When it comes to the movie industry’s biggest night, there’s clearly a lot to talk about: from glaring Academy oversights (The Tillman Story for Best Documentary or Ryan Gosling as Best Actor in Blue Valentine), to advertising and viewership making 10 Best Picture nominations the new status quo, to all those categories (Makeup, Sound Mixing, Costume Design) that most of us just don’t care about.
And with the 83rd Academy Awards almost upon us, we at TSL, just like the rest of the movie-loving world, have our own opinions and predictions. So we wanted to take this opportunity to prognosticate, for better or for worse.
But with 24 award categories – many of which we are by no means the eminent experts (Editing, Music, Short Films – your guess is as good as ours) – we will only preview and predict the Ten Big Ones: Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Documentary Film, and Animated Film.
Black Swan (Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin)
Synopsis: A talented young ballerina is awarded the prized dual role of the White Swan/Black Swan in a production of "Swan Lake," but fears that another dancer's natural affinity for the darker Black Swan character will win her the part.
Prediction: No chance. Too avante garde. Audiences are divided.
The Fighter (David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg)
Synopsis: Up-and-coming fighter Micky Ward is torn between his loyalty to his older brother and manager, Dicky, and his desire to move beyond the chaotic family life that threatens to derail his plans.
Prediction: Outside chance. Of the ten nominations, The Fighter probably has the most heart. We love seeing the ordinary man overcome adversity and with hard work and dedication ultimately accomplish the extraordinary.
Inception (Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan)
Synopsis: Cobb, an expert at extraction, in which he inserts himself into his targets' dreams to extract ideas, takes on one final job in which he must instead plant an idea into his subject, and if successful, he will be able to leave his profession and return to his children.
Prediction: No chance. Too commercial. Too plot driven.
The Kids Are All Right (Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray)
Synopsis: When the teenage children of a lesbian couple seek out their biological father, his growing presence in their lives threatens the family's emotional fabric.
Prediction: No chance. Great acting. Very real performances. And the subject matter is opportune for gay rights, but The Kids Are All Right just doesn’t have the chin to stay in the ring with the heavy hitters.
The King’s Speech (Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin)
Synopsis: Plagued by a paralyzing stammer, the future King George VI of England is paired up with an iconoclastic Australian speech therapist, who insists on a level of familiarity that the royal prince is averse to permit.
Prediction: Probable. It would have been so easy to make The King’s Speech look like a BBC film, but with a marvelous script, fantastic direction, and tremendous performances, the film is the leading front-runner.
127 Hours (Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson)
Synopsis: Climber Aron Ralston, his arm pinned by a boulder and with no hope of rescue, must do the unthinkable in order to survive and free himself from the ultimate death trap.
Prediction: No Chance. Not a bad film, but a film none the less that is carried by a tour de force performance by Franco.
The Social Network (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin)
Synopsis: Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg develops the social networking site Facebook, but his success leaves him with a trail of broken relationships and questionable ethical choices.
Prediction: Probable. And timely. The Sorkin/Fincher combo does wonders to turn what otherwise would be boring scenes of people sitting in conference rooms tossing around legal jargon into riveting storytelling.
Toy Story 3 (Darla K. Anderson)
Synopsis: As Andy prepares to leave for college, his toys are donated to a local day care center, but their new life proves to be an adventure quite different from what they had expected.
Prediction: No Chance. Arguably the best film of the year in terms of the movie that moved the most people and had the most critical praise, but the Academy won’t be able to overcome the fact that Toy Story 3 is an animated feature, that should easily walk away with the Best Animated Feature Award.
True Grit (Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen)
Synopsis: When Mattie Ross's father is murdered and his killer, the 14-year-old hires the hard-drinking U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, and the unlikely pair sets off into the Indian territories on Chaney's trail.
Prediction: No chance. If the Coen brothers bring home yet another Oscar for Best Picture, the Academy and the 1919 World Series will have something in common. Rigged.
Winter’s Bone (Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin)
Synopsis: When 17-year-old Ree Dolly learns that her father jumped bail after offering the family home in poverty-sticken rural Ozarks as collateral, she sets out to find him before the court can seize the property.
Prediction: No Chance. Loaded with drama and desolate American landscape. But not enough people have seen this beautiful little film.
What Should Win: Toy Story 3
What Will Win: The King’s Speech
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Prediction: Possible. Deals with subjectivity masterfully. Went out on a limb to go out into the mind of a disturbed person.
David O. Russell, The Fighter
Prediction: No chance. Good movie. Good acting. But it’s the story that carries the film. Directing takes a back seat here.
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
Prediction: Good chance. Hooper directs the hell out of his actors, but as The King’s Speech will run away with a plethora of Oscars, the Academy will feel bad for Fincher.
David Fincher, The Social Network
Prediction: Probable. Knowing The King’s Speech will run away with the most Oscars, The Academy will feel obliged to toss The Social Network a bone.
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, True Grit
Prediction: No chance. Been there. Done that.
Who should win: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Who will win: David Fincher, The Social Network
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
Another Year, Written by Mike Leigh
Prediction: No chance. Great script with characters that come alive as real people having great conversation, but not enough people have seen the film.
The Fighter, Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson. Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
Prediction: No chance. Too many writers. Too many ‘thank you’ speeches. Not enough time before commercial break.
Inception, Written by Christopher Nolan
Prediction: Unlikely. Solid writing, but the majority of the dialogue is devoted to set up the rules of the world, and then in the end those rules are abandoned.
The Kids Are All Right, Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
Prediction: Possible. A great actors film because of the script. The writing never falls into the trap of a couple of lesbians sitting around talking.
The King’s Speech, Screenplay by David Seidle
Prediction: Probable. Classic example of master mechanic screenwriting.
Who should win: David Seidler, The King’s Speech
Who will win: David Seidler, The King’s Speech
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY):
127 Hours, Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Prediction: No chance. Great movie, but it’s not great because of the screenplay. It’s great because of first-rate directing and amazing acting.
The Social Network, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Prediction: Probable. Sorkin took something that is not necessarily dramatic and made it a riveting, tension filled experience.
Toy Story 3, Screenplay by Michael Arndt. Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich.
Prediction: Possible. An absolutely marvelous script. A story full of intelligence and heart-felt emotion with animated characters that make you cry.
True Grit, Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Prediction: No Chance. A perfectly good movie, but too close to the original. And a great adaptation is not a literal translation. It’s a translation into a something slightly new.
Winter’s Bone, Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini
Prediction: No chance. A first-rate film. Relentless. But again, it’s a director’s and actor’s showcase.
Who Should Win: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Who Will Win: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
James Franco, 127 Hours
Character: Aron Ralston, a lone hiker who becomes trapped when his arm is pinned by a boulder.
Prediction: Outside chance. Franco’s performance carries the film.
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
Character: King George VI, the British monarch who seeks help from a speech therapist for his severe stammer.
Prediction: Probable. Easy to get swept up in The King’s Speech bandwagon.
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Character: Uxbal, a criminal in Barcelona's underworld who must confront the consequences of the life he has chosen.
Prediction: Possible. Great acting in a less than great film.
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Character: Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard undergrad who develops the social networking site Facebook.
Prediction: Unlikely. Sorkin’s dialogue mentors a great performance.
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Character: Rooster Cogburn, a hard-drinking U.S. Marshal who is hired by a young girl to find her father's killer.
Prediction: Unlikely. Two years in a row. Not gonna happen.
Who should win: James Franco
Who will win: Colin Firth
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Annette Bening, The Kids Are Alright
Character: Nic, a successful doctor who has raised two children with her female partner and must confront the problems that arise when they seek out their biological father.
Prediction: Possible. A lot of heart and integrity. Balancing a stern and caring character, along with a good dose of humor.
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Character: Becca, a woman who is drifting apart from her husband following the death of their child.
Prediction: No Chance. Deeply felt performance with extremely dark material. But nobody saw Rabbit Hole. And it’s just all too depressing.
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Character: Ree, a 17-year-old girl in the rural Ozarks who searches for her missing father after he places the family's home in jeopardy.
Prediction: Possible. Marvelous breakthrough performance, subtle and nuanced. Tremendous emotion. Lawrence carries the entire film.
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Character: Nina Sayers, a young ballerina whose precarious mental state begins to disintegrate when she is cast in the role of the Swan Queen.
Prediction: Probable. A little too one dimensional – terrified all the time. But she does have an arc and despite what the critics say about her dancing, it’s not a movie about ballet. It’s about a really screwed up ballerina.
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Character: Cindy, a wife and mother whose marriage to a man she once loved is failing.
Prediction: No chance. Simply put, nobody saw the damn movie.
Who Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence.
Who Will Win: Natalie Portman
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Character: Dicky Eklund, a former fighter now managing the career of his younger brother, Micky.
Prediction: Possible. The energy, the mamma’s boy, the twitchy drug induced state. Bale, a leading actor acting in a character actor role, makes a drug addict infectiously likeable, and we never think The Dark Knight. Impressive.
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Character: Teardrop, the menacing uncle of a young girl who is searching desperately for her missing father.
Prediction: Possible. Hawkes, a total character actor, delivers a tremendous performance in a movie that no one has seen. The “no one has seen” part hurts his chances.
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Character: James Coughlin, a dangerously unbalanced bank robber who takes a teller hostage.
Prediction: No chance. Too similar to his performance in The Hurt Locker but not nearly as complex.
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Character: Paul, the biological father of two teenagers who have been raised by lesbian mothers.
Prediction: No chance. Ruffalo, a tremendously talented and underrated actor, delivers a picture-perfect performance. He never comes across as playing a part. He’s just a real guy in a really interesting situation – and that’s acting at it’s finest. But it’s pretty much a two man race: Rush vs. Bale.
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech
Character: Lionel Logue, the eccentric Australian speech therapist who agrees to help the King of England overcome his stammer.
Prediction: Probable. A tremendously subtle performance. But frankly, he splits just as much screen time as Colin Firth, so why is Rush not nominated as Actor in a Leading Role. Clearly, he carries the movie just as much as Firth.
Who Should Win: Christian Bale
Who Will Win: Geoffrey Rush
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Character: Charlene Fleming, the determined girlfriend of a boxer whose controlling family is harming his career.
Prediction: No Chance. Despite handling the role well, her character is less memorable than her co-star Melissa Leo’s Alice Ward. Nor does the character have much of an arc. She’s a strong, smart, sexy woman from beginning to end.
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Character: Queen Elizabeth, the loyal wife of King George VI who urges her husband to seek help for his paralyzing stammer.
Prediction: Probable. Not only is The King’s Speech exactly the right kind of film to be swept up in Oscars, Carter not only nails her performance, but the Academy will also acknowledge a career of tremendous performances.
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Character: Alice Ward, a selfish, controlling woman who harms her son's chance to become a successful fighter.
Prediction: No Chance. Leo does well to stick with audiences. It’s always easy to hate a mother who hurts her son, even if done in the name of love. But with two nominations from The Fighter in this category, Leo and Adams knock each other out.
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Character: Mattie Ross, a tough-minded 14-year-old who hires a U.S Marshal to track down the man who killed her father.
Prediction: No chance. Considering she is virtually in every single scene, it seems Steinfeld might be nominated in the wrong category. But leading lady or not, the Academy will see her as a phenom talent with a lifetime of roles to come. Simply put, she’s too young.
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Character: Janine "Smurf" Cody, the matriarch of a family of criminals who takes in her orphaned grandson.
Prediction: Unlikely. Even though her sharp, diabolical performance leaves an extraordinary impact on the film, Weaver is not as well known as Carter in a film that barely hit the radar to be in serious consideration.
Who Should Win: Helena Bonham Carter
Who Will Win: Helena Bonham Carter
Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
Synopsis: In the world of guerrilla street art, the artist known only as Banksy turns the tables on videographer Thierry Guetta as Banksy seizes control of Guetta’s film and makes Guetta and his obsession its subject.
Prediction: Probable. A fascinating interpretation of art, but many argue it’s a meta-documentary, which might put off Academy voters.
Gasland, Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
Synopsis: When Josh Fox is approached by a company wishing to drill for natural gas on his property, he begins a disturbing investigation into the environmental pollution and contamination caused by drilling methods.
Prediction: Unlikely. Gritty. Poorly shot. But covers a political/social issue.
Inside Job, Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
Synopsis: Predatory lending and financial deregulation that laid the groundwork for the global economic crisis are subjected to scrutiny and criticism in a primer on the situation that affected the lives of millions.
Prediction: Possible. Great straight documentary. Doesn’t really take risks, but tells the story in a tradesman-like way.
Restrepo, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
Synopsis: Soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley are chronicled in an exploration of the devastating toll that war takes as survivors struggle to find meaning in the loss of their comrades.
Prediction: Unlikely. Sure, it chronicles soldiers in Afganistan, but it misses a political point of view. It’s more of a process film, with no hint of a theme.
Waste Land, Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley
Synopsis: At Brazil's Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill, Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who uses garbage to create his own work, photographs the garbage pickers who make a living scavenging among the mountains of trash.
Prediction: Possible. Poignant, informative, the landfill itself is mindboggling.
What Should Win: The Tillman Story (not even nominated). Pat Tillman already was a hero. He didn’t need a military cover-up to try to make him one.
What Will Win: Exit Through the Gift Shop
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
How To Train Your Dragon, Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois
Prediction: Possible. Excellent protagonist. Easy to cheer for. Dreamworks best film to date.
Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich
Prediction: Probable. It dares to tackle sentimental shifts early in the film, creating a powerful emotional connection with the audience.
The Illusionist, Sylvain Chomet
Prediction: No Chance. Sorry, everybody knows it’s a two movie face off.
What Should Win: Toy Story 3
What Will Win: Toy Story 3