83rd Oscars

The 83rd Academy Awards have come and gone. I’ve left up my prediction notes made between the 15th and showtime, adding in the winners on any I got wrong (A full list of the nominees can be found here).

I repeated my previous year’s score with 18 out of 24 correct (75%). Of the major awards (picture, director, actors, screenplays), I went 7 for 8 and two of my missteps were in the short categories so all in all, it was a decent year of prognostication on my end. Read on for the results.

● Best Picture: The King’s Speech
– Should Win: Winter’s Bone —
Even with 10 nominees, the Academy still failed to put my pick for Best Film, “Another Year”, in the mix. That aside, it’s really a two horse race between “The Social Network” and “The King’s Speech”. My coin landed on heads.

● Director: David Fincher (The Social Network)
Somehow the DGA gave their award to Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech” and that’s been the Oscar predictor about 90% of the time. Still, if there’s an element of that film I would knock, it’s the directing. Add to that Fincher’s track record without an Oscar win and the acclaim surrounding “The Social Network” and I think he comes out on top. Darren Aronofsky’s work on “Black Swan” may be a dark horse here as well.

– Did Win: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)– The DGA got it right again … or should I say wrong?

● Actor: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
While there might be some who think James Franco’s turn in “127 Hours” could put him past Firth this year, there are two problems with that theory. One, Firth’s performance is great and he’s in the front runner for Best Picture. Two, he should have won it last year for “A Single Man” and now it’s time to collect on that injustice.

● Actress: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
– Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) —
Perhaps the safest bet of the night is Portman walking away with this statuette. Sadly, while Lawrence’s performance was far more naturalistic and real, her film didn’t get the necessary exposure and Portman’s track record will carry her through (that baby bump doesn’t hurt either).

● Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
There’s a chance Geoffrey Rush scoops this up as part of a wave of awards for “The King’s Speech”. However, with his win at the SAG Awards, Bale probably has this one locked up. It’d be great if John Hawkes (“Winter’s Bone”) could sneak in here but it’s the same issue as Lawrence vs. Portman.

● Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
– Should Win: Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) —
This felt like an easy pick, seeing as Leo won the SAG award. However, there’s a groundswell for Hailee Steinfeld out of “True Grit” and this category has a habit of rewarding the up and comer. I still think Leo’s career will see her walk up to the podium. Memories of her performance in “Frozen River”, for which she was nominated but did not win, could also help Leo take this home.

● Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin)
It’s a no brainer here. Next.

● Original Screenplay: The King’s Speech (David Seidler)
– Should Win: Another Year (Mike Leigh) —
Like Sorkin’s fairly certain shot at Adapted Screenplay, it only makes sense that Seidler takes home the Original prize. The two films are the 50/50 contenders for Best Picture.

● Foreign Language Film: In a Better World
Due to the problems in distributing foreign films, I haven’t seen my pick for this category or the Canadien entry “Incendies”, which has a lot of good buzz. However, I personally love director Susanne Bier’s films and hope she gets the win. As one of the few categories that requires voters to have seen all the nominees, there could always be a curveball. I’ll go with the buzz and my conscience.

● Documentary Feature: Inside Job
There’s a distinct possibility that “Exit Through the Gift Shop” picks up this award, or “Restrepo” or “Waste Land” may even sneak in there. But while art criticism, the war in Afghanistan and an uplifting story about art’s ability to transform lives are worthy subjects, director Charles Ferguson’s take on the economic collapse seems to be the front runner and it made understanding the issues clear and easy, even for those of us without Harvard business degrees. My heart is with “Waste Land” but my head will stick to the numbers.

● Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3
The next most sure bet to Portman’s win is Pixar taking home another Oscar. Had there been enough animated films in 2010 to allow for 5 nominees (that’s why there are only 3 this year), I’m sure “Tangled” would have been in the mix and made this decision a lot more difficult for me and Disney (since they only have one entry to promote here).

● Cinematography: True Grit (Roger Deakins)
This is Deakins’ 9th nomination and he’s yet to win. It seems like everyone agrees that this is his time. I thought Matthew Libatique’s work on “Black Swan” was more visually arresting but with 10 nominations, unless Steinfeld sneaks away with Supporting Actress, you’d think the film gets an award here.

– Did Win: Wally Pfister (Inception)– Hedging on giving the award to a talented cinematographer who’s not gotten his due was apparently a bad idea. Pfister did good work on Inception so no real complaint here … other than making me wrong.

● Film Editing: The Social Network (Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter)
This category (and some of the technical awards) seem to have the highest number of snubs for me. Most notably, I think Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss’ work on “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” should be here to pick up the award but since I have to go with the nominees, “The Social Network” did weave its story effectively and much of that credit must go to the editors.

● Art Direction: The King’s Speech (Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr)
– Should Win: Inception (Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat) —
While the bright colors and set pieces of “Alice in Wonderland” seem like a good pick too, I’ll stick with riding the coat tails of “The King’s Speech”. It’d be nice if all of the practical staging and design that went into “Inception” could be recognized here but there are a few technical awards it seems that Nolan’s vision is more likely to win.

– Did Win: Alice in Wonderland (Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara)– Aargh. Why did I ride those coat tails? Because I’m dumb. Another wrong.

● Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)
Colleen Atwood is a respected designer with a terrific track record and the costumes in “Alice in Wonderland” are flashy. Jenny Beaven has a chance of being caught up in “The King’s Speech” hoopla but I’ll stick with Atwood.

● Visual Effects: Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)
The visuals of “Inception” were simply stunning, and while many elements were done in-camera, there’s a lot to be said for some of the more subtle effects done in post as well. Most pundits seems to agree that this is the odds-on favorite here.

● Makeup: The Wolfman (Rick Baker and Dave Elsey)
With this list of nominees, I’d say the Academy should look into removing the category altogether. Not because the artists involved aren’t talented, but because there never seems to be any clear rationale as to what goes into award worthy work. Since I have to choose, I’ll go with Rick Baker’s werewolf wizardry. It’s his 12th nomination and he’s won 6 of the previous 11 (his first was for “American Werewolf in London” so that’s a fun coincidence as well).

● Sound Editing: Inception (Richard King)
I always seem to get confused between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing but the two have a tendency to go together when it comes to winning and I get the feeling that “Inception” will clean up on the technical stuff since “The Social Network” and “The King’s Speech” have removed it from contention for Best Picture.

● Sound Mixing: Inception (Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick)
Like I said above.

● Original Score: The Social Network (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
I’m very frustrated that Rachel Portman’s tremendous score in “Never Let Me Go” wasn’t even nominated but it does make picking this award that much easier for me. Reznor and Ross’ work was the heartbeat that drove “The Social Network” and with its prominence, this should be a shoe-in.

● Original Song: “If I Rise” (127 Hours)
Many are picking Randy Newman for his effort in “Toy Story 3″ but that entire film felt like a visit to the same well we’d drank from before. A.R. Rahman and Dido’s collaboration for “127 Hours” matched up so well with the tone of the film when it began to play and feels far more original. Also, since it’s up for Best Picture, it makes sense for the film to win at least this award (and “Toy Story 3″ will have its Animated Feature statue already).

– Did Win: “We Belong Together” (Toy Story 3; Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman)– This is what I get for thinking with my head and not listening to the mob. I forgot which awards show I was watching.

● Documentary Short Subject: Killing in the Name
I haven’t seen any of these and am going simply off of the synopsis (found at IMDb) and the buzz. Good luck to you, and me, with this pick.

– Did Win: “Strangers No More” (Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon)– Don’t ask why I didn’t go with this short, about a multi-national school in Tel Aviv … I should have known better.

● Animated Short Film: The Lost Thing (Shaun Tan & Andrew Ruhemann)*
Like all the short film categories, picking the winner is usually pure dumb luck. Conventional wisdom says stick with Pixar and choose Day & Night. However, The Gruffalo sports a star studded voice cast and is beautifully presented, based on a children’s book. Then there’s Madagascar, a Journey Diary, which uses perspective so well, it looks far more like 3D than 95% of the crap people paid for in theaters last year. I’m throwing out Let’s Pollute, while it’s inventive and almost reminiscent of last year’s winner (Logorama), it lacks the polish of the other entries. Finally, there’s my pick, The Lost Thing; a touching story of a young man that discovers a strange, well … ‘thing’ … at the beach and helps find its home. But again, this is a crapshoot, 38% of my reasoning is that The Lost Thing was made in Australia and I gravitate towards anything made Down Under.

● Live Action Short Film: Na Wewe (Ivan Goldschmidt)*
I have to say that in general, the live action shorts were disappointing. Four of the five play on our sympathy for stories revolving around children, with the worst of the bunch being The Crush and The Confession. God of Love felt like a film school project that got a good grade and it has a few nice moments but just lacks much substance. Wish 143 has the underpinnings for a feature film, with decent acting and a bittersweet story. However, I’m going stand pat on my decision to pick Na Wewe to take home the statuette. It’s the darkest of the pack, dealing with the Hutu/Tutsi war in Burundi during the 90s but manages to say quite a number of things about the difference between genocide and taking part in the killing of one person. Also, it references Bono, the King of Ireland, so it’s got that working for it too.

– Did Win: “God of Love” (Luke Matheny)– Hmm. Film school trumps King of Ireland. Noted.