OSCARS 2011: Karen’s final predictions–and longshot hopes

As we head into Oscar weekend, I shall be in a movie theater rewatching five of the Best Picture nominees, so I’m giving you my predictions as they are today on this Friday afternoon.

This awards season has been intense and interesting, amongst the snubs (coughChristopherNolancough), the surprise nominees and winners (Hi Javier Bardem!), the tide-turning from The Social Network coming for everything in preliminary ceremonies to The King’s Speech reigning supreme at the guilds, and Melissa Leo’s controversial For Your Consideration campaign. Some of the awards that have seemingly been set in stone may no longer be so, but there are still others to lose.

Come Sunday night, we’ll find out who truly takes it all in the culmination of the year in film. We’ll no longer have to linger in limbo about whether the king or the king billionaire will rule. Or maybe it will be the king boxer or the Swan Queen. The games begin now.

(bold face = my prediction)

  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter’s Bone

The mostly polite British biopic will continue its rule all the way to be crowned for Hollywood’s ultimate prize. It’s an uplifting story, has a fine script, and features likable characters brought to life by an equally likable cast. It’s a combination of everything that’s right in movies and though it’s the opposite of a flashy action film, it provides a hopeful escape for viewers. Definitely something the Academy will want to honor.
WATCH OUT FOR: The Social Network—Considering how many honors it has received from critics and critic groups and was considered the projected BP winner until The King’s Speech came through with the guilds, this is the only film that should scare it away. Yes, it’s tense and grim, not like the new frontrunner, but the zeitgeist factor will propel it to the top, or very, very close to it.
IT’S A LONG SHOT BUT…: The Fighter—If the Academy wants to reward a feel-good movie with a compelling true story, why not David O. Russell’s riveting ensemble piece? Beneath the rise of “Irish” Micky Ward in the boxing ring is a moving tale about his dysfunctional family, which is essential to the struggle that turns into triumph for him, them, and their city.

  • Javier Bardem, Biutiful
  • Jeff Bridges, True Grit
  • Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
  • Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
  • James Franco, 127 Hours

Based on how the past couple of months have gone, Firth has this one walking in the door. After losing out last year for his role in A Single Man to another nominee this year (Bridges), he’s been poised for a sure win as the insecure and struggling stammerer King George VI.
IT’S A LONG SHOT, BUT…: James Franco—This year’s co-host of the ceremonies (Along with Anne Hathaway) would just have to walk from backstage to accept his statuette. While Ricky Gervais crashing the show would be more likely than that scenario, Franco’s emotional performance as Aron Ralston, the one-armed mountain climber after the famous ordeal portrayed in the Danny Boyle-directed drama. felt real and served as a new high in his body of work.

  • Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
  • Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
  • Natalie Portman, Black Swan
  • Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Portman’s acclaimed performance as a ballerina descending into madness is hailed as the best of her career. Having to convey extreme emotions and pretty much having to play as two characters—the White Swan and the Black Swan—as she fell into delusion was impressive. It would be a shame not to honor the range and flexibility she showcased in this role.
WATCH OUT FOR: Annette Bening—A previous nominee on three occasions, the Academy may feel like it’s finally this vet’s time to be recognized. Her role as the working, more controlling half of a lesbian couple in The Kids Are All Right spoke volumes, but ultimately showed a heartwrenching vulnerability.

  • Christian Bale, The Fighter
  • John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
  • Jeremy Renner, The Town
  • Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
  • Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Bale not only transformed physically for his role as Micky Ward’s crackhead brother, but completely immersed himself to create a lovable yet troubled character. He has his own story in The Fighter and with his presence, we don’t want to simply follow it, but also invest ourselves in it. Bale has been a frontrunner even before the movie was released to the general public and his surprisingly graceful speeches at the Critics’ Choice Awards, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards shall only reaffirm him as an Academy favorite.
WATCH OUT FOR: Geoffrey Rush—Though Rush only has the BAFTA under his name this awards season, he could surprise to add Oscar as well. He carried The King’s Speech as the unorthodox therapist that helps Firth’s King overcome his crippling stutter, and develops a meaningful friendship with him. Rush’s portrayal is lighthearted but strong-willed and leaves a positive mark on people.
IT’S A LONG SHOT, BUT…: Jeremy Renner — I pulled for Renner as soon as The Town was over, not knowing he was on Dave Karger’s (EW) preliminary list of nominees as well. He was a frightening and ruthless villain in Ben Affleck’s bank heist film, and with very little reason for a viewer to ever sympathize with. But Renner’s excellence in the dark and complex role was to die for.

  • Amy Adams, The Fighter
  • Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
  • Melissa Leo, The Fighter
  • Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
  • Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

While I’m not downgrading the young Steinfeld’s performance as the feisty, revenge-hungry Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers western, I think The Fighter women’s losses—Academy splitting votes, Leo’s self-purchased and tacky ads, Bale already filling the quota for the film’s win—will be her gain. Plus, many have argued that she belongs in the Leading Actress field but seeing that the Supporting Actress category is in the least somewhat applicable (The Coen Brothers claim that Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn is the main character of True Grit) and less competitive, she may have already won by default.
WATCH OUT FOR: Melissa Leo—She has won the BFCA, Golden Globe, and SAG after all. Maybe the ads aren’t as big of a deal as the blogosphere (And yes, I understand I’m guilty) is making it out to be. I know that she’s still my personal choice for the win.
IT’S A LONG SHOT, BUT…: Amy Adams—Adams as Mark Wahlberg’s scantily clad, college dropout bartender girlfriend was a huge stretch from anything she had ever done before, and she made it highly impressive and believable.

  • Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
  • Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
  • David Fincher, The Social Network
  • Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
  • David O. Russell, The Fighter

Despite losing the Directors Guild Award to Hooper, I just have a hunch that it’s one of those years where the winners of the DGA and Oscar won’t match up. Fincher’s work over the years has been highly respectable and admirable, culminating in his remarkable direction in a very modern and socially poignant film. He made an interesting movie about the creation of Facebook with his story framing, and made it tense without lots of action. While many won’t consider The Social Network to be Fincher’s magnum opus, it’s his time for a movie that’s about our time.
WATCH OUT FOR: Tom Hooper—Because. He has the DGA and it’s only been wrong in predicting the Oscar winner six times since 1948. The youngest director of the bunch at 38, Hooper has achieved much for his age with his film, particularly in guiding an older and accomplished cast and in the sophisticated and easy-going storytelling set in a tumultuous period of time (Pre-WWII).  Plus, the Academy is bound to love everything about The King’s Speech, including the man behind the camera.
IT’S A LONG SHOT, BUT…: Darren Aronofsky—Aronofsky delved into the neurotic side of ballet and into the mind of a woman frighteningly striving for perfection. It’s a nightmarish yet delightful kind of trainwreck, his Black Swan. Storytelling at its most twisted, and he delivers it with a unique greatness.

  • 127 Hours
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter’s Bone

If Aaron Sorkin doesn’t take this one for the intelligent and witty dialogue of The Social Network, I will get a job at Facebook and take over Zuckerberg’s position (Just my way of saying on type that there’s no reason for him to not win).

  • Another Year
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech

Of course, it would make sense that a movie about speaking would rely on its words. David Seidler’s screenplay touches on all aspects about King George VI’s quest and will to conquer his stutter, as well as his unlikely ascent to the throne, with some humor but definitely with much heart. It’s very well-developed and substantial. Seidler also has his own inspirational stories to boot behind it, such as being a former stutterer himself.
IT’S A LONG SHOT, BUT…: Inception. Christopher Nolan’s screenplay has this year’s WGA under its belt and even though I can’t deny its flaws, it truly does define the term original screenplay. Plus, it would make for a decent consolation prize for not giving him that Best Director nomination.

  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • The Illusionist
  • Toy Story 3

Total doozy, this one. If it doesn’t win, I’ll make my stuffed toys talk.

  • 127 Hours
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ hip score has won big at the BFCAs and Golden Globes and is utilized well in one with the film. However, if it loses, it will be to the Academy favorite…
WATCH OUT FOR: The King’s Speech—Even though, to be honest, I don’t remember what’s that good about this score.
IT’S A LONG SHOT, BUT…: Inception—Hans Zimmer’s powerful and epic score isn’t just slowed-down horns from Edith Piaf’s “Non je ne regrette rien.” Yes, it’s certainly a huge part of what it makes it memorable and fantastic, but in my opinion, the poignant ending selection “Time,” a piece that progresses to an all-out crescendo and slows down to the sound of simplistic and haunting piano, invokes so much emotion that it deserves to win on that part of the score alone.

  • “Coming Home,” Country Strong
  • “I See the Light,” Tangled
  • “If I Rise,” 127 Hours
  • “We Belong Together,” Toy Story 3

Disney/Pixar songs always seem to get nominated, but hardly win. Plus, Dido and A.R. Rahman’s collaboration on 127 Hours already won Best Original Song at the BCFAs, which gives it a one-up.
WOULD LIKE: “I See the Light”—It’s already a crime that Tangled wasn’t even nominated for anything else other than in this category. Alan Menken’s music brings us back to the days of good Disney films with their latest while taking it into a new age. “I See the Light” gives us that sentiment yet somehow, it still feels all new to us.

  • Black Swan
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit

Roger Deakins has that due factor—eight times and still nothing.
WATCH OUT FOR: Inception—Wally Pfister won the top honor at the American Society of Cinematographers Awards. Though those awards have only matched up four times in the past ten years, he’s a likely contender and might win for yet another upset.

This next batch has no additional commentary from me. My predictions are based on the wins in the respective guilds.

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Hary Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • True Grit
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • I Am Love
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit
  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • Inception
  • Toy Story 3
  • Tron: Legacy
  • True Grit
  • Unstoppable
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • Salt
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2

This last batch of categories are the ones I know absolutely nothing about and therefore have no room to talk about them.

  • Biutiful [Mexico]
  • Dogtooth [Greece]
  • In a Better World [Denmark]
  • Incendies [Canada]
  • Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) [Algeria]
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • Gasland
  • Inside Job
  • Restrepo
  • Waste Land
  • Killing in the Name
  • Poster Girl
  • Strangers No More
  • Sun Come Up
  • The Warriors of Qiugang
  • Barney’s Version
  • The Way Back
  • The Wolfman
  • Day and Night
  • The Gruffalo
  • Let’s Pollute
  • The Lost Thing
  • Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)
  • The Confession
  • The Crush
  • God of Love
  • Na Wewe
  • Wish 143

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