Well, that was…not exciting at all. How not exciting was it? I managed to go a staggering 40-for-45 on my Oscar predictions this year. I ran three categories and got four in all the others, with the biggest underdog ranked seventh (Javier Bardem, shocker!)
In other words, this was a painfully predictable Oscar morning, and it’s shaping up that Oscar night may be just as obvious.
Thus far, here’s how the race for the statuettes is shaping up…
After breaking through with his first nomination last year, Firth emerged as this year’s favorite when his film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September, and he hasn’t faded since. It’s going to be hard for anybody to topple this Weinstein-backed front-runner.
2 – Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network
If anybody can do it, the nerd in a gray hoodie can! Seriously, the only way Firth is going to lose is if the love for The Social Network becomes so overwhelming that it bleeds into every category. That doesn’t seem too likely, but it’s the best chance of an upset in this race.
3 – Javier Bardem in Biutiful
Bardem sneaks in as the (very mild) surprise nominee – edging out Robert Duvall for the last slot on the list. Strangely, that’s enough to get him into third, as this is the film that most Academy members are likely to check out last as the race winds down.
4 – James Franco in 127 Hours
Congratulation, Mr. Franco. You win the, “Lock Nominee All Season With No Chance of Winning” Award. Have fun hosting. I’m sure we’ll see you here again.
5 – Jeff Bridges in True Grit
Possibly the poster boy for the idea that we shouldn’t give great actors an Oscar just because it “feels” like their time. A year after his “career” win, Bridges gives a far superior performance in a far superior film and now has no shot because he won last year. Oh, how this race would have changed if it weren’t for the sentimentality vote.
She seems like a lock, but Oscarless Annette Bening is right behind her. This is going to be a closer race than people think, but it’s still definitely Portman’s to lose.
2 – Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right
There’s that career Oscar thing again. Bening has yet to win, and this is her fourth nomination in a storied career. The biggest thing working against her here is her age – she’s only 52 and has plenty of time to rack up a few more nods before it’s time to hang it up. If she were 62, she’d be in prime position for that “career” win. Don’t count her out though.
3 – Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine
Another actress you can’t count out, and that’s because she has the power of Weinstein behind her. The same power that took a supporting role by Kate Winslet a couple years back and got her that first Oscar. The top two are so strong though, that it’s going to be very difficult for Williams to catch up.
4 – Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone
This year’s Melissa Leo, Janet McTeer, Felicity Huffman and so on indie actress nominee. Too bad for Lawrence that nobody in that slot ever wins.
5 – Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole
Welcome back Nicole. Enjoy your nomination, because that’s all you’re gonna get.
Best Supporting Actor
Bale just might be the biggest lock in all the acting categories. Looking down this list, it’s hard to make a case for anybody upsetting him.
2 – John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone
Hawkes gets the de facto “surprise” nominee push. I also put him this high because newbies who revisit his performance are likely to be blown away. Could be a Bryan Cranston at the Emmys-like situation in terms of he’s so good people just feel compelled to vote for him. Of course, so many feel the same way about Bale.
3 – Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech
He’s in a beloved film, but I doubt the Academy feels Rush is a big enough star to win a second Oscar. Though with this, his fourth nomination, he could be approaching that strata and he does have the Weinstein’s behind him, so don’t count him out…
4 – Jeremy Renner in The Town
As expected, Jeremy Renner snuck into his second nomination, which means critics will now categorize him as a good actor. That will help him get more nominations, but not a win this year.
5 – Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right
Ruffalo snuck in, edging out Andrew Garfield for this nomination (his first!). That honor is probably going to be the only one he gets this year, however.
Best Supporting Actress
Here’s my upset special. The Academy loves a child performance and this is one of the best to come along in years. This being the only spot for the Academy to really honor the blockbuster Grit helps her chances greatly.
2 – Melissa Leo in The Fighter
A very close second, and the presumed favorite. She’ll suffer from some Amy Adams vote splits (barely) and voters wanting to look elsewhere after checking Bales’ name for the same film. These small distractions may be just enough to keep her out of the promised land.
3 – Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom
Weaver overcame being left out of the SAGs and a dwindling campaign to come frown Down Under and claim a nomination. The initial curiosity is going to win her some buzz, but that’s likely to fade as the month wears on.
4 – Helena Bonham-Carter in The King’s Speech
She’s got the Weinsteins, but this is definitely the least flashy role of all those nominated. That’s going to cost her a lot of votes, as will the voters’ wanting to spread the wealth after voting for Firth.
5 – Amy Adams in The Fighter
One of these days, Amy Adams is going to get nominated for a film in which she isn’t competing against a co-star with a much better chance of winning. On that day, she’ll probably win.
Best Original Screenplay
I’m calling a slight upset here. Conventional wisdom would say this is the one category where voters can honor Inception, but that was the same for the similarly buzzed-about Up In The Air last year. That one lost out and the festival darling Precious was left standing triumphant. The King’s Speech winning here would be an Oscar doppelganger.
2 – Inception by Christopher Nolan
3 – The Kids Are All Right by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
This year’s Little Miss Sunshine and/or Juno is sitting in the third spot in the categories where those movies won. Why? Because unlike those films, Kids wouldn’t have been nominated without ten slots to fill.
4 – Another Year by Mike Leigh
The Academy clearly loves Mike Leigh, as evidence by his beating out best picture nominee Black Swan for this spot, but they don’t love him enough to make him a real contender in this category.
5 – The Fighter by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson
Another one where it’s much more about the acting than the writing – at least in terms of public perception. The nomination’s the win here.
Best Adapted Screenplay
The biggest lock in the history of the Oscars. Seriously. If somebody offers you 1:1000 odds on Sorkin’s winning this award, bet whatever you can. Because even if you only get $1,001 back on a $1,000 bet, that’s still free money.
2 – True Grit by Joel & Ethan Coen
Ah, in any other year it’s a lock. Too bad it picked the year of Sorkin to be written.
3 – Toy Story 3 by Michael Arndt
The year will come when Pixar cashes in one of its perennial screenplay nominations. This will not be that year.
4 – Winter’s Bone by Debra Granik & Anne Roselini
What a wonderful little indie screenplay. Such rich language. Such a deserving nomination. Such minuscule chances of winning in the year of Sorkin.
5 – 127 Hours by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Remember when everybody thought this movie had a chance to be a contender in every single category? Well, then you remember November, because those days are over.
This is the most competitive race by far. Unfortunately for the excitement of Oscar night, Fincher is a pretty substantial favorite. He’s beatable though.
2 – Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan
I like Aronofsky as the leading contender to pull the upset. This movie’s massive gross and glowing reviews have all been mostly attributed to its helmer. He’ll get bonus points for bringing out stellar performances from top to bottom.
3 – Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech
The thing that gives this race a potential for excitement is that the third-place contender has a real shot to win. Hooper was the early favorite and then has seen his campaign fade steadily since November. Now that he’s in, he’s got a chance to win though, especially with the Weinsteins having his back.
4 – David O. Russell for The Fighter
Russell was the slight surprise in this category. Not surprising that he got nominated, but surprising that Christopher Nolan was the one whose slot he took. Either way, he’s a long shot this year.
5 – Joel & Ethan Coen for True Grit
The only directors without a chance. It’ll take awhile before the Academy feels they’re due again after the duo’s No Country For Old Men windfall.
Here’s where it gets a bit interesting. Everything is pointing to a Social Network juggernaut, everything except…
2 – The King’s Speech
…The campaign for The King’s Speech. Remember, this was the favorite in the early part of the season until The Social Network started winning every single critics award. Now it’s hot off a PGA win and leads the field with 12 nominations. All that, plus the Weinsteins spearheading a campaign for a smart crowd pleaser. This race is very close.
3 – True Grit
Don’t count out this film. The box office is going to be something the Academy latches onto. After all, this was a $38 million Western made by a quirky directing team that the studio took on purely for Oscars. Now it got all the acclaim and is poised to make $150 million, maybe even $200 million. That sort of success is exactly what the Academy is aching to reward.
4 – The Fighter
The Rocky comparisons have been made all year, but that made more sense when it appeared The Social Network was its only real competition. Now with Speech heating up and Grit a wild success, it’s only got a puncher’s chance of taking home the top prize.
5 – Black Swan
This movie might make $125 million. I can’t imagine anyone in Hollywood thought it would make more than $25. The Academy definitely wants to get behind these .
6 – Inception
It’s basically impossible for a film to win when its director isn’t nominated even when it’s a highly acclaimed blockbuster.
7 – Winter’s Bone
And now we’re into the movies that have no chance. Winter’s Bone is a nice story – this year’s Hurt Locker without the buzz, but it has no shot of winning. Why do we nominate ten pictures again?
8 – Toy Story 3
As with every animated film – No movie that the Academy can award a Best Picture prize in another category is going to win the big prize. It just won’t happen.
9 – The Kids Are All Right
10 – 127 Hours
Remember when this was a contender? Well that’s over. At least in hung tough enough to get nominated.
Now that we’ve reached then end, allow me to once again rant about the idiocy of ten nominees. I got every single Best Picture nominee right. Every single one.
This isn’t because I’m some kind of sage, but because with ten slots to fill, the race becomes incredibly predictable. There just weren’t enough films this year to fill the ten spots.
Conversely, if there were only five slots, this would have been a very thrilling Oscar morning. Would Toy Story 3 have overcome the animation bias to secure a slot? Would Nolan finally have gotten a Best Picture in? Which of the indie darlings (Black Swan or The Fighter) gets join the big party?
All this would have been in play. Instead, they all get in. Along with a few stragglers with no chance whatsoever of winning.
Again, ten nominations is a BAD idea. Especially when all five of the seven likely top vote-getters is going to make over $100 million this year and the stragglers are actually the movies that nobody saw.
In other words, two years of smaller movies getting nominated was no reason to expand the field. As we can clearly see, most years some actual hits are going to fill the nominee list.
Even if there’s only five spots available
Who do you think is going to take home the Oscar?