Oscar Night Predictions!

Ten nominations for best picture when five would do—some of this year’s nominees are more deserving than others. Tonight will likely see it’s fair share of surprises. Here’s my predictions in the big categories:

BEST PICTURE: JWH says AVATAR –

While there were probably only 5 films (max) worthy of consideration this year, the Academy filled up their bucket with the likes of inspirational juggernaut THE BLIND SIDE and fanboy fave DISTRICT 9. Smartly nominating UP this year for both Best Animated Film and Best Picture, UP has only a remote chance of taking home the top award. Room was made for A SERIOUS MAN, the little seen Coen Brothers’ (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) film that left me with a foreboding sense of dread with its final shot.

The real question here is whether UP IN THE AIR can recapture early momentum and pull down AVATAR. My feeling is that the unbelievable box office performance by AVATAR will bring it home several gold statutes including this one.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: JWH says Jeremy Renner

Still at just five nominations, two throw aways here are for Colin Firth (for A SINGLE MAN, which most critics mostly liked for the performance only), and Morgan Freeman (for the Clint Eastwood borer INVICTUS).

George Clooney will likely be the victim of the THE HURT LOCKER’s loss to AVATAR for best picture as voters split on Best Picture and reward Jeremy Renner’s work. Jeff Bridges is very good in CRAZY HEART but the film is way too small and, frankly, felt incomplete—it just ends with little to say.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: JWH says Gabourey Sidibe

Perhaps the biggest controversy will be whether the tabloid stuff about Mo’Nique’s off-screen complaining will cost her the Supporting Award but inadvertently help Gabourey Sidibe’s chances. And after seeing Sidibe on Good Morning America shortly after the nominations were announced, I can see this fresh-faced gal winning on her first role and first nomination. However, money means exposure and votes, which militates in favor of Sandra Bullock who was a smash in two movies in 2009 (her nominated film THE BLIND SIDE and THE PROPOSAL). Rounding out things, Meryl Streep is unlikely to take home another award, and no one saw enough of THE LAST STATION to give Helen Mirren her due.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: JWH says CHRISTOPH WALTZ

With 8 nominations for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, the big win that seems to be a lock is for Christoph Waltz, whose performance was both menacing and funny. Waltz plays the NAZI colonel Hanz Landa, a role that may have been written by Quentin Tarantino but was crafted by Waltz. His characterization was, next to Mo’Nique’s turn in PRECIOUS, the most talked about performance in 2009. On the losing end will be Christopher Plummer and Stanley Tucci both of which gave us their best in 2009.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: JWH says Mo’Nique (deserves it) but Vera Farmiga takes it home

The casualty of some bad publicity (overhyped), Mo’Nique may not win for a performance that left me hurting. While PRECIOUS may have an adapted screenplay chance, the lock should be Mo’Nique, however, the talk show host and comedian has been reluctant to campaign for the award.

This leaves Farmiga (who has really been on folks radar since DOWN TO THE BONE) in the driver’s seat for UP IN THE AIR, a film that will likely be passed over for the top award. Note that Anna Kendrick is nominated here for the same movie and Penelope Cruz didn’t get recognized for Pedro Almodovar’s BROKEN EMBRACES, rather, finds herself out of contention altogether being nominated for the critically maligned NINE.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: JWH says UP, but loved FANTASTIC MR. FOX

UP will get this award although it is great to see it also nominated for Best Picture, which should happen more often. Surprising is THE SECRET OF KELLS, which I’ve not seen. My sentimental fave here is FANTASTIC MR. FOX, which was a grand success for Wes Anderson. And Disney got what it wanted with a nomination for its 2D old school animated offering THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG.

BEST DIRECTOR: JWH says James Cameron

The race here is between James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow. But the result may be a forgone conclusion. AVATAR is most likely to win everything on Oscar night including the directing award. An amazing achievement on almost every level, AVATAR is everywhere all the time and that will spell votes, votes, votes. THE HURT LOCKER is a fantastic film, but opened so long ago, I suspect it will come up short for Bigelow, the only women in the mix.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: JWH says THE WHITE RIBBON

The race here is between two films: A PROPHET and THE WHITE RIBBON. I loved A PROPHET, but everyone I’ve spoken with says that THE WHITE RIBBON is the film. Director Michael Haneke is an uncompromising director who shocked me with his CACHE in 2005. I suspect that with this nomination, RIBBON will finally be able to be seen more widely. As for A PROPHET, it is the best crime epic to hit theaters in a long time and will have a much better commercial run than RIBBON.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Other categories include Best Documentary, which features a number of films I’ve not seen. Of the nominations, I did like THE COVE, but I’ve heard rumors concerning the accuracy of the reporting within the film. My feeling when watching it was that it was mostly true, after all, how could those shots of all those dead and dying dolphins be faked?

The year’s Oscar ceremony, taking place tonight, will be hosted by Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, two of the best in the business. I wonder how the expansion of the nominee list will affect the running time of the festivities. It will probably end up being a long night.

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