Boy, I sure hope that Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin put on a good show when they co-host the 82nd Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, March 7.
Not to put any more pressure on them than they must already be feeling, since the Oscars are seen by tens of millions of people around the world. But since it’s a foregone conclusion as to who’s going to win in each of the major categories, it will fall to Martin and Baldwin – last seen together in the comedy hit “It’s Complicated” – to keep the proceedings lively and exciting.
In fact, the only category that’s still – if you’ll pardon the expression – up in the air is the big one: Best Picture, and that doesn’t come until the very end of the night. That means Martin and Baldwin will have to fill at least 3 and a half hours (or as many as 4 hours, depending on how the pacing goes), with their engaging talent, wit and chemistry.
I have no doubt that they will rise to the occasion, but as for why the Oscars will turn out to be so predictable, well, read on – and be sure to check off your Oscar pool in the process…
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Nominees: “Coraline,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Princess and the Frog,” “The Secret of Kells,” “Up”
The Breakdown: Judging by the crop that made the final cut, it’s safe to say that 2009 was a great year for animated movies. One of the year’s best (by far) was “Coraline,” but that came out back in February and peaked early. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was admired more than it was actually liked, and “The Princess and the Frog” wasn’t the blockbuster that Disney was hoping for. “The Secret of Kells” is lucky to be nominated, since hardly anyone saw it (much less heard of it). That leaves “Up,” Pixar’s tenth movie, and arguably their best one yet. And since their last two films – 2007’s “Ratatouille” and 2008’s “WALL-E” – dominated this category, Pixar’s reign of terror will likely continue.
And the Oscar will go to: “Up”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Nominees: “District 9,” “An Education,” “In the Loop,” “Precious,” Up in the Air”
The Breakdown: Last summer’s “District 9” was one of the best sci-fi allegories since 1968’s “Planet of the Apes,” hence its inclusion here. “An Education” and “Precious” were admired more for their performances than for their screenplays, while “In the Loop” was a brilliant political satire that hardly anyone saw. But ever since “Up in the Air” premiered at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals last fall, it was the frontrunner to win Best Picture. It has since lost a lot of heat to both “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker,” so the Academy will likely honor this relevant and superb screenplay with a win in this category.
And the Oscar will go to: “Up in the Air”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Nominees: “The Hurt Locker,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “The Messenger,” “A Serious Man,” “Up”
The Breakdown: “The Hurt Locker” was widely embraced as an achievement in directing, while “The Messenger,” another impressive drama about the Iraq War, was too little seen. “A Serious Man,” the latest from the Coen Brothers, never really broke through to the masses, and while “Up” was a wonderful adventure, the Academy might feel that a win for Animated Feature is all it needs. There’s a chance that “Inglourious Basterds” may snag the Best Picture prize (more on that later), but since nobody writes dialogue quite like Quentin Tarantino – a previous screenplay winner for co-writing 1994’s “Pulp Fiction” (with Roger Avary) – he will likely emerge victorious here.
And the Oscar will go to: “Inglourious Basterds”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The Nominees: Penelope Cruz (“Nine”), Vera Farmiga (“Up in the Air”), Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Crazy Heart”), Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”), Mo’Nique (“Precious”)
The Breakdown: Penelope Cruz was terrific in “Nine,” but she stole a movie that was otherwise seen as a disappointment. Anna Kendrick held her own against George Clooney in “Up in the Air,” but she might split the vote with her co-star and fellow nominee, Vera Farmiga. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance was strong, but she was still seen as one of the big surprises on nomination day. Then again, this category is a lock anyway, thanks to Mo’Nique’s spectacular tour de force performance as an abusive mother in “Precious.” It doesn’t hurt that she’s won every other award so far this season.
And the Oscar will go to: Mo’Nique (“Precious”)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
The Nominees: Matt Damon (“Invictus”), Woody Harrelson (“The Messenger”), Christopher Plummer (“The Last Station”), Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”), Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”)
The Breakdown: If there’s a lock in any acting category (besides Supporting Actress), it’s this one. In fact, there’s no point in debating the merits of the other nominees, as deserving as they are. As the gripping, terrifying, charming and manipulative Nazi SS Col. Hans Landa, Christoph Waltz went home with every acting award since “Inglourious Basterds” first premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, and that was back in May. So look for him to bookend the rest of his trophies with this Oscar faster than you can say, “That’s a Bingo!”
And the Oscar will go to: Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”)
The Nominees: Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”), Helen Mirren (“The Last Station”), Carey Mulligan (“An Education”), Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”), Meryl Streep (“Julie & Julia”)
The Breakdown: As this category proves, timing is everything. Up until early in the fall, Carey Mulligan was the frontrunner to win Best Actress for her delightful performance in the acclaimed indie, “An Education.” But after “The Blind Side” caught on later that season, Sandra Bullock tied with Meryl Streep for Best Actress at the Critics Choice Movie Awards, followed by wins at the Golden Globes and the SAGs. So including “The Proposal,” this is clearly Bullock’s year, and “The Blind Side” is her “Erin Brockovich.”
And the Oscar will go to: Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”)
The Nominees: Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”), George Clooney (“Up in the Air”), Colin Firth (“A Single Man”), Morgan Freeman (“Invictus”), Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”)
The Breakdown: In another category where timing is key, Best Actor was previously seen as a toss-up between George Clooney, great as a corporate downsizer in “Up in the Air,” and Morgan Freeman, terrific as legendary political leader Nelson Mandela in “Invictus.” But when Fox Searchlight rushed “Crazy Heart” into theaters last December, Academy members were treated to the role of a lifetime for Jeff Bridges. While Clooney also gave the performance of his career, many argued that he made it look all too easy, and he already won an Oscar statue for 2005’s “Syrianna” (Best Supporting Actor). So with four other nominations and no previous wins dating back to 1971’s “The Last Picture Show,” the Dude is long overdue.
And the Oscar will go to: Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”)
The Nominees: James Cameron (“Avatar”), Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”), Lee Daniels (“Precious”), Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”)
The Breakdown: In a real “David vs. Goliath”-style showdown, the Best Director category puts real-life exes James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow against each other. There’s no question that “Avatar” was a groundbreaking technological breakthrough, but dollar-for-dollar, the level of intensity that Bigelow was able to achieve with just $13 million for “The Hurt Locker” far outweighs the $300 million (or $400 million) that Cameron burned through to create “Avatar.” As it is, “The Hurt Locker” is one of the most visceral war movies ever made, next to “The Deer Hunter,” “Apocalypse Now” and “Saving Private Ryan.” Cameron may have won the Golden Globe, but Bigelow managed to win every other guild award, including the Directors Guild Award, which has accurately predicted the winner at the Oscars in all but 6 times in its 61-year history. Then there’s the history-making factor: Bigelow’s win would make her the first woman ever to win the Oscar for Best Director.
And the Oscar will go to: Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”)
The Nominees: “Avatar,” “The Blind Side,” “District 9,” “An Education,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Precious,” “A Serious Man,” “Up,” “Up in the Air”
The Breakdown: As with Best Director, the winner for Best Picture will likely come down to a showdown between the low-budget “Hurt Locker” and the mighty “Avatar.” The former grossed just under $13 million, while the latter grossed over $2.5 billion (and counting), beating Cameron’s own “Titanic” as the biggest movie of all time. But with ten movies fighting for the big prize instead of the usual five (for the first time since 1943), both films could split the vote, leaving “Inglourious Basterds” to sneak down the middle for a “glourious” surprise win. That hardly seems likely, but during an awards show where every other major category is practically a lock, if there is going to be an upset, it will be here.
And the Oscar will go to: “The Hurt Locker”
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