The 83rd Academy Awards: My Oscar Picks

25 02 2011

It’s Oscar time once again. I have previously written about the importance of awards shows in the production of celebrity image. In a contemporary celebrity culture that emphasizes the private-self of the star over their public performances, awards shows serve to remind us that talent is (supposed to be) the ultimate definition of a star, but also shows audiences that there is a real person (a glamorous and special real person) behind that talent. The Oscars ceremony is the pinnacle of all awards shows and a key place where the actor/actress really becomes a star. Stars glamorously parade down the red carpet in their finery and pat each other on the back for being so amazing, both of which remind audiences that stars are special and extraordinary…not like you and me. It’s over-the-top and definitely pretentious, but that’s why I love it. It’s a glimpse of controlled stardom we don’t see too much these days.

Anyway, since I’m attending an Oscar party and will not be live blogging the event (the internet weeps, I’m sure), I thought I’d give my picks for the major awards. I’ve seen nearly all the nominated best picture films (except 127 Hours, which I don’t think I can stomach despite my Franco-love and The Fighter because, well, meh) and my picks are based partly on my own reactions and partly on (some nearly inescapable) industry buzz. Here we go!

BEST PICTURE
Despite the fact that I’m pretty sure that the stodgy oldsters of the Academy will go with the furs-and-pearls period costume drama of The King’s Speech, I have to go with The Social Network here. You go into both of these films knowing the story and, really, the ending. But SN kept me rivited and engaged the entire time anyway. Who knew typing could be so exciting! I really enjoyed several of the other nominees (particularly True Grit, Black Swan and Winter’s Bone) but I think SN captures an important moment of shift in our culture. It’s not perfect, but it’s my pick.

ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE
Colin Firth deserves this not only for his strong performance in The King’s Speech, but really as a body of work Oscar. He is consistently good and has been overlooked for too long. He is the definitive Mr. Darcy, which makes me love him so much that I’ll even overlook his presence in the treacly mess Love Actually (oh yeah, I said it!). Hard to pick a runner up, as it is so far and away Firth’s category this year, but I loved Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Yes, you can have my Oscar vote!

ACTRESS IN A LEAD ROLE
I haven’t seen Rabbit Hole, so Kidman is out. Michelle Williams and Jennifer Lawrence (I hope we see more of her) were both excellent in their roles, but this one is really comes down to Annette Bening and Natalie Portman. I’ve heard some say that Bening should win because she’s been overlooked for so long and, as an “older” woman in Hollywood, doesn’t have that many chances left. I really enjoyed her tightly-wound performance as Nic in The Kids Are Alright. But my strong visceral reaction to Black Swan was all about Natalie Portman’s balls out (that’s right) turn as a crazy (or is she?) ballerina. I also think Swan doesn’t have much chance in its other categories, so this is where voters will honor it.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
I get it. Christian Bale is an intense Method actor who completely changes himself for every role. I’m sure he’s great, but, as I said, I haven’t seen The Fighter. So I’m not buying the hype. I have to say I’m thrilled that John Hawkes was nominated for Winter’s Bone because I loved his character’s meanness and that steely glint in his eye. Mark Ruffalo is super sexy in Kids, but not really Oscar-worthy to me. Jeremy Renner was my favorite part of The Town, but he’ll never win. As good as Colin Firth was in TKS, he couldn’t have done it without the strong supporting turn from Geoffrey Rush. The scene in Westminster Abby where Rush’s Lionel Logue sits in the throne and goes toe-to-toe with the angry King George is fantastic. He should win.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
True Grit simply would not have worked if the actress playing Mattie Ross had not been amazing. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld gave a strong performance in what really is a central, not supporting, role. True, I’ve only seen two of the five films nominated here, but I’m sticking with the ingenue anyway.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Obviously this is where Toy Story 3 will get its due.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
I think Aaron Sorkin has a lock on this one. Especially if my previous prediction about Best Picture comes true. Of all the nominations for The Social Network, I would be most surprised if it doesn’t win in this category.

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
I’ll go with The Kids Are Alright here. Partly because I think it was well written, but also because Lisa Cholodenko (who co-wrote with Stuart Blumberg) is the only woman nominated in this category.

FILM EDITING
Toss up for me between Black Swan and The Social Network. Editing was crucial to how both films told their stories. But seamless shifts in point of view that propelled The Social Network’s narrative makes me pick its editors, Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, as the winners.

CINEMATOGRAPHY
I’ll go with the sparse yet beautiful Western landscapes of True Grit. Roger Deakins’ work, especially with the Coen Bros, is always fantastic. He’s never won an Oscar either! I think it’s time.

DIRECTING
Part of me wants to give it to Darren Aronofsky. Black Swan is really a love-it-or-hate-it kind of movie, and, as a fan of Aronfsky’s, I really loved it. The ridiculous, in-your-face use of the handheld camera, the way your eyes played tricks on you as you watched it…I loved all of it. I just don’t think it will get this award though. Tom Hooper was fine, but such a boring choice, really. Too soon for a Coen Bros repeat. David Fincher really handled the complexities of The Social Network well and never let it be just a Sorkin script-driven film. He’s my pick.

The other more technical awards are usually a crap-shoot for me, so I’ll leave those to my Oscar party ballot. I will say, though, that I am so in love with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ original score for The Social Network. It really made the film and I still listen to it constantly. As much as I want it to win— and provide me with a weird moment of cognitive dissonance when Nine Inch Nails frontman Reznor is on the Oscars stage in a tux—it will probably go to something more traditional, like The King’s Speech. My runner-up would be Hans Zimmer’s work on Inception. If only Daft Punk had been nominated for the Tron: Legacy soundtrack because they would have shown up in spacesuits and made my night. Anyway, I’m sticking with Reznor and Ross as my pick.

I also think that Inception will definitely take the Visual Effects honors, and probably also Art Direction. The fact that Nolan and the effects team used actual rotating sets instead of CGI for that awesome hotel hallway fight makes that film my pick.

Enjoy the show!