As of tomorrow, February 28th, we’ll be but a week away from the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood. After careful consideration, I’ve made my picks in every category, except for the short films, as I have yet to see (or even hear of) any of them.
Keep in mind, this is not necessarily what I think WILL win, just what I think SHOULD or DESERVES to win. Here we go…
Leading Actor: Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”
Although this category will probably end up going to Jeff Bridges, who is a great actor, Renner really deserves it for his work as bomb disposal technician Sergent William James. He is so nervy, and yet so calm under pressure. So headstrong, and yet so easily mistaken. Mostly, this comes from James being a great character, but Renner infuses it with such charisma that I have to give it to him.
Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”
This is probably the surest thing happening at this year’s ceremony. Waltz has been lauded many times following the film’s premiere at Cannes in 2008, and he deserves it all. In his role as Hans Landa, the “Jew Hunter”, he completely subverts the idea of the Nazi villain, turning what easily could have been a simple Kick the Dog character into someone who is legitimately fun to watch. He is at once menacing and charming, something that not many actors can do, especially when playing villains. He’ll be taking home gold for sure.
Leading Actress: Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
To be honest, none of these performances are really outstanding. Gabourey Sidibe, Sandra Bullock, and Helen Mirren all turn in okay performances, and it seems like they’ll nominate Meryl Streep for just about anything these days. Carey Mulligan really brings it as Jenny, an uptight schoolgirl in 1960’s London, who strikes up a relationship with an older man (Peter Sarsgaard), who introduces her to his thrilling, con-artist lifestyle. She does a good job of showing how her character really changes, and, to be honest, not even she was outstanding. She was simply better than the rest.
Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
I’d be tempted to give this to Anna Kendrick for “Up in the Air”, if her performance hadn’t occasionally been almost farcical, but once again, this is pretty much a given. “Precious” wouldn’t be as shocking or horrifying as it ended up being if it wasn’t for Mo’Nique’s electrifying performance as the mother of the titular character. She does truly evil things, and unapologetically. Mo’Nique doesn’t flinch, even when doing really awful stuff. Being a comedic actress, this was probably quite difficult. She even tempts us to feel sorry for her at the end. Her ability to manipulate her audience is what really makes her deserve this one.
Animated Feature: “Up”
Is this one even a question? Of course it will win, because even great films like “Coraline” come nowhere near the level of intelligence or sheer quality that “Up” displays. The visuals are brilliant, yet simplistic (Take note, Mr. Cameron). The writing is hilarious, and yet very dark. Definitely deserves this one.
Art Direction: “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”
Cinematography: “The White Ribbon”
Both of these films are very different, yet visually brilliant. One is about a mind-blowing trek through a man’s psyche in order to fight the devil, and the other is a creepy, atmospheric allegory about the rise of fascism. “Imaginarium” succeeds in it’s ability to absorb us into it’s world, and never let go. The visuals are brilliant, and while the special effects aren’t great, they don’t need to be to tell a great story. (Again, take note, Mr. Cameron) On the contrary, “Ribbon” shows it’s brilliance through it’s simplicity. The black-and-white really helps the film feel old-fashioned, while the film-making style is actually quite modern and fresh (I should expect nothing less from Michael Haneke).
Costume Design: “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”
Makeup: “Star Trek”
Pretty much everything I just said about “Imaginarium” applies here as well. The costumes are big, bright, bold, and really fun to look at, just like the film itself. Now, I’m not sure exactly what “Il Divo” is, but I don’t think it’s the one to beat for Makeup. One thing that can usually be counted on in this category is that the big costume drama will take it home. But from what I saw of “The Young Victoria”, Hollywood is just showing me the same things that I’ve seen a million times before in films just like this. “Star Trek” had people with green skin, pointy ears, and rockin’ tattoos. Don’t be surprised to see this one take it home.
Original Score: “Up”
Original Song: “The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart”
While I liked the music in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Sherlock Holmes”, I barely noticed it in “The Hurt Locker”, and the music in”Avatar” was nothing special. The “Up” score, however, does the difficult job of perfectly capturing the movie. It is light as a feather (or a balloon), and then dark and foreboding. One of the few scores that is fun to listen to on its own. As for the Original Songs, “Take It All” wasn’t even the best song in “Nine”, I never saw “Paris 36”, and they left out “Friends on the Other Side”, the best song from “The Princess and the Frog”. Like the score from “Up”, “The Weary Kind” perfectly captures the character that Jeff Bridges plays. Melancholy, yet enjoyable to listen to.
Film Editing: “The Hurt Locker”
Sound Editing: “Star Trek”
Sound Mixing: “Star Trek”
If you want to know why I picked “Hurt Locker” for this award, look no further than the opening scene. It is edited with such ferocity and quickfire pacing that it truly benefited the tense atmosphere of the rest of the film. As for the sound awards, what can I say, I liked the sound effects in “Star Trek”. Everything from a phaser blast to a ship rocketing through space was perfect.
Visual Effects: “District 9”
This is where it gets interesting. Please direct all hate and criticism to the comments below, but “District 9” really deserves this one. I didn’t believe the special effects in “Avatar” for one single solitary second. You can’t just show me 10-foot-tall blue people and plants that glow in the dark and expect me to just buy it. To me, it looked really fake. “But Josh,” you say, “of course you would say that! Of course blue people are unbelievable, what did you expect!” I expected “District 9”. That film was shot on a tiny budget, and yet every single CGI alien or ship looked completely real. They all blended so well with the live-action backdrop of Johannesburg, and the actors did such a good job interacting with them, that I never thought for one second that it wasn’t real. It won’t win, but it definitely should.
Adapted Screenplay: “Up in the Air”
I loved this screenplay. The dialogue crackles so well, I could have been watching an Ernst Lubitch or a Billy Wilder. Although I’ve heard the character of Ryan Bingham differs from the book version, I don’t care. The jokes really work, and it put a smile on my face.
Original Screenplay: “Inglourious Basterds”
As Adam Kempanaar likes to say about the opening scene of this film, “They’ll be studying this script for decades.” And he’s probably right. It manages to be, all at once, funny, disturbing, thrilling, tense, and surprising. Tarantino is truly a master at the top of his game, and the film would be nowhere without his dialogue.
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker”
Every inch of this film is dripping with suspense and tenacity, and that’s due in big part to Bigelow’s directing. She really reigns in her actors and prevents them from going too over-the-top in certain emotional scenes, where it could have ruined the film. It is clear that she controls every bit of the film, and nothing on screen is ever accidental. She really, really deserves it.
As you may know, the Academy is doing something different this year. They are allowing TEN Best Picture nominees, up from the usual five. Now, instead of Academy members simply voting for their favorite film, they are asking them to rank all ten films, from least favorite to favorite. Presumably, the film with the most #1 votes will win. In honor of that new practice, I will do the same.
10. “Avatar”. I’m still bitter about the fact that this film got nominated and “Moon” wasn’t.
9. “The Blind Side”. Certainly not a terrible film, it just has no place amongst these other nominees. It plays like a brighter, more optimistic version of “Precious”.
8. “An Education”. To be honest, I haven’t even seen this one, but it probably won’t win, so I’ll put it here.
7. “A Serious Man”. Starts off bizzarly, but moves slowly into a darkly, dryly funny film about Jewish life in the 70’s.
6. “District 9”. Take the best premise for a film I’ve heard since “The Matrix”, and turn it into a standard buddy film by the end? It left me feeling a bit disappointed about the last half-hour, but it was still a very good film.
5. “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”. The scariest film this year, and it wasn’t even of the horror genre. Disturbing throughout, yet ends on a slightly optimistic note.
4. “Up”. Surprisingly dark and mature, but also funny and heartwarming. Comes close to being a perfect film, if it wasn’t for Russel’s strangely cliche backstory.
3. “Up in the Air”. At the end of the day, what makes this film really work is good old-fashioned screen chemistry, combined with a great script. The direction, however, was uninspired.
2. “Inglourious Basterds”. This movie is ALL Tarantino, and that’s not a bad thing. Everything about this film is totally riveting. Brutal, unforgiving, and surprising up until the final moments, this movie was superb.
1. “The Hurt Locker”. A side of war that hasn’t truly been explored, that of the people who defuse IED’s. Thrilling, heart-pounding, but not really an action film. More of a character study than anything else. And that makes it all the scarier, for fear of what may happen to these characters that we slowly come to care for. Even better, the film isn’t pandering to anybody, so anything really can happen to them. It isn’t guaranteeing us a happy ending. The acting, directing, writing, cinematography, EVERYTHING that could possibly make a movie great is here in this film. It might just be the perfect movie.