Oscar Predictions 2011
It’s Oscars this Sunday! And after sitting out most of the previous two seasons of speculation (though I did still post predictions for the ceremony itself, scoring pretty high regardless), I’ve been following the race this year since fairly early on. It helps that this has been a pretty great year for movies, and I intend to post my list of personal favorites later, but now we throw bias and preference to the side – or, at least, we try – and make our guesses as to who’ll get the highest honors from the Academy.
The Oscars are fun since, yes, they’re mostly politics, and guessing how a political race will swing is way more enjoyable than predicting winners based purely on merit (he said unironically). Not that some of the winners aren’t deserving – what’s nice about a lot of good films coming out this year is that a lot of the predicted winners are hard to contest. And honestly, if you haven’t already, try to watch as many of the ten Best Picture nominees as you can; they’re all worthwhile, even the less-talked-about Winter’s Bone.
How does one predict the winners? Based on buzz, campaigning, some critical sentiment (when in doubt, yes, Academy voters will look to the critics to help them decide), and the precursor award ceremonies that Academy members also vote in – The Producer’s Guild Awards (PGA), Director’s Guild Awards (DGA), and Screen Actor’s Guild Awards (SAG). Guilds with heavy Academy representation are also present for Cinematography and Writing; they’re not quite as strong indicators since they represent smaller contingents of the Academy (and Writer’s Guild has plenty of weird requirements for nomination that the Oscars don’t have), but they’re still worth looking at. Checking the BAFTA winners can help, too, for something of an idea of how the European contingent of the Academy might vote. And don’t look at the Golden Globes, which has no real bearing on Oscar night (any awards that happen to match can be better determined from the guilds).
For each category, I put a numerical “score”, which stands for how sure I am in guessing the winner. As a frame of reference: a rating of 10 means a foregone conclusion. A rating of 7 to 9 means the odds are stacked in one candidate’s favor, but with possibility of a second-stringer or dark horse winning out. 5 or 6 means we’re seeing more of a real race, between two or possibly three candidates. 3 or 4 means an open race, and scores below that are arbitrary races that I’ve little idea how to predict (those are reserved for the Shorts and, in some years, the weirder tech categories).
Now onto the Oscar pool!
Best Picture: (10/10)
* Black Swan
* The Fighter
* The Kids Are All Right
* The King’s Speech
* 127 Hours
* The Social Network
* Toy Story 3
* True Grit
* Winter’s Bone
I don’t know anyone serious about the Oscar pool who isn’t guessing The King’s Speech as the big winner. There’s no reason not to pick it. It’s won the PGA and DGA –those two alone would’ve stacked the odds heavily in its favor – and it won Best Ensemble Cast at the SAG, and, most surprisingly, it took home Best British Film along with Best Film at the BAFTAs, a prize that’s usually reserved for, well, a British-company produced film. That’s crazy support covering all the bases it needs. Yes, it kills me that The Social Network, previously touted as the unstoppable favorite thanks to its overwhelming critical acclaim, has lost its chance, but it goes to show that ultimately the Academy votes for a film that the Academy likes, and The King’s Speech touches all the right buttons; TSN’s the younger, edgier, more innovative film, while TKS sticks more with classic movie standards. But at least they’re both great movies, and all in all we’ve had a pretty good string of winners since 2006.
Best Director: (9/10)
* “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
* “The Fighter” David O. Russell
* “The King’s Speech” Tom Hooper
* “The Social Network” David Fincher
* “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Tom Hooper won the DGA (Director’s Guild Award). Only six times in history has the Best Director Oscar not gone to the DGA winner, making this the easiest category to predict. That said…Hooper winning was – and probably will remain – the biggest surprise of the entire Oscar season, and before that, David Fincher was so much the consensus choice that speculators weren’t even considering anyone else. And while The Social Network backlash has cost it its big win…people in the Academy still seem to like Fincher. I will obligatorily pick Tom Hooper here, but will be watching more cautiously than most. This may just be the seventh time.
Best Actor: (10/10)
* Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
* Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
* Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
* Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”
* James Franco in “127 Hours”
Colin Firth’s been the longest lock for an award this year; they’ve had him pegged since Toronto. He deserves it, being the definite centerpiece of The King’s Speech and the reason it’s had such an overwhelming charge.
Best Actress: (8/10)
* Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
* Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
* Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
* Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
* Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”
I liked Black Swan, I generally liked Portman’s performance and I’m glad the film stands a good chance of scoring at least one award. I can’t say she’s the most deserving choice, but she did have the most to do and, like Colin Firth, absolutely carried the film. No one’s really going to bet against her; not only has she won all the precursors, she’s also the only lead actress role that was really buzzed about. The only possible upset I see is Annette Bening, and it would be a deserved upset and a long time coming for her, but I highly doubt it’ll happen.
Best Supporting Actor: (6/10)
* Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
* John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
* Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
* Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
* Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”
Well, finally. Not only do we have an interesting race here, we also have the first actual race for Best Supporting Actor since 2006 (Javier Bardem, Heath Ledger, and Christophe Waltz had their wins locked). It’s not as open a race as the ones of ’05 and ’06, but it’s certainly an interesting one: will it go to Christian Bale, who’s been in the lead since the beginning, or will it be Oscar-friendly Geoffrey Rush, who was nearly as crucial as Colin Firth to The King’s Speech’s popularity? Is Rush ready for his second Oscar (well, of course is he is, but does the Academy think so), or is crazyman Bale finally going to get his due for all his weight-loss-gain-loss-again stunts? I still think it’s Bale’s to lose, but it’ll be an interesting fight regardless.
Best Supporting Actress: (3/10)
* Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
* Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
* Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
* Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
* Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”
It’s wide open, in which case it sometimes pays off to pick someone crazy and unexpected who’ll sneak in and take it. To that end I almost want to pick Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom over oft-touted Melissa Leo, but I’ll stick instead to Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit. Yes, it’s blatant category fraud (her role was absolutely Lead Actress), but maybe bumping her down here is part of the process of giving her the win; young actresses nominated for Lead rarely fare well. Then again, “sneak in and take it” could easily go to the well-regarded Helena Bonham Carter riding the TKS wave.
Best Original Screenplay: (7/10)
* “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
* “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
* “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
* “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
* “The King’s Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler
Logic would have one pick The King’s Speech here, since this is one of the categories most probable to feel the Best Picture push, but if The Fighter misses on the Supporting categories this might be what it takes home.
Best Adapted Screenplay: (9/10)
* “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
* “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
* “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
* “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
* “Winter’s Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini
If The Social Network doesn’t win here I’m gonna break stuff.
Best Art Direction: (8/10)
* “Alice in Wonderland”
Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
* “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
* “The King’s Speech”
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
* “True Grit”
Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
I was going through the history of this award the other day and discovered something interesting: every Tim Burton film that has ever been nominated has won – Batman (1989), Sleepy Hollow (1999), and Sweeney Todd (2007). That’s three different movies that all bear Burton’s trademark cutesy-gothy style, and over three different decades, showing that the Academy has some timeless love for the look. That, and this award has gone to stylized and effects-heavy films for the past thirteen years. Alice in Wonderland is the safe choice, with Inception I’d say a second guess; The King’s Speech might surprise, though it doing so would go against the trend of previous winners.
Best Visual Effects: (7.5/10)
* “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
* “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
* “Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
* “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
* “Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick
Unless one of the nominees is a Best Picture favorite, you can never be completely sure here. If Inception doesn’t win, it’ll at least be fun to see all the internet nerd-rage that results.
Best Film Editing: (7/10)
* “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
* “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
* “The King’s Speech” Tariq Anwar
* “127 Hours” Jon Harris
* “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
There’s a history of this category echoing Best Picture; at the same time, though, it sometimes recognizes the Best Picture runner-up. And if there’s any sentiment left at all in the Academy for The Social Network deserving to take the big win, they should at least award the spectacular editing that held together its dazzlingly unconventional structure.
Best Animated Feature: (10/10)
* “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
* “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
* “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich
Yeah, come on.
Best Foreign Language Film: (5/10)
* “Biutiful” Mexico
* “Dogtooth” Greece
* “In a Better World” Denmark
* “Incendies” Canada
* “Outside the Law” Algeria
Everyone says they can predict this category, then a Japanese film about corpse-dressing wins and they get egg on their faces. Remember that not everyone in the Academy votes here; only those who’ve seen all the nominees may do so. Watching the big category films is easy enough for voters, but having to sit through five additional full-length foreign movies is not something that everyone does. That’s why the safe choice (A Better World) doesn’t always win, and why sometimes you’re better off going with the artsier, more critically awe-inspiring-but-still-Academy-friendly choice (Incendies) since that’s what those who’re aficionados enough to have watched all the nominees like to pick.
Best Documentary Feature: (6/10)
* “Exit Through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
* “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
* “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
* “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
* “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley
You have to go with socially relevant to predict the winner here, and while I’m still mystified by Waiting for Superman not even getting nominated (easily the biggest snub of the year; heck, it even won the Best Documentary PGA), that might mean the Academy’s looking for more current, urgent, news-headlines-relevant stuff, which is why I’d pick Inside Job over Restrepo and Gasland. But will Exit Through the Gift Shop’s sensationalism turn people off (as most believe)…or will it actually attract votes? Probably the former, but it’s still a damn popular film.
Best Cinematography: (8/10)
* “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
* “Inception” Wally Pfister
* “The King’s Speech” Danny Cohen
* “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
* “True Grit” Roger Deakins
People will want Deakins to finally win this one, and he certainly delivered on True Grit.
Best Makeup: (4/10)
* “Barney’s Version” Adrien Morot
* “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
* “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey
Always one of the strangest categories to predict; remember when Click got nominated? While I’d say all three have equal chance of winning, The Wolfman is most in line with previous winners and the most widely known, and since the other two nominees are out of left field, that’s the best basis we get.
Best Costume Design: (5/10)
* “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
* “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
* “The King’s Speech” Jenny Beavan
* “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
* “True Grit” Mary Zophres
The Academy has its favorites here. Sandy Powell just won last year, and even in a category where a number of designers get nominated regularly we haven’t had a consecutive-year-winner since 1951 (pretty much since the category was introduced). Cannarozzi has the odds against her as a newcomer, but don’t count her out. It probably comes down to Beavan and Atwood; Beavan is on the Best Picture film, but also…well, look up what’s won since 2006. Notice anything in common? Unless there’s been a big shock to the voting body – and the nominees list doesn’t seem to indicate one – I can make a safe guess here.
Best Original Score: (7/10)
* “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
* “Inception” Hans Zimmer
* “The King’s Speech” Alexandre Desplat
* “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
* “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
The King’s Speech is the safe choice, with oft-nominee Desplat finally winning…unless murmurs are to be believed that Reznor will get enough backdoor support to pull the win he deserves for The Social Network’s remarkably effective score (yes, I know my biases are seeping through).
Best Original Song: (6.5/10)
* “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
* “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
* “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
* “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
Something tells me they’ll want to honor Toy Story 3 with more than one Oscar, especially with the grumblings of a Pixar dip that everyone (even the company itself) is preparing themselves for this year. If not, people seem to like Tangled’s song.
Best Sound Editing: (8/10)
* “Inception” Richard King
* “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
* “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
* “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
* “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger
Best Sound Mixing: (7/10)
* “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
* “The King’s Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
* “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
* “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
* “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
I’d love to see The Social Network disappoint the Nolan fans in Sound Mixing (and Roger Ebert made a good case for why it’d deserve it, given the difficulties of recording intricate conversations in crowded locations), but I will stick with the safe choice for both sound categories (i.e. the tech-heavy Best Picture nominee). Though I wouldn’t be surprised with True Grit here either.
Best Documentary Short Subject: (4/10)
* “Killing in the Name”
* “Poster Girl”
* “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
* “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
* “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon
Practically everyone I know is predicting Killing in the Name. But these are the short subjects, and no one really has the best idea how the votes will go. Like Documentary Feature, it actually does help here to predict based on the content of the film. Someone who often got this category right once told me that he always chooses the most tragic of the nominees, and if it’s about children, bonus points to that. Strangers No More is about poor struggling children coming together to try to get education in Tel Aviv. Oy.
Best Animated Short: (2/10)
* “Day & Night” Teddy Newton
* “The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
* “Let’s Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
* “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
* “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois
Pixar hasn’t won this one in forever (Day & Night might stand a better chance given its unusual approach), and the race is pretty much always wiiiiide open. Unusual animation styles do seem to have good chances here, though, so I’ll pick A Journey Diary. That, and it’s the kind of film that just screams “vote for me!”
Best Live Action Short: (1/10)
* “The Confession” Tanel Toom
* “The Crush” Michael Creagh
* “God of Love” Luke Matheny
* “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
* “Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite
As arbitrary as races get, so I’ll go with what most are guessing from the trailers. The Crush could be a fun surprise, though.