Time is tight, and the Academy Awards are almost on us, so I’m putting this out unedited and without pictures. Apologies for the usual admiralneck nonsense: overuse of parentheses, repeated phrases, hyperbole, and cyclical arguments.
Who Will Win: The Hurt Locker
Who Should Win: Inglourious Basterds
Who Should Have Been Nominated: In The Loop / A Prophet
Purely personal choices here, with me dreaming of a Basterds win even though I know it doesn’t stand a chance in hell. I’d like to think its high number of nominations is because the cool critical opinion of it has mellowed as people realise what a deep, thrilling experience it is, or because the Academy is always happy to see films that celebrate cinema, but more likely it’s because the Weinsteins were doing their usual strongarm tactics. Nevertheless, it will win one award, probably nothing else. I’m not too bothered. The Hurt Locker is a worthy winner, and I don’t think Nicolas Chartier’s email campaign will hurt its chances that much. As long as Precious, The Blind Side or Up In The Air fail, I’ll be happy.
As for other nominees, I would have loved to see In The Loop get a surprise nomination, and A Prophet is good enough to get a Best Picture / Best Foreign Language Film double nomination a la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (all it needed was a quick NY release in the week before Dec 31st and who knows what might have happened). Of course, both movies would have had as little chance of winning as any of the extra five nominees, but they are movies I love, and a man can dream.
Who Will Win: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Who Should Win: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Jacques Audiard (A Prophet)
As I’ve said before, while my personal pick for best director of 2009 was Tarantino for delivering his very best movie to date, by now the thought of a Bigelow win is far more exciting. The director of Near Dark and Point Break getting an Oscar! And the first female to win, too! How cool would that be? If Bigelow loses, that hurdle has yet to be cleared, and I really don’t think it’s going to be Andrea Arnold or Jane Campion who eventually win it. It’ll be Nancy Meyers or someone equally awful. How shit would that be? That’s why the cosmos has got to get this right now and give the award to Bigelow. It would be the highpoint of the night. Though it’s a longshot, it would have been nice to see Audiard nominated instead of Lee Daniels. Though Daniels did summon good performances from his cast, I just don’t think his work was strong enough to deserve a place. Same for Jason Reitman, who is the most middle-of-the-road guy there (he makes James Cameron look like Gaspar Noe). Audiard’s riveting movie was made with such intricate and invisible care that he should have been honoured instead. IMO.
Writing (adapted screenplay):
Who Will Win: Up in the Air (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner)
Who Should Win: In the Loop (Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: The Informant! (Scott Z. Burns)
Hopefully this will be the only thing Up In The Air wins, though even that would be too much. Apparently, and amazingly, Jason Reitman’s rewrite of this was more daring than Sheldon Turner’s original draft, a fact that blows my mind considering how much it cribbed from other movies, with only a daring but unsatisfying and strained final act to differentiate it from any number of other movies about solitary men learning to connect. Of course, it would be beyond incredible if In The Loop won, considering the profanity, but we can always dream. Multiple viewings show how clever the many writers and actors were, spinning language-plates with dexterity while never missing the fact that, at heart, this was a movie about a disgusting act of sabotage that started a war. Missed off the Academy’s list was Scott Z. Burns’ devilishly clever script for The Informant!, which deftly told one story while laying the groundwork for a resolution that seemed to come from a different movie without cheating the audience. The payoffs in the final act were brilliant and devastating. Shame it seemed to go ignored while people praised Matt Damon’s entertaining lead performance.
Writing (original screenplay):
Who Will Win: A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen)
Who Should Win: Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
Yeah, I think Mark Boal will miss out for Hurt Locker: the attention is focused more on Bigelow and the thought of giving a small, serious movie a best picture award over the enormous monolith that is Avatar. Sad for him, but happy for the Coens, who will win their fourth Oscar for their excellent work here. Of course, I preferred Tarantino’s huge loops of dialogue and games with language, but that’s not to diminish the accomplishment of the Coens, for drawing on their own experiences (I assume, presumptuously) and their previous movies (Barton Fink in particular looms large), to create something that felt so vital and new. As I’ve said previously, it’s my favourite Coen Brothers film since Lebowski. It would have been nice for Greg Mottola to get a nod for his delicate and delightful script for Adventureland, but sadly no. He can content himself with the cult that will inevitably grow around it, as a new generation comes to adore it as much as previous generations have adored Say Anything, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and The Breakfast Club.
Actress in a leading role:
Who Will Win: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
Who Should Win: Carey Mulligan (An Education)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist)
The onslaught of Bullock is one of the things that made film-watching unpleasant in 2009, and to see it all capped off with a slew of awards for playing a sassy Southern belle with a plastinised face and an oft-activated “empathy mode” is enough to make me rage, but what are you going to do? Unlike other award-winners this year, I don’t think this is deserved for all of her previous unheralded work, because she lost whatever spark it was that made her fun years ago, and by now it’s just depressing to see her seem so flat on screen. Poor Carey Mulligan. Talked up as a surefire winner as far back as last October (maybe even earlier), and yet here she is, forced to sit by and watch Bullock lift her trophy (Baftas excepted). For the record, I loathed An Education with a passion, and would have placed it on my worst movies of 2009 list (along with Nine, but I’ll get to that in a minute), but who could resist a performance of such maturity and confidence? She’s the only reason I’ve not gone back in time to stop An Education from being made, and deserves her gilded baubles. As for Gainsbourg, yeah, probably only three Academy members saw Antichrist, but in a perfect world it would have been nice to see Gainsbourg get some trinket to denote that some people out there really appreciated the amount of misery she put herself through for Von Trier.
Actor in a leading role:
Who Will Win: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Who Should Win: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Hott Sam Rockwell (Moon)
Crazy Heart isn’t really all that. It’s a less complicated Tender Mercies, a point I think writer/director Scott Cooper conceded when he put Robert Duvall in it. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it, thanks to four things: a nice small role for the new improved Colin Farrell, complete with some lovely singing; Robert Duvall, earning the movie an instant 5000 Duvall points; a great soundtrack by T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, featuring a couple of superb songs; and The Mighty Jeff. This win will thrill me more than any other, simply because he has been my favourite actor for so long. He’s been underappreciated for decades, and the thought of him getting some recognition at last makes my day. (If he wins, of course, fingers crossed.) He should have won for Fearless, of course, but what are you going to do? Nevertheless, even with Bridges towering over this category, it would have been nice for the grassroots campaign by Moon director Duncan Jones to have paid off, especially as Hott Sam Rockwell’s work here was almost up to Jeremy-Irons-in-Dead-Ringers level awesome. That un-nominated performance is the gold standard that all best actor work should be compared to. That Rockwell approached that level of commitment and imagination is high praise indeed.
Actress in a supporting role:
Who Will Win: Mo’Nique (Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” By Sapphire)
Who Should Win: Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Gina McKee (In The Loop)
Even more than Jeff Bridges, Mo’Nique is the most likely to win both Best Supporting Actress and Most Controversially Hairy Legs this year (sigh). Her performance was certainly intense and memorable and extravagant, and while Precious was not a movie I liked or even respected that much, I can get behind this win, especially if it’s the only thing Precious wins tonight, which I suspect it will be. Anna Kendrick’s star-making turn as the obnoxiously confident young professional who learns humility was a better performance than the poorly-written character deserved, and impressed those of us who thought she was nothing more than a Twilight bit-player (to my immense shame, I knew nothing of her career outside those wretched movies). As for Gina McKee, she’s hilarious in In The Loop and has been quietly wonderful for years, and it would have been nice for her to get some recognition for it this year, but hey ho. I would have also liked to see Mimi Kennedy get a nomination for In The Loop as well, but either I’m alone in this or not enough screeners were sent out.
Actor in a supporting role:
Who Will Win: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Who Should Win: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds)
Is there any doubt that Waltz has this wrapped up? Unless he has been goosing Academy members and sending erotic videos of himself to them and the Weinsteins have been able to keep the scandal out of the trade press, he’ll walk it, and with good reason. I can’t remember the last time an “unknown” actor just leapt out of the screen with such command. Seeing him create this incredible villain was possibly the most thrilling thing that happened in my film-going adventures last year, even more than walking past Steven Soderbergh when I went to see The Informant! (Oh the glamour). Wishing on another nomination seems silly, but I would have liked to see some recognition of Michael Fassbender’s work this year. Not only did he mesmerise the fair Daisyhellcakes, but he put in two of the best performances of the year, in Basterds and Fish Tank. Basterds might be his best in 2009, for dancing on the edge of parody for the first half of his screentime, and then becoming an almost totally believable Nazi in the second. Ah well, something tells me he’s going to be getting enough Oscar nominations after this year. Surely he’s on his way to being a huge star by now.
Animated feature film:
Who Will Win: Up (Pete Docter and Bob Peterson)
Who Should Win: Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, and Mark Gustafson, who should be getting a credit)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
Funny how there’s only one computer animated movie in this category, and kinda awful that it is so far and away the frontrunner that the traditionally animated movies (including surprise nomination Secret of Kells, a film I have yet to see) look sad and unloved in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Up (number 10 in my top 25 of 2009, bitches!), and think Coraline and The Princess and the Frog are sheer delight, but I have to plump for Fantastic Mr. Fox, a film that surprised me greatly and stands in comparison with Anderson’s best. As for Cloudy, yes, many critics are horrified that Miyazaki’s Ponyo was missed off the list, but even though I like that movie a lot (number 18 in my top 25 of 2009, bitches!), I can’t help but feel bad for the guys who made Cloudy such a vibrant, anarchic, clever treat. That’s why it was number 11 in my top 25 of 2009. Bitches.
Foreign language film:
Who Will Win: The Milk of Sorrow (Claudia Llosa, Peru)
Who Should Win: A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, France)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden)
I will admit, I just selected The Milk of Sorrow by picking the most sentimental-looking picture in the NY Times Oscar ballot. Foreign language film winners always seem to come out of left-field, so there’s no way I’m going to pick either of the movies that anyone has actually heard of (Prophet & White Ribbon). Of course, I love A Prophet like a rabbit loves carrots, and so would love to see it win, but I can’t imagine anything that brutal and uncompromising winning over the dust-coated old folks who will be voting. Why have I picked Let The Right One In as the lost nomination when it isn’t even eligible any more? Because it should have been picked last year, and movie buffs everywhere are right to be mad at Sweden for not putting it up for consideration last year. What the hell were they thinking?
Who Will Win: Avatar (art direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; set decoration: Kim Sinclair)
Who Should Win: Avatar (art direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; set decoration: Kim Sinclair)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Star Trek (art direction: Scott Chambliss and Keith Cunningham; set decoration: Karen Manthey)
I will be horrified if anything else wins this one. Along with best actor, best supporting actor, and best visual effects I just can’t see how anything else can approach it. Avatar is a movie where an entire planet and its ecosystem has been designed literally from the ground up, and as I said in my review, the story of that ecosystem is arguably more interesting than the Manichean conflict going on within that environment. I’m surprised Star Trek didn’t get a nomination too. The redesigning of such familiar surroundings in a way that looks futuristic and retro at the same time was a source of much delight.
Who Will Win: The White Ribbon (Christian Berger)
Who Should Win: Inglourious Basterds (Robert Richardson)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Antichrist (Anthony Dod Mantle)
Though the technical achievement of Avatar cinematographer Mauro Fiore is vast (lighting a virtual environment and keeping in mind that 3D projection works better with brightness, thus eliminating many of the lighting options available to him), I reckon old school black and white will out this year, and Christian Berger will win out. It would be nice for Richardson to win for his clear and precise work on Basterds, or for Dod Mantle to win for his stunningly beautiful work on Antichrist (instead of his gaudy and hideous work on Slumdog Millionaire from last year), but I’m calling it for Haneke’s movie.
Who Will Win: Nine (Coleen Atwood)
Who Should Win: Bright Star (Janet Patterson)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Where The Wild Things Are (Henson’s Creature Shop)
Nine has to win something, and I reckon this will be it. Of course it deserves to win nothing except for Razzies and disdain, but the Weinsteins have to be placated somehow, for fear of them tearing the theatre to the ground. I would have liked Bright Star to win, just because the costumes were so integral to the plot, and because Bright Star is AWESOME and the lack of award love for it has been little short of SCANDALOUS, but what do I know? Anyway, my other wish would have been for the wonderful Wild Things costumes to be recognised, but I guess they stretch the definition of costume a bit too far.
Music (original score):
Who Will Win: Up (Michael Giacchino)
Who Should Win: Up (Michael Giacchino)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Joe Hisaishi (Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea)
As a die-hard fan of Michael Giacchino, I would probably root for him anyway, but his Up soundtrack was especially lovely, and even managed to unintentionally inspire a stunning remix from Australian musician Pogo:
I know Joe Hisaishi is not well-known enough to get a nod from the Academy, but his work on Ponyo was up there with his heartbreakingly lovely score for Spirited Away. Maybe one day he will get his due.
Music (original song):
Who Will Win: The Weary Kind, from Crazy Heart by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Who Should Win: Almost There, from The Princess and the Frog by Randy Newman
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Dynomite, from Black Dynamite by Sir Charles Hughes
Much as I loved Randy Newman’s songs for The Princess and the Frog (a late-viewed movie that could have cracked my top 25 of 2009), when The Weary Kind finally gets played in Crazy Heart your skin will engoosebumpenize in a very painful way, it’s so beautiful. A couple of tracks in Crazy Heart were kinda generic, but the ones that worked worked like gangbusters, and The Weary Kind is an instant classic, stark and beautiful and emotive. I can’t imagine it would lose. And thank Eywa that Leona Lewis song from Avatar didn’t get nominated. Ugh. For my last pick, wouldn’t it have been wonderful if this got a nomination?
Who Will Win: Avatar (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R Jones)
Who Should Win: Avatar (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R Jones)
Who Should Have Been Nominated: 2012
Again, another guaranteed win, but the lack of a nomination for 2012 is utterly wrong, as wrong as the snub handed to the Matrix sequels and Speed Racer last year. Why can’t we expand this category to five nominations? 2012‘s effects were beyond belief: seeing them go unrewarded is completely baffling. No offence to the other nominees, whose work was also exemplary, but the level of detail in 2012 was phenomenal. ::mind boggles::
Who Will Win: The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith)
Who Should Win: Erm…
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Soul Power
Yes, I only watched two documentaries last year: Jeffrey Levi-Hinte’s unofficial “sequel” to When We Were Kings and Ondi Timonen’s We Live In Public. While Timonen’s film was fascinating and filled with surprising revelation about the birth of the Internet and our relationship with it, Soul Power had Bill Withers, BB King and James Brown (among others) being awesome, and so wins my vote.
As for who should win this year, I hear The Cove is very good, but I’ve yet to see it. I do have The Most Dangerous Man in America on my Sky+ box, though (thank you, BBC4′s Storyville), so I’ll plump for that.
Much as I would like to explain all of my picks, time is ticking on, and so I’ll rattle the rest of quickly, especially as I’ve not seen many of these films. Who can find guesswork interesting? A lot of these choices were made in the same way I picked Milk of Sorrow: if the NY Times ballot showed a child in the picture, I selected it.
Documentary (short subject):
Who Will Win: China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province (Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill)
Who Will Win: The Hurt Locker (Bob Murawski and Chris Innis)
Who Will Win: Star Trek (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow)
Short film (animated):
Who Will Win: The Lady and the Reaper (Javier Recio Gracia)
Short film (live action):
Who Will Win: Kavi (Gregg Helvey)
Who Will Win: Avatar (Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle)
Who Will Win: Star Trek (Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J Devlin)