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This Sunday night is film's biggest night: the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. It will be hosted by actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway. The advent of the Internet has provided us with many wonderful things, including copius Oscar predictions. Any old Tom, Dick or Oscar can give their two cents on which way AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) members voted.
Here at Player Affinity Movies, we follow the Oscar buzz all year long ... some of us maybe to a fault, but hey, it's cool. We predicted winners in all of the major categories/categories of interest. See how the seven of us voted, and decide for yourself who's right.
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech - Julian, Kieran, Max, Simon, Steven
The Social Network - Joseph, Dinah
Toy Story 3
Simon: The movie The King’s Speech exhibits equal acting pedigree to its Best Picture rival The Social Network. It boats little of the narrative heft, finding its roots in a conventional inspirational tale and draped in lavish period decadence. This is precisely why it will win. Like a 13-year-old deafening her unwilling parents at a Justin Bieber concert, the elder Academy members will drool through their dentures at this elitist fare, brushing off the ultra-modern David Fincher drama as new-age witchcraft. This is of course all hyperbole, and The King’s Speech is a fine film and will only win by a narrow victory. Don’t think the popular Facebook tale never had a chance. If The Social Network wins, I would be satisfied rather than surprised.
Joseph: I believe that the Best Picture Oscar will go to The Social Network; not because it’s the Best Film of the Year (that honor goes to Black Swan), but because I think that David Fincher will win the Best Director category. Traditionally, a film's Best Director wins Best Picture. A similar argument could be made in favor of The King’s Speech, in that that film won both the Producers and Directors Guild of America awards, and usually the movie that takes those wins the top prize, too. It’s a close race between the two films, but I think edge goes to Network. The Academy has a reputation for honoring Directors with the prize several films after most people feel they deserved one. Martin Scorsese, for example, lost Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodFellas, and Gangs of New York before nabbing one for The Departed. In addition, Steven Spielberg experienced a similar treatment before getting a win for Schindler’s List. I think Fincher's work puts him in a similar position, thus increasing his chances for winning both Director and Picture.
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit)
David Fincher (The Social Network) - Dinah, Joseph, Kieran, Max, Simon, Steven
Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) - Julian
David O. Russell (The Fighter)
Max: Despite a win for Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) at the Directors Guild Awards, consensus seems to be mounting that Fincher will defy the odds and walk away with the gold. This isn’t a surprise though, given Fincher’s resume in Hollywood over the last decade: his last film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, earned him his first nomination for Best Director. While Button was a bloated but pretty affair (that screamed Oscar bait), “Network” shows Fincher’s ability to build on the cerebral nature of the Millennial/Wired generation, drawing out remarkable acting, cinematography and editing in his cast and crew. Hooper could still upset here as the Academy has a habit of awarding the statue to the film favored for Best Picture, but given how The King’s Speech was his first feature film (Hooper’s history lies in television), it’s a decent bet that Fincher will be recognized for doing the seemingly impossible: making a film on the founding of Facebook that is engaging, funny and in many ways, timeless.
Julian: The Oscar season got tricky on us. David Fincher won the majority of the critics awards and even took the BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critics' Choice. However, Hooper shocked all of us by winning the Directors Guild of America honor, one of the strongest predictors of the Oscars. Additionally, The King's Speech seemingly leads the Best Picture race. Fincher could easily take it, but my money is on Hooper.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) - Dinah
Colin Firth (The King's Speech) - Joseph, Julian, Kieran, Max, Simon, Steven
James Franco (127 Hours)
Kieran: Colin Firth has a long and respected career. The Academy has shown they award careers and may feel it is his time. He was nominated last year for A Single Man and actors playing British monarchs tend to be nominated. But this should not mask what is an incredible performance as a man who has to overcome his disability and become a symbol for nation. Firth has been sweeping all the acting awards this year and it would be a massive shock if he does not win the Oscar.
Dinah: A shock if Colin Firth does not win the Oscar for Best Actor? Well, I for one will not be surprised. The Academy has stuck to some trends and also is known for some peculiar choices. When it comes right down to it, everything about The King’s Speech was contrived for awards shows. However, Jesse Eisenberg deserves the award for the stronger performance. Here’s to the Academy making a merit-based decision.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan) - Dinah, Joseph, Julian, Kieran, Max, Simon, Steven
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
Dinah: Natalie Portman has been universally acclaimed for her role as a fractured ballerina in Black Swan. It’s her year: she has a string of hits in her wake and an eclectic batch of movies ahead of her. Although it likely isn’t the best performance of her career, it was the meatiest role of the year and she played the part like the professional she is.
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Christian Bale (The Fighter) - Dinah, Joseph, Julian, Kieran, Max, Simon, Steven
John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)
Steven: The Joker got his Oscar a couple years ago, now it's Batman's turn. Truthfully, you could legitimately qualify Bale for Leading Actor considering how much of a focus The Fighter puts on his troubled character, Dickie Ecklund, a former boxing star turned crack addict. The Academy loves a transformative performance, and unlike the last time Bale went emaciated for The Machinist, he has the spotlight he deserves. Talk about committing to the role. Then, when you see the real Dickie as the credits role, the deal is sealed: Bale's version was spot-on.
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech) - Julian
Melissa Leo (The Fighter) - Dinah, Max, Simon, Steven
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) - Joseph, Kieran
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)
Max: These are the stories I love: an underrated actor who has been around forever (in Leo’s case, since the mid-'80s) who finally picks up the recognition she deserves decades later. Leo has had a long history with film and TV and finally got some recognition for her phenomenal turn in 2008’s Frozen River. Now she’s up for The Fighter, a film that only has one thing really going for it: it’s actors. Leo gives so many layers to the strong yet conflicted mother of Mark Whalberg and Christian Bale. Bale, a huge favorite in his category, is nearly upstaged by Leo in their scenes together, and given that she is sharing the field with fellow co-star Amy Adams (who will likely split the vote from the other nominees), it looks to be Leo’s year for the much deserved spotlight.
Kieran: Few young actors offer such an incredible debut like Hailee Steinfeld did with True Grit. The producers push Steinfeld forward for Best Supporting Actress because they think she has a better chance of winning (its cheating the system really, as this is definitely a leading role). It is a close contest for the Best Supporting Actress and since The Fighter has two contenders in this category, it may divide the vote and allow Steinfeld to win. The Academy may want to reward True Grit and child actresses have done well in this category: look at Anna Paquin and Tatum O’Neal as examples.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Inception - Dinah, Joseph, Kieran, Max
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech - Julian, Simon, Steven
Kieran: The Academy has been rightly lampooned for ignoring Christopher Nolan as best director and feel they need to atone for their sins. Nolan proved that a blockbuster can be intelligent and entertaining at the same time. Nolan’s script was filled with complex ideas and it was a truly original idea. The other screenplays in this category are all a little too conservative and the Academy may want to spread the awards around this year because of the strong field of competition.
Steven: Rarely do we get a great historical film that wasn't adapted. David Seidler's script reminds me of Dustin Lance Black's Oscar-winning effort for Milk two years ago. Even if the idea is not as original as say, Inception, it takes a heck of a lot of research by a screenwriter to make a film as strong as The King's Speech without any previous material. No denying that Nolan's script was the best idea and most creative film of 2010, but when you add in dialogue and character development and other layers, Seidler's has more dimension. Also, the way I see it, if Fincher wins Best Director, "Speech" will need this to win Best Picture unless it sweeps up technical awards.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Social Network - Joseph, Julian, Kieran, Max, Simon, Steven
Toy Story 3
Winter's Bone - Dinah
Joseph: This is almost as sure of a thing as Christian Bale winning. Simply, it was the best written film of all the nominees. Aaron Sorkin masterfully weaves through heavy stretches of technical dialogue, as well as multi-layered conversations his intellectual wizard of a protagonist exhausts people with. The only other nominee I see pulling an “upset” is Toy Story 3, whose story had many brawny men openly crying in theaters.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
How to Train Your Dragon
Toy Story 3 - Dinah, Joseph, Julian, Kieran, Max, Simon, Steven
Simon: While it would be easy to write one obvious sentence on this category and forget it, I will point out that any animated film that scores both a nod in the category designed for its medium as well as in the Best Picture slot (as well as Best Original Screenplay, as well as Best Original Song, as well as Best Editing) remains the lock of the year. It would be wonderful to see How to Train Your Dragon sneak away with an award considering how much more superior it is to the average DreamWorks pic, but Pixar has no less than dominated this category for as long as it has existed. With eight nominations since the category’s 2001 inauguration and five wins (they have also only collected two direct losses against rival studios) and standing as the highest grossing movie of the year worldwide, do not expect this animation powerhouse’s streak to subside anytime soon.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I
Inception - Dinah, Joseph, Julian, Kieran, Max, Simon, Steven
Iron Man 2
Max: Regardless of how you feel about the film’s script or ensemble, you cannot deny that Inception does two things exceptionally: visuals and editing—Inception getting shut out of the Best Editing category this year being one of the awful snubs this year. Whatever, you do have to give props to a VFX team that can flip Paris on itself and build a crumbling city on the edge of the sea. It’s not even the frequency of the effects in the film that make Inception a winner in this category, but their power. If the visual effects field is meant to do anything besides expand the scope on which a filmmaker can tell a story, it is to spark the imagination of a viewer. In this, Inception excels.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
127 Hours (A.R. Rahman)
How to Train Your Dragon (John Powell)
Inception (Hans Zimmer) - Dinah, Julian, Kieran, Max, Simon
The King's Speech (Alexandre Desplat)
The Social Network (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) - Joseph, Steven
Dinah: Sure, The Social Network is hip and edgy right now, but in the not too distant past another movie was the flavor of the year. Nolan’s film will go home snubbed but that does not negate the brilliant work he collaborated to create. One such partnership was in the thunderous, haunting score developed with Hans Zimmer. Most notably “The Dream is Collapsing,” a mounting orchestral composition repeated throughout the mind-bending tale.
Steven: The Academy doesn't tend to award non-traditional scores, but I think Nine Inch Nails' frontman Trent Reznor's will be the first in a trend of strong scores from well-known music figures doing edgier stuff. With Atticus Ross, the two have swept most critics awards with their often simple, often groovy score. Even their take on the classic "In the Hall of the Mountain King" had a special feel to it.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
127 Hours - "If I Rise," performed by Dido and A.R. Rahman
Country Strong - "Coming Home," performed by Gwyneht Paltrow
Tangled - "I See the Light," performed by Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore
Toy Story 3 - "We Belong Together," performed by Randy Newman
Dinah: It appears the vote is split. Given this category is one forgotten quickly it should go to the most popular song in the race. That of course is “We Belong Together” from the beloved Toy Story 3. The smaller the award the less likely the best choice wins so perhaps we will all have a laugh when Country Strong wins for “Coming Home.”
Julian: As soon as I heard this song, I believed it would win the Original Song Oscar. As soon as I saw the film and this song's use there, I knew it would win the Oscar. Even ignoring the fact that "I See the Light" is the best in the lineup, it's pure Oscar bait. Alan Menken is an Academy favorite of old, and I'm sure that the Academy will welcome him back to the winners' circle with open arms.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Exit Through the Gift Shop - Julian, Max, Simon, Steven
Restrepo - Dinah, Joseph
Julian: Arguably the most well-known of the nominees, this documentary picked up raves from the critics and boasts a peculiar but well-publicized Oscar campaign. Inside Job and Restrepo have shots at winning, but Exit seems like it could go all the way with its story focused on notorious street art figures. If Banksy wins, it is expected he will accept wearing his famed monkey mask.
Joseph: I saw Restrepo last January at Sundance. The audience was awed and shocked by what we were seeing on screen. Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger followed a platoon of soldiers in one of most violent and dangerous sections of Afghanistan. They simply followed and recorded. The film has no political slant, and serves as an objective eye to the events of that war so far away. Their film resulted in a cinematic experience so enriching that, in my mind, they deserve Oscar gold for it. This category, as it usually is, is really full with top of the line competition, and any one of the movies nominated could win.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE
Outside the Law (Algeria)
Incendies (Canada) - Simon, Steven
In a Better World (Denmark) - Julian, Max
Biutiful (Mexico) - Dinah, Joseph
Simon: The foreign language category at the Oscars is always a frustrating one come awards time; not only are they rarely available to see on the big screen save usually one breakout (this year it is duel nominated Biutiful) but since the Academy members must slink their way to cineplex’s as part of the nomination procedure, it is superbly difficult to predict the outcome. Even though Incendies is a Canadian entry, it remains as illusive outside of Quebec screens as would a home-grown independent musical satire of the tourism industry in Tumon, Guam. Even though screenings of all the nominees in this category elude me, the glowing festival buzz and a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score seem to indicate a decently spaced win over its rival contenders, even the Golden Globe-winning In A Better World.