Oscar Predictions (2011)

brent johnson, bill bodkin and daniel cohen predict who’ll take home the gold …

Last year’s Oscars were too easy. Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Mo’Nique, Christoph Waltz. Was there any doubt they all would go home toting little golden men?

Okay, so maybe it was suspenseful to see whether The Hurt Locker could triumph over big, bold Avatar. But this year’s Academy Awards ceremony poses a few more tight races. Here’s our look at who should and will win Sunday …

(please note the first predictions the “should win” “will win” are written by brent johnson…)

BEST PICTURE
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The King’s Speech
The Kids Are All Right
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

BRENT
Should Win: The Social Network
Crash. The Departed. Slumdog Millionaire. The Hurt Locker. We now live in a world where smart, kinetic, morally complex and refreshingly modern movies take Oscar’s top prize all the time. The Social Network is better than all of them. Great acting, masterful direction, a bubbling screenplay, a timely topic. And like Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate, Dog Day Afternoon and Pulp Fiction, it speaks to a new generation. Then again, none of those films were named Best Picture …

Will Win: The King’s Speech
Network won nearly every critics prize, but Speech took the trophies that matter: from the actors, directors and producers unions, which overlap greatly with the Academy voting block. I’m not too bothered that Speech — a grand, well-acted, touching film — will likely win. But I feel Oscar voters are being swept up in Speech‘s majesty, when Network‘s ferocity is much more intriguing. And human.

BILL
Will Win: The King’s Speech
The momentum for the wildly brilliant Social Network has gone “up in the air.” That’s right, just like last year’s initially Oscar-favored socially relevant comedy-drama, The Social Network’s buzz has seemingly died down. The accolades for The King’s Speech, one of the two Best Picture nominees I didn’t see (127 Hours being the other), is the stuff of Oscar legend. It’s a hit with all the guilds, which is rare, and it’s rife with Oscar bait — grand costume drama teeming with acclaimed performances. I think the tidal wave of popularity for King’s is too much for any film to over come.

Should Win: The Social Network
I can’t remember a film that has captured something so now, so relevant before. Usually turnarounds for films like Network should take so long that the subject matter becomes irrelevant or are so rushed that there’s a lack of focus and attention to detail. But somehow and someway, everything came together perfectly. Outside of “social” relevance, the acting is top-notch and the overall mood of the this drama plays like a classic, dark David Fincher thriller. It’s a film that should resonate to audiences for generations like a Best Picture should.

Bold Prediction: Inception
In some categories, I’m just going to make a bold prediction. It’s not going to happen, but I need to put it out there. So let’s put it all on the table for Best Picture. Inception, to me, was my favorite film of these 10. Yes, Network deserves the win, as I’m sure King’s is. But to me, Inception is beyond. Epic in scope, masterful in execution — no matter if you loved it or hated it, this movie has staying power. Did A Simple Man or An Education stick with you from last year? How about Avatar? This year — outside of Christian Bale’s performance — is The Fighter that beloved? Is True Grit going to stick with you? But no matter what, Inception makes people talk. It’s a flight of fantastical film that blows your mind from cities folding on top of themselves to the quagmire that is the ending of the film. Best film of the year — indeed.

DANEL
Will Win: The King’s Speech
As I said before, it’s an Oscar favorite — but mediocre, dry, boring period piece.

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BEST DIRECTOR
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter

BRENT
Should Win: Fincher
Isn’t a director’s job to create a film where all the parts — acting, story, dialogue, pacing, action — are working so effortlessly? Tell me where Fincher misses a beat. I’m waiting …

Will Win: Fincher
Hooper — whose style is more modern, colorful and lively than you’d expect in a historical film — has a real shot here. Only eight times in the last 50 years has the director of the Best Picture favorite failed to win this category. But Fincher is a director’s director. And he made Network bristle with too much energy and imagination to be locked out.

BILL
Will and Should Win: Fincher
If you have the chance to watch the DVD extras on The Social Network, you will see the near obsessive detail Fincher puts into his work. He he dissected every word of Aaron Sorkin’s scripu, he pushed his sound editors to find the best performances for each syllable of words, he envisioned the digital face cloning of actor Armie Hammer to create the Winkle Voss twins, he convinced legendary musician Trent Reznor to do his first film score, and he was able to take a current event and make it a tale of morality, loyalty and friendship than a film about a website. And he did this with a budget that was a fraction of his last Oscar nominated film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Bold Prediction: Aronofsky
Here’s why: Academy members might be split over Hooper and Fincher, thrusting Aronofsky into the mix. Aronofsky blends the best of his psychedelic and psychological acid trips like Pi and Requiem For A Dream with the brutal and physical real life drama in The Wrestler to create a highly unique and unforgettable film. Just saying.

DANEL
Will Win: Fincher
This will be one of the rare years where the Director and Best Picture won’t match up. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Darren Aronofsky come out of left field here.

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BEST ACTOR
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

BRENT
Should Win: Firth
Eisenberg is riveting and stone-cold smart as Facebook’s founder. Franco impressed the hell out of me, carrying an entire film with swagger and fear. But Firth is so perfect. Yes, as Britian’s King George VI, he has to stutter most of the film, but that’s a small part of it. Quiet, loud and defiant — he produces whatever the scene calls for.

Will Win: Firth
The British actor might have won last year, had it not finally been Bridges’ time to shine. But he’s the surest lock of this year’s ceremony: a likable actor riding a middle-aged peak.

BILL
Will Win: Firth
Like I’ve stated, I did not see The King’s Speech. I did, however, see A Single Man, a role that redefined Colin Firth, the actor, and landed him a Best Actor nod last year. That role took the the former Mr. Darcy, who was muddling along in the world of Hugh Grant’s “charmingly befuddled” romantic comedy lead, and showed us that he is an amazing actor. His performance was devastatingly brilliant and could’ve easily topped Jeff Bridges last year for Crazy Heart. So I think Oscar “makes up” for last year and gives it to Firth.

DANIEL
Will Win: Firth
Maybe a 2 percent chance for Jesse Eisenberg.

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BEST ACTRESS
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

BRENT
Should Win: Lawrence
Portman threw her body into the role. Bening was a picture of subtle, masterclass acting — especially when bursting Joni Mitchell at the dinner table. But Lawrence was the most arresting this year. Playing a teenager forced to care for her family and track down her criminal father, she imbues her character with steel will, wisdom beyond her years and a face that has no time nor cause for smiling.

Will Win: Portman
Oscar loves it when an actor pushes their body and flashes simmering emotion — even if Portman’s turn as a ballerina is a tad too theatrical. Bening has the career-achievement vote on her side, but it probably won’t be enough. –BJ

BILL
Will Win: Bening
I have gone on record multiple times wondering why everyone raves about this performance. Don’t get me wrong: Bening is very good in the role of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but her performance wasn’t something I haven’t seen before. Yet, I feel a “make-up” Oscar is coming Benning’s way. She’s missed out on awards for The Grifters, Being Julia and American Beauty — so I feel the Academy will be looking her way Sunday.

Should Win: Portman
Portman’s performance was truly amazing. She perfectly captured the innocent ingenue annoyingly obsessed with perfection and the raving psychotic that lurks beneath her. Physically, learning ballet was as brutal as Mickey Rourke cutting his forehead open in The Wrestler. This was far and away the best performance from an actress with an already storied career.

Bold Prediction: Lawrence
Two strong candidates could split members and force them to choose a dark horse. Lawrence, only known as a supporting actor on The Bill Engvall Show, was the driving force of this indie noir. Her brutally honest performance as a tougher-than-nails Ozark teen was one of the most memorable female lead performances I’ve seen in long time.

DANIEL
Will Win: Portman
I don’t care how old and how many times Annette Bening has been nominated. She was great in The Kids Are All Right, but if Natalie Portman doesn’t win this, I’ll lose all faith in humanity. I’m very scared this could be the “surprise” moment of the night, though.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

BRENT
Should Win: Bale
The Fighter is really his movie. Any time he’s on screen, the film sparkles a little more.

Will Win: Bale
Rush has a chance — especially since Bale still might not be held in the brightest light after his famous rant on the Terminator Salvation set. (A temper like that may very well have been the reason Russell Crowe didn’t win his second straight trophy for A Beautiful Mind.) But following Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight and Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, Bale is likely to continue a trend in this category: getting recognized for a performance that is too electric to ignore.

BILL
Will and Should Win: Bale
His Terminator rant, being outshined by fellow castmates in summer blockbusters (Terminator: Salvation, Public Enemies and The Dark Knight), his ridiculous Batman voice — any complaint you could have about Christian Bale was erased by his performance in The Fighter.

DANIEL
Will Win: Bale
Bale’s got it in the bag. If Geoffrey Rush didn’t already win one, I’d be a little worried.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

BRENT
Should Win: Adams
This is the toughest category to call — and by far the closest race. Bonham Carter is so sturdy and wonderfully subtle. Leo is a force. Steinfeld is a chuckle-inducing mini-adult. But I’d give it to Adams — not only because she plays against type as a hard-edged yet charming bartender, but also because she has been on such a roll the last few years, without an Oscar to show for it.

Will Win: Steinfeld
I would have said Leo about a month ago. But she released a strange set of personal advertisements, asking Academy members to consider her performance — which EW.com said could torpedo her chances. Plus, this is the category where the Academy tends to honor young actors. (See: Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon and Anna Paquin in The Piano.) And Steinfeld is so confident and convincing in her first movie role.

BILL
Will and Should Win: Steinfeld
One of the toughest races to call. Adams is a two-time nom, Leo has a previous nod — and both are deserved of a win. But I feel they will cancel each other out. With that being said, Steinfeld stole True Grit from Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. She was absolutely electric, smart, funny and phenomenal in her performance. And let’s not forget she was considered a Best Actress candidate early this season.

Bold Prediction: Leo
I watched Frozen River right after Oscar season in ’09 and was surprised at the performance of Leo, a long struggling character actress I never heard of. In The Fighter, she proved she’s an awesome actress. And even with her ridiculous ad campaign, I think she has a very strong chance to take an Oscar home.

DANIEL
Leo
This is a legit race. It’s very close between Leo and Hailee Steinfeld, and Amy Adams is also in the running. I think Leo will get the “she’s older” vote, and she does legitimately deserve it. But Steinfeld and Adams are both fine choices, too.

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BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Another Year — Mike Leigh
The Fighter — Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson
Inception — Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right — Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
The King’s Speech — David Seidler

BRENT
Should Win: Seidler
Inception is the most inventive script here. But seriously, can anyone truly explain what the hell was going on? Meanwhile, Speech is chock full of funny lines, memorable scenes and rousing spirit.

Will Win: Seidler
Expect Speech‘s dominance to seep into this category.

BILL
Will Win: Seidler
It’s got victory written all over it, just like the beer.

DANIEL
Will Win: Seidler
It’s pretty much a lock, but Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Bloomberg for The Kids Are All Right have a slight upset chance. And Christopher Nolan has a very, very, very, very, very, very small hope.

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
127 Hours — Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy (based on the book Between A Rock And A Hard Place by Aron Ralston)
The Social Network — Aaron Sorkin (based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich)
Toy Story 3 — Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (Based on characters from Toy Story and Toy Story 2)
True Grit — Joel & Ethan Coen (based on the book True Grit by Charles Portis)
Winter’s Bone — Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini (based on the book Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell)

BRENT
Should Win: Sorkin
This could be best script since Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Good Will Hunting. The West Wing‘s word maestro has penned a script that spews wit, tragedy, suspense and instantly memorable lines. Isn’t that what a screenplay is supposed to be?

Will Win: Sorkin
Anything else would be a gigantic upset. (By the way, how could this be Sorkin’s first Oscar nom? Didn’t he write A Few Good Men and The American President?)

BILL
Will and Should Win: Sorkin
First off, why Toy Story 3, a sequel, is nominated here instead of Ben Affleck’s The Town — an ACTUAL ADAPTATION — blows my mind. Anyway, Sorkin rebounds from his Studio 60 debacle with this amazing script.

DANIEL
Will Win: Sorkin
It’s a lock.

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BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
How To Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

BRENT
Should Win: Toy Story 3
Forget about it being a cartoon. It’s possibly the second-best film of the year — animated or otherwise. So exciting, so moving.

Will Win: Toy Story 3
Another of the night’s few locks.

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BEST SCORE
127 Hours — A.R. Rahman
How To Train Your Dragon — John Powell
Inception — Hans Zimmer
The King’s Speech — Alexandre Desplat
The Social Network — Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

BRENT
Should Win: Network
I was impressed by Rahman’s work on 127 Hours — filled with splashes of techno and catchy acoustic guitar riffs. But Network‘s eerie, synth-tinged score, co-written by Nine Inch Nail’s Reznor, fits the film so well. It’s immediate but distant. Inviting but cold.

Will Win: Speech
Speech‘s expected sweep is likely to spill over here, too. Plus, Oscar hasn’t been kind lately to rock stars and modern music. Among the musicians the Academy has snubbed the last few years: Paul McCartney, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Prince. Jeez.

BILL
Will Win: Network
Sir Paul, U2, The Boss and Prince were all overlooked for songs, but I don’t think you can overlook the work Reznor and Ross did for Network. They created a unique soundtrack that gave it a near-thriller quality to the film, a la Radihead guitarist Johnny Greenwood’s work on There Will Be Blood.

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BEST ORIGINAL SONG
‘Coming Home’ from Country Strong — Bob DiPiero, Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey and Troy Verges
‘I See the Light’ from Tangled — Alan Menken and Glenn Slater
‘If I Rise’ from 127 Hours — A.R. Rahman, Rollo Armstrong, and Dido
‘We Belong Together’ from Toy Story 3 — Randy Newman

BRENT
Should Win: ‘Coming Home’
This category makes me sad. It used to be filled with dazzling songs by big names: Streisand, Springsteen, Elton, McCartney. Even indie champion Elliott Smith scored a nod. And if not that, the gold would go to lovable Disney tunes we all knew the words to. But something has changed in the few years since Eminem and Three 6 Mafia walked away with Oscars. Can anyone hum some bars from any of the songs listed above? I think I kind of remember ‘Coming Home.’ So hey, that’s gotta be good for something.

Will Win: ‘If I Rise’
I could see the Academy going with Newman, who was snubbed a dozen times back in the days before his songwriting went from being whip-smart to lazy and saccharine. But Rahman won over voters with his score to Slumdog Millionaire two years ago. And the Academy may think they’re being cool by picking Dido, even if she’s as unthreatening a pop star as they come.

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