james debate
james debate

Thursday 24 February 2011

academy awards 2011

This Sunday, Hollywood's famous Kodak Theatre will once again play host to the biggest day on the cinema calendar, the Oscars. People all over the world will tune in for that most tragically popular of pastimes, celebrity watching, followed by four hours of forced laughs and real tears. This year the hosts will be James Franco, who is himself up for a best actor nomination, and Anne Hathaway.

As always, my loyal readers, I present to you some predictions for the big night. Some of you may not have seen the big films this year, others may not be familiar with the latest hype tearing through tinseltown; consider the following a crib sheet for what lies ahead this weekend, and perhaps even a sneak peek at who might just be walking away with the big prize.

Best Picture


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

Who Could Win:
Once again I will bemoan the recently changed format for this award which sees the number of nominations increased from 5 to 10; ostensibly intended to avoid offending film makers, all that it really accomplishes is the cheapening of a best picture nomination.
This year the race is essentially between two films. If you had asked me two months ago who would win, I would have told you the Social Network, hands down. The film's buzz was through the roof, receiving universal acclaim, and given its topical nature and fresh approach to filmmaking it was highly expected to win favor from an Academy that is eager to shake its fusty old image. In fact the film had already done so with the early awards, sweeping both the Los Angeles and New York film critics' awards. Meanwhile The King's Speech was suffering from severe image issues, and a smear campaign appeared to be afoot regarding the script's accuracy with regards to the Royal Monarchy's prewar views on Nazi Germany, an issue which carries a lot of weight in Hollywood of all places.
However this has all changed in recent weeks, following the King's Speech winning the Directors' Guild award, typically seen as a reliable barometer for the Oscars. All of a sudden the King's Speech has an air of inevitability about it, an unstoppable force that has to be considered the favorite going into this weekend.

The King's Speech

Best Director

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

Who Could Win:
Typically you will find that the best picture and best director awards go hand in hand. For this reason we have to consider Tom Hooper, though I would be surprised if he won it. In all honesty he's a bit green for such an honor and though the King's Speech is a fine movie, the direction itself is not what stands out. Personally I would love to see Darren Aronofsky pick up his first Academy Award, but I feel his movie Black Swan will be considered "too weird" to win. My pick for this year's prize has to be David Fincher. If Social Network wins best picture this will surely be a formality but even if it does not, Fincher has drawn enough kudos for his work to be considered a narrow favorite here.

David Fincher

Best Actor

  • Javier Bardem – Biutiful as Uxbal
  • Jeff Bridges – True Grit as Rooster Cogburn
  • Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network as Mark Zuckerberg
  • Colin Firth – The King's Speech as Prince Albert / King George VI
  • James Franco – 127 Hours as Aron Ralston

Who Could Win:
Probably the easiest one to call, I don't think there is a single person in Hollywood who is in doubt over who will win this award. One must feel bad for James Franco, as his tour de force performance could so easily have won in another year, but this time around the prize will definitely go to Colin Firth. Having come so close last year only to lose out to Jeff Bridges, there has been something of a sense of inevitability about this one since long before anyone had even seen the King's Speech, and Firth did not disappoint, turning in a masterful performance that will almost certainly, and deservedly, win him the ultimate prize for acting at last.

Colin Firth

Best Actress

  • Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right as Nic
  • Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole as Becca Corbett
  • Jennifer Lawrence – Winter's Bone as Ree Dolly
  • Natalie Portman – Black Swan as Nina Sayers
  • Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine as Cindy

Who Could Win:
While a lot of positive things have been said about Annette Bening, this one too has a pretty clear favorite. Natalie Portman has wowed audiences with her raw and disturbing portrayal of a ballerina who figuratively and emotionally loses herself in her work. Pretty much a sure thing.

Natalie Portman.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Christian Bale – The Fighter as Dicky Eklund
  • John Hawkes – Winter's Bone as Teardrop
  • Jeremy Renner – The Town as James "Gem" Coughlin
  • Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right as Paul
  • Geoffrey Rush – The King's Speech as Lionel Logue

Who Could Win:
Geoffrey Rush is an actor of the absolute highest quality, and in a year where the King's Speech could well sweep the Oscars it is a distinct possibility that he could ride this wave to his second Academy Award. My pick, though, has to be Christian Bale, whose performance as the washed up, drug addicted ex-boxer Eklund was absolutely unforgettable and pitch perfect from the very first scene.

Christian Bale

Best Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams – The Fighter as Charlene Fleming
  • Helena Bonham Carter – The King's Speech as Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon / Queen Elizabeth
  • Melissa Leo – The Fighter as Alice Ward
  • Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit as Mattie Ross
  • Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom as Janine "Smurf" Cody

Who Could Win:
Finally a contest that's a little more difficult to predict. There's a lot of hype surrounding 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld, but I suspect it is mostly wishful thinking, as often happens with Oscar nominated child actors. Helena Bonham Carter is another good shout, especially if the King's Speech has a good night, but my crystal ball is telling me that she will go home empty handed. Melissa Leo gets my pick, with the veteran actress in fine form in the Fighter.

Who Will Win:
Melissa Leo

Best Original Screenplay

  • Another Year – Mike Leigh
  • The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson
  • Inception – Christopher Nolan
  • The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
  • The King's Speech – David Seidler

Who Could Win:
Good marketing will win this one for the King's Speech, a film that has been pitched time and time again for years until eventually landing this year.

The King's Speech

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • 127 Hours – Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy from Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
  • The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin from The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
  • Toy Story 3 – Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich; characters based on Toy Story and Toy Story 2
  • True Grit – Ethan Coen and Joel Coen from True Grit by Charles Portis
  • Winter's Bone – Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini from Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Who Could Win:
I would love to see 127 Hours win this one, a delightfully underrated film whose screenplay accomplishes the impressive task of taking two hours of one person talking to himself and turn it into something truly compelling. That being, said the clear winner here is the Social Network's excellent script by Aaron Sorkin. It is convenient that the Oscars' two big favorites have landed in different screenplay categories, and I would bet good money that they will both win, one serving as an indicator of a victorious wave to come, the other as consolation.

The Social Network

Various Technical Awards:
Expect Inception to do very well in these categories, the winner of the best picture will doubtless pick up a few as well. Personally I hope to see 127 hours do well here, which to my mind was a pretty much flawless production with regards to technical aspects.

So there you have it, my picks for the year. Enjoy the Oscars this weekend, and when the results go exactly as I've predicted, remember that you heard it here first!

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