Wednesday, March 3, 2010

World's greatest Oscar predictions

Here it is: The most complete, boldest, brashest Oscar predictions evah!

You know how most critics and pundits, in offering up their prognostication of who will win this Sunday's Academy Awards, tend to stick to eight or nine so-called major awards? Not here, folks. I'm making predictions in all 24 categories, including Best Catering for the Most Hirsute Short Animated Foreign Language Film.

Let's be frank: How hard is it to look Nostradamus-like when you only stick to the acting, directing and writing categories? Especially this year, when all four acting awards appear to be locked up. It's kind of a cop-out to brag that you went 6-for-8 in your predictions when half of them were gimmes.

So without further ado, here are my predictions for absolutely everything. I'll also be making my own personal picks in most categories.


  • Avatar” Mauro Fiore
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” Bruno Delbonnel
  • The Hurt Locker” Barry Ackroyd
  • Inglourious Basterds” Robert Richardson
  • The White Ribbon” Christian Berger

Gonna win: Avatar

Oughtta win: The Hurt Locker

My overarching take on this year's Oscars is that most voters who have seen "The Hurt Locker" believe it's a superior film to "Avatar." The problem is, everyone's seen "Avatar," while hardly anyone saw "The Hurt Locker." The former is certainly a monumental achievement. James Cameron and Fiore combined live-action and photo-realistic animation in a (nearly) seamless blend. But Ackroyd's work had a tremendous kinetic energy that drove the movie. The stalking horse here is the German film "The White Ribbon," with its stark, bleak yet beautiful black-and-white imagery.

Art Direction

  • Avatar” Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
  • Nine” Art Direction: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
  • Sherlock Holmes” Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • The Young Victoria” Art Direction: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Maggie Gray

Gonna win: Avatar

Oughtta win: Avatar

Great group of nominees; I'm particularly happy to see Terry Gilliam's "Imaginarium" receive some kind of recognition -- it's certainly a visually sumptuous film. "Sherlock" was borderline awful, but its gritty Urban Victoria look was terrific. But I think this is a category where people are going to reward "Avatar" for its sheer spectacle.


  • Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
  • Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
  • Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
  • Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
  • Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”

Gonna win: Sandra Bullock

Oughtta win: Meryl Streep

Best supporting Actress

  • Penélope Cruz in “Nine”
  • Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”
  • Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”
  • Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Gonna win: Mo'Nique

Oughtta win: Mo'Nique

Best Actor

  • Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
  • George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
  • Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
  • Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
  • Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

Gonna win: Jeff Bridges

Oughtta win: Jeff Bridges

Best supporting actor

  • Matt Damon in “Invictus”
  • Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
  • Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
  • Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
  • Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

Gonna win: Christoph Waltz

Oughtta win: Stanley Tucci

I'm combining the discussion for all four acting awards into one, since they're the least-interesting races this year. Bridges, Mo'Nique and Waltz are total locks, and Bullock looks to be the heavy favorite. All four have cleaned up in the "precursor" awards -- Golden Globes, SAG Awards, etc. I think Streep gave the best performance, but having been nominated and won multiple times, Academy voters may feel like she's gotten her due. The lack of other nominations for "Julie & Julia" also hurts.

The reverse is true for Bridges, who's been a star for 40 years and been nominated four times without winning. The feeling is "it's his time." Waltz was the best thing about the incredibly uneven "Inglourious Basterds," and Mo'Nique gave her villain role a humanistic core that pushed it into cinematic greatness. I still can't believe this is Tucci's first nomination. Ditto for Christopher Plummer.

Costume design

  • Bright Star” Janet Patterson
  • Coco before Chanel” Catherine Leterrier
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” Monique Prudhomme
  • Nine” Colleen Atwood
  • The Young Victoria” Sandy Powell

Gonna win: Coco Before Chanel

Oughtta win: The Young Victoria

When it comes to costumes, I grade on degree of difficulty. My take is that it isn't all that hard to design outfits for "Coco," since you can use the real clothing designs of Chanel as inspiration. Still a terrific-looking bunch of costumes, though. I'll take "Young Victoria" since they had to do the royal stuff as well as before her crowning.

Film editing

  • Avatar” Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
  • District 9” Julian Clarke
  • The Hurt Locker” Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
  • Inglourious Basterds” Sally Menke
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Joe Klotz

Gonna win: Avatar

Oughtta win: The Hurt Locker

Avatar will win through sheer momentum, although again I think "The Hurt Locker" is a superior film. Interesting to see "Precious" included here, since it's not a movie with a lot of action scenes that tend to drive the style of editing that is rewarded here. I think the dream sequences and flashbacks to rape are what put it onto this list.

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Ajami” Israel
  • The Milk of Sorrow (La Teta Asustada)” Peru
  • A Prophet (Un Prophète)” France
  • The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)” Argentina
  • The White Ribbon (Das Weisse Band)” Germany

Gonna win: A Prophet

Of these nominees I've only seen "The White Ribbon." I can't believe the Academy would reward such a pretentious piece of drek, but I've heard a lot of good things about "Prophet." I think it's that or "Ajami."

Animated Feature Film

  • Coraline” Henry Selick
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox” Wes Anderson
  • The Princess and the Frog” John Musker and Ron Clements
  • The Secret of Kells” Tomm Moore
  • Up” Pete Docter

Gonna win: Up

Oughtta win: Fantastic Mr. Fox

This is an easy prediction, since "Up" was the only animated film to also receive a Best Picture nomination (becoming only the second movie to do so, the other being "Beauty and the Beast" in 1991). Obviously, if voters felt strongly enough about "Up" to push it into this rare air, it's got the votes in its "home" category.

With five nominees now (instead of three), a lot of people were surprised "Ponyo" by Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki wasn't nominated, especially since he's a past winner in this category. Along with 99.99 percent of the world, I haven't seen "The Secret of Kells." For my money, I adored "Fantastic Mr. Fox" for its blend of child-like and adult themes, all wrapped in the hipster sensibility and eclectic soundtrack of Wes Anderson's movies.

Best Documentary Feature

  • Burma VJ” Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
  • The Cove” Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens
  • Food, Inc.” Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein
  • The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
  • Which Way Home” Rebecca Cammisa

Gonna win: The Cove

Embarrassed to say I've only seen one of the nominees this year, "Food, Inc." "The Cove" won this award from the Indiana film critics, so I'll defer to the home squad.

Best Documentary Short

  • China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province” Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
  • The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner” Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbacher
  • The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant” Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert
  • Music by Prudence” Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett
  • Rabbit à la Berlin” Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra

Gonna win: The Last Truck

Now you see what a challenge it is to make predictions in every category. I haven't seen any of these, and know nothing about them. Usually, the cynical view when it comes to the documentary category is to give the edge to whichever one is about the Holocaust. Lacking that option this year, I'll go with the one that has a timely theme about the country's economic malaise.

Short film (animated)

  • French Roast” Fabrice O. Joubert
  • Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell
  • The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)” Javier Recio Gracia
  • Logorama” Nicolas Schmerkin
  • A Matter of Loaf and Death” Nick Park

Gonna win: A Matter of Loaf and Death

Oughtta win: A Matter of Loaf and Death

Thanks to a handy-dandy DVD screener, I've actually seen all the short narrative film nominees this year. This one is an easy prediction, since Nick Park, the Claymation king behind Wallace & Gromit, has won this award just about every time he's had a new movie come out. My other favorite from this group was the bold "Logorama," a world where everything and everyone is made up of corporate logos. I loved evil Ronald McDonald!

Short film (live action)

  • The Door” Juanita Wilson and James Flynn
  • Instead of Abracadabra” Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström
  • Kavi” Gregg Helvey
  • Miracle Fish” Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey
  • The New Tenants” Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson

Gonna win: Kavi

Oughtta win: The New Tenants

The black, black comedy "The New Tenants" is my choice here, but it's probably too bleak for most Academy voters. So I'm predicting the uplifting "Kavi" to win. My second choice is the quirky "Instead of Abracadabra" about a lonely magician. I have to say this was a weak field this year, with "Miracle Fish" and "The Door" both underwhelming me.

Sound editing

  • Avatar” Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
  • The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson
  • Inglourious Basterds” Wylie Stateman
  • Star Trek” Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
  • Up” Michael Silvers and Tom Myers

Gonna win: Avatar

Oughtta win: The Hurt Locker

Sound mixing

  • Avatar” Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
  • The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
  • Inglourious Basterds” Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
  • Star Trek” Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson

Gonna win: Avatar

Oughtta win: The Hurt Locker

The sound categories are perhaps the wonkiest ones, with few regular folks truly understanding what's involved in providing the non-dialogue and non-music portions of the soundtrack. These awards also tend to get swept up in the tide of enthusiasm for a particular film. Although there's been a fair amount of backlash against "Avatar," I again think that the sheer overpowering spectacle of it will compel people to vote it into the winner's circle. And again, I'll take "Hurt."

Visual Effects

  • Avatar” Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
  • District 9” Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
  • Star Trek” Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton

Gonna win: Avatar

Oughtta win: Avatar

Easy call here, although sometimes I think they ought to have a sliding scale for the film's budget. The catering budget on "Avatar" was probably more than the entire budget for "District 9."

Best Makeup

  • Il Divo” Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
  • Star Trek” Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
  • The Young Victoria” Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore

Gonna win: The Young Victoria

Kind of a weak year for this category. I guess every year can't have "Benjamin Button" -type of movies.

Best Song

  • Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
  • Down in New Orleans” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
  • Loin de Paname” from “Paris 36” Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
  • Take It All” from “Nine” Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
  • The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart” Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

Gonna win: The Weary Kind

Oughtta win: Almost There

Some nice, hummable tunes this year. I seem to recall the last time Randy Newman was a double nominee, he lost out on the award. Unfortunately, when the same film is nominated twice in a single category, the votes tend to cancel each other out. So although I loved the gospel-inspired energy of "Almost There," I think the Academy will go country this year. Interestingly, "Loin de Paname" is one of the few songs sung in a foreign language to be nominated in this category.

Best Musical Score

  • Avatar” James Horner
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox” Alexandre Desplat
  • The Hurt Locker” Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
  • Sherlock Holmes” Hans Zimmer
  • Up” Michael Giacchino

Gonna win: Up

Oughtta win: Fantastic Mr. Fox

This is one of those categories that tends to be determined by the orbital pull of the Best Picture winner. But probably not this year. Horner's a great composer, but his score was a lot of action punctuations and tonal chords without a coherent theme. Quick, hum the theme to "Avatar"! You can't do it. Hans Zimmer's score was one of the few things I really liked about "Sherlock Holmes." I really enjoyed the eclectic style of "Fantastic Mr. Fox," including Desplat's quirky banjo-heavy score. I think "Up" will win simply because it had the most melodic, instantly recognizable musical theme of all five nominees.

Best Screenplay (Adapted)

  • District 9” Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
  • An Education” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
  • In the Loop” Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
  • Up in the Air” Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Gonna win: Up in the Air

Oughtta win: Up in the Air

"Up in the Air," which just a few months ago seemed like the runaway picture, has faded in the Oscar race. Other than its three acting awards, it only got three other nominations total. That indicates people weren't enthusiastic about it. But I think in the end Academy voters will recognize that this film lived and died by its script. It had a great personal story with a resonant backdrop about people losing their jobs.

Best Screenplay (Original)

  • The Hurt Locker” Written by Mark Boal
  • Inglourious Basterds” Written by Quentin Tarantino
  • The Messenger” Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
  • A Serious Man” Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • Up” Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

Gonna win: Inglourious Basterds

Oughtta win: The Hurt Locker

Historically, the Oscars have used this category as a makeup award for a filmmaker or movie that didn't quite make it into the top tier of consideration. So my thought is they're going to reward Quentin Tarantino for doing that thing he does. Personally, I thought "Basterds" was occasionally brilliant, but often just plain boring. Great to see an animated film recognized for its writing. "The Hurt Locker" was number two on my Top 10 List, and is just an incredible film.

Best Director

  • Avatar” James Cameron
  • The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow
  • Inglourious Basterds” Quentin Tarantino
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels
  • Up in the Air” Jason Reitman

Gonna win: Kathryn Bigelow

Oughtta win: Kathryn Bigelow

With no clear front-runner this year, my guess is that voters are going to split the difference and give Kathryn Bigelow the director's award, and let James Cameron collect a producer's statue when "Avatar" wins Best Picture. I'm not part of the "Avatar" backlash -- I hated it so much, I put it 8th on my Top 10 List. But it's the sort of movie that's totally engaging while you're watching it, but after you walk out of the theater and start thinking about it, the cracks start to show. It's an incredible vision, but for me Bigelow delivered her masterpiece with "The Hurt Locker." A real capper on an under-noticed career. And she'd be the first woman to win, which never hurts.

Best Picture

  • Avatar” James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
  • The Blind Side” Gil Netter, Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson, Producers
  • District 9” Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
  • An Education” Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
  • The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier and Greg Shapiro, Producers
  • Inglourious Basterds” Lawrence Bender, Producer
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
  • A Serious Man” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
  • Up” Jonas Rivera, Producer
  • Up in the Air” Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producers

Gonna win: Avatar

Oughtta win: The Hurt Locker

The addition of five more Best Picture nominees is actually one of the least interesting things about this year's Oscar race.

The real intrigue is the change in voting procedures for best pic. I won't get too inside-baseball in my description,but suffice to say that instead of the winner being determined by the most number of votes, now the voters will rank all 10 nominees from highest to lowest. Then there's a series of eliminations based on how each film's votes were weighted.

To simplify, a film that gets a sizable number (though not a majority) of first-place votes, but many low-ranking votes, could end up losing to another movie that got more consistently high-ranking votes, but not as many top picks.

So "Avatar," which seems to be the front-runner, could end up losing if a large number of people rank it low on their list.

But, since "The Hurt Locker" was seen by so few people, I'm thinking a lot of Oscar voters aren't going to have seen it. So they might rank it middling or lower just to be safe. (And yes, I know the Academy members receive DVD screeners of the nominees. But the median age is pretty old, and they don't have time or willingness to watch everything.) Whereas I think pretty much everyone will have seen "Up in the Air" and ranked it high -- maybe not number one, but likely in the two-to-four range.

So if "Avatar" doesn't win, I'm going out on a limb and predicting "Up in the Air" to be this year's surprise winner. I still think "Avatar" will prevail, but that's my reading of the tea leaves that produces the unfortunate conclusion that "Hurt Locker" won't win.


  1. What about this one -

  2. I saw that, Jeff -- if that's your real name -- and it's always funny to see the different causalities and correlations people find with regard to the Oscars. I still say it's between Avatar and Up in the Air.