Well folks, the Oscars are just days away, and everyone and their mother thinks they know who is gonna win all the big prizes. I can't claim to be the best at the prognostication game, but I will let my record speak for itself: I have predicted more winners correctly than Entertainment Weekly 4 out of the last 5 years, and done better than anyone at my Oscar party every year except the year my 10-year-old sister guessed her way to a better score than me. For a complete list of nominees, check out the official Academy website here, then keep reading...
Let's start with the big categories:
With new voting rules and double the number of nominees of any other category, this category is a little more difficult to predict than in previous years. However, we can go by process of elimination: The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, A Serious Man, and Up didn't earn Best Director nods, so let's assume they have something close to zero chance of winning. Also, Inglourious Basterds may be too bloody, and Precious too controversial for the typically older Academy voters to stomach. Up in the Air has failed to garner any of the major pre-Oscar awards (the semi-predictive Golden Globes, SAG, DGA, and Producers' Guild Awards). That leaves Avatar and The Hurt Locker. Although Avatar won the Golden Globe, The Hurt Locker has won every other award this season and seems likely to soon add Oscar to this list.
Prediction: The Hurt Locker
This is actually much easier than Best Picture. James Cameron is not a particularly well-liked man in Hollywood, and the fact that his film was über-popular doesn't actually help him. Most voters will feel that his film's estimated $2,000,000,000 (that's 2 billion...with a b) gross is more than enough reward. Cameron's ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, on the other hand, is likable, has made a film people enjoy, and has won several pre-Oscar awards. Consider this a sure thing: Kathryn Bigelow will become the first woman ever to win Best Director.
Prediction: The Hurt Locker
All five actors gave very strong performances, and all are well respected and well liked. Clooney, especially, is considered to be a great guy and is beloved in many Hollywood circles for both his acting and his charity work. However, his role lacks a certain oomph (for lack of a better word) and doesn't have the emotional impact that Jeff Bridges has in Crazy Heart. This is Bridges's fifth Oscar nomination, and he's never won, so he's likely to be seen as overdue. Also, he really invested himself in the role, gaining weight to play the part of the alcoholic washed-up country music star (and showing off that new weight in his shirtless scene). Having won all the pre-Oscar awards, Bridges is definitely considered a lock.
Prediction: Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
This is (finally) a tougher category to predict! Meryl Streep has been Oscar's darling for many years now, garnering a record-breaking 16 acting nominations. This works in her favor as it obviously shows the Academy loves her, but many Academy voters take her for granted by now, even though she hasn't actually WON an Oscar since Sophie's Choice in 1982. So Meryl is probably the most deserving in the category, and although they gave great performances, Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe are both very young and should be honored just to be nominated in this category. That leaves Helen Mirren and Sandra Bullock. Mirren gave a stellar performance in a very obscure, barely-seen (and with good reason) movie. Sandra Bullock, on the other hand, gave one of her career-best performances, in a well liked, widely-seen film, and has garnered award after award this season. Bullock should be considered the slight favorite, but Streep could upset.
Prediction: Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Christoph Waltz as the sadistic Nazi captain in Quintin Tarrantino's brilliant Inglourious Basterds is the hands-down favorite for this award. His performance was both chilling and entertaining, a 1940's Hannibal Lecter. With the exception of Woody Harrelson, the other nominees just don't quite measure up as far as the impact their characters have on the plot as well as the audience. Harrelson probably deserves this award more, both for how out of character this role is for him and for just how well he pulls it off, but unfortunately almost no one has actually SEEN The Messenger.
Prediction: Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The biggest surprise on Oscar night would be if the Academy gives the Best Supporting Actress award to anyone besides Mo'Nique. Her powerhouse performance tops all the rest, and she has won every award up until now. The only thing working against her is she has not always showed up to the awards shows to accept, nor is she the most likable or gracious person. That didn't stop the Academy from giving Sean Penn an Oscar last year, and it won't stop Mo'Nique from winning her first Academy Award this year.
Prediction: Mo'Nique - Precious
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
This is a very tough category to call this year, as the voting could go a few different ways. Best Pictures don't just happen, and so the screenplay and director's awards often reflect an acknowledgment of the aspects that have made a picture the best, so that would give the edge to the likely Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker. That said, the Academy occasionally decides to award some slightly more "out there" films in the screenplay categories (think Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). If the Academy tries to spread the wealth around a bit, Inglourious Basterds or even Up could win the prize. However, I give a slight (razor-thin) advantage to The Hurt Locker.
Prediction: The Hurt Locker
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Up in the Air was a great film, which unfortunately will get mostly ignored in the categories it's up in. It is sort of a comedy, and the Academy just never takes comedies as seriously as dramas. That said, the consolation prize for all those losses in the acting categories: a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.
Prediction: Up in the Air
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
This category isn't even fair this year. One film, and one film only, from the category was deemed worthy of a Best Picture nomination (an honor which only one previous animated feature, 1991's Beauty and the Beast, has achieved). Up is the only serious contender, and will win a much-deserved Best Animated Feature award. The film is both sad and funny, both side-splitting and heartwarming. No one can deny that it deserves its Best Picture nomination, and no one with any sense would bet against it for Best Animated Feature.
The smaller categories:
ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
Its visual beauty is the only thing this snooze-fest has going for it, and the Academy will award it accordingly.
ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
Prediction: The Young Victoria
Never bet against British period dramas in the costume category.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Prediction: Food, Inc.
As the only film in the category to have a wide theatrical release, and having been a fairly talked about film, this one seems like the front-runner in this hard-to-pick category.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Prediction: The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
It's topical and got decent press, but this category is anyone's guess and whoever masters the short films is sure to win the office Oscar pool.
ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
No reason, I just think it's the best one nominated, and once in a while, that should be enough to get you an Oscar.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Prediction: The White Ribbon
It won the Golden Globe, and it's the only one with a nomination in another category. Ajami could upset, as Israel has now gotten three nominations in a row and no wins, but that seems unlikely.
ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP
Prediction: Star Trek
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Prediction: "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" - Crazy Heart
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Prediction: A Matter of Loaf and Death
Hard to predict, but the one with the coolest name seems to win at least half the time...
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Prediction: The New Tenants
If there were such a thing as buzz for a short film, this movie would have it.
ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
This whole movie is one big visual effect. This completes Avatar's sweep of the technical categories while leaving all the big wins to the, shall we say, better movies.
I hope you enjoyed my Oscar predictions; feel free to make your own in the comments, and check back the day after the awards to see how I did compared to other critics and prognosticators!