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My 2011 Oscar Picks

It’s Oscar Time!   The marathon ceremony is tomorrow, and James Franco will be hosting alongside Anne Hathaway.   I’ll tell you a little secret… I never actually watch the ceremony because, well, I’d rather be watching movies.

Every year when I put this list together, I end up picking people to win awards who aren’t even nominated — Oscar is a big business full of politics and campaigning, and often doesn’t honor the best actors & actresses, let alone movies;  only the most hyped ones.  But I’ve got to say – this year they’ve mostly gotten it right.  My favorites won’t win, but at least they’re nominated.

Best Picture

Nominated: 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.

My Pick: My favorite movie of the year was “The Fighter.”

What’ll Win: Hmm… Hard to say… The Social Network?

Apparently I’m the only one who thought “The Fighter” was the best picture of the year; it didn’t even appear on many critic’s top 10 lists.  So I’m happily surprised to see it on the list, but don’t expect it to win.   “The King’s Speech” is exactly the kind of movie that usually wins Best Picture (heartwarming, period piece, featuring a character with a disability) so it might win.  But I wouldn’t discount “The Social Network.”   “Inception” has an outside chance, but Oscar rarely honors summer blockbuster.  “Toy Story 3” is also handicapped by being an animated feature.  Those never win Best Picture.

Actor in a Leading Role

Nominated: Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), James Franco (127 Hours)

My Pick: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech.”

Who’ll Win: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”

OK, so this is where Oscar and I agree, but for completely different reasons.  Colin Firth will win the award for the reasons I stated above;  “The King’s Speech” is exactly the kind of movie Oscar likes, and Colin Firth role is total Oscar bait.  So that’s why he’ll win.   He ought to win because “The King’s Speech” is a pretty good movie, and without him, it would be a pretty terrible movie.  He absolutely carries a lot of shapeless shoddy material on his shoulders, and turns it into something that wins awards.

Actress in a Leading Role

Nominated: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right) Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole) Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) Natalie Portman (Black Swan) Michelle Wililams (Blue Valentine)

Who’ll Win: Natalie Portman

My Pick: Michelle Williams

Here’s a spot where I was happily surprised to even see my pick on the official list.  I watched “Blue Valentine” and was blown away by Michelle Williams’ performance as an exhausted, angry, desperate young wife.   She communicates so much with so little;  that’s acting.  And I don’t want to take away from Natalie Portman, because I know she worked hard to learn all those ballet moves, but she’s not really required to do much as an actress in Black Swan.  I loved the movie, but it’s so stylized, and so much is communicated through the imagery, the music, the editing, that all she really had to do was not mess it up.  She did that, and it was her best performance in years – perhaps ever — but I don’t think it makes her Oscar-worthy.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominated: 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)

My Pick: Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network” and “Never Let Me Go”

Who’ll Win: Christian Bale, “The Fighter”

Christian Bale was great in “The Fighter,” and reminded us that he can play more than Bat-voiced action heroes.   And again, it’s the kind of role Oscar loves, and since “The Fighter” won’t win Best Picture, they’re likely to throw it a bone either here or in the next category.   But I’m stunned that Andrew Garfield, who turned in not one but two really excellent supporting performances this year, isn’t anywhere to be found.  He probably didn’t even get invited.   Eisenberg is great in “The Social Network,”  but Garfield is the movie’s soul.   That’s an incredibly tricky role to pull off, especially up against David Finchers blink-and-you’ll-miss-it style of direction, but Garfield makes us care.  It was a great performance.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominated: Amy Adams (The Fighter) Helena Bonham carter (The King’s Speech) Melissa Leo (The Fighter) Hailee Stanfield (True Grit) Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

My Pick: Jacki Weaver, “Animal Kingdom”

Who’ll Win: Amy Adams, “The Fighter”

While it would be something of a coup to see “The Fighter” win both supporting Oscars, Oscar likes to reward people who surprise us, and that’s true for both Bale and Adams.   It occurred to me recently (while watching “Julie and Julia” with my mom) that Adams is our generation’s Meg Ryan;  she just so cute. But while Ryan failed miserably in serious dramatic roles (see “When A Man Loved A Woman”;  actually, don’t)  Adams shows she can get gritty in “Fighter.”  It was fun to watch, if a little voyeuristic; there were scenes in that movie that made me feel a little like I was watching Jerry Springer.

But Adams doesn’t do for “the Fighter” what Weaver does for “Animal Kingdom,”  which is to bring a whole new level of corruption and creepiness to an already corrupt and creepy movie.  The way she just keeps kissing and hugging her sons gave me the heeby jeebies.   It’s a little thing – and Weaver’s hardly in the movie enough to even be considered a “supporting actress” — but it’s the kind of little thing a season character actor does that takes a movie from good to great.   I loved “Animal Kingdom,”  and I loved Jacki Weaver in it.  She won’t win, but she’s my pick anyway.


Nominated: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) David O. Russell (The Fighter) Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) David Fincher (The Social Network) True Grit (Joel and Ethan Coen)

My Pick: Darren Aronofsky

Who’ll Win: David Fincher

Oscar continues to be clueless about what a good director does.   Aronofsky and Fincher are the only two that even deserve to be on this list;  the rest mostly just had to stay out of the way of the material and the actors;  the Coen Brothers even had a template (and they followed it, almost to a T.  I like the Coens, but if they win, I’ll eat my hat.)   Folks who ought to be on this list and aren’t:  Anton Corbijn (The American,)  Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go) and Noah Baumbach (Greenberg.)  Those were all movies that required clear vision and a sure hand.  One guy I’m glad NOT to see on this list?  Danny Boyle, for “127 Hours.”  He directed that thing right into the ground.

Actually, I’m not sure who the Academy will pick:  I pick Aronofsky over Fincher because “Swan” is so stylistically different from his last film, “The Wrestler,” yet both were excellent films.   That, and I’m still kind of mad at David Fincher for “Benjamin Button.”

Animated Feature Film

Nominees: Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist

My Pick: Toy Story 3

Who’ll Win: Toy Story 3

I’m trying to remember the last time someone besides Pixar won this category.  (Actually, I don’t have to remember; I can wikipedia it:  it was 2006, when “Happy Feet” somehow beat “Cars.”)    “Dragon” was good fun, but came nowhere close the wrenching emotional journey of “Toy Story 3.”  It got nominated for “Best Picture,” for heaven’s sake.    It won’t win there, but it will here.

So there you go, those are my picks.  Yes, there are lots of other categories.   I don’t really know enough about cinematography, or art direction, or care enough about best song to weigh in.   Feel free to do so in the comments if you please.

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