Oscar Time 2010 – The Blind Hurt Avatar, living in District 9, is A Precious, Serious and Inglourious Man who is going Up, Up in the Air in getting An Education.

3 March 2010

Yes it is time once again for me to put my reputation on the line and give you the 2010 Oscar winners. Those who took my advice last year have just about paid off their bookies after I missed best supporting actress yet again. This year I will get it right.

This year the academy decided to increase the best picture nominations from five to 10. There are all sorts of reasons but the main one is to increase viewership in the annual telecast. The ratings have been slipping and ten nominees will mean that the movies that normal people see (meaning you) would have a chance (slim) to win (they won’t.) The five movies where the director was also nominated are the real nominations. The main race will be between two movies – “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker.”

Another new wrinkle (really a couple of old wrinkles) is two hosts – Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Martin has hosted the show twice before, he has also hosted SNL a record times 15 times. Baldwin has been nominated once, has hosted SNL 14 times and probably shouldn’t leave voicemails on his daughter’s phone. Why Martin needs a sidekick is beyond me. If ABC wanted to be creative they should have called Conan O’Brien. Especially since this week is Jay Leno’s first back at the “Tonight Show.”

Without further ado, here are the predictions:

Actor in a Supporting Role

This is usually the first award of the evening. Which means the four actors who don’t win can tie one on and really enjoy the show. Matt Damon will get an acting award later in his career. He deserved a best actor nod for his wonderful portrayal of a corporate whistle-blower in “The Informant.” Woody Harrelson provided a reminder that when he is good, he can act rings around most other actors in the second best movie about the Iraqi War, “The Messenger.” Stanley Tucci has been taking great roles for a dozen years now. Christopher Plummer has been around forever. He was in “The Sound of Music” in 1965 and this is his first nomination. In any other year Plummer would be taking the walk up the stairs. This year the breakout performance was Christoph Waltz as the complex and possibly insane Nazi, “The Jew Hunter” in “Inglourious Basterds.” Not since Hannibal Lecter has there been a villain that you wanted to like.

Winner – Christoph Waltz

Actress in a Supporting Role

I always miss this one. I don’t know why. I either pick the logical choice and she loses or the best performance and she loses. This year’s surprise nomination is Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart” as a fledging music writer who falls for Jeff Bridges’ faded and drunken country music star. Anna Kendrick won the National Board of Review award in this category but her votes will be split with her cast mate in “Up in the Air,” Vera Farmiga. Last year’s winner, Penélope Cruz, is nominated again; this award is not one that lends itself for repeat winners. The most one-dimensional performance was delivered by Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” She plays an abused woman who continues the cycle on her won pregnant daughter. If I were voting with my heart I would go for Gyllenhaal.

Winner – Mo’Nique.

Original Screenplay

A good sign for best picture is a writing award. “Avatar” was not nominated in the writing categories. The Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino are both nominated in this category for “Inglourious Basterds” and “A Serious Man” respectively. Both have won previously thus winning again for each will be like a second or third honeymoon with the woman you have been married to for 15 years. If “The Hurt Locker” wins, it will be a sure sign that it will also win best picture. “Up” and “The Messenger” have no chance for this award. Basterds is Q’s best movie since “Pulp Fiction.” It features a re-writing of WWII and Brad Pitt playing a Jew, we’ll take him every day of the week and twice on Sundays. “A Serious Man” is also a Jewish themed movie but to paraphrase Mel Brooks, “it’s too Jewish.”

Winner – Quentin Tarantino for “Inglourious Basterds.”

Adapted Screenplay

No one, not even the actors in them, saw “An Education” or “In the Loop” which is too bad because they were both excellently written and well-acted. “District 9” received a token nomination to keep their fans watching the show for an extra two hours. “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” is a critical darling and wonderfully written, though a few characters lacked depth. Finally there is “Up in the Air” which was the first post-recession movie. I think the voters want to show they understand the people out there who are struggling and a vote for Jason Reitman will be a way to clear there karma. Then they will go to parties that cost more than most Americans make in ten years. Hooray for Hollywood indeed.

Winner – Jason Reitman for “Up in the Air.”

Best Animated Feature

As usual I will let my seven-year-old niece Margaret pick this one for me. She is two for two and a huge fan of animated movies. I took her to see “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and midway through the movie she leaned over to me and said, “I can’t believe this piece of crap was green lit. I wouldn’t use the script to pick up after my dog Casey.”

“Okay Uncle Neil, what was up with George Clooney doing a Wes Anderson movie, “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” that wasn’t live action? And why does Anderson always use Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman? Booooring. “Coraline” was good but it wasn’t up to the usual fare Pixar produces are known for. “Princess and the Frog” was really good, even for a Disney movie but I felt like I was being sold new merchandise. Mom doesn’t need to buy me anymore Disney products. I don’t think I saw “The Secret of Kells” which means neither did the voters, whoever they are. Now let’s talk about “Up.” If it was nominated for best picture why was it also nominated for best animated feature?  That’s like Penélope Cruz being nominated for best actress and supporting actress for the same role. With that being said, if “Up” was good enough to be nominated for best picture it is good enough to win this category.”

Winner – “Up.”

Hey Uncle Neil, don’t make us see “Buckets of Blood 3 in 3D.” The people don’t like having the buckets dropped on them anymore.”

Ah kids, I have no idea what she is talking about.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

When “The Blind Side” came out there were ads saying “Sandra Bullock is already receiving Oscar Buzz.” This is the best pre-Oscar marketing since “Shakespeare in Love.” The attraction, I guess, is that Bullock is a primarily a comedic actress who is really stretching herself by playing against type in a dramatic role. If that’s the case, why didn’t Bill Murray win for “Lost in Translation”? The class of the group is Helen Mirren, a previous winner so she won’t win again. Besides, “The Last Station” was in limited release. Carey Mulligan was phenomenal as a young girl seduced by an older man in “An Education.” How many times has Meryl Streep been nominated? Going to the Oscars for her is like going to the dentist for the rest of us. Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe is the darling of awards season. The fact that she did not win the Golden Globes is a huge strike against her chances. If Bullock wins she will be the first actor/actress in history to win best actress at the Oscars and worst actress at the Razzies in the same year. Quite an accomplishment.

Winner – Sandra Bullock. She better thank Warner Brothers for buying her the award.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

I’ll make this one short and sweet.

Winner – Jeff Bridges, the dude abides.

Best Picture

Even with the increase of nominated movies, the Oscar voters got one wrong by ignoring “(500) Days of Summer.” Apparently, a well written, well acted comedy that starts off saying that the movie doesn’t have a happy ending means you won’t get nominated. The real nominees are those where the director was also nominated.  “The Blind Side,” “District 9,” “An Education,” “A Serious Man” and “Up” thanks for playing, here’s a copy of the home game and a month supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat. “Avatar,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Precious” and “Up in the Air” are the real nominees. Of those five it is between the first two. Talk about an interesting race for many reasons, which I will go into on the Best Directing category. One movie is a Sci-Fi Fantasy that grossed $80 gazillion; if it wins it will be the highest grossing film to ever take the big prize. The other is a realistic look at bomb detonators in the Iraq War that if it wins will be the lowest grossing film to ever take the big prize. “The Hurt Locker” has been the darling of the awards season. Maybe it’s the subject matter, though not pro or anti-war, it does give a great character study of the brave souls who put their lives on the line knowing that literally one wrong movie means there is no tomorrow. “Avatar” was hugely successful. It won the Golden Globe which is the harbinger for Oscar gold. Going against “The Hurt Locker” are the lack of people who saw it and the early release date. Going against “Avatar is the film did not receive a screenwriting or acting nominations. How can it be the best movie if the writers and actors are ignored?

Winner – “The Hurt Locker.” In 10 years, this pick will be looked on as a truly inspired selection.

Best Director

Quentin Tarantino gave us his best movie in 16 years. He will get the elusive best director award in this decade as a make good for “Inglourious Basterds.” Lee Daniels is the first African-American director to be nominated for “Precious.” It is an important step but he won’t win. Jason Reitman will also get one eventually but not for “Up in the Air.” Now it gets fun. Traditionally the winner of the best director goes on to win best picture. As has already been stated, “Avatar” was mostly nominated for technical awards (Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Film Editing, Art Direction and Cinematography), no above the line/creative awards. “The Hurt Locker” received one acting nomination, a writing nomination along with a host of technical nominations. Added to the best picture/best director drama is “Avatar” director James Cameron was briefly married to “The Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bieglow. Shakespeare couldn’t have written it better. If she wins she will be the first female to win the award. If he wins, he may do that woo thing he did when he won for “Titanic.”

Winner – Kathryn Bieglow.

Enjoy the show that will run well into the American Idol finals in June.

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