The Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday morning. I have made it an annual ritual (although I didn't post my picks last year) to predict the nominees. In recent years, it has become easier and easier to guess the nominees. More and more pre-awards shows, critics panels, and general coverage of the contenders has taken much of the mystery away from the nominees. This year appears to be one of the easiest to predict in a long time, as there has been very little disagreement from experts and other awards shows. Even the winners of all 6 major categories are all but assured at this point (Lead Actress is perhaps the only category with some mystery left). Of course I could be setting myself up to look like an idiot. After saying it's such a predictable year, watch me get several of these wrong. Nevertheless, here are my picks and commentary on the various categories:
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
Alternate Possibilities: Winter's Bone, Blue Valentine
Wish List: Winter's Bone, Shutter Island, Blue Valentine
Thoughts: It's amazing that even with the expanded list of 10 nominees, this list is insanely predictable to the point where there's really only one likely battle left. Does the Academy go for indie fave Winter's Bone or Ben Affleck's The Town? I think they will go for the latter, but I really can't see of another very likely possibility, except for maybe the highly regarded Blue Valentine, although that one has lost all momentum after a poor performance during the pre-Oscar awards circuit. I'm rooting for Winter's Bone, an excellent film I saw at the Atlanta Film Festival. In a just world, Martin Scorsese's wildly underrated Shutter island would also be a lock. However, I will say that if this is the list of 10, it is a much, much better list than last year. Of the 9 I have seen (The Town is the only one I haven't yet), all of them are very good or great.
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
Christopher Nolan (Inception)
David O Russell (The Fighter)
Alternate Possibilities: Joel & Ethan Coen (True Grit), Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer)
Wish List: Joel & Ethan Coen (True Grit), Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island), Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine)
Thoughts: My picks match the DGA nominees, which don't always match the Oscar choices, but these seem pretty likely. If there is an upset, it will be for Oscar favorites Joel and Ethan Coen. With 10 Best Picture nominees it is unlikely that we will have a Director nominee whose film didn't also get nominated, but I suppose if it ever happens, this year could be the time if the Academy wants to make a statement on behalf of Polanski. Coens, Scorsese, and Cianfrance would be my personal top three picks in this category.
Best Lead Actor
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Robert Duvall (Get Low)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
James Franco (127 Hours)
Alternate Possibilities: Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine), Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter)
Wish List: Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine), Leonardo DiCaprio (Shutter Island)
Thoughts: Colin Firth will be taking home the Oscar for Best Actor this year. His eventual win is one of the most certain locks there has been in all the years that I've been covering and predicting the Oscars. If Bridges hadn't won last year (for a performance that's not nearly as good as this year), it would be more of a race. The final spot comes down to SAG nominee Robert Duvall or Golden Globe nominee Ryan Gosling. I have yet to see Duvall's film, but I'm rooting for 2007 nominee Gosling, who was fantastic this year. DiCaprio had a fantastic year with two excellent performances in Shutter Island and Inception, but has no realistic shot at a nomination.
Best Lead Actress
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Alternate Possibilities: Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine), Lesley Manville (Another Year), Hilary Swank (Conviction)
Wish List: Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
Thoughts: The eventual Oscar race will come down to Bening vs. Portman, with Portman probably having the edge unless Bening can squeeze out enough sympathy votes to put her over the top. The nomination list is a little more complex simply because of the Hailee Steinfeld factor. With the Oscars, voters are allowed to nominate someone in any category they wish, despite what the studio promotes their actors for in trade ads. In the past, both Kate Winslet (The Reader) and Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) were nominated for Lead Actress, despite being promoted in the supporting category. Steinfeld is a good bet to do it again as she is in every single scene of True Grit. If instead they go for her in Supporting, then that opens up the final spot for Williams or Manville. Williams is deserving, but has been mostly overlooked during awards season. Hilary Swank got a surprise SAG noination, but I highly doubt her name will be called on Tuesday.
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Andrew Garfield (The Social Network)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)
Alternate Possibilities: John Hawkes (Winter's Bone), Matt Damon (True Grit)
Wish List: John Hawkes (Winter's Bone), Matt Damon (True Grit)
Thoughts: Bale is almost as sure a bet as Firth, though there is a minor conceivable possibility that Rush (who would be winning in almost any other year) could upset him. There isn't as much certainty with the other nominees as there has been much disagreement with the pre-Oscar awards. I went with the safe bets in Ruffalo and Garfield, both of whom can count on a wave of enthusiasm in other categories for their films. That leaves Renner, a highly regarded actor that voters will remember from last year when they nominated him for Lead Actor. I would actually prefer my two alternates to get in. Hawkes was splendid in a multidimensional role that is much different from anything he's done before. It will be really annoying if Damon will be ignored for his brilliant, colorful performance this year when he was awarded for his bland turn in last year's Invictus, but it looks like that's exactly what will happen.
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech)
Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)
Alternate Possibilities: Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Barbara Hershey (Black Swan)
Wish List: Rebecca Hall (Please Give), Michelle Williams (Shutter Island)
Thoughts: Of course, I could be eating it here if I'm wrong on my suspicion that Hailee Steinfeld will be bumped up to Lead Actress. If so, she will probably take the spot of Jacki Weaver. I was skeptical of Kunis's chances until she scored a SAG nomination and now see no reason why she won't ride the coattails of co-star Natalie Portman. Leo appears to the runaway winner here, although I thought Amy Adams was better in the same film. Deserving performances that have no shot include Rebecca Hall's winning performance in unjustly overlooked Please Give and Michelle Williams but stunningly heartbreaking performance in Shutter Island.
Best Original Screenplay
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
Alternate Possibilities: Blue Valentine, Please Give
Wish List: Please Give. Blue Valentine
Thoughts: Yet again, the two nominees I'm rooting for are the two alternates, but neither of them have a shot. These five screenplays will certainly be nominated and I can't imagine any of them being skipped. I added Please Give, which was a WGA nominee, but I know it has zero chance here.
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
Alternate Possibilities: Winter's Bone, The Ghost Writer
Wish List: Shutter Island, Winter's Bone
Thoughts: And here we have another category where the Oscar has already been decided. Aaron Sorkin will be taking home the trophy for his deservedly praised script for The Social Network. The other nominations are pretty set except for a similar battle to the Best Picture race between The Town and Winter's Bone. Since I think The Town will win that, then I'll pick it here, but I hope I'm wrong. Once again, I'll be rooting for Shutter Island knowing it has no shot.
And that will be it for this year. I could go through all the tech categories, but I've never been good at predicting those. It'd mostly be guessing or copying the guild nominees.
It's been a while since I've written much for this blog, but expect that to change soon as I'll try to switch to a bi-weekly schedule writing about both current and classic films.