just a little film with unknown stars.
– Probably the film with the poorest box-office showing from all the nominees (less than $20M worldwide gross as of last count)
– Was released too early and might suffer being forgotten by voters.
– Might turn off older voters with its rather unconventional look on a sensitive topic.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

+ The Academy loves Tarantino.
+ Won the SAG Awards top prize (Best Ensemble)
+ 8 nominations in total
+ Has many followers
+ May benefit from the Academy Awards new preferential voting system
+ Has sustained buzz and support albeit early (Cannes) release

– The Academy loves nominating Tarantino.
– Early release date
– May be too cool for the Academy voters
– Much received more as a cult film than an Oscar film.

AVATAR

+ Now the number 1 film of all time based on box-office sales. (more than $2.5B worldwide gross as of last count)
+ Has won an important precursor to the Oscars (Golden Globe Best Picture Drama)
+ James Cameron has proven himself as an Academy darling after sweeping off Oscars during his last appearance in the race.
+ Revolutionary piece of cinema

– More than anything, it is still just a sci-fi film.
– Many did not take it seriously.
– Missing the Screenplay nomination suggests a lot.
– Has a lot of backlash

UP IN THE AIR

+ Won the first-ever Best Picture trophy of the film season
+ An actors film (Many actor voters may support it)
+ Relevant and thematically timely

– Academy voters might not see it as a serious contender
– Handled simpler and not that big for a Best Picture winner
– Has died towards the latter part of the Oscar season
– Has peaked too early

PRECIOUS

+ Typical dramatic ensemble that Oscar voters normally go for.
+ Buoyed by massive dramatic performances

– The buzz started too early (Sundance January 2009)
– Some actually thought it was not that good as a film.
– Has not won a single Best Picture trophy. (except for last night’s Independent Spirits, and as if that counts)
– Mo’Nique will be rewarded in behalf of the film.

WILL WIN: The Hurt Locker
DARK HORSE: Inglourious Basterds

SHOULD WIN: Hearing them announce either The Hurt Locker or Inglourious Basterds as the year’s Best Picture will be pleasing enough news.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Where the Wild Things Are. Looking at all the mainstream releases of last year, this Spke Jonze creation is definitely one of the strongest – and not being recognized as one of the 10 best films of the year is just appaling and insulting – especially if The Blind Side is on that list.

 

BEST DIRECTOR 

It is a trend in last decade’s Oscar results that records are set – first black actress to win best actress, youngest best actor winner, first Oscar win for Marty, first this, first that. One record, however, remains to be untouched. Last decade, Sofia Coppola came close to touching it when she became only the third female director to be nominated in the Best Director category. This year, another woman director attempts to topple the record. Will this be that year – especially now that she’s up against the master-director and realisateur (and coincidentally, her ex-husband) behind the massive hit Avatar? I think so. But the afore-mentioned surprise can also come from here.

 

 

 

KATHRYN BIGELOW (The Hurt Locker)

+ In the directing POV, her highly-controlled film is the best of the bunch.
+ Has won all the awards she needs to win this.
+ Already broke two records for being the first female director to ever win the Critics Choice and the Directors Guild of America (which counts as the most important of all precursors for this category)

– The bias against female directors may continue and she be left ignored.
– Voters may not find her filmography to be that significant to warrant her smashing this record
– She lost the Golden Globes to James Cameron.

JAMES CAMERON (Avatar)

+ The sole genius behind the revolutionary and records-smashing film that is Avatar
+ He changed the way we look at films (wuite literally) and Academy may want to reward him for that
+ He won an important precursor – the Golden Globes

– Has won already for his last film.

QUENTIN TARANTINO (Inglourious Basterds)

+ A Best Director win for Tarantino is already due.
+ Directing-wise, this is best film since Pulp Fiction

– He is the type of writer-director who the voters might prefer to reward with his writing (which some say is his better work) rather than his directing, at least for now. Think Sofia Coppola.

JASON REITMAN (Up in the Air)

+ Has proven his former nomination is no fluke or mistake.
+ His 2nd Best Director nod in less than 5 years – he could be due already.
+ Has been nominated in all other precursor awards.
+ His infusion of drama and comedy is a mark of a great director, and he may be rewarded for that.
+ He, alongside his film, is a critic’s favorite.

– The directorial merits of the film are far more simplistic as compared to his co-nominees.
–  His film is, in most parts, a comedy and it is rare for a comedy director to win this category.
– The battlefield is populated by the formerly-mentioned 3 frontrunners.
– Like Tarantino, will most likely be rewarded as a screenwriter for now.

LEE DANIELS (Precious)

+ Has shown extreme directorial promise with Precious.

– This nomination is a reward.
– His film, and his name, is rather small for this extremely populated arena.

WILL WIN: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker). Rounding up the category, since Cameron has won rather recently, and both Tarantino and Reitman might be rewarded in a different field, I believe we are poised to welcome our very first Academy Award-winning female director.
DARK HORSE: James Cameron (Avatar)

SHOULD WIN: Kathryn Bigelow. From all the films nominated, this is the most realized – perfectly controlled and well-paced, she has crafted a war film like we’ve never seen before, and which horrors we’d rather wish to not see again.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Coen Brothers (A Serious Man). Even though they just won recently, A Serious Man has proven to be a film that no other less experienced and less ballsy director could ever pull off.

 

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Despite the supposedly-tough competition, the awards season has been rather consistent – consistent in awarding Jeff Bridges. This, I would not want to argue. But the presence of a lesser-known competitor – Jeremy Renner – should not be ignored.

 

JEFF BRIDGES (Crazy Heart)

+ Has been giving us topnotch performances ever since, and the Academy may find him deserving of a recognition.
+ Has been nominated for four time already.
+ Loooong overdue.
+ Has won all possible Best Actor trophies including SAG and the Golden Globes

– Aside from the fact that many voters may not have seen his little film, nothing stops him from winning this.

JEREMY RENNER (The Hurt Locker)

+ Showstopping turn in the most awarded film of the entire awards season.
+ If The Hurt Locker sweeps the Oscars, there is a big chance he’ll get this one too.

– Rather new to this and is lesser-known as opposed to his veteran competitors.
– Jeff Bridges

GEORGE CLOONEY (Up in the Air)

+ Career-best performance for the film, as claimed by many critics.
+ The Academy adores him.

– A rather subtle performance to be recognized by this award mostly dominated by showy performances.
– Has just won Best Supporting Actor recently.
– Jeff Bridges

COLIN FIRTH (A Single Man)

+ Best performance of his career.
+ Has been long overlooked by the Academy
+ Has won the BAFTA for Best Actor

– Buzz for his film already died.
– His films was generally snubbed by the Academy
– Jeff Bridges

MORGAN FREEMAN (Invictus)

+ Many critics believe that this role fit him perfectly
+ The Academy loves him and has been nominating him everytime he has a baity film
+ Clint Eastwood backing him again (he did as well when he won as Support for Million Dollar Baby) 

– His film was not so well-received.
– No buzz for the film itself.
– Not being included in the Best Picture race, despite being an Eastwood film, proves what they think of it
– Has just won recently
– Jeff Bridges

WILL WIN: Jeff Bridges. He’s long overdue and he deserves this.
DARK HORSE: Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

SHOULD WIN: Jeff Bridges. After four nominations, and a career of fantastic performances, it would be a shame to slap him with another upset.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Michael Stuhlbarg. A performance like no other in a film like no other.

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

I will probably cover my eyes and ears as they announce the winner in this category. As much as it is against my will, I’m predicting a Sandra Bullock win. I’d be happy if I won’t get this category right though. The entire season, we’ve heard endless debates on who should win Best Actress between Bullock and Streep. I won’t resolve that case here. Instead, I’m giving my darkhorse card to a newcomer, and the singular best female performance from the bunch.

 

SANDRA BULLOCK (The Blind Side)

+ A well-known actress
+ Career-best performance, no doubt
+ A surprise box-office hit film
+ Won most of the precursor awards including Golden Globes and SAG
+ The film got a nod in the Best Picture category, and that’s saying a lot.
+ Biopic role

– Many claims she doesn’t deserve it.
– Many are still not convinced if she can really act.
– A worst actress nomination for her film All About Steve from the Razzies

CAREY MULLIGAN (An Education)

+ Breakthrough performance of the year
+ Dominated critics awards and National Board of Reviews
+ Recently won BAFTA for Best Actress
+ The film scored a Best Picture nod

– In the company of veteran actresses
– The buzz in her performance subsided with that of the film’s
– Bullock winning everything

MERYL STREEP (Julie and Julia)

+ Has not won for the last 25 years
+ She is Meryl Streep and the Academy would nominate even her personal videos
+ If they would reward a body of work in 2009, it would be her after collectively performing above average performances in It’s Complicated, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and in this.
+ Won a fair share of Best Actress trophies this 2009
+ Another biopic role

– Has won already, twice.
– Lost SAG to Bullock, the most important of all precursors in acting.

GABOUREY SIDIBE (Precious)

+ Another outstanding breakthrough turn
+ Her film is one of the leaders in terms of number of nominations

– They might reward Mo’Nique in behalf of the film
– Buzz for her performance is dying, if not dead.
– This nomination is a reward for her fresh natural talent

HELEN MIRREN (The Last Station)

+ A much loved actress doing a period piece playing a biopic role
+ Has been nominated in all the right awards

– Many have not seen the film
– She just won rather recently in this same category

WILL WIN: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side). It is inevitable.
DARK HORSE: Carey Mulligan (An Education)

SHOULD WIN: Carey Mulligan (An Education). Effortless and carefree as a child, but deep and strong like a wise woman, Mulligan portrayed this character in her breakthrough film like she’s been doing this forever.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Abbie Cornish (Bright Star). Criminally and unjustly ignored all over the awards season. Just not right.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Same as the Lead Actor race, the entire awards season has been one in recognizing the single best supporting role – one that is unapologetic and extremely unforgettable. I wouldn’t want to argue with that as I personally find Christoph Waltz’s Col. Hans Landa one of the finest performances of the year – one I’m sure to go straight to cinema history books.

 

CHRISTOPH WALTZ (Inglourious Basterds)

+ Sweeping almost all Best Supporting Actor trophies the entire awards season.
+ Best reviews vis-a-vis his competition
+ SAG and Golden Globes wins
+ The villain card – think Heath Ledger and Javier Bardem of the past 2 years

– Nothing, really. But the Academy might feel like rewarding actors that are long overdue – Tucci and Plummer.

STANLEY TUCCI (The Lovely Bones)

+ If the Academy feels like rewarding a body of work, Tucci has one hell of a reputation (plus two from 2009 – the nominated role as the Salmon killer in The Lovely Bones, and the husband of Julia Child in Julie and Julia)
+ His first-ever nomination after years of great roles
+ He’s due for an award
+ The villain card.

– Has not been winning throughout the season
– Poor reviews for his film
– Christoph Waltz

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER (The Last Station)

+ A veteran actor
+ His first-ever nomination, the Academy might feel like rewarding his body of work.
+ Biopic role

– Christoph Waltz
– No buzz for him, or his film
– To be honest, I don’t know anyone who has actually seen this film.

WOODY HARRELSON (The Messenger)

+ Has been regarded as one of the best character actors
+ Has not yet given his due
+ During nomination announcement, many were shocked with how much support his film got from the Academy. This might continue come awards night.
+ Won the year’s first precursor award (NBR)

– Buzz died by now
– Christoph Waltz

MATT DAMON (Invictus)

+ The Clint Eastwood card. Clint can easily get his supporting actors to win this category. Think Morgan Freeman.
+ Biopic role
+ Had a great 2009, with another positive performance in The Informant.

– Christoph Waltz
– Not much attention the entire awards season

WILL WIN: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds).
DARK HORSE: Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)

SHOULD WIN: Christoph Waltz. Without question, the best and the most memorable of the bunch.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Peter Capaldi (In the Loop) – pitch perfect and savagely funny, and Alfred Molina (An Education) – giving an awkwardly convincing performance of a dad caught in the middle of a tough education.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Another boring category that the Academy might stir up with a surprise winner. They actually started shaking it up with the surprise entry of Maggie Gyllenaal that we all welcomed. Thinking about it, I believe the Academy’s love for Gyllenhaal (they nominated her for Lead Actress albeit the small film Sherrybaby) is much more than we could fathom. I’m bettin my money on Mo’Nique still, but with a spoiler win from Gyllenhaal. 

 

MO’NIQUE (Precious)

+ The deglamor card. She transformed from a sophisticated celebrity to one of the most loathed performance of the year.
+ Best in show review.
+ Has been winning most of the precursor awards
+ Golden Globes and SAG wins

– She’s just new, and the Academy may want to reward an overdue actress for this award.

MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL (Crazy Heart)

+ Surprise entry in the race that everyone actually agreed with
+ Jeff Bridges may sweep her in for a win
+ An actress the Academy adores, for all the good reasons

– They may want to reward Jeff Bridges in behalf of the film instead
– Has been absent from almost the entire awards season

ANNA KENDRICK (Up in the Air)

+ Best performance of her young career
+ Recognition during the season has not subsided
+ Won the first precursor (NBR) of the season

– Potential split votes with Vera Farmiga
– Not yet her time
– If they’ll go for an Up in the Air lady, they may want to reward the subtle performace of Famirga, and besides, she’s due of a recognition.

VERA FARMIGA (Up in the Air)

+ One of the best actresses working today
+ Due for a recognition

– Split votes with Anna Kendrick
– If they’ll go for an Up in the Air lady, they may want to reward the showier performance of Kendrick

PENELOPE CRUZ (Nine)

+ The Academy can’t get enough of her
+ Showy performance
+ Stand-out performance from the bunch of Nine veterans
+ Despite the bad review for Nine, she managed to snatch a nod, and that means something

– She just won last year. She’s not yet a Tom Hanks to do a two-year feat.
– Many people think Marion Cotillard should have been nominated instead of her
– Backlash for Nine, and poor reviews for the film.

WILL WIN: Mo’Nique (Precious). Rounding up this category, it’s between Mo’Nique and Gyllenhaal at the moment. Kendrick and Farmiga may split the Up in the Air love and Cruz has just won recently.
DARK HORSE: Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart). A pleasant surprise.

SHOULD WIN: Mo’Nique. No one can deny that her performance defines what an Academy Award is made for.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Julianne Moore (A Single Man) – as I have not yet seen the film, I still believe that Moore has not made a single false move and is extremely overdue for an award, or Marion Cottilard (Nine or Public Enemies) – proving she deserves the Best Actress win a few years ago, she showed up stronger and more articulate than ever, in both performances.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

For the first time since they launched this category, we are presented with 5 nominees. Truly a banner year for animated films, the year also heralded the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture since Beauty and the Beast. This category, however, is a battle between Up and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

 

UP

+ Pixar
+ Has won almost all awards for this category
+ Nominated for Best Picture

– Fantastic Mr. Fox is nearing its tail
– Nothing much. It’s so far ahead the race.

FANTASTIC MR. FOX

+ Glowing reviews and reception
+ Has its fair share of awards throughout the season

– Up
– Pixar

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG

+ The Academy loves their Disneys
+ A good welcome for a lost treasure (2D)

– Has not won any other precursors
– Up

CORALINE

+ Great reviews

– Up

THE SECRET OF KELLS

+ A surprise nomination out of its stiff competition

– Who actually has seen this?
– Up

WILL WIN: Up. It’s Pixar to lose.
DARK HORSE: Fantastic Mr. Fox

SHOULD WIN: Fantastic Mr. Fox. A personal choice. One of the best things I’ve seen all year, animated or not.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Mary and Max – has delivered one of the year’s most emotional messages, or Ponyo – Miyazaki.

 

 

 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

My favorite category, and probably the hardest to predict – not because it’s very competitive, but because the Academy does not know its foreign films. They just normally get this wrong. For the past years, highly acclaimed foreign films like Amelie, Y Tu Mama Tambien, City of God, Talk to Her, Pan’s Labyrinth, Waltz with Bashir, The Class, Revanche, Downfall and Amores Perros all lost. This year, I’m still hoping they get this right. But with a backup plan if they don’t.

 

WILL WIN: The White Ribbon. The best of the bunch and the most awarded of them all.
DARK HORSE: The Secret of their Eyes. Though I personally think this one is not that special, we cannot deny the surprise factor in this category. And this one, I believe, may prepare for that. Though personally, this should be a battle between The White Ribbon or A Prophet (or The Milk of Sorrow), if we are talking strictly quality.

SHOULD WIN: The White Ribbon. My favorite film of 2009.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Romania’s Police, Adjective. The Academy has not been friendly with Romania despite the New Wave.

 

 

 

OTHER CATEGORIES:

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

WILL WIN: The Hurt Locker. I personally prefer Tarantino’s dialogues but this win is inevitable, especially after winning Writers’ Guild. I won’t complain, but I’m still hoping for an upset.
DARK HORSE: Inglourious Basterds
SHOULD WIN: Inglourious Basterds

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

WILL WIN: Up in the Air. The perfect category to reward Jason Reitman.
DARK HORSE: Precious
SHOULD WIN: In the Loop. The nod was unexpected, but very much welcomed. The profane script is the crowning glory of this instant comic classic.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

WILL WIN: Avatar. We are now approaching the technical awards, and hold on tight for this Avatar-heavy awards. This award could be a good indication of how the rest of the major awards will be handed out – with nominations from the top 3 frontrunners.
DARK HORSE: The White Ribbon. A personal choice, and surprisingly won the Cinematographers Guild.
SHOULD WIN: The White Ribbon.

BEST FILM EDITING:

This will probably dictate how the Academy feels for the 4 of the 5 frontrunners. Whoever wins this, could probably end up winning the top prize. My prediction is the same for the Best Picture race.

WILL WIN: The Hurt Locker
DARK HORSE:  Inglourious Basterds/Avatar
SHOULD WIN: The Hurt Locker

BEST ART DIRECTION:

Either you choose a Best Picture nominee here or a period film.

WILL WIN: Avatar
DARK HORSE: The Young Victoria
SHOULD WIN: Avatar

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

This award is all about period films, as we’ve seen in the past years – Marie Antoinette, Memoirs of a Geisha – regardless of quality of the film as a picture.

WILL WIN: The Young Victoria
DARK HORSE: Bright Star
SHOULD WIN: Bright Star – not just beautiful visually, but also thematically satisfying

BEST MAKE UP:

Disappointing set of nominees. Though The Young Victoria may prove to be a frontrunner in this, it’s make up just isn’t that special. Will bet on the two others instead.

WILL WIN: Star Trek
DARK HORSE: Il Divo
SHOULD WIN: Star Trek. Where the hell is District 9 in the category it rightfully deserves to win?

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

Easiest to predict, like, duh.

WILL WIN: Avatar
DARK HORSE: Star Trek
SHOULD WIN: Avatar

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

A battle of Giacchino’s emotional score in Up and Horner’s heartstopping creation in Avatar. I would go for the long overdue recognition for Giacchino. And besides, Horner won already.

WILL WIN: Up (Michael Giacchino)
DARK HORSE: Avatar (James Horner)
SHOULD WIN: Up. The score in the opening montage, by itself, is enough reason for Up to win this.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:

The best song should win this – and that is Crazy Heart’s The Weary Kind. Or Nine could score an upset with Marion’s song. The Princess and the Frog might split some votes (think Dreamgirls and Enchanted) and Paris 36 is one choice nobody, I mean nobody, ever predicted. In addition, let’s see how the Oscars will justify the Original Song category without actual performances.

WILL WIN: The Weary Kind (Crazy Heart)
DARK HORSE: Take it All (Nine)
SHOULD WIN: The Weary Kind. It would have been nice to see Karen O’s All is Love here.

BEST SOUND MIXING:

The next two awards I have no factual idea on how they choose the winners. But heck, I’ll predict anyway. I’ll give one each for the frontrunners of the top prize, hedging, because I believe this award comes with winning the most awards of the night.

WILL WIN: The Hurt Locker
DARK HORSE: Avatar
SHOULD WIN: The Hurt Locker

BEST SOUND EDITING:

WILL WIN: Avatar
DARK HORSE: The Hurt Locker
SHOULD WIN: Avatar

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

WILL WIN: The Cove. Every possible award was swept by this film. No doubt the Academy will follow suit.
DARK HORSE: Burma VJ.
SHOULD WIN: Burma VJ.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Have seen only one of these. But I just finished downloading all others. Will watch later and prediction for this will be updated after viewing. But for now:

WILL WIN: Logorama. The one I’ve seen as of now.
DARK HORSE: A Matter of Loaf and Death. They love their Wallace and Gromit.
SHOULD WIN: Logorama

I have not seen, and only found 3 of the Live Action Short and Documentary Short nominees uploaded around the internet, so I wouldn’t trouble myself predicting for these two final categories.

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Well, that’s it. Let’s see tomorrow morning how things will turn out. Watch the much shorter (as they promised) telecast of the 82nd Academy Awards tomorrow (March 8, 2010), 10AM live via satellite in ABS-CBN 2 (Manila time). Woohooo!