Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Those final Oscar predictions

The Oscars nominations are due on Tuesday afternoon and the bickering over what’s in and what’s out is intense. Actually, it isn’t. Unlike last year, Oscar speculation has been sparse in this place during the current season. There are two …

Mon, Jan 24, 2011, 00:18

   

The Oscars nominations are due on Tuesday afternoon and the bickering over what’s in and what’s out is intense.

Actually, it isn’t. Unlike last year, Oscar speculation has been sparse in this place during the current season. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the pondering seemed to drive everyone crazy last time round. Secondly, in the best picture race, the final 10 appears to have been sewn up for about three months. Back at the start of November, I listed my predictions for the main race and — one hilarious satirical inclusion aside — all those favourites remain firmly in place.

Erm? I don’t think so, ladies.

Here is my reading of the tealeaves. The films are listed in order of likely inclusion. I would guess that the top five will all get best director nominations and can, thus, be regarded as the real best picture nominees.

1. THE SOCIAL NETWORK

Last night Fincher’s film finally failed to win one of the big gongs. The King’s Speech triumphed at the Producers Guild jamboree, but the Facebook film has won everywhere else.

2. THE KING’S SPEECH

It’s such an obvious Oscar film: heritage, disability, true stories. But maybe it’s too obvious an Oscar film. The decrepit academy probably feels that, by voting for the 48-year-old David Fincher, they are getting down with the young people.

3. TRUE GRIT

But it wasn’t even nominated for a Golden Globe. Ignore that. The Globes and the Oscars rarely agree on best picture. Once a rank outsider, the Coens’ cracking western has gained credibility by registering impressive box-office returns.

4. THE FIGHTER

An old-school, rags-to-riches story, David O Russell’s boxing picture ticks virtually all of the Oscar’s familiar boxes. It’s also a lot of fun.

5. BLACK SWAN

The ballet picture has already accumulated a devoted following — indeed, it might, bizarrely, end up being Fox’s biggest 2010 release in the US — but it could be a little too scary for the frail Oscar voters.

6. INCEPTION

See? We do like mainstream films. See? See? See? Imagine the outrage if Nolan’s fine film doesn’t figure. It will, though. A best director nod is certainly still possible.

7. TOY STORY 3

Pixar seems to have a permanent place booked in the expanded 10-strong best picture shortlist. Mind you, it will be interesting to see if the unpromising Cars 2 repeats the feat in 12 months time.

8. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

Hollywood will want to support a film with a female director and endorse a story that treats same-sex parents with sensitivity. It helps that it’s a really good piece.

9. WINTER’S BONE

Even before the number of nominations was increased, a place had been set aside for “the li’l indie film that could”. (Remember Little Miss Sunshine, Juno and Precious.) The rough-hewn quasi-thriller deserves the praise thrown at it. And if Blue Valentine, the other hot indie, makes it in, it will probably do so at the expense of…

10. 127 Hours

Something went badly wrong with the marketing of Danny Boyle’s exciting adventure in the US. It was sold as an art film and, when viewers found it was something else, they just got confused.

What else could break through? Well, to my mind, there are only two serious contenders: Ben Affleck’s entertaining — but ultimately rather silly — The Town and Derek Cianfrance’s troubling Blue Valentine. Mike Leigh’s fine Another Year has not secured any serious traction. Once taken very seriously indeed, Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go is deader than a very dead thing.

On balance, increasing the nominations from five to 10 was a good idea, but, this year at least, it doesn’t seem to have achieved what the Academy set out to do. They wanted to increase speculation. Well, we may all be proven wrong, but there is, in 2011, less argy bargy about the potential nominees than in most years under the old system.

The other notion was that the list would allow in a token foreign-language pictures and a few big, fat mainstream films. There is almost no chance — if Biutiful makes it then sue me — of a non-Anglophone movie making the shortlist. True, Toy Story 3 and Inception were both big hits, but Pixar is already an Oscar favourite and the Nolan film is a defiantly, proudly odd sort of blockbuster. There is, unsurprisingly, no suggestion that a superhero flick, a jolly romcom or a Harry Potter picture might creep up on the rails. Blame the low quality of last year’s popcorn releases.

There are, however, sure be some turn-ups in the acting categories. Aren’t there? Well, maybe. But, as awards season gets longer and busier, it becomes harder to spring a surprise. That said, there is one interesting undecided issue. If you’ve seen True Grit, you will agree that young Hailee Steinfeld deserves a nomination for best actress. But here’s the thing. Paramount Pictures has, despite the fact she is in virtually every scene, decided to promote her as best supporting actress. Now, a few years ago, the Weinsteins tried this on with Kate Winslet and The Reader. The voters, who can put actors in the category of their choice, told the brothers to sod off and propelled Kate into the best actress category (which she eventually won). Who knows how obedient they’ll be this year?

Anyway, to add to the fun, here are my guesses at best actor and actress. What do you reckon? We’ll know at lunchtime tomorrow.

BEST ACTOR

1. COLIN FIRTH (THE KING’S SPEECH)

Currently unbackable at 1/12 with Ladbrokes.

2. JAMES FRANCO (127 HOURS)

Showy. High-concept.

3. JEFF BRIDGES (TRUE GRIT)

A (very) outside chance of becoming the third man to win back-to-back best actor Oscars.

4. JESSE EISENBERG (THE SOCIAL NETWORK)

Very good, but very low key.

5. JAVIER BARDEM (BIUTIFUL)

It’s foreign (and got mixed reviews), but they like him.

BEST ACTRESS

1. NATALIE PORTMAN (BLACK SWAN)

Close to unbackable at 1/6 with Ladbrokes. Mind you, a sentimental surge might favour…

2. ANNETTE BENING (THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT)

Always the bridesmaid.

3. JENNIFER LAWRENCE (WINTER’S BONE)

There’s always one indie invader.

4. MICHELLE WILLIAMS (BLUE VALENTINE)

Sometimes there’s two.

5. NICOLE KIDMAN (RABBIT HOLE)

She hasn’t gone away, you know.

Before I leave you, there’s space for one amusing aside. I have, at several points, referred to the odds at Ladbrokes. When last I checked, the list of best directors — headed by David Fincher, Tom Hooper and Christopher Nolan — included a mention for Terrence Malick. Well, it’s worth a tiny punt. After all, considering that director’s long delayed The Tree of Life will not be seen until May, the odds are sure to be astronomical. This will be one of those bets — like Martians landing in Navan or Russell Brand becoming Pope — that will, surely, offer odds of 50,000/1 or so. Heck, it’s worth staking a euro. What’s this? 33/1? I think somebody needs to have a word with the bloke who handles entertainment gambling at that bookmakers. No wonder so many of the other odds are so screwy.

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