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It’s kind of pathetic how excited I am for this year’s Oscars, considering that a lot of my favourite movies and performances aren’t even nominated. But alas, I am a pop culture junkie, and Oscar night is the Holy Grail for that kind of thing. With the big show less than a week away, here are my picks for each category with commentary, when necessary.
The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
I’m incredibly torn with this category. Most seem to be predicting a win for The Hurt Locker, but I think that Avatar could ultimately win. It’s the highest-grossing movie of all time, and whether or not you see this as sufficient reason for winning, it was a movie that a lot of people loved. The Hurt Locker would be one of the least successful (in terms of box office) films to win, and the Iraq war seems to be cinematic kryptonite when it comes to rallying support for a film.
While I can certainly appreciate the merits of Avatar and The Hurt Locker (and I wouldn’t mind if either of them one) the two films in this category that I really loved were Up in the Air and Inglourious Basterds. I’d love to see either of them win, but it seems highly unlikely.
Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”
It’s looking as though Jeff Bridges will finally win his first Oscar. With the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award, and the Critics Choice Award to his name, it would definitely be considered an upset if he didn’t win. Colin Firth recently won the BAFTA for his work in A Single Man, but the Brits often take the BAFTAs as an opportunity to reward their own. George Clooney was considered a threat, but has lost significant momentum throughout the awards season.
Bridges is actually the only person in this category whose performance I’m yet to see. I loved all four of the other performances, so it’s a bit disheartening to know that none of them have much of a chance of stealing the Oscar away from Bridges. I had never been much of a fan of George Clooney, but his work in Up in the Air was fantastic, and it made me reconsider my opinion of him. Firth is the one that I’m rooting for, though, because his subtle performance in A Single Man blew me away.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon in “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”
There is no way that Waltz isn’t going to win this category. He’s won every single precursor award. It will be considered a HUGE upset if he doesn’t get the Oscar. It’s nice to see four first-time nominees in this category, and to see Damon nominated for his first Oscar since Good Will Hunting. But everyone else will just have to wait for a year when scene-stealing Christoph Waltz isn’t in a movie.
I really enjoyed his performance, but I’m a little bit confused as why Waltz is considered such a “shoe-in” (perhaps it was a weak year for this category?)
Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”
Despite Carey Mulligan’s win at the BAFTAs, I still think that this is a race between Bullock and Streep. After her most successful year ever, and the box office sensation that The Blind Side became, I think that Bullock will stop Streep from winning her third Oscar.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Penélope Cruz in “Nine”
Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”
Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire“
Another no-brainer. The Up in the Air women will split the votes that are given to their film. Maggie Gyllenhaal might be considered a minor threat because some voters will see her as being “overdue” for an Oscar after unrecognized performances in films like SherryBaby and Secretary. But her late-season momentum won’t be enough to beat Mo’Nique’s acclaimed performance.
“Avatar” James Cameron
“The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow
“Inglourious Basterds” Quentin Tarantino
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels
“Up in the Air” Jason Reitman
James Cameron could win, but I think that with the Director’s Guild Award under her belt, Kathryn Bigelow will be victorious. While I don’t think that it’s the deciding factor in the race, the fact that Bigelow would be the first female director winner certainly won’t hurt her chances.
I would personally choose Tarantino to win this category, but since the race is between Cameron and Bigelow, I agree that Bigelow is the deserving winner.
Writing (Original Screenplay)
“The Hurt Locker” Written by Mark Boal
“Inglourious Basterds” Written by Quentin Tarantino
“The Messenger” Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
“A Serious Man” Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“Up” Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy
It’s possible that The Hurt Locker could win this category in a flurry of awards for the film, but I think that Basterds will take this one.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
“District 9″ Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
“An Education” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“In the Loop” Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
“Up in the Air” Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
Sadly, it might be the only award that it wins, but Up in the Air is the favourite to win this category.
Animated Feature Film
“Coraline” Henry Selick
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” Wes Anderson
“The Princess and the Frog” John Musker and Ron Clements
“The Secret of Kells” Tomm Moore
“Up” Pete Docter
I don’t know what A.O. Scott is thinking (he’s predicting a Princess and the Frog win), but there is no way that Up is losing this category (come on, it got a Best Picture nomination!)
Even though it won’t happen, I’d actually much prefer The Princess and the Frog to beat Up. I’ve loved a lot of the Pixar films, but Up just didn’t do it for me.
“Avatar” Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
“Nine” Art Direction: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
“Sherlock Holmes” Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“The Young Victoria” Art Direction: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Maggie Gray
“Avatar” Mauro Fiore
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” Bruno Delbonnel
“The Hurt Locker” Barry Ackroyd
“Inglourious Basterds” Robert Richardson
“The White Ribbon” Christian Berger
“Bright Star” Janet Patterson
“Coco before Chanel” Catherine Leterrier
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” Monique Prudhomme
“Nine” Colleen Atwood
“The Young Victoria” Sandy Powell
“Burma VJ” Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
“The Cove” Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens
“Food, Inc.” Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
“Which Way Home” Rebecca Cammisa
Documentary (Short Subject)
“China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province” Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
“The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner” Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbacher
“The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant” Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert
“Music by Prudence” Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett
“Rabbit à la Berlin” Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra
“Avatar” Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
“District 9″ Julian Clarke
“The Hurt Locker” Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
“Inglourious Basterds” Sally Menke
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Joe Klotz
Foreign Language Film
“The Milk of Sorrow (La Teta Asustada)” Peru
“A Prophet (Un Prophète)” France
“The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)” Argentina
“The White Ribbon (Das Weisse Band)” Germany
“Il Divo” Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
“Star Trek” Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
“The Young Victoria” Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore
Music (Original Score)
“Avatar” James Horner
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” Alexandre Desplat
“The Hurt Locker” Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
“Sherlock Holmes” Hans Zimmer
“Up” Michael Giacchino
Music (Original Song)
“Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Down in New Orleans” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Loin de Paname” from “Paris 36″ Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
“Take It All” from “Nine” Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
“The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart” Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Tough call, with Oscar favourite Randy Newman holding two of the nomination spots, but I think that Ryan Bingham’s lovely, soulful song from Crazy Heart will take it. Too bad we won’t get to see him (or any of the other nominees) perform at the ceremony.
Short Film (Animated)
“French Roast” Fabrice O. Joubert
“Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell
“The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)” Javier Recio Gracia
“Logorama” Nicolas Schmerkin
“A Matter of Loaf and Death” Nick Park
Short Film (Live Action)
“The Door” Juanita Wilson and James Flynn
“Instead of Abracadabra” Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström
“Kavi” Gregg Helvey
“Miracle Fish” Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey
“The New Tenants” Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson
“Avatar” Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
“The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson
“Inglourious Basterds” Wylie Stateman
“Star Trek” Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
“Up” Michael Silvers and Tom Myers
“Avatar” Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
“The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
“Inglourious Basterds” Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
“Star Trek” Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson
“Avatar” Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
“District 9″ Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
“Star Trek” Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton
Children’s movies have a bad reputation for their awful dialogue and screeching onscreen pandemonium, but with the success of the Harry Potter film franchise, it seems as though the bar has been set higher. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief (also based on a popular kid’s book series) is clearly trying to feed off some of that good will, and it’s actually largely successful.
Percy (Logan Lerman) is a dyslexic misfit whose mom (Catherine Keener) is dating a boozy loser. But he soon finds out that his social inadequacy is actually a result of the fact that his father is Poseidon, and that Percy himself is a demi-god. The gods have accused him of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt, and Percy must find the real thief to avoid all-out warfare.
The script is certainly not up to par with the Potter series, but the likeable young cast all do quite a respectable job. Lerman, who first caught my attention for his great work in 2007′s 3:10 to Yuma, gives an appealing performance in his first lead role. But it’s Brandon T. Jackson, playing Percy’s protector, Grover, who steals the film with his comedic charms. Sean Bean, Steve Coogan, and Uma Thurman also all do a great job in their small mythological roles.
Another thing about The Lightening Thief that really worked was the real-world element of the story. Percy and his new found friends embark on a cross-country road trip, which is a blast. Greek mythology is a tough sell in this technology-obsessed world, but director Chris Columbus does a good job of somehow making it all feel current.
Young fans will delight in delight in this smart, fast-paced adventure story, and it makes for a surprisingly enjoyable ride for older audiences who are unfamiliar with the books. The mythological links occasionally feel a bit clumsy, but for the sheer amount of fun that this film offers, it’s certainly worth setting your disbelief aside and getting caught up in its charm.
As the trailers and commercials show, Valentine’s Day features every bankable working actor, and tackles nearly twenty different storylines in two hours. The film shows us a day in the lives of all sorts of different couples. All of the characters are thinly linked to each other, mainly through Reid (Ashton Kutcher), a florist who proposes to his girlfriend (Jessica Alba) on Valentine’s Day morning. The film also features Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Biel, Julia Roberts, and Bradley Cooper in its gargantuan cast.
Like last year’s He’s Just Not That Into You, this film has too many expendable plotlines and goes on for about half an hour too long. But while He’s Just Not That Into You did have some interesting stories (most notably, the one involving Bradley Cooper, who had much more to work with in that film), Valentine’s Day really has nothing in the writing or filmmaking to back up its undeniably talented cast. It’s just a poorly made film from Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries), who should know better.
The packed audience that I saw the film with was ready to have a good time. They cheered for Taylor Lautner’s biceps, gasped at “shocking” twists, and gave a collective “awww” at all of the right moments. But some of the jokes fell so incredibly flat that the theatre was virtually silent. Several plot points are poorly explained (I spent half the movie thinking that Emma Roberts was discussing sex with her grandparents, only to later realise that they were the people who’d hired her as a nanny), and the rapid-fire snippets of each storyline make the film feel manic and choppy. And while the film tries to throw a few surprises at the audience, they’re either painfully obvious, or are revealed about characters that we know virtually nothing about (such as Eric Dane’s pro footballer), and thus feel totally random.
This fragmented format for a romantic comedy never allows for much character development, but Valentine’s Day is chocked full of characters that are totally defined by who they are or are not dating. The only remotely fleshed out characters are the two oldest characters (played by Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo). We actually get to learn something about their past, and that’s probably why their storyline is one of the few aspects of the film that works.
Other highlights come few and far between, and mainly depend on which actors the viewer was already a fan of. Cooper and Julia Roberts have a fun chemistry that helps to propel their storyline along, despite the film’s relentlessly catatonic script. And Hathaway and Topher Grace also manage to inject some charm into an otherwise silly storyline.
Although Taylors Swift and Lautner were more heavily advertised, the film’s more interesting teenage pairing comes from Emma Roberts and Carter Jenkins. The latter, despite being one of the only unfamiliar faces on screen, manages to stand out in this massive cast. Ashton Kutcher also gives one his most likeable, least shrill movie performances yet, and he may be the only person who is taking a step up by appearing in this movie.
Valentine’s Day is more enjoyable than its awful first half hour would suggest, but a few fun performances aren’t enough to let this film go by unscathed. From the seemingly endless stream of rom-com clichés to its hopeless child actors (and Swift, who might as well be one), the film is a mess. There’s something to be said for cinematic escapism, but there’s certainly better things that you can escape with than this. It’s far too slim on laughs, and in the end, it’s just another unfortunate by-product of Valentine’s Day.