2011 Oscars

We are knee-deep in the film awards season, it seems.  Last week’s brouhaha about Ricky Gervais tossing out some jokes that offended some Hollywood types as the host of the Golden Globe Awards almost overshadowed the fact that real awards were hand ed out. (We think Ricky rocked, and it’s high time someone of his courage decided to take the hot air out of the event. Like Angelina cared about her worthless nomination, or aboutcharges of payola with her rotten “Tourist” movie, as she leaned back into Brad Pitt’s arms.)

The Golden Globes are a silly affair anyways, and the media tends to make a big deal about it only because in the middle of January, it’s the one show where we begin to get excited about all the hoopla. But deep inside we know that it’s run by a bunch of hacks and that the one show that really counts is the Academy Awards. And that won’t take place until February 27. Sorry, Screen Actors Guild. Sorry Critics Choice Awards —that was on two days before the Globes, with, ICE CUBE as a presenter, and televised on VH-1!. Yeah, none of these shows, despite their own tiny glitz and publicity, can hold a candle to Oscar.

oscars 2011Tomorrow morning, at precisely 5:38 am Pacific time, so it can guarantee live coverage on the network morning shows running on the East Coast, the Academy Award nominations will be announced by last year’s Best Supporting Actress Mo’nique and Academy President Tom Sherakat the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, the very site of the ceremony. It’s the Holy Grail, the show that has the prestige and the one award everyone wants to get. So why would so many actors and actresses, producers and directors, and other industry types be so nervous right now? Because they’re all waiting to wake up and find out, “Hey, I’ve been nominated for an Academy Award!”. No matter if you win or lose, if you are nominated, people will always introduce you this way.

Here is how the current Oscar derby is running at present time —our fearless picks for the lucky ones tomorrow morning in the major categories. We say “derby” because in some cases, a film or performer move up or down, based on momentum they are getting (or not) in the other awards shows or in the press. We encourage you to see these films and actors, as they will likely appear tomorrow morning:

BEST PICTURE

*127 Hours

*Black Swan

*The Fighter

*Inception

*The Kids are Alright

*The King’s Speech

*The Social Network

*The Town

*Toy Story 3

*True Grit

127 hours

Like last year, we have ten movies to consider here. We think “127 Hours” will sneak in solely based on Danny Boyle’s filmmaking and past win for “SlumdogMillionnaire”. But the film isn’t perfection and it has not done well at the box office. The rest of the films are certainly worthy and “big” in terms of what the Academy usually rewards.

the social networkThis past weekend, the one most likely to win the award, “The Social Network”, lost the Producer’s Guild award  to “The King’s Speech”. That isn’t good news for “Network”, which has walked off with virtually every other best film and critics’ award. We smell a small upset in the order of “Shakespeare in Love” triumphing over “Saving Private Ryan”  due to the heroic efforts of producer Harvey Weinstein. Or even the 2006 shock when an entirely inferior film like “Crash” eked by over “Brokeback Mountain”. Who’s in charge of the promotion for “King’s Speech” ?Weinstein again. Oh, and the Academy loves British historical dramas. (Trust us; it’s a sensational film.)

BEST ACTOR

*Jeff Bridges, “True Grit”

*Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”

*Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”

*James Franco, “127 Hours”

*Ryan Gosling, “Blue Valentine”

firth1The front-runner is Firth, who has won almost all of the awards thus far. He is perfection in his role as a stammering King George VI, and it’s a role that he was born to play.  He lost here before recently, for “A Single Man” and this may be his year. Eisenberg would be a strong second, for his creepy, diffident but entirely clever turn as Mark Zuckerberg in “Network” and he has been a very well respected indie actor as well. (Go see his breakthrough in “Roger Dodger. Trust us.) Franco is a lock too, but the film hasn’t been seen all that much, despite the fact that everyone knows about the guy who cut off his own arm to survive. I’m adding Gosling only because his notices for “Valentine” have been so positive, because he was here a few years back in the underrated “Half Nelson”, and finally because he is a lot younger than another possible contender, Robert Duvall, himself a winner in 1981 for “Tender Mercies”. And finally, despite Julia Roberts’ private screening and public support for her good friend, Javier Bardem probably won’t make the cut this year for the existentialist drama, “Biutiful”.’

BEST ACTRESS:

*Annette Bening, “The Kids Are Alright”

*Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole”

*Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”

*Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”

*Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”

For much of last year, Bening had this nomination and win virtually guaranteed. It’s a heartbreaking performance, one that is both funny and touching, in a film that was very weel-received. That’s before the powerhouse that is Portman came out with her chilling psychological study in Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”. There is no other showier or technically skilled performer among the actresses that outclasses her. We went for Kidman here instead of the splashy debut that HaileeSteinfeld did in “True Grit”. She is more of a supporting actress and that’s where we suspect we’ll find her. Lawrence is here because her performance essentially is the movie –but she is young—20—too.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

*Christian Bale, “The Fighter”

*Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network”

*Jeremy Renner, “The Town”

*Mark Ruffalo, “The Kids Are Alright”

*Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech”

dicky wardBale has this locked up and it doesn’t look like he’ll be denied eventually, unless there is a groundswell of support for “Speech” in coming weeks. Rush really is magnificent as well, and he is a former Best Actor winner, for “Shine” back in 1997. But Bale, though he has his detractors in Hollywood, is so completely transformative as Dicky Ward, the has-been, drugged out boxer turned trainer in “The Fighter”.
I’m going for Garfield here from “Social Network” because it was the emotional center (if there was one) of the film, the “hero” to the “anti-hero” Zuckerberg.

We are shocked to see someone of the caliber of Roger Ebert predict that Justin Timberlake will get the nod for his role as Sean Parker in the same movie because the Academy might want to reward a young pop star. We disagree, but maybe the NAACP Awards (hello!) thinks this, since he got a nod from them last week. Garfield is also someone who also did the dystopian “Never Let Me Go” this year; Justin also did “Yogi Bear” –guess who prevails from these two? And Ruffalo —he was awesome in his own right as the one kinda good guy turned not-so-good guy in “Kids” and the kind of dependable actor who does a credible turn most of the time.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

*Amy Adams, “The Fighter”

*Helena Bonham-Carter, “The King’s Speech”

*Mila Kunis, “Black Swan”

*Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”

*Hailee Stanfield, “True Grit”

There are actually quite a lot of splendid supporting performances by women this year. Lesley Manville was so unforgettable in “Another Year” and it’s a shame that Julianne Moore gets the short end of the stick because Bening has gotten so much attention –even if Moore has more screen time in “Kids”. Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest, both veterans and acolytes of Woody Allen, have been here before and they were phenomenal in “Black Swan” and “Rabbit Hole”, respectively.

black swan

Kunis has received a lot of attention for her literally titular role in “Black Swan” –she plays essentially the Natalie Portman alter ego in a way, and this is a breakthrough performance for someone who used to say silly lines opposite Ashton Kutcher in “That 70s Show”. But the duo from “The Fighter” are the ones to beat here. Adams is a favorite of the Academy and she has been here before. Who would have thought that she would totally be cast against type and still steal every scene she was in? But how can we forget the facial expressions, the voice, the big hair of the Melissa Leo character and jackhammer matriarch of the Ward brothers? She picked up both the Critics and Globes awards –the Oscar is probably headed her way.

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