The Academy Awards popularity show, Part 1

March 2, 2010

Since I have been asked, I shall use this blog entry offer my Oscar® picks and predictions. Though I have hardly ever given them any credit for furthering my appreciation of cinema, it’s been a fun game to predict, which goes way beyond the quality of filmmaking and into the art of politicking.

Last week, we had the BAFTAs (the British equivalent to the Academy awards). It was nice to see Duncan Jones, David Bowie’s son, win an award for Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director Or Producer. I happened to have recommended his short film “Whistle” for programming at the Miami Film Festival a few years ago. I am very happy to see him get that award. Moon was an amazing addition to the thinking man’s science fiction cannon, plus he is a real down-to-Earth guy for a guy with his head snuggly in the sci-fi world.

But more revealing was how the Hurt Locker swept up so many major awards at the BAFTAs, beating out Avatar in several categories, including Best Film and Best Director, and casting a shadow over the awards it lost to Avatar at the Golden Globes. That said, I think it portends good things for Hurt Locker at the Oscars this weekend, but, for my tastes, Inglorious Basterds is the stronger film.

Well, here is the first half at my look of the picks, mainly the competition trying to beat the favored Hurt Locker. The second half of this post will appear tomorrow and focus on the acting categories.

Directing

Avatar (James Cameron)

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)

Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)

Precious (Lee Daniels)

Who will win: It’s about time a woman director won an Oscar ®, and Bigelow has ironically produced a strong testosterone-fueled movie that also offers some deep insight into the kind of person war creates. This film could win it for her. Plus, our society has increasingly grown concerned about equating injustices against those in groups whose rights have been historically tread upon for centuries, which adds to her chances.

Who I think should win: Tarantino. If this category were not so overshadowed by the battle of the exes (Cameron and Bigelow were once married) and was truly about the craftiness of the director, Tarantino should get it.

Writing (adapted screenplay)

District 9 (Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell)

An Education (Nick Hornby)

Precious (Geoffrey Fletcher)

Up in the Air (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner)

In the Loop (Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche)

Who will win: These are some real nice, varied nominees, though, again, I’m too behind in my movie viewing to fairly guess. If I had to go on the politics that drives this awards show, I’d say the only contenders here are Up in the Air and Precious. Both are the serious movies here. Up in the Air has something to say about the state of today’s day and age thanks to the messed up economy. But Precious is also a powerful comment on the constant of society, those people typically ignored as damaged goods in today’s day and age.

Who I think should win: I think because of the latter’s perspective I just offered, I think not only will Precious win this category but also deserves it.

Writing (original screenplay)

The Hurt Locker (Mark Boal)

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)

A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen)

Up (Pete Docter and Bob Petersen)

The Messenger (Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman)

Who will win: Hurt Locker has not only won awards for Bigelow’s work but also for Boal, a journalist once imbedded with troops in Iraq. The momentum behind this movie will certainly see it through to the Oscars®.

Who I think should win: Yes, Tarantino, who has done some amazing ballet with words throughout his career. Basterds is no exception. The opening scene of the movie itself was an amazing exercise of suspense through dialogue.

Animated feature film

Up (Pete Docter and Bob Peterson)

The Princess and the Frog (Ron Clements and John Musker)

Coraline (Henry Selick)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)

The Secret of Kells (Tomm Moore)

Who will win: Seriously, how many Academy members even heard of the Secret of Kells much less saw in its brief run designed to have it qualify for this category. Coraline is too far in voters’ memory (I thought it was released in 2008, when I tried to think back on my favorite movies of 2009). Fantastic Mr. Fox is probably to odd a film for most to swallow, often the predicament of Anderson’s movies. The Princess and the Frog is old Disney, and comes from a different era (hence its failure at the box office, proving audiences have moved on to 3-D computer-animated films). That means Up will undoubtedly win this category.

Who I think should win: Up deserves it. It is a strong, simple and emotional story, which happens to unfold in an animated 3D world. However, I do happen to think Fantastic Mr. Fox is a stronger film, due to its complex story and whimsical delivery, which does not lean on sentimentality for its emotional tug, unlike Up. Still, if either one wins, I’d be happy, but I’m secretly rooting for Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Foreign language film

Ajami (Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, Israel)

A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, France)

The Secret of Her Eyes (Juan Jose Campanella, Argentina)

The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, Germany)

The Milk of Sorrow (Claudia Llosa, Peru)

Who will win: Being stuck in Miami, foreign movies have to work hard to play at movie theaters here. None of these have even played our few art houses here. I can only guess Haneke will win for being overlooked so long by the Academy.

Who I think should win: I cannot fairly even guess. I have heard some great things about several of these films and look forward to checking them out, beyond the Oscars ® hype.

Best picture

Avatar (James Cameron and Jon Landau, producers)

District 9 (Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, producers)

An Education (Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, producers)

The Hurt Locker (nominees to be determined)

Inglourious Basterds (Lawrence Bender, producer)

Precious (Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, producers)

A Serious Man (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, producers)

Up in the Air (Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, producers)

The Blind Side (nominees to be determined)

Up (Jonas Rivera, producer)

Who will win: OK, first off, let’s pretend this renewed idea of 10 nominees in this category never happened. If that were the case, the only films up here would look like this:

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Precious

The Blind Side

Up in the Air

Yeah, no Avatar. It’s just too much of a technical showpiece. It’s all about the technology used to make the movie, the 3-D aspect and the box office, superficial elements that do no make a classic film. That would also null the contest between the ex’s James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, and her movie would win, making her also the first female director to get the statuette for Best Picture, as she was during the BAFTAs, a tidbit helping to hype her movie, which has enjoyed buzz all year long.

Who I think should win: No doubt about it, in my opinion, Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino is a master filmmaker, and he has shown it again and again since his debut feature Reservoir Dogs, Bigelow’s catalog is much more suspect, filled with too many superficial action flicks like Point Break and Strange Days, which have not aged as well as Tarantino’s work. His latest work was relentless in its pace thanks to its camera work, writing, editing and the performance he elicited from his actors, an all around master work deserving attention on its own merits, not the hype that surrounds Hurt Locker, which was a strong movie, but not the masterwork of film craftsmanship that was Inglourious Basterds.

So what do you think? Am I wrong for loving Inglorious Basterds so much? Beyond the hype, does Bigelow deserve the awards, which I have no doubt she will win?

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
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