by Tim Ross
The big event is finally here.
Fans around the world are debating who will win, millions will be wagered on the results and many, many bowls of snacks will be consumed.
No, I’m not talking about the Super Bowl. I’m talking about the 83rd Academy Awards, an event that continues to grow in popularity, followed by millions of fervent cinema fans.
From the announcement of the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award winners earlier this year to the opening of the Academy envelopes on Sunday, Feb. 27, movie fans follow the Oscar trail and try to predict who will win, who will lose and who will get robbed.
So, in the spirit of the awards, we will make some predictions of our own.
Nominees: “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “Inception,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “The King’s Speech,” “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” “Toy Story 3,” “True Grit,” “Winter’s Bone”
Pick: Although “The Social Network” took the Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” often an indicator for what will happen on Oscar night, I think “Black Swan” will ride the Natalie Portman buzz into the winner’s circle. Portman is the odds-on favorite for best actress, and “Black Swan” has all the elements of an Oscar winner: bold character arcs, deeply intense scenes, special effects and an Oscar-nominated star at the helm.
Notables: “Inception” could win for the same reason “Avatar” did in 2010 – it’s simply a new way of filmmaking. “The Fighter” is a tour de force for the cast, led by Christian Bale in a brilliant performance. “The King’s Speech” is smart filmmaking with Colin Firth as hot as any leading man these days, and “The Kid’s Are All Right” has both star power and a socially-conscious message. My nod still goes to “Black Swan.”
Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: Javier Bardem, “Biutiful;” Jeff Bridges, “True Grit;” Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network;” Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech;” James Franco, “127 Hours”
Pick: Colin Firth appears to have the statuette firmly in hand. He is not only a well-loved veteran but also one of the top serious actors in Hollywood right now. Firth has all the buzz, is in a film nominated for “Best Picture” and has already won the Golden Globe. He’s the runaway winner in this category.
Notables: Others who could take home the little Oscar man are Jesse Eisenberg of “The Social Network,” who is also enjoying the buzz that comes with a nominated film, and James Franco, co-host of this year’s awards ceremony, who should get lots of attention (and, in my opinion, the award) for his brave portrayal of real-life adventurer Aron Ralston in “127 Hours.”
Actress in a Leading Role
Nominees: Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right;” Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole;” Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone,” Natalie Portman, “Black Swan;” Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”
Pick: This award also will follow the “buzz theory,” and I believe Natalie Portman will take the prize. She isn’t only one of the busiest young ingénues going right now, with multiple releases encompassing comedy, drama and in-between, but she’s riding the hype and momentum of the Golden Globe awards. I think she wins this award, hands down.
Notables: While Portman has it locked up in my mind, the Academy Awards are always good for a surprise or two, and this category could certainly produce one. There’s plenty of star power here with Annette Bening and Nicole Kidman also up for the Oscar. Either could win, Bening for her comic-but-tender performance in “The Kids Are All Right,” and Kidman might be a sentimental favorite for taking on the most difficult role in films, that of a mother who loses a child in “Rabbit Hole.” Jennifer Lawrence gets deserved recognition for “Winter’s Bone,” but I don’t see her stealing the award from the veterans.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Amy Adams, “The Fighter;” Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech;” Melissa Leo, “The Fighter;” Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit;” Jacki Weaver, “Animal Kingdom”
Pick: The biggest surprises during the Academy Awards often come from the Supporting-Role categories because virtually every year, a lesser-known actor turns in an amazing performance. Couple that with a film that’s already receiving buzz and it can propel that actor to the winner’s podium. I believe that will happen in this category, and I see Melissa Leo receiving the Oscar for her incredible performance in “The Fighter.” She was so powerful and consistent as the white-trash mom of rough-and-tumble boys that I think it’ll be a landslide.
Notables: Leo’s stiffest competition may come from Amy Adams who played, ironically, Leo’s competition for her sons’ loyalty in “The Fighter.” Hailee Steinfeld, 14, deserves praise for “True Grit” as well, but we’ll hear from her again.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Christian Bale, “The Fighter;” John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone;” Jeremy Renner, “The Town;” Mark Ruffalo, “The Kids Are All Right;” Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech”
Pick: This Oscar goes to Christian Bale, and I don’t even think it’s close. Bale will nab the honor for his chilling portrayal of a real-life boxer and drug addict in “The Fighter.” He completely inhabits the role of Dicky Ecklund – you know that if you waited until the end credits when clips of the real Ecklund are shown. But it’s not just mimicry. Bale is violent but big-hearted, unpredictable but passionate. Also note that Bale won the Golden Globe in this category.
Notables: This is another category with stiff competition from two-year-in-a-row Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner, up for his scary performance as a bank robber in “The Town,” and veteran Geoffrey Rush, who may be the sentimental favorite for his charming turn as King George VI’s speech therapist in “The King’s Speech.”
Nominees: Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan;” David O. Russell, “The Fighter;” Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech;” David Fincher, “The Social Network;” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, “True Grit”
Pick: This award often goes to the person at the helm of the “Best Picture” and, as I believe that “Black Swan” will take that category, I am predicting this Oscar is Darren Aronofsky’s. Under his direction, “Black Swan” is a deeply complex psychological drama that’s part thriller, part commentary on fine art, part social commentary and always engaging.
Notables: My prediction defies both popular opinion and the “Golden Globe Momentum Theory” as David Fincher, the director behind “The Social Network” fits squarely in both of those criteria. He easily could win this award, but I’m sticking with my prediction. Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech,” and David O. Russell, “The Fighter,” would not be shockers in this category, either.
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Nominees: “Another Year,” written by Mike Leigh; “The Fighter,” screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamsay & Eric Johnson, story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamsay & Eric Johnson; “Inception,” written by Christopher Nolan; “The Kids Are All Right,” written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg; “The King’s Speech,” screenplay by David Seidler
Pick: One of my favorite categories is the less-talked-about screenplay award. At least one original screenplay a year ends up in the “Best Picture” category, and this year no less than four “Best Picture” nominees come from original screenplays. That makes for a very tough category to predict, but I am going with “Inception.” It’s the most original of the nominees – without any source material to base the story on – and it’s such a multi-layered science fiction story while also being a heart-rending romance. I think Christopher Nolan gets the Oscar nod.
Notables: This category is so full of strong films that virtually none of them would be a surprise winner.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Nominees: “127 Hours,” screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy; “The Social Network,” screenplay by Aaron Sorkin; “Toy Story 3,” screenplay by Michael Arndt, story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich; “True Grit,” written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen; “Winter’s Bone,” adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini
Pick: And, lastly, we come to the award for adapted screenplays. I love this award because it’s always fascinating to see how a movie made from known material will turn out. My nod goes to the writers of “Toy Story 3.” I may be going out on a limb in this category more than any other by choosing an animated film, but this Toy Story is the best of the trilogy, and that’s saying a lot. It’s a tender, beautiful portrayal of growing up, of love and loyalty as well as betrayal, and that scene where Buzz Lightyear speaks Spanish is just fantastic.
Notables: Another likely winner of this very competitive category is Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network,” if for no other reason than it took the Golden Globe award and has “Best Picture” momentum as well. But, again, virtually any writer nominated could take the Oscar.
Hollywood has had a tough couple of years at the box office, but that doesn’t mean artists aren’t putting out some great movies. This year’s Academy Awards will be a much-anticipated event for several reasons, including co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway. I have my doubts about how entertaining that duo will be in this capacity, but I have no doubt the evening will evoke smiles, tears, upsets and water-cooler material for days to come. Enjoy the show!
The 83rd Academy Awards will air at 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 27, on ABC.