Just for fun, here are my predictions for tonight's Academy Awards. These are not necessarily the winners I would choose. We'll see how many I get right. I'll just guess in 9 categories:
Best Picture: "Avatar," "The Blind Side," "District 9," "An Education," "The Hurt Locker," "Inglourious Basterds," "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," "A Serious Man," "Up," "Up in the Air."
This year I've actually seen six of the ten nominees: "Avatar," "The Blind Side," "District 9," "Precious," "Up" and "Up in the Air." (Compare that with last year's pitiful total.) My random thoughts about this category: "Up" can't win because it's nominated as an animated film. "The Blind Side"... Really? I mean, I liked it... Took the kids and all. Very uplifting and heartwarming, but it was more like a Hallmark Channel TV movie than a Best Picture winner. "Precious" was powerful, but so hard to watch and sad. "District 9" was cool and quirky, but it can't win. I really liked "Up in the Air" a lot... Excellent performances from the three leads, and the story was powerful. "Avatar" was amazing, and I loved it. I've seen it twice. But it seems like there is a definite backlash against it this year, and people would love to see Cameron's ex, Kathryn Bigelow, beat him. My prediction is "The Hurt Locker." It's got the momentum.
There are ten nominations in this category this year instead of the usual five. Roger Ebert snarkily says if you want to know what the "real" nominees are, look at the Best Director category.
Actor: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart;" George Clooney, "Up in the Air;" Colin Firth, "A Single Man;" Morgan Freeman, "Invictus;" Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker."
I've only seen Clooney's performance, and I thought it was awesome. Earlier in the season, I thought this was his year. But it's looking more and more like Bridges will take home the trophy.
Actress: "Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side;" Helen Mirren, "The Last Station;" Carey Mulligan, "An Education;" Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire;" Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia."
I've only seen Bullock and Sidibe. Gabourey Sidibe's performance, honestly, feels like a once-in-a-lifetime thing. (I hope I'm not right, but I can't picture her in any other role... It may turn out to be a very challenging thing to overcome.) Like I said, I think "The Blind Side" is schmaltzy and not worthy of these accolades, but people genuinely like Sandra Bullock, and I think it's her year. This is such an excellent example of these awards, unfortunately, being more about the person (or the politics) and less about the performance.
Supporting Actor: Matt Damon, "Invictus;" Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger;" Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station;" Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones;" Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds."
Haven't seen any of these performances. I'm just going with the buzz.
Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, "Nine;" Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air;" Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Crazy Heart;" Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air;" Mo'Nique, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."
I thought Farmiga and Kendrick were wonderful in "Up in the Air," and I didn't see Gyllenhaal or Cruz. Mo'Nique was awesome and awful in her role. She was evil and sad and pathetic and horrifying, and I can't imagine anyone else winning this aware.
Directing: James Cameron, "Avatar;" Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker;" Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds;" Lee Daniels, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire;" Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air."
I think Bigelow will win. She'll be the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar, and the Academy will love seeing her beat her ex-husband, James Cameron.
Adapted Screenplay: Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, "District 9;" Nick Hornby, "An Education;" Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, "In the Loop"; Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire;" Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, "Up in the Air."
This is mostly wishful thinking. I want it to win because I liked it so much. I think if it can win anything, it can win this.
Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, "The Hurt Locker;" Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds;" Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, "The Messenger;" Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, "A Serious Man;" Bob Peterson, Pete Docter & Tom McCarthy, "Up."
I'm just going with the mo on this one.
Animated Feature Film: "Coraline;" "Fantastic Mr. Fox;" "The Princess and the Frog;" "The Secret of Kells;" "Up."
"Up" is remarkable, and the Academy will honor it in this way. Then they don't have to feel guilty when they give the Best Picture Oscar to another film.
All right, there you have it. What are your thoughts? You can bet I'll be on Twitter throughout the show. Follow me at @mattnightingale and join the conversation!