I've run a little wager on who I think will triumph at the Oscars every year now for going on a decade. Usually I do pretty well. Usually I don't open my trap before the nominations are released…
Here's what I think of the year: After the epic David and Goliath fight between last year's 'Avatar' and 'The Hurt Locker', the pick of films this time around seems a little more subdued. It's all a bit timid.
Even Christopher Nolan's mind-bending 'Inception' has an intelligent labyrinthine plot swirling around its folding cities and starry cast, instead going down the 'Avatar' route of populating 'Dances With Wolves' with smurfs before exploding onto the screen in 3D.
Other than 'Inception', all of the other Best Picture contenders seem like underdogs. 'Black Swan', 'The Fighter', 'The King's Speech' and 'The Social Network' all deal with the perils on the job and the quest for acceptance in a somewhat bitter world. It's 'Rocky' with added backstabbing. And it's a close race.
What's really interesting about this year is that some of the apparent heavy hitters have either left their releases perilously close to the Oscar deadline ('True Grit', 'Blue Valentine', 'Rabbit Hole', 'The Tree of Life', 'Never Let Me Go') or peaked too soon in the year ('Winter's Bone', 'Another Year', 'Shutter Island') or foolishly missed the all-important publicity boat by a mile ('Hereafter', 'Biutiful', 'Fair Game', 'Jack Goes Boating', 'Get Low'). All of this helps make this year's race is decidedly low key and intriguing, but who's going to take home the lion's share of the golden statues?
I predict a fairly wide spread. This is a great year for acting, but a poor race for wow-factor finished products. 'The King's Speech' has that old school charm about it, but that didn't help 'The Aviator' or 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'. We will see. So, without further waffle, here's who I think will be getting all misty-eyed on the podium.
'The Social Network' – It's either that or 'The King's Speech'. Ultimately, 'The King's Speech' is a great film bolstered by two exceptional performances from Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, and it's got the Oscar friendly historical angle swinging heavily in its favour. We had contemporary issues last year with 'The Hurt Locker' and I think 'The Social Network' is almost too modern for its own good, sacrificing heart strings by playing it cold but that didn't stop it winning big at the National Board of Review. It's a close call: 'The King's Speech' is the kind of film that sticks around for generations as a Sunday afternoon classic in the 'Driving Miss Daisy' vain, but it could just be a little too obvious for the modern voting crowd in an edgy year for film.
David Fincher for 'The Social Network' - Danny Boyle isn't going to win so soon after 'Slumdog Millionaire' that's for sure, and while I think Christopher Nolan deserves some recognition I see him as the modern day Stanley Kubrick (who, it might surprise you to know, won his only Oscar – for Best Special Effects! – in a world renowned career which garnered 12 other nominations for his writing, producing and directing). Tom Hooper is the outside chance for a rehash of 'Chariots of Fire'-style "the British are coming!" glory with 'The King's Speech' but David O Rusell's 'The Fighter' is punching above its weight and I doubt the Coens won't be replicating 'No Country For Old Men' with 'True Grit'.
Colin Firth for 'The King's Speech' – Last year he surprised everyone with 'A Single Man' but now he's really sealed the deal with a role that just ticks all the boxes including, but not limited to,: a physical affliction (stuttering), a reluctant ascension to power (becoming King), a fiery relationship with a companion of a different social class (his unorthodox speech therapist) and the classic scene where it all gets too much and bursts into tears. Although I would like to see this year's host, James Franco, hand himself a statue for '127 Hours'.
Natalie Portman for 'Black Swan' – As much as I'd love to see Jennifer Lawrence's phenomenal, below-the-radar breakthrough role in 'Winter's Bone' take home the award, the role itself didn't have the theatrical fireworks of Portman's bitter, borderline psychotic ballerina. This is the kind of crazy role 'Gena Rowlands' would've aced in a John Cassavetes flick, only Portman's got the A-list power to make it stick all the way to the podium. However, with three time nominee Annette Bening coming out of semi-retirement for 'The Kids are All Right', things could get messy on the night if she doesn't end her losing streak. Regardless, some of the best acting I've seen all year was Tilda Swinton in 'I Am Love', but I wouldn't be surprised if she wasn't even nominated.
Best Original Screenplay:
Christopher Nolan for 'Inception' – Let's face it, he got stitched not even getting nominated for 'The Dark Knight', and after a compelling roster of modern classics ('Batman Begins', 'The Prestige' and 'Memento'), he's due some recognition for his compelling trip into the dream state with 'Inception'. But the Academy never seems to care for sci-fi and 'Toy Story 3' is hot on his heels, as is 'The Kids Are All Right' (which is my second choice by the way).
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Aaron Sorkin for 'The Social Network' – It's wordy, witty, intelligent and current. Couple that with the fact that Sorkin he wasn't nominated for 'A Few Good Men' or 'Charlie Wilson's War' and he didn't even get a Golden Globe for TV's 'The West Wing', and you've got one of the industry's most underappreciated writers desperately in need of a shiny paperweight.
Best Supporting Actor:
Geoffrey Rush for 'The King's Speech' (edit: or Christian Bale for 'The Fighter') – Rush is simply sublime in the most inspirational role of the year as a maverick speech therapist/failed actor/mentor to the King. Personally I want Jeremy Renner to win for 'The Town', partly because he deserved Best Actor last year for 'The Hurt Locker'. Another favourite of mine is John Hawkes for 'Winter's Bone' with a completely flawless, cold performance a million miles away from playing probably the nicest guy in TV's 'Deadwood'. Although Christian Bale could end his mammoth losing streak of never even being nominated with his turn in 'The Fighter', something's telling me he's out for the count again. However, I have to admit that within the minute it took me to write this paragraph, I'm liking Bale's chances even more…
Best Supporting Actress:
Melissa Leo for 'The Fighter' – Part of me really thinks Mila Kunis for 'Black Swan' who is certainly not resigned to hit a career peak voicing Meg Griffin in 'Family Guy' as proven with possibly the meatiest role in her class. My only reservation with Melissa Leo is that she's running against her co-star Amy Adams in the same category which could split the vote, allowing Kunis to slip through.
Best Animated Feature:
'Toy Story 3' – A definite nominee for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay as well, 'Toy Story 3' is a sure bet and yet another triumph for Pixar. I personally think 'Wall E' was better, but any film that casts Michael Keaton as Ken (of Barbie and Ken fame) deserves every superlative possible. Still, with everyone considering this a given, 'Toy Story 3' has a few big concerns: 1) it's a sequel and 2) 'The Illusionist'.
Best Foreign Language Film:
'Biutiful' – If only because Javier Bardem will get criminally overlooked for Best Actor, 'Biutiful' could be a worthy winner of the accolade. It's also got a director who is familiar with Oscar voters: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ('Babel', '21 Grams'). If 'Certified Copy' gets it, I'll eat my hat.
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|1.||Star Trek Into Darkness||£8.43m|
|2.||Iron Man 3||£3.18m|
|3.||21 And Over||£0.58m|