The 82nd Annual Academy Awards

Once again, it’s time for Oscar predictions. Last year I didn’t do as well as I’d like, so hopefully this turns out better. This year it’s all about Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker.

Best Short Film, Live Action:
Prediction: The Door
My Pick: N/A

Best Short Film, Animated:
Prediction: A Matter of Loaf and Death
My Pick: A Matter of Loaf and Death
You can’t ever go wrong with Wallace and Gromit. At least the Academy doesn’t think so. (Plus, best Aliens joke ever in this one.)

Best Documentary, Short Subject:
Prediction: China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
My Pick: N/A

Best Documentary, Feature:
Prediction: The Cove
My Pick: This Is It
For some ridiculous reason, documentaries have to be released before October 1st to be nominated for best documentary, unlike other categories. This means that This Is It is ineligible. I expect the Oscar to go to The Cove, because the Academy loves an influential movie, one that doesn’t just document, but makes a difference. Earth was also wonderful, but since the footage came from a TV documentary series, it probably isn’t eligible either.

Best Foreign Language Film:
Prediction: The White Ribbon
My Pick: N/A

Best Animated Feature Film:
Prediction: Up
My Pick: Up
What an amazing year for animation. Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Up, Ponyo, The Princess and the Frog and 9, all raised the bar on the mainstream success of animation. 2010 proved that the most creative, entertaining and emotional stories are told these days by animators. Hell, even Avatar is mostly animated. But nothing held a candle to Up. The first 20 minutes alone are as breathtaking and heartbreaking as most entire movies. And Dug has quickly become one of my favorite Pixar characters. Leave it to Pixar to crush the competition once again.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects:
Prediction: Avatar
My Pick: Avatar
Duh.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing:
Prediction: Avatar
My Pick: Avatar

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing:
Prediction: Avatar
My Pick: Avatar

Best Achievement in Makeup:
Prediction: The Young Victoria
My Pick: Zombieland

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song:
Prediction: “The Weary Kind” – Crazy Heart
My Pick: “The Weary Kind” – Crazy Heart
The Academy got this category right this year, for a change. 3 songs from musicals and the main song from a movie about music are much better than a bunch of end credit songs by popular artists.  Though it’s a shame they won’t get to perform any of the songs this year.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score:
Prediction: Up
My Pick: Up
I really loved the score for Up, whimsical and adventurous, heartwarming and touching, it really stuck with me. Of course, it didn’t take much to stand out in this rather ordinary year for movie music.

Best Achievement in Costume Design:
Prediction: The Young Victoria
My Pick: Where the Wild Things Are
Not sure how Where the Wild Things Are didn’t get nominated, but whatever, the Academy loves period pieces in this category.

Best Achievement in Art Direction:
Prediction: Avatar
My Pick: Avatar
I could go with Sherlock Holmes for this one, but it’s hard to argue with the fully realized world of Avatar, even if it is a bit derivative.

Best Achievement in Editing:
Prediction: The Hurt Locker
My Pick: This Is It
Making a coherent film, and a stunning and exciting musical performance, out of scraps of rehearsal footage is a feat that should have been rewarded. Too bad.

Best Achievement in Cinematography:
Prediction: The Hurt Locker
My Pick: Inglourious Basterds
I’m thrilled that Harry Potter was nominated, but it doesn’t stand a chance against this year’s big 3.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Published or Produced:
Prediction: Up in the Air
My Pick: Up in the Air
Everyone loved Jason Reitman’s script, me included.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen:
Prediction: Inglourious Basterds
My Pick: (500) Days of Summer
It was really a great year for original screenplays, with my pick and prediction, plus Up and others. It’s one of the big snubs this year that (500) Days of Summer wasn’t nominated. It was bittersweet and original and funny and just a shame that it didn’t make it.

Best Achievement in Directing:
Prediction: Katherine Bigelow; The Hurt Locker
My Pick: Quentin Tarantino; Inglourious Basterds
Bigelow and Cameron are all the talk this year. It’s a classic battle in this race, and in the Best Picture race, of big-budget Hollywood and independent no-budget filmmaking. It’s made all the more interesting this year that the two main competitors were formerly married.  Add to that the fact that if Bigelow wins, she’ll be the first female ever to claim this prize. It’ll be a huge story either way, but I think she has the edge. The Best Picture race, however, is much tougher to call.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
Prediction: Mo’Nique; Precious, Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
My Pick: Melanie Laurent; Inglourious Basterds
All but the Best Actress category are locks this year, which will make my score much higher come next week. I never saw Precious, but apparently Mo’Nique was a force of nature in it. Laurent, however, I did see, and she was stunning and powerful as the Jew on the run from the Nazis in Tarantino’s crazy film. It’s a shame she didn’t get much recognition, I think Penelope Cruz could have been left off, but it’s a good field in this category this year. Both of the ladies from Up in the Air were spectacular, and Maggie Gyllenhaal was wonderful as always in Crazy Heart. I’m glad I got to see so many of these performances, for once.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:
Prediction: Christoph Waltz; Inglourious Basterds
My Pick: Christoph Waltz; Inglourious Basterds
Waltz’s performance as a smooth-talking, Jew-hunting Nazi was equal parts disturbing, scary, funny and fascinating. He performed in 4 languages (German, English, French and Italian) and was a remarkable find by Tarantino. It’s the sort of role that will be remembered for a long time, even if the movie isn’t.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:
Prediction: Sandra Bullock; The Blind Side
My Pick: Meryl Streep; Julie & Julia
This is the closest race of the major categories. I would have given it to Streep before the nominees were announced, but with The Blind Side getting a Best Picture nod, it seems to be leaning Bullock’s way. It’s one of those loud roles that tend to get noticed (think Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain). But for me, Streep’s performance as Julie Child was the better, even if only half of that movie was worth keeping. I’m thrilled for Gabourey Sidibe getting a nomination, but would have liked to see Emily Blunt in there for The Young Victoria.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Prediction: Jeff Bridges; Crazy Heart
My Pick: Jeff Bridges; Crazy Heart
It’s about time. Jeff Bridges has always been amazing in everything he does, from pulpy fun to serious drama. And Crazy Heart shouldn’t be missed. It’s a textbook career-defining role, and if the standing ovation he got at the Golden Globes is any indication, his peers are just as appreciative as the rest of us.

Best Picture:
Prediction: The Hurt Locker
My Pick: This Is It
I absolutely love the move to 10 nominees. Allowing Up to be only the 2nd nominated animated film ever is amazing, and letting sci-fi hit the mainstream with Avatar and District 9 is spectacular. It makes this race much more fun and interesting than it’s been in years. It could go either way with Avatar and The Hurt Locker, and it could spell out the future of the awards, and even of Hollywood, for years to come. The new voting format will help The Hurt Locker, though, with Avatar being so polarizing. Too bad This Is It was ignored, but I didn’t expect anything more. It should be interesting, though. Inglourious Basterds could even eek out a win if the cards fall right.

Have fun with Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin on Oscar night, and check back soon for my final 5 best movies of the decade!

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