Alright, the Oscars are just two days away, and you could practically cut the apathy with a knife over here. That being said, the Oscars do provide a great opportunity to place some bets, so let's get crackin' here, shall we?
(A quick word here: I'm only guessing on the major categories here, mostly because the smaller ones tend to veer all over the place...And also because no one gives a shit about Best Editing.)
Best Original Screenplay
The Hurt Locker - Mark Boal (The Dark Horse)
Inglourious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino (Will Win; Should Win)
The Messenger - Camon & Moverman
A Serious Men - The Coen Brothers
Up - Peterson & Docter
Say what you will about him, but while Tarantino's movies may be overstyled at times, he knows his way around a narrative. Get past the vengeance-fantasy aspect of Basterds, and you'll find a surprisingly deep and complex web of intertwined story of deceit and violence. The Hurt Locker may pull an upset here, but don't put money on it.
Best Adapted Screenplay
District 9 - Blomkamp & Tatchell
An Education - Nick Hornby
In The Loop - Armstrong et al. (Should Win)
Precious - Geoffrey Fletcher (The Dark Horse)
Up In The Air - Reitman & Turner (Will Win)
Compared to it's Original counterpart, the Adapted Screenplay field is actually much stronger. Up In The Air, while not the best movie of the year but still perfectly good, will probably end up taking it, although In The Loop really should get some recognition from the Academy. And while the three other nominees all have potential to win, I'd probably pick Precious as the Dark Horse.
Best Foreign Language Film
Ajami - Israel
The Milk Of Sorrow (La Teta Asutada) - Peru
A Prophet (Un Prophète) - France
The Secret In Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos) - Argentina
The White Ribbon (Das Weisse Band) - Germany (Will Win; Should Win)
Like you even need to ask...The White Ribbon. By a fucking mile. There is no dark horse in this category. They're already toasting their victory in Germany. No contest. Moving on now.
Best Documentary Feature
The Cove (Will Win; Should Win)
Food Inc. (The Dark Horse)
The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsberg And The Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home
The Cove doesn't so much pluck your heart strings so much as it tears out your goddamn heart and plays it like a harp. Throw in the added bonus that people fucking love dolphins and some added Hollywood guilt (it was created by the guy who trained dolphins for Flipper, and to a certain extent, ushered in the public love affair with dolphins) and you've got gold. Food Inc. might pull an upset thanks to some indie buzz, but really? Don't count on it.
Animated Feature Film
Coraline - Henry Sellick
Fantastic Mr. Fox - Wes Anderson (The Dark Horse)
The Princess And The Frog - Musker & Clements
The Secret of Kells - Tomm Moore
Up - Pete Docter (Will Win; Should Win)
Usually, Pixar has a monopoly on this category (save for the year they released Cars, although I like to pretend that movie doesn't exist), but this year, it's actually pretty strong. Not to say that Up won't win it; It was an incredible movie, and fully deserves to win. That being said, the other nominees were great movies in their own right, and on the paper-thin chance that the Academy is suffering from Pixar Ennui, Wes Anderson's stop motion throwback may pull an upset.
Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz - Nine
Vera Farmiga - Up In The Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal - Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick - Up In The Air (The Dark Horse)
Mo'Nique - Precious (Will Win; Should Win)
Penelope Cruz won it last year, but only handed in a mediocre performance this year, especially compared to Marion Cotillard's. Farmiga was great but forgettable, and Gyllenhaal did an incredible job despite weak writing for her character. Kendrick is the only one with a snowball's chance here, but really, Mo'Nique owns this. The bitch was a terrifying force of nature and completely deserves every last bit of praise she receives.
Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon - Invictus
Woody Harrelson - The Messenger
Christoper Plummer - The Last Station
Stanley Tucci - The Lovely Bones
Christopher Waltz - Inglourious Basterds (Will Win; Should Win)
Is there really any point in pretending that this one is even a competition? It's Waltz all the fucking way here. He was a carefully planned balance of charming and murderous in four fucking languages and nailed every single one of them. Christopher Waltz is winning it, end of story.
Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side (Will Win)
Helen Mirren - The Last Station
Carey Mulligan - An Education (Should Win)
Gabourey Sidibe - Precious
Meryl Streep - Julie & Julia (The Dark Horse)
Alright, here's where things get interesting: It's not that I don't like Sandra Bullock or anything. I do, I swear. Miss Congeniality wasn't exactly a cinematic masterpiece, but she's charming as hell. And she turned in a pretty decent performance in The Blind Side, I'll give her that. But fact of the matter is, if you take it in perspective of the bigger picture, it was a mediocre performance in a mediocre movie and giving it to her would be denying a far better actress an award she deserves. Carey Mulligan fully deserves to go home with the gold, and hell, even Meryl Streep is long overdue. Gabby Sidibe is just likable as hell, so part of me really wants to see her win, and Helen Mirren deserves the nomination, if not an actual win. Just please, for the love of God, don't give Sandra Bullock the Oscar.
Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart (Will Win; Should Win)
George Clooney - Up In The Air (The Dark Horse)
Colin Firth - A Single Man
Morgan Freeman - Invictus
Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker
This one is actually kinda boring. Jeff Bridges will of course take it, although Clooney might make a surprise grab for it. Firth and Freeman were both great, but let's face it, they don't have a shot in hell here. As for Jeremy Renner...Well, to be honest he seems like a genuinely sweet guy, he did a great job, and from a personal perspective at least, I really kinda hope he wins it.
Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker (Will Win; Should Win)
James Cameron - Avatar (The Dark Horse)
Precious - Lee Daniels
Up In The Air - Jason Reitman
Inglourious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino
Why hello, awkward situation, how are you? From both an objective and subjective point of view, I'm pulling for Bigelow over Cameron here; obviously, she's the better director of the two, not to mention the fact that Cameron is a grade-a creep. I can appreciate the amount of work that goes into a project of Avatar's magnitude, but who are we kidding, right? Bigelow is just flat-out better.
Avatar - James Cameron (Will Win)
The Blind Side - Netter et al.
District 9 - Jackson & Cunningham
An Education - Dwyer & Posey
The Hurt Locker - Bigelow et al. (Should Win)
Inglourious Basterds - Lawrence Bender (The Dark Horse)
Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire - Daniels et al.
A Serious Man - The Coen Brothers
Up - Jonas Rivera
Up In The Air - Reitman
And here's where it all comes together. Alright, let's deconstruct this piece by piece, shall we? Congrats to Up for breaking out of the animate feature ghetto and earning a nod, but despite being my favourite movie of the year, it won't win. A Serious Man was another good one, but not really the Coen Brothers' best, so we can rule that one out. District 9 was both a critical and commercial hit, but it's Sci-Fi storyline will probably turn off voters. Up In The Air was charming as hell, but ultimately overshadowed by better films. Precious is probably the most emotionally powerful of the year, but once again, a little over its head here. An Education, despite being an incredible strong movie, was mostly unseen by most North American movie goers, so nix that. I'm not really sure how The Blind Side made it onto this list, considering that it was at best an okay film, and at worst, feel-good drivel, but all in all it's slowly becoming the most overrated movie of 2009.
This leaves three movies: Avatar, The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds. Let's Review: As much as I want The Hurt Locker to win it, part of me feels like it's going to get shut out on this one. It had an amazing script, amazing performances, amazing direction...Hell, once you consider the conditions the cast and crew had to deal with, it's hard not to imagine it winning. That being said, it also suffered from one of the worst Oscar campaign stories ever, thanks to a supremely bone-headed producer. Avatar grossed more money than God, had people literally killing themselves in order to get to Pandora, and was visually stunning. That being said, it was overwrought, poorly written, and became something of an easy punchline, not to mention that in the wake of its success, Cameron took quite a few personal hits from various ex-wives and associates. This leaves Inglourious Basterds. Was it a great film? Fuck yes. Would I fuck The Bear Jew stupid? HOLY FUCK WOULD I EVER. Was it the best film? Hardly. However, with The Hurt Locker and Avatar taking swipes at each other, Basterds looks poised to come in from behind and take it while they're busy going at it.
So here's how it boils down: The Hurt Locker should win, based on excellent writing, acting and directing. Avatar will win it based on box office revenue, better visuals and better campaigning. And Basterds is The Dark Horse here, poised to pull an upset should the prior two end up cutting off their own noses to spite their faces.