HS's (early) 2011 Oscar predictions
I'm calling this now for the following categories (in no particular order):
Best Actor: Colin Firth for The King's Speech. He's respected, he's a prior nominee (for last year's A Single Man), and he gives the performance of the year as stammering King George VI. He's THAT good. I'd say he'll be up against James Franco (127 Hours), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), and possibly The Dude (True Grit), plus the usual indie film dark horse candidate.
Best Actress: Natalie Portman for Black Swan. She's respected, she's a prior nominee (for Mike Nichols' Closer), and she gives a performance that's intense in both its physical (ballerina) and psychological (lesbo shit!!!) make up. I personally found the movie to be a bit overrated, but Aronofsky once again shows his strength in working with actors. Her likely competition is Annette Bening and/or Julianne Moore, both for The Kids are Alright. I missed that one when it came out, but both have been nominated several times before (Bening: 3 times, Moore: 4 times). But, like Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in Thelma and Louise, they may cancel each other out. Maybe a smarter move would be to put one of them in the SUPPORTING category? If so, I've heard Moore has the smaller - or at least lower profile - role.
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale for The Fighter. Have heard nothing but raves about his chameleonic work in this one. And - for a guy who's been making movies since 1987 - can you believe he's never been nominated?! Call this another "he's due" award, even though he's young still. I'd expect him to be up against Geoffrey Rush for The King's Speech - though Rush's role is puffery and he's a past winner anyway. Other candidates are Justin Garfield (likely) and Justin Timberlake (not as likely, though a scene-stealer if you ask me), both for The Social Network, Vincent Cassel for Black Swan (he's the dark horse this year), and perhaps Matt Damon for True Grit. Damon's also "due," but nowhere near as prolific or chameleonic as Bale.
Best Supporting Actress: If they decide to place Julianne Moore here for The Kids are Alright, I'd say the trophy is prolly hers. And I haven't even seen the movie! This seems to once again be a weak category. Maybe Barbara Hershey will sneak in here for Black Swan, although I personally think she gave one of those Renee Zelweger-in-Cold Mountain performances that is fiercely divisive among critics.
Screenplay: I don't if it's original or adapted, but I think The King's Speech screenplay has Oscar written all over it (the whole movie does, actually). So does The Social Network, and so does 127 Hours (which I know is adapted from Aron Ralston's book). Expect those three films to duke it out for two Oscars. Christopher Nolan's brilliant (but still flawed) Inception will prolly get a nomination, as will Toy Story 3, but these types of films rarely win here. True Grit may score a writing nomination (adapted), but the Coens' already have two of these.
Visual FX: Inception trumps Harry Potter, no contest.
Best Director: I have a feeling this will be David Fincher's year (for The Social Network). He's consistently made good films ever since Seven, and made himself a real player with the acclaimed Zodiac and with the Forrest Gump-like Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Now, he finally gets his prize. I'm sure Christopher Nolan will be a fellow nominee - a consolation prize for his Dark Knight snubbing - but he won't win, as "weird" sci-fi films never win in such prolific categories (why Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott have always gone home empty-handed). I'm sure we'll be seeing the Coen Bros. nominated once again, but unless True Grit is the best western since Unforgiven, I don't think they'll win.
Best Picture: Everyone seems to think it's a three-way battle with The King's Speech vs 127 Hours vs The Social Network. But with 10 nominees, anything goes. I'm sure these films will all make the cut, along with Inception, True Grit, The Kids are Alright, and POSSIBLY Black Swan...but I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say the Oscar goes to...Toy Story 3! It's arguably the best-reviewed film of the year. It's the swan song to one of the most beloved trilogies of all time. And every once in a while the Academy likes to be perceived as "groundbreaking," which is why this third-ever Best Picture animated film will prolly make history. Hell, it's BETTER than all of the aforementioned films. Note: not many people are singing this tune right now, but expect momentum to slowly build. This time last year, Avatar was going to win Best Picture, and we all know how that turned out.
Best Animated Feature: Assuming there are three nominees (last year there were five), they are Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, and (either) Tangled (or) Despicable Me. Scenario 1: Toy Story 3 wins Best Picture, so Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon takes the prize. Scenario 2: the Academy opts for more traditional Oscar bait for its main prize, and Toy Story 3 wins here. Honestly, it could go either way.
Best Documentary Feature: Inside Job, the anger-inducing documentary about the players responsible for the financial collapse, will prolly win. There's a chance it hits too close to home for some viewers, but Best Documentary Feature is one category that the Academy usually gets right, and I expect their good judgment to prevail once again. The film is phenomenal, btw, and should be mandatory viewing.