Who will – and who should – win at the Oscars

As promised in my post about the value of the Oscars, here are my picks for this Sunday’s 83rd Academy Awards. I like to note both who will win, given the Academy’s stodgy, predictable tastes and formulations, and who should win, purely on merit. Also, these come with the caveat that I didn’t see every nominated film (some by choice and some by chance). So here goes:

Best Picture: 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.

Expanding the Best Picture category from five to ten was a transparent attempt by studios to sell more DVDs that bear the “Nominated for by Best Picture” designation. There are still basically two tiers of nominees, serious contenders and token nods. No animated film will win, ever. As I discussed previously, this looks to be a two-man race between The King’s Speech and The Social Network. Speech will win, but Network should.

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.

Here’s the cheat sheet for what the Academy really thinks about the Best Picture nominees. It’s actually one of the most talented group of directors nominated in some time (and Tom Hooper). All due respect, but he is clearly the winner of Which Of These Is Not Like The Others. I think Fincher will win, and he should. It will let the Academy split their vote between the year’s top two films.

Best Actor: Javier Bardem – Biutiful, Jeff Bridges – True Grit, Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network, Colin Firth – The King’s Speech, James Franco – 127 Hours.

In an interesting reversal of last year’s category, Colin Firth will probably rob Jeff Bridges this time around (after Bridges’ Crazy Heart beat Firth’s A Single Man). Firth gets his vaunted payback award for playing someone with a capital D Disability. Sorry, Jeff: to quote Rooster Cogburn, “I can do nothing for you, son.”

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

It must be latent sexism: another year goes by and I missed most of the films with strong female leads. I’ll abstain on who should win, but Natalie Portman probably will. I’m willing to catch up on these films later – just don’t make me watch a heavily-Botoxed Kidman try to emote in a movie about dead children.

Best Supporting Actor: 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.

Typically awarded early, this statuette will be an indicator of what kind of night Speech is going to have. If Geoffrey Rush gets it for a characteristically strong but otherwise unremarkable performance, the film is going to do very well. I still think Christian Bale will win it, though, as he should; he’s done the Method weight loss before, but never has he embodied a role quite like this.

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams – The Fighter, Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech, Melissa Leo – The Fighter, Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit, Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

If I’m a bit sexist for missing out on most Best Actress films, the Academy is sexist AND ageist for putting Hailee Steinfeld in this category. True Grit is her movie; how can the main character be a ‘supporting’ one!? A Steinfeld loss will be this year’s Crash, but I think it’s her’s in a landslide. Also, will the Academy stop nominating two performers from the same film?

Best Writing – 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.

Christopher Nolan’s Inception was one of the most original Hollywood concepts in years, and the screenplay is a tribute to complex plotting that is still enjoyable and comprehensible. If the Academy doesn’t award him for it, I’m not sure what will win.

Best Writing – 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, 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.

Judging adapted screenplay without reading the source material is a bit like judging editing without seeing what was left on the cutting room floor. And as you can imagine, if I didn’t even watch every nominated performance, I sure as hell didn’t read all these books. Still, turning a couple of depositions into a compelling movie (with stylized dialogue) should get Sorkin his first Oscar. But, the Academy has a soft spot for “Important Novels,” so I think Winter’s Bone is a possible dark horse.

Watch the Oscars on ABC, Sunday at 8. Or don’t, and read Twitter instead.

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