Needless to say, we had a system: We didn’t see most of the movies. Protected by ignorance from favoritism and the temptation to judge on quality, we relied on hype, industry bullshit, and historical precedent.
And we’re going with the same system this year.
Despite our prior success, we make no grand claims. These are for entertainment purposes only.
Best Picture: Avatar. No reason to vote against, 710,842,764 to vote for. Oscar doesn’t love sci-fi or fantasy (even The Lord of the Rings took three tries to wear Hollywood down), but a big money smash in a format everyone expects to save Hollywood will break the rules. Plus everyone loves them cute 3-D blue monkeys.
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker. Best ticket-splitting bet. Cameron made the ship go, and he’s been pretending to have a sense of humor lately, which may buy some good will. But this film has won Bigelow a lot of prizes already, including the DGA; Cameron didn’t have such a crushing contender in 1997.
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart. They’ve been trying to give him this for years. Wait your turn, again, George.
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side. Her Erin Brockovich.
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds. The only possible upset winner is Christopher Plummer, but they can’t count on him to be grateful or insane if he gets it.
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’nique, Precious. No Goldie Hawn/Marisa Tomei tootsies or Woody Allen performers this year. All the other acting winners are lovable, even the Nazi; Mo’nique can be this year’s bad seed. And hey, look! We’ve just about covered off the five real BP contenders.
Best Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker. It’s laid out nice and easy for them — not in competition with Avatar, so the director-screenplay double won’t make people wonder why it didn’t win best picture (who needs words? Blue monkeys!).
Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air. Booby prize! The top five are covered.
Best Cinematography: Avatar. 3-D! And it’s not as if Mauro Fiore came out of nowhere. (Inglourious Basterds‘ Robert Richardson has two Oscars already.)
Editing: Avatar. There’s no Dark Knight smash-’em-up this year to win on Bullitt grounds, so we think the Academy will use this to start laying the craft awards on thick for Avatar.
Art Direction: Avatar. Oscar usually likes this shit big-scale but not too weird, so we were thinking The Young Victoria, but come on — Pandora’s a whole ‘nother world!
Costume Design: Nine. Oscar loves historical epics for this, but we don’t think The Young Victoria, Coco Before Chanel or Bright Star go back far enough. So it’s showbiz razzmatazz time!
Documentary Feature: The Cove. Oscar has been flipping here between political statements and wonder-of-the-world fare. The Cove, with its eco-espionage and National Geographic underwater footage, seems to have a foot in both worlds.
Foreign Language Film: The White Ribbon. Very hard (but not unprecedented) to miss when a FL film has even one nomination in another category.
Best Makeup: Star Trek. No Benjamin Button-level stunts, so let’s go with aliens.
Best Documentary Short: The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant. Somewhere in this thing, Oscar’s got to get with the real people who suffer so while Hollywood gorges itself on gift bag crap.
Best Original Score: Up. Warning: Here’s our sucker bet! Avatar‘s music is pretty and evocative and every human being on the planet has heard it. But smart people love the Up score, Disney/Pixar traditionally does well in this category, and the film didn’t do too shabby at the box office, itself. Pick ’em.
Best Song: “The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart. They know T-Bone Burnett. They know and are tired of Randy Newman.
Best Animated Feature: Up. It made the big list.
Best Animated Short: The Lady and the Reaper. (Tim Grierson did a great roundup of all the short nominees for the Voice, and you can watch shorts for them — short-shorts? — online.) It’s been a while since Nick Park won for his cartoons. But he’s won three times, plus a Best Animated Feature, and they tell us The Lady and the Reaper is funny and good-looking. Best Live Action Short: The Door. Has a lot of good publicity, and Oscar seems to like ’em grim.
Best Sound Editing: Up. It’s a cartoon, so when voters think of it they can imagine people editing sounds. Best Sound Mixing: Avatar. Has lots and lots of sounds to mix.
Best Visual Effects: Avatar. Duh.