I was on ABC News Breakfast this morning to discuss the 85th Academy Awards nominees and give a few predictions. You can view all the nominees on the Oscars website and watch me discussing them on the ABC website.
Wow. Did I do a terrible job this year with my Academy Award predictions. I got a total of seven categories right and none of them were exactly radically or surprising results that demonstrate any sense of insight on my behalf. A full list of all the winners is on the official Oscars nominees and winners page and here are the ones that I picked:
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin)
Actress in a Leading Role: Black Swan (Natalie Portman)
Actor in a Supporting Role: The Fighter (Christian Bale)
Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
Music (Original Score): The Social Network (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)
Sound Editing: Inception (Richard King)
Visual Effects: Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)
How did I not predict The King’s Speech as the film that would clean up in several major awards including Best Motion Picture, Directing, Actor in a Leading Role, and Writing (Original Screenplay)? I even acknowledged that it is exactly the sort of film that is destined for Academy Award glory as did the people who left comments on my predictions post. Regardless, The King’s Speech is still an excellent piece of cinema that was crafted by several talented people who deserve their acclaim.
Writer David Seidler, who based a lot of the film on his own experiences getting treatment for his stutter, gave a wonderful acceptance speech as did director Tom Hooper, whom I was lucky enough to interview a couple of months ago. However, it was best male actor winner Colin Firth who was the highlight of the night for me. He somehow managed to be funny, sincere, grateful and humble all at the same time, reenforcing how much I’ve come to like and admire him over the past few years. Firth has always been a wonderful screen presence but he’s really come into his own with The King’s Speech and what I like to call his grief trilogy: And When Did You Last See Your Father?, Genova and A Single Man.
Overall I was actually really pleased with the outcome of many of the awards despite being so off the mark with my predictions. It was terrific seeing Inception getting several of the key technical awards including Cinematography. While I was hoping Inception was also going to get Music (Original Score) I was still very pleased The Social Network won, not just because I had predicted it but because it is a great score and seeing Trent Reznor accepting the award was a tremendous rush for 16-year-old me.
Alice in Wonderland winning Art direction and Costume design was completely unexpected but I was thrilled that the Academy were finally recognising films in these categories that display innovation and imagination over films that simply reproduce the past. It was also very pleasing to see the under appreciated Melissa Leo win Actress in a Supporting Role for The Fighter. I was especially thrilled that the excellent films Inside Job and In a Better World (review to come) respectively won Documentary Feature and Foreign Language Film despite my predictions that they would not.
However, one of the biggest unexpected treats was seeing the marvellous Australian film The Lost Thing win the Animated Short award. Not only is it a magnificent film but on a personal note I am just so proud to have been on the 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival short film jury that gave it the Grand Prix for Best Short Film award, which first made it eligible for an Academy Award. Of course The Lost Thing would have succeeded regardless of my presence on that jury, but still, it’s nice to have that tiny bit of early contact with an Academy Award winning film!
© Thomas Caldwell, 2011
There were very few surprises this year at the Oscars and I was able to correctly predict 12 out of the 20 awards. Although Avatar is still my preferred film of all the films nominated it is very hard to begrudge The Hurt Locker cleaning up, including winning the Best Motion Picture and Best Director awards. Those two awards finally recognise director Kathryn Bigelow’s incredible talent as a filmmaker, not to mention making her the first Oscar-winning female director.
I felt that the rest of the awards all seemed mostly deserved or justified with the exception of The Young Victoria winning Best Costume Design and Sandra Bullock winning Best Actress for The Blind Side. However, in both cases the acceptance speeches won me over and I stopped grumbling. Despite her bizarrely ungracious attitude, Best Costume Design award winner Sandy Powell expressed my frustrations that period films like The Young Victoria usually win such awards while smaller films that are not about “dead monarchs or glittery musicals” get overlooked.
I’ve never had anything against Sandra Bullock (despite disliking so many of her films) but I really didn’t want her to win Best Actress mainly because I reacted so badly to The Blind Side. However, Bullock’s acceptance speech was generous, heartfelt, humble and funny so I think she earned herself a lot of credibility in that moment. I do believe that newcomers Carey Mulligan in An Education and Gabourey Sidibe in Precious were nevertheless more deserving but they’ll have lots more shots at the award in the future.
As for the actual ceremony, there was a sincere and moving tribute to the late John Hughes, there was a pretty good attempt and demonstrating what sound editing and sound mixing actually are and Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin provided more laughs as hosts than It’s Complicated did in its entirety. It was actually a really enjoyable ceremony and the only dud aspect was that there was no time for a clip montage of cinematography nominees or for each nominated Best Original Song to be played but there was apparently time for an interpretative dance routine to each piece of music nominated for Best Musical Score.
On a final note, how great was it to see Jeff Bridges win Best Actor for Crazy Heart and then do that speech where he sounded like he was going to suddenly transform into The Dude in front of our eyes?
There’s a full list of all the winners on the official Oscars website.
© Thomas Caldwell, 2010
The nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards have been out for some time now and the general consensus seems to be that 10 nominations for the Best Motion Picture of the Year award has devalued the category, the inclusion of The Blind Side in two major categories is baffling but that otherwise the nominations are more or less what was to have been expected. In fact, the Oscars this year are shaping up to be one of the most predictable years yet.
I’m not going to comment on the any of the documentary or short film categories as I haven’t seen the majority of the films nominated but I will share my thoughts and predictions about the feature films up for various awards. Alternatively you can go straight to my ranked list of all the nominated films or the list of my predictions.
Best Motion Picture and Best Director
The big story this year is that the two favourite films, Avatar and The Hurt Locker, are respectively by action film maestros James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, who used to have a professional and a personal relationship (they were married). Bigelow seems to be preferred mainly because Cameron won in a big way previously with Titanic (1997) and was kind of obnoxious about it while Bigelow has been previously ignored by the Academy.
The Academy frequently rights past wrongs by awarding people for less deserving films to make up for previous oversights and there is a good chance that will happen this year to Bigelow. The Hurt Locker is certainly a very good film but it is not a good as many of Bigelow’s previous films including Near Dark (1987), Blue Steel (1989) and Strange Days (1995). A lot of people are also excited about the gritty realism that Bigelow brings to the Iraq conflict but I can only explain that by assuming that they haven’t seen Nick Broomfield’s Battle for Haditha (2007) and are yet to see Paul Greengrass’s Green Zone (2010), both of which are superior films.
However, I still think Avatar is going to win the main prize and honestly that would suit me just fine. I’m rarely one to back the big, bloated, over-exposed Hollywood eye-candy film but of all the films nominated this year I truly think Avatar is overall the film that deserves to win. As I discussed in my original review and the subsequent occasionally heated comments, Avatar may have its flaws but it is such a technological achievement and such an immersive experience that it completely won me over. It certainly deals with archetypal characters and re-hashes a very familiar story rather than going for anything resembling narrative originality but I firmly believe that there is an art to repackaging a well-worn tale and making it something exciting again. Avatar over-exceeds expectations and not many films can make that claim.
Jeff Bridges seems destined to win Best Actor for his performance in Crazy Heart and so he should as his role in the film is one that he’s been building up to for his entire career. While many people are betting on Sandra Bullock winning Best Actress for The Blind Side, and she is the best thing about this loathsome film, I think the charm, freshness and non-rampant conservatism of Carey Mulligan’s performance in An Education may in the end win over the Academy’s voting members. I certainly hope so anyway but I suspect I am being naive. Christoph Waltz should and will win Best Supporting Actor for Inglourious Basterds and Mo’Nique should and will win Best Supporting Actress in Precious.
For the screenplay awards I’m pretty certain that the very good yet middle-of-the-road Up in the Air will win Best Adapted Screenplay while Best Original Screenplay will go to The Hurt Locker. However, I’d much rather see the political and poetically profane In the Loop win for Best Adapted while the tightly written animation Up should really win for Best Original.
If Avatar does indeed win Best Motion Picture then I’m certain the Academy will compensate by not only giving The Hurt Locker Best Director but a bunch of other awards including Cinematography, Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. However, editing should go to District 9 for its seamless blend of cinematic styles while cinematography should go to Christian Berger’s incredible work in The White Ribbon. In fact, The White Ribbon is one of the most perfectly shot films ever made so I do hope the Academy prove me wrong and recognise its achievement in the cinematography category.
My pet hate with all film awards is that Best Art Direction and Best Costumes usually always go to whatever film was set the furthest in the past. Recreating historical details is always deemed more worthy that actually using art direction and costumes to reflect character or themes in a filmic way. So even though I haven’t seen The Young Victoria I’m sure it will win Best Art Direction while the visually bold, inventive and exhilarating The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus will miss out. In most other years I’d tip The Young Victoria to win Best Costumes too but I’m pretty sure that Coco avant Chanel will win because it’s about a fashion designer and the Academy are just so crushingly obvious like that sometimes.
Up, of course, will deservedly win Best Animated Film and the massively acclaimed A Prophet will win Best Foreign Language Film. Original score will go to Avatar and it would be very embarrassing if any song other than “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart won Best Original Song. Star Trek may as well take Best Make Up and as for Best Visual Effects … well, I can’t imagine even the most ferociously anti-Avatar critic thinking it won’t and doesn’t deserve to win for this one.
Ranked list of all nominated films
Doing this ranked list of films nominated in the various 82nd Academy Award categories actually demonstrated how foolish star ratings can be and how it is almost next to impossible to adequately compare films with such different purposes, audiences, styles and genres. Nevertheless, I persisted and this is the result:
District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009) 4 nominations
Crazy Heart (Scott Cooper, 2009) 3 nominations
Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009) 1 nomination
A Prophet (Un prophète, Jacques Audiard, 2009) 1 nomination
A Serious Man (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, 2009) 2 nominations
An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009) 3 nominations
In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009) 1 nomination
Star Trek (J.J. Abrams, 2009) 4 nomination
The Princess and the Frog (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2009) 3 nominations
The White Ribbon (Das weiße Band, Michael Haneke, 2009) 2 nominations
The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008) 9 nominations
Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) 8 nominations
A Single Man (Tom Ford, 2009) 1 nomination
Precious (Lee Daniels, 2009) 6 nominations
Up in the Air (Jason Reitman, 2009) 6 nominations
Julie & Julia (Nora Ephron, 2009) 1 nomination
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009) 2 nominations
Invictus (Clint Eastwood, 2009) 2 nomination
Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009) 1 nomination
Nine (Rob Marshall, 2009) 4 nominations
The Last Station (Michael Hoffman, 2009) 2 nomination
The Lovely Bones (Peter Jackson, 2009) 1 nomination
The Blind Side (John Lee Hancock, 2009) 2 nominations
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Michael Bay, 2009) 1 nomination
Ajami (Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, 2009) 1 nomination
Il Divo (Paolo Sorrentino, 2008) 1 nomination
The Messenger (Oren Moverman, 2009) 2 nominations
The Milk of Sorrow (La teta asustada, Claudia Llosa, 2009) 1 nomination
Paris 36 (Faubourg 36, Christophe Barratier, 2008) 1 nomination
The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos, Juan José Campanella, 2009) 1 nomination
The Secret of Kells (Tomm Moore, 2009) 1 nomination
The Young Victoria (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2009) 3 nominations
A full list of all the nominees can be found on the official Oscars website and I’m sure several thousand websites and blogs elsewhere. Here are my predictions in one straightforward list:
Best Motion Picture: Avatar (James Cameron and Jon Land)
Directing: The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
Actor in a Leading Role: Crazy Heart (Jeff Bridges)
Actress in a Leading Role: An Education (Carey Mulligan)
Actor in a Supporting Role: Inglourious Basterds (Christoph Waltz)
Actress in a Supporting Role: Precious (Mo’Noque)
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Up in the Air (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner)
Writing (Original Screenplay): The Hurt Locker (Mark Boal)
Cinematography: The Hurt Locker (Barry Ackroyd)
Film Editing: The Hurt Locker (Bob Murawski and Chris Innis)
Sound Editing: The Hurt Locker (Paul N.J. Ottosson)
Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker (Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett)
Art Direction: The Young Victoria (Patrice Vermette and Maggie Gray)
Costume Design: Coco avant Chanel (Catherine Leterrier)
Animated Feature Film: Up (Pete Docter)
Foreign Language Film: A Prophet (Jacques Audiard)
Music (Original Score): Avatar (James Horner)
Music (Original Song): Crazy Heart (“The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett)
Makeup: Star Trek (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow)
Visual Effects: Avatar (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones)
© Thomas Caldwell, 2010
This 1984 Academy Award winning documentary by Rob Epstein (The Celluloid Closet) is a stirring testament to civil rights campaigner Harvey Milk and a superb companion piece to the recent Gus Van Sant film Milk. However The Times of Harvey Milk delves much further into the political and social significance of what Milk did and what he stood for. Milk was an openly gay man who campaigned on behalf of all minorities. Combining an abundance of archival footage and insightful interviews, Epstein reveals how Milk’s presence in City Hall allowed the “little people” of San Francisco to finally feel connected to the political process.