Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oscars Analysis 2010: Nomination Prediction Results

When predicting this year's Oscar nominations, I suggested that it was highly unlikely that I would do as well as I did last year, when I correctly pegged 40 of the 45 main nominations. And – in what amounts to a twist here at the Manifesto – I was right. I did not do as well as I did last year.

I did better.

Forgive me, but I need to gloat for a bit. I mean, come on, how else am I supposed to celebrate a performance that will (a) earn me no money, (b) generate no job opportunities, and (c) fail to even incrementally increase my odds of getting laid? You don't have to tell me that my primary passion in life – obsessively following the Oscars – is ultimately meaningless. I know. But if I had a reason for doing this, it wouldn't be a passion. (There's an infinitesimal percentage of the population to whom that last sentence makes sense. We're all unemployed and single.)

Anyway, the hell with the meaning of this exercise. I rocked. I correctly forecast 41 of 45 nominations this year. That comes out to 91%, which is higher than Steve Nash's career free-throw percentage. I will forever be thoroughly, disproportionately proud of myself as a result.

Of course, an obvious counterargument to my boasting is that I only predicted eight of the 21 feature categories. In theory, if I really want to brag about my powers of prognostication, I should be predicting all 100-plus nominations, all the way down to Best Sound Editing. And I'll have to think about that for next year. I still can't shake the feeling that even my most loyal readers (hi Dad!) would be less than enthused by a post in which I mull the awards potential of the makeup techniques in The Wolfman, but perhaps that's the only available route from here. Otherwise, I'll just remain playing in the minors with the rest of the lollygaggers.

But that's for next year. In the meantime, let's take a look at the current slate, where I'll provide some quickie analysis. Incorrect predictions are highlighted in red.


BEST PICTURE
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

Takeaways: Hey, where are all the red crossouts for the ones I missed? Sorry, couldn't resist.

Current favorite: Oof. Last week I would've said The Social Network without thinking twice, but I suppose now I have to go with The King's Speech, given that it's riding high following its win at the Producers' Guild. It also leads all films with 12 nominations. That said, I don't place all that much stock in the latter statistic. The King's Speech is a prestige period picture – it's supposed to earn nods in categories like Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. Despite receiving "only" eight nominations, The Social Network remains a major player. This race – like the reprehensible invasion of 3-D into the Hollywood studio system – is far from over.

Snubbed: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. What's bitterly ironic is that Warner Brothers is supposedly preparing an all-out promotional launch for the Oscar chances of Part 2 next year, given that it's the final film of the historic eight-movie franchise. It makes sense for the studio, and it's a strategy that worked beautifully for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (though the earlier installments of that franchise admittedly earned superior praise). The only problem is that Part 2 is supposedly action-heavy, which actually makes me pessimistic, given that action scenes represent the lone area in which David Yates and his team have struggled creatively thus far. Meanwhile, Part 1 – a hypnotic production featuring beautifully restrained storytelling and bravura craftsmanship – remained on the sidelines (its nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects provide minimal consolation). Boo.




BEST DIRECTOR
Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen – True Grit
David Fincher – The Social Network
Tom Hooper – The King's Speech
Christopher Nolan – Inception David O. Russell – The Fighter

Takeaways: The most shocking announcement of the entire nomination slate – Christopher Nolan losing out on his seemingly assured first ever directing nod – doubles as the Academy's most inexplicable snub. I acknowledged in my writeup that Nolan was on "somewhat shakier" ground than the three frontrunners, but that didn't minimize my astonishment once the lineup was announced. With Best Picture expanding to 10 nominations, the Best Director quintet essentially represents the Academy's new top five, so this is strong evidence that voters refused to appreciate the ingenuity of Inception (though they did award it a screenplay nomination, an honor they denied Black Swan). Unforgivable.

Current frontrunner: I'll take Fincher for now, as I still think he'll receive recognition from the Directors' Guild (which will further muddle the Best Picture race – should be fun). But if Hooper wins here, you can lock in The King's Speech for the top prize; obviously, the reverse doesn't hold for The Social Network.

Snubbed: Nolan. To pour gasoline on the fire, this marks the third time (following Memento and The Dark Knight) in the auteur's brilliant career that he's earned a nod from the Guild but failed to receive recognition from the Academy. At this point, the guy could make a Holocaust movie starring Meryl Streep with a score by John Williams, and he still probably wouldn't earn a ticket to the Oscars.

















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 Javier Bardem – Biutiful

Takeaways: Gosling was my wildcard pick here, so I can't be too disappointed. In an abstract sense, I suppose it's good to see the Academy recognizing a foreign language film in a major category. Now I just need to see the damn movie before the Oscars actually roll around.

Current favorite: Firth. He's been racking up wins across the board. And he's become exceedingly efficient at it.

Snubbed: Gosling. I can't really complain, given that I've yet to see Biutiful and the other four performances are all strong, but it's disappointing that the Academy honored Michelle Williams' work in Blue Valentine but failed to recognize her superior co-star.




BEST ACTRESS
Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

Takeaways: That's more like it. Williams can thank category confusion, as Hailee Steinfeld rightfully deserves to be here, but one can never overestimate the Academy's ability to shunt a younger performer to the supporting sidelines.

Current favorite: Portman. She might not be as ironclad a lock as Firth – Black Swan's buzz has diminished, and Bening might make a push – but I'm still not close to betting against her.

Snubbed: Noomi Rapace – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That the whole movie was shut out isn't entirely surprising, but it would have been delightful had the Academy recognized the year's most fearless performance. Fortunately Rapace leveraged her success into a part in the upcoming Sherlock Holmes sequel; that won't exactly propel her to instant Oscar success (you'll forgive me for being dubious of its artistic integrity), but it indicates that won't be disappearing from the scene anytime soon.

(Note: I thought about including a video from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo here instead, but then I decided that I don't want to get arrested.)

















BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale – The Fighter
John Hawkes – Winter's Bone
Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush – The King's Speech
Andrew Garfield – The Social Network Jeremy Renner – The Town

Takeaways: I suppose you could argue that Garfield's omission bodes poorly for The Social Network overall, but I'm not buying. He was never a lock in the first place, and with the exception of Jesse Eisenberg's lead performance, the movie is more about its spectacular screenplay and perfectly controlled pacing than its acting. I'll admit, though, that I was more confident in Garfield showing up here than Hawkes. In any case, in a sense it's good that The Town landed at least one nod, as perhaps this will encourage studios to bankroll similarly gritty adult dramas in the future.

Current frontrunner: Bale. Any concerns about his infamous industry rep appear to be moot at this point. The only way a challenger presents himself is if The King's Speech sweeps, in which case Rush could sneak in.

Snubbed: Sean Penn – Fair Game. Penn has already won Oscar gold twice in the past seven years, but it's not as if he's burned any bridges or become tiresome, so why the complete disregard for Fair Game? One theory is that Hollywood loathes anything involving either politics or the Iraq war, and Fair Game trafficked heavily in both (and with heavy bias to boot). Regardless of the rationale, it's a shame, because Penn delivers one of the best performances of his distinguished career, infusing Joe Wilson with both bone-deep integrity and smoldering rage.




BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams – The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter – The King's Speech
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit
Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

Takeaways: I'm fairly proud of myself for nailing the full slate on this one, especially with Weaver. Poor Hailee Steinfeld obviously deserves better, but she might come away with a trophy as a result, so I doubt she'll complain.

Current frontrunner: None. Honestly, this race is incredibly close right now. Leo has been doing well on the circuit, but that was before True Grit started raking in dollars, so she can't be considered a clean favorite. Throw in Bonham Carter's potential to ride The King's Speech's coattails, and this one won't be resolved until Oscar night.

Snubbed: Keira Knightley – Never Let Me Go. I give up.




BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Another Year – Mike Leigh
Inception – Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right – Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko
The King's Speech – David Seidler
Black Swan – Mark Heyman et. al The Fighter – Scott Silver et. al

Takeaways: If the Best Director snub of Nolan was an indictment of Inception's overall reception with the Academy, this category showed that voters didn't entirely embrace the borderline-psychotic Black Swan. The Fighter scored points with the Writers' Guild, so it's inclusion isn't all that surprising, though I'd imagined it would have bounced Another Year instead.

Current frontrunner: The King's Speech. If Nolan had been nominated, I might have backed Inception here, but as it is, I think The King's Speech cruises in a category where it doesn't have to compete against The Social Network.

Snubbed: The Square. Not that I ever imagined this deliciously twisted Australian noir ever had a chance with the Academy (I honestly don't know if it was even eligible), but writers Joel Edgerton (who starred all too briefly in Animal Kingdom) and Matthew Dabner delivered a knockout script all the same.

(Warning: The Manifesto received an "R" rating as a result of the following clip. Fucking MPAA.)




BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
127 Hours – Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 – Michael Arndt
True Grit – Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Winter's Bone – Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

Takeaways: All too easy.

Current frontrunner: The Social Network. If it loses this category, I quit the Oscars. (Unless Toy Story 3 wins, which would be shocking but kind of amazing.)

Snubbed: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Adapting a Harry Potter book is challenging enough; adapting half of one is miraculous. But Steve Kloves maintained the novel's tone of desperation and gnawing fear while also lending cinematic urgency to the narrative.

(As for this video, let it be known that "Is it Stanford?" is in contention for line of the year.)




O.K., that's it for now. We'll be checking back in over the next month with winner predictions for each category. Till then, I'm off to bask in my newfound glory. And look for a job.

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