And the Nominees Are...

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… Yes, I think award show season and, the granddaddy of them all, the Oscars, is the most wonderful time of the year. And good news – Oscar nominations came out today! You can visit the official Oscar website for the full list of nominees. Below are the categories I’m most interested in, along with commentary and predictions. Here we go:

  • Best Movie: Avatar (Smurfs in 3-D; The Blind Side (weepy football in the South); District 9 (Kiwis envision an invasion); An Education (middle-aged cad seduces jailbait); The Hurt Locker (defusing bombs during war); Inglourious Basterds (killing Nazis); Precious (downtrodden triumphs); A Serious Man (a Jew looking for meaning); Up (old man floats with balloons, animated); and Up in the Air (firing expert racks up frequent flier miles).

    I think that it comes down to Avatar and The Hurt Locker, neither of which I’ve seen. I think that The Hurt Locker will pull it out, seeing as director Kathryn Bigelow just won the Director’s Guild Award; also, actors make up the largest voting bloc in the Academy and while they may marvel at the technology of James Cameron’s Avatar, they probably don’t like the idea of rewarding a film that renders actors unnecessary. Moreover, based on my previously discussed criteria, I think The Hurt Locker is more deserving: its screenplay, lead actor and director are all nominated, making the entire film more deserving of the award, rather than Avatar, whose only discernable achievement is in technology. It should also be noted that this year the Academy decided to nominate ten films for best picture, instead of the usual five. If it had been five like in years past, I think four of the five nominees would be Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds and Up in the Air, with the fifth spot open for a wild card.

  • Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart; George Clooney, Up in the Air; Colin Firth, A Single Man; Morgan Freeman, Invictus; and Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker.

    No surprises in the nominees here and I think Jeff Bridges will win and should win. He’s swept the major awards thus far and Bad Blake shows no signs of slowing down. Rock on, Dude!

  • Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side; Helen Mirren, The Last Station; Carey Mulligan, An Education; Gabourey Sidibe, Precious; and Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia.

    Most signs point to Sandra Bullock winning. Once again, I have to disclose that I haven’t seen The Blind Side (or any of the nominated performances in this category other than Meryl Streep’s) so I can’t genuinely say she doesn’t deserve this, but I’d love to see Ms. Streep win. Not only was she fantastic as a woman we all know and love, but she looked like she was having the time of her life with this role. Also, I think it shows real talent that Ms. Streep’s Julia was a real person, and not just a Dan Aykroyd impression, as it could have easily been in lesser hands. Still, after winning the Globe and SAG, look for Bullock to win the Oscar.

  • Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Matt Damon, Invictus; Woody Harrelson, The Messenger; Christopher Plummer, The Last Station; Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones; and Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds.

    Christoph Waltz is going to win. He’s swept the season and everyone who’s seen the movie (a category which I’m still waiting to join – please Netflix, send me a copy!) says he’s fantastic. Interestingly, I have not seen any of these performances and last year, this was the one category in which I saw every performance. Although, last year two of the nominees were from the same movie, so that made it a little easier.

  • Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Penelope Cruz, Nine; Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air; Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart; Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air; and Mo’Nique, Precious.

    Maggie Gyllenhaal was a bit of a surprise since she hasn’t been nominated for the major awards yet this season, but having seen Crazy Heart I can say that the nomination is certainly deserved. I think, however, that Mo’Nique will win. Like the actors in the previous categories, she’s swept the award season so this is likely to be the cherry on top.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, District 9; Nick Hornby, An Education; Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche, In the Loop; Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious; and Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air.

    Up in the Air
    will win. Though not a 100% foregone conclusion, based on their performance at other award shows, good money has them winning. (Also, it was a fantastic script.) I haven’t seen any of the other movies, but In the Loop is patiently waiting for me at home so look for a review next week.

  • Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker; Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds; Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman, The Messenger; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man; and Bob Peterson and Pete Docter, Up.

    My first reaction was that Q would win this, but he’s only won the Critics Choice award so far. At the Globes, the writing honor isn’t divided between original and adapted and Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner took home that award. Q isn’t even nominated for a WGA Award, which are to be handed out on February 20. While only writers are allowed to vote for writers during the nomination process, everyone can vote in every category to determine the winner. Still, you can look to the WGA Awards for a clue as to how the Academy vote will go. Notice that only The Hurt Locker and A Serious Man are on the Academy’s and WGA’s list so get ready for one of them to win. The Coen brothers have won this award before and could very likely repeat here. Of all the awards so far, this is probably the most enigmatic.

  • Best Song: Almost There, The Princess and the Frog; Down in New Orleans, The Princess and the Frog; Loin de Paname, Paris 36; Take it All, Nine; and The Weary Kind, Crazy Heart.

    “The Weary Kind” should and will win. It’s been cleaning up at all the preceding award shows so look for this not-so-weary ditty to win the big one, too. Also, congratulations are in order to the Academy voters for nominating five songs, instead of last year when, despite there being five slots, they only nominated three songs, grossly overlooking The Boss and “The Wrestler”. The other great thing that just dawned on me is that since “The Weary Kind” is nominated, we might see Jeff Bridges perform the song on the telecast. It’s possible he’ll take the night off from being Bad and songwriters Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett will do the honors but either way, it should be a treat.

  • Best Director: James Cameron, Avatar; Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker; Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds; Lee Daniels, Precious; and Jason Reitman, Up in the Air.

    I think this comes down to Cameron and Bigelow and you can expect Bigelow to pull it out. She just won the DGA Award so chances are good that she’ll take home the big prize. I’m not usually one to harp on a nominee’s gender as I think the fact that it is remarkable is a setback, but women have, historically, received very little recognition in the directing category. First of all, there are fewer female directors than male and moreover, there are even fewer female directors who trade in heavier fare. I can’t even think of many other female directors but the one who comes to mind is Nora Ephron who, while a good director, deals mostly with romantic comedies and not serious subject matter. This doesn’t make Ephron a lesser director than Bigelow, whose The Hurt Locker is certainly serious, but it does make her less likely to be nominated and to win come award show season, seeing as these awards tend to honor films like The Piano and not The Hangover (…except, of course, for the comedy specific categories, like at the Globes.) Women directors are (a little) better represented in theatre; Anna D. Shapiro directed the scathing and winning August: Osage County two seasons ago (and won the Tony for it) and Diane Paulus is the brilliant creative behind the revival of Hair. Other female directors and director/choreographers include Judith Ivey, Susan Stroman, Twyla Tharp and Agnes DeMille, herself a pioneer in the director/choreographer strain.

There you are – the 82nd Academy Award nominees. Awards will be handed out on Sunday, March 7 on ABC at 8pm EST, and the ceremony is being co-hosted this year by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Look for these (slightly amended) two wild and crazy guys to deliver a night full of snark and charm!

Do you have any “will win” or “should win” predictions? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.