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!

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The 62nd Emmy Awards: Red Carpet Live Blog

29 08 2010

Welcome to my experiment in live blogging! I’m gonna start with some red carpet coverage to kind of get the feel of the live blog before the main event. NBC’s red carpet starts at 7pm, so I’ll be watching E! until then. Show starts at 8pm EST.

By way of context, I’ll just say that the red carpet is a major moment for the construction of the celebrity image. Given the context of the event (which I discussed here), the emphasis is on the extraordinary and glamorous side of stardom. As much as contemporary audiences love seeing stars stripped down and caught off-guard in paparazzi shots, the awards show is where we want to see them LOOK like stars. The fact that celebrity media devotes so much attention to the fashion/glamor of the awards shows demonstrates, I think, the importance of the extraordinary star endures in contemporary celebrity culture.

The celebrity media obviously have a big stake in this, as best/worst dressed issues are generally big sellers. It’s also a big deal for the stars (and their cultural producers). Ending up on a best dressed list is a big plus for (especially female) stars because it gets them positive press coverage…even in the tabloids! That said, even ending up on the worst dressed list still gets you some coverage, so it can be a momentary image buster, but at least still gets name out there. I think some folks deliberately go crazy just for that sort of thing.

Either way, it’s a really important space for celebs to get their names/faces out there. Which also makes it a space that kind of gets away from the talent focus of the event (we’ll save that for the actual awards show). This also allows the industry to sneak in new faces (like Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who will star in the new NBC show from J.J. Abrams Undercovers premiering this fall. She’s there as a presenter, but it’s obviously a move by NBC to promote the show since she’s an unknown) and people whose talent is not their claim to fame or, really, the reason they are at the show (I’m looking at you, Kim Kardashian). So the overall event is not all talent-based fame, but it still holds on to the stars-as-extraordinary focus no matter who is on the carpet.

I’m turning on E! now, so let’s get this red carpet live blog started!

6:02pm Love that Ryan is keeping up the facade that this is a totally uncontrolled and unscripted glimpse of the stars. “You never know what will happen!” Also, Jane Lynch looks amazing in that plum dress.

6:14 I’m renaming the Glam Cam 360 to Scary Cam 360. This is almost as weird as the reporter hologram from the presidential election coverage.

6:17 Ty Burrell, my pick for outstanding comedy actor, wins points for not going for standard black tuxedo.

6:32 I love Kathy Griffin at these events because the celebrities are afraid of her.

6:35 Kim Kardashian may be on television, but, let’s face it, she’s there because she’s gorgeous and makes good red carpet fodder. Sort of a celebrity seat filler…can be in pictures and help the celeb media sell some magazines.

6:43 Except for that moment of awkwardness when Ryan asked Mark Salling about the rumor that his Glee castmate and rumored girlfriend, Naya Rivera, keyed his car, Ryan is keeping all the chatter at the level of star-as-worker (talking about show) or positive personal info (like the fascinating insight into the home life of Eva Longria Parker and Tony Parker). Keep the drama out of it, Ryan, this is the Emmys! Industry gossip only!

6:47 Sofia Vegaras is just crazy gorgeous. I love her!

6:48 John Hamm! Swoon! Love his gf, Jennifer Westfeldt, but also love to pretend that he sits at home pining away for me.

6:53 Kate Gosslin! No! That’s just wrong.

7:00 January Jones is wise to go very modern with her red carpet looks since she does the vintage in her character. Way to separate your “self” from your character!

7:02 Christina Hendricks. Like the purple color. Do not like the feathers or the sleeves. But she’s sure working the girls.

7:05 Switched to NBC just in time for Betty White! But now a repeat of Claire Danes. But I think I’ll stick here for Nate Berkus’ handsome scruff.

7:09 Now Nate Berkus is ruining the illusion by talking about the supportive undergarments that go into making these dresses possible.

7:38 Matthew Morrison has the innate inner talent necessary for fame! Thanks, mentor guy.

7:42 One benefit for changing to NBC…get to see John Hamm again.

7:57 I’m gonna start a new post for the show itself, so I’m calling this red carpet finished. Big winners: ladies: Lea Michele, Sofia Vegara men: Ty Burell and (duh) John Hamm.