Some people are into Christmas, others prefer birthdays or Halloween, but my favorite special occasion is Oscar night. And this year, that night happens to be this Sunday, just early enough for me celebrate the entertainment industry in my dorm room with friends, formal attire, and a glass of champa—erm, I mean, apple cider?
This year’s Academy Awards are hosted by two of the most talented and attractive youngsters Hollywood has to offer: Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Hopefully the pair will have the chemistry and charisma to make the event entertaining for the masses, but I wouldn’t even care if Sarah Palin were hosting (okay, maybe a little on principle); for me, it all comes down to who walks away with the little gold man.
As usual, a handful of movies have snapped up nearly all the available nominations. Between them, “The King’s Speech,” “The Social Network,” “The Fighter,” and “Black Swan” have garnered 18 of the 45 major nominations. So, it’s safe to say that these four will end up award-laden while many other deserving films get nothing, but there’s still enough healthy competition to make the Academy Awards suspenseful. Here are my predictions for who will shed tears of joy or tears of bitter rejection:
Best Supporting Actress
Should win: Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”
Will win: Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”
Everyone loves a pre-teen nominee. At only 14, Hailee Steinfeld has already earned her acting stripes opposite Hollywood legends Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon in “True Grit.” As a spunky kid bent on avenging her father’s murder, Steinfeld served both as the film’s driving force and its conscience. She proves to be the best of this lot of outcasts and forces the two men to become better than they are. Steinfeld sparkled in this difficult role as she proved that she has the “true grit” she so admires in Bridges’ character and emerged as the true hero of the film, despite her nomination for “supporting” actress. However, well-established actress Melissa Leo is the safer bet for the win. Leo shone as the controlling, manipulative mother of boxers Mark Walhberg and Christian Bale, and she’s been nominated for Oscars before, so she’ll be tough to beat.
Best Supporting Actor
Should win: Christian Bale
Will win: Christian Bale
Why? Because he is the Batman, goddamnit. In all seriousness, though, Christian Bale has proved that he has more to contribute to the acting field than a set of killer abs and the ability to speak and growl at the same time. In “The Fighter,” Bale plays a washed-up boxer turned crack-head, and if there’s one thing the Academy loves, it’s a drug addict. Bale’s Dicky is charismatic, engaging, and likeable, but deep down he’s simply no good. An actor who can charm an audience with a character they must admit is immoral is a talented actor indeed, and Bale achieves this difficult balance with ease.
Should win: Natalie Portman
Will win: Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman is gorgeous. Natalie Portman is smart. Natalie Portman is incredibly talented. Have you guessed by now that Natalie Portman is my idol/the person I would give my right arm to trade lives with? Maybe my blind adoration for this woman makes me a little biased in her favor, but if I get stars in my eyes every time she appears on a screen, I’m not the only one. Portman is going into the Oscars fresh off her win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards for the role, so she has every reason to feel confident, and why not? Simply put, Portman dazzled in “Black Swan” as a prima ballerina with increasingly questionable sanity. The juxtaposition between her soft-spoken, timid personality and the dark violence of her insanity elevated the film from a movie about ballet to a movie about the psychology of emotional breakdown. Yet before I saw “Black Swan,” I was enamored by nominee Annette Benning in “The Kids Are Alright,” a fantastic film and a fantastic performance that, sadly, will likely be overshadowed.
Should win: James Franco
Will win: Colin Firth
There’s always that one film that walks away with a hefty load of statuettes, and this year that film is shaping up to be “The King’s Speech.” I already mentioned that the Academy loves nothing more than a drug addict, but next on that list is a person with a disability (who, of course, overcomes it over the course of the film). Colin Firth’s stuttering prince in “The King’s Speech” certainly fits the bill, and he gave a truly great performance in the role as a man who must grow into the power invested in him, in more ways than one. But I would give the Oscar to James Franco (can you win an Oscar on the night you’re hosting the Oscars?) for the simple reason that his role in “127 Hours” essentially required him to be onscreen by himself for nearly the entire length of the movie, an incredibly difficult feat that he pulled off magnificently.
Best Original Screenplay
Should win: “Inception”
Will win: “The King’s Speech”
A fantasy film about dream manipulation or a historical drama about a prince with a speech impediment? Well, they’re certainly two very different choices, but conventional Oscar wisdom says that an emotional film will win out over an intellectual one. It also seems to be something of a trend that Best Original Screenplay tends to go hand in hand with Best Picture, and I suspect “Inception” doesn’t stand a chance in the latter category, much to my extreme disappointment. Personally, I think “Inception” deserves to win just about everything, but then again, I don’t run the Academy. Ah well, there’s always Best Visual Effects.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Should win: “The Social Network”
Will win: “The Social Network”
“The Social Network” is something of a zeitgeist, and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay captures, in many ways, the culture of modern-day America as it witnesses the birth of the most defining technological force of our time. And even if “The Social Network” doesn’t win Best Director or Best Picture (as I suspect it won’t), it deserves some recognition, as it is both a great film and an important cultural marker.
Should win: Darren Aronofsky
Will win: Tom Hooper
If I could really choose who I wanted to win this category, I would choose Christopher Nolan in a heartbeat. I’m a sucker for directors who write their own scripts, and there is no doubt that “Inception” is a Nolan film through and through. After Nolan’s snub at the 2009 Oscars when “The Dark Knight,” clearly the best picture of the year, didn’t even get a nomination, the least the Academy could do would be to acknowledge the man’s directorial genius with a Directing nomination. But sadly they did not, so I’ll say no more about it. Next on my list is Darren Aronofsky, who turned “Black Swan” into a visually stunning masterpiece of cinema, in my humble opinion, anyway. The way he incorporated the majestic movement of the ballet dancing into the larger context of the film was nothing short of magical, and the performances he got from Portman, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel were great as well. David Fincher is also an extremely strong contender, but unfortunately for all three of these gentlemen, Tom Hooper has this category on lock. He won the Directors Guild Award, and the winner of the DGA has almost never lost the Academy Award for directing in the past 50 years.
Should win: “Black Swan”
Will win: “The King’s Speech”
Says Roger Ebert, generally considered to be the foremost film critic in America, says, “I expect this to be a royal year.” As the adage goes, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck.” “The King’s Speech” looks like an Oscar-winning film. It has disabilities. It has World War II. It has British people. You throw all of these elements into a well-executed package and you have an Oscar Best Picture. I do not mean to take away from the film, because it certainly is deserving of all its praise, but I wish the Academy would take it upon themselves to make a more interesting choice. My personal style leads me to “Black Swan” because it was a film that left me inspired to go out and start making a movie, which I consider to be the mark of a really great film. “Black Swan” is edgier and more brooding, while “The King’s Speech” is uplifting. Still, I won’t be disappointed by “the royal year,” as I am satisfied that this year in film gave us many strong contenders that, regardless of who goes home with the Oscar, will definitely get added to my Netflix queue.