The Oscars are less than two weeks away and there are Oscar pools at work to contend with, so let me help you prevail at yours. Predicting the way the Oscars go is always a tricky business. They are nothing if not unpredictable. Nothing is ever entirely a sure thing. (Again, if you don’t believe me, ask Lauren Bacall about her assured best supporting actress victory in THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES.)
Predicting the Oscar winners accurately requires three key evaluative tools:
Pay attention to what did well during awards season.
Think with your head, not your heart, putting personal preferences aside.
Remember that the average Academy voter is no expert.
Let me explain…
True, Academy members who are expert in their field vote the nominations in their category. Costume designers nominate costume designers; sound designers nominate those in the sound categories. But the final ballot is voted on by all Academy members. That means actors are voting for the best sound design and editors are voting for best original song, etc. Hardly the most informed and expert judging there, right? (NOTE: The categories of foreign language movie, the two documentaries, and the two short subjects are not voted on by the Academy at large. Instead, various select panels vote in these categories, to ensure all the nominees are seen.)
So, as you can see, most of the Academy voters are judging work that is simply out of their realm of expertise. Their qualifications are not as informed so they tend to vote for the choices that seem most obvious. Therefore a showier performance like Christian Bale’s turn as a crack addict in THE FIGHTER will probably get more votes than the subtler, quieter work done by Mark Ruffalo in THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT. The more visible or obvious nominees usually prevail. So approach your picks like that and you’ll likely triumph in your pool.
Now to make this really interesting, and to encourage participation, I’m going to offer an incentive for you to submit your predictions and try to beat mine. The person who bests me will get an original, black & white caricature done by me! It can be a caricature of you, or of either your favorite actor or actress. The only rules are that you must register as a follower and submit your picks here in a posted message before the Oscars start on Sunday, February 27. In case of a tie, the person who posted their predictions first will be declared the winner. If you don’t beat me, well the person who did best, will still get a drawing. Pretty good deal, eh?
Without any further ado, here are my predictions, and the reasoning behind each:
- “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
- “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
- “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
- “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
- “The King's Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
- “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
- “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
- “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
- “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
- “Winter's Bone" Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers
Winner: THE KING’S SPEECH. It’s got all the momentum. And it may very well sweep the boards because it has a moving story; terrific acting; and important themes about conquering self-doubt, overcoming the class divide, and fighting the Nazi’s. It’s a film the Academy can vote for with its heart and its head.
Actor in a Leading Role
- Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
- Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
- Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
- Colin Firth in “The King's Speech”
- James Franco in “127 Hours”
Winner: Colin Firth. He may be the closest thing to a lock this year. His is the standout male performance of 2010 and the Academy cannot declare his film the year’s best without honoring the king as well.
Actress in a Leading Role
- Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
- Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
- Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone”
- Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
- Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”
Winner: Natalie Portman. It’s the female performance of the year in a movie that everyone is still talking about. (As Nina Sayers screamed at herself, “It’s my turn!”)
Actor in a Supporting Role
- Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
- John Hawkes in “Winter's Bone”
- Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
- Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
- Geoffrey Rush in “The King's Speech”
Winner: Christian Bale. His role is large, so is his acting, and he’s a big star. However, if there’s a KING’S SPEECH sweep, Rush could snatch it from him.
Actress in a Supporting Role
- Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
- Helena Bonham Carter in “The King's Speech”
- Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
- Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
- Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”
Winner: My one big upset prediction this year is Hailee Steinfeld. Hers is the biggest role in this category, it’s the lead, and she aced a tricky part in her very first movie. The Academy loves that kind of thing and often favors the ingénue here. And I don’t think heavy favorite Melissa Leo did herself any favors with her bizarre and self-indulgent Oscar campaign in the trades. It might be just enough for Steinfeld to topple the category’s frontrunner.
- “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
- “The Fighter” David O. Russell
- “The King's Speech” Tom Hooper
- “The Social Network” David Fincher
- “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Winner: THE KING’S SPEECH. I believe that the Oscar voters will do what they usually do, go hand-in-hand with the best picture and director winner, and give it to Tom Hooper.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
- “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
Winner: THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Aaron Sorkin is all but a lock for the most talked about screenplay of the year.
Writing (Original Screenplay)
- “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
- “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & 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
Winner: THE KING’S SPEECH. It’s hard not to give the best picture frontrunner the screenplay Oscar as well, especially when it’s one as clever and deft as what Seidler wrote.
Animated Feature Film
- “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
- “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
- “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich
Winner: TOY STORY 3. Pixar can do no wrong and everyone loves them.
Foreign Language Film
- “Biutiful” Mexico
- “Dogtooth” Greece
- “In a Better World” Denmark
- “Incendies” Canada
- “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria
Winner: INCENDIES. I haven’t seen all of them as most haven’t played here yet, but the Canadian one seems to have the most buzz.
- “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
- “Inception” Wally Pfister
- “The King's Speech” Danny Cohen
- “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
- “True Grit” Roger Deakins
Winner: TRUE GRIT. Deakins is overdue as he’s never, ever won. Plus, Academy voters know how difficult location shoots are, thus they often prevail in this category.
- “Alice in Wonderland”
Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
- “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
- “The King's Speech”
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
- “True Grit”
Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
Winner: ALICE IN WONDERLAND. An entire made-up world was created, therefore the Academy will vote accordingly.
- “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
- “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
- “The King's Speech” Jenny Beavan
- “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
- “True Grit” Mary Zophres
Winner: ALICE IN WONDERLAND. The most eye candy always wins in this category.
- “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
- “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
- “The King's Speech” Tariq Anwar
- “127 Hours” Jon Harris
- “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
Winner: THE SOCIAL NETWORK. The one with the most action or the trickiest story to edit usually wins, thus it should go to the Facebook movie and it’s brilliant interweaving of flashbacks, multiple character stories, and dual litigation hearings.
- “Inception” Richard King
- “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
- “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
- “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
- “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger
Winner: INCEPTION. It will clean up in both sound categories because of its multiple locations and all the different sound effects throughout the dream states.
- “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
- “The King's Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
- “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
- “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
- “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
Winner: INCEPTION. Because of what I said earlier.
- “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
- “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
- “Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojansky and Joe Farrell
- “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
- “Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick
Winner: INCEPTION. The effects guys rolled up city streets for chrissakes.The hands down winner.
- “Barney's Version” Adrien Morot
- “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
- “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey
Winner: THE WOLFMAN. Rick Baker is a very well known make-up artist to almost everyone in Hollywood. And his horror show work here seems the most obvious, doesn’t it?
Music (Original Score)
- “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
- “Inception” Hans Zimmer
- “The King's Speech” Alexandre Desplat
- “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
- “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Winner: THE KING’S SPEECH. Desplat’s stirring score trumps the disturbing one from THE SOCIAL NETWORK.
Music (Original Song)
- “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
- “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
- “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
- “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3" Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
Winner: TOY STORY 3. Oscar nominee perennial Randy Newman will likely best the others here, helped no doubt by the popularity of Pixar.
- “Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
- “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
- “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
- “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
- “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley
Winner: INSIDE JOB. The doc voters usually go for the serious or political, and with the recession, it’s hard not to see this Wall Street take down prevailing.
Documentary (Short Subject)
- “Killing in the Name” Jed Rothstein
- “Poster Girl” Sara Nesson and Mitchell W. Block
- “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
- “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
- “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon
Winner: STRANGERS NO MORE. I haven’t seen any of these, as they have yet to play in Chicago. I hear great things about all of them, but most about the one I’m guessing will win.
Short Film (Animated)
- “Day & Night” Teddy Newton
- “The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
- “Let's Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
- “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
- “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois
Winner: DAY & NIGHT. I have not seen them all, but this Pixar mini-film is quite novel and could easily triumph.
Short Film (Live Action)
- “The Confession” Tanel Toom
- “The Crush” Michael Creagh
- “God of Love” Luke Matheny
- “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
- “Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite
Winner: NA WEWE. Again, I’ve seen none of them so it’s all guesswork in this category. Sorry!
One final prediction… Anne Hathaway and James Franco will shine as Oscar hosts and their success will open the door for other non-comedian duos to take the reins in the future. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of Hollywood.