FilmEdge begins our 2011 Academy Award predictions with a recap of our Best Picture nominee reviews from the year, comparing highlight evaluations of all 10 films head-to-head to handicap which movie will walk away with the gold statue on Sunday night. Part 2 of our Oscar predictions will follow this blog entry with our staff picks and prognostications for all Academy Award categories to help you complete your Oscar party ballot.
Beginning with the earlier Best Picture nominee entries of 2010, both staff contributor Joan Radell and FilmEdge owner Scott Weitz were highly impressed with Christopher Nolan‘s mind-bending INCEPTION, starring Leonardo Di Caprio as a dream-manipulating infiltrator harboring his own obsessive nightmare of guilt and quest for redemption. As we noted back in July: “INCEPTION is Christopher Nolan’s triumph and should be considered a front-running contender for award recognition six months ahead of Hollywood’s silly season.” But did its July release allow INCEPTION’s wonder to fade in the minds of Academy voters by January 2011? The film’s eight Oscar nominations do not include Nolan for a Best Director nod. FilmEdge predicts Nolan retains an outside shot at Best Original Screenplay but INCEPTION won’t take gold for Best Picture.
Disney•Pixar’s delightful animated sequel TOY STORY 3 earned five nominations, adding Best Animated Feature Film to its Best Picture recognition after a box-office busting summer in theaters. Scott wrote: “A slightly less sentimental tale retaining its fond affection for these beloved icons of animation, the ending is entirely predictable and most enjoyably so. Growing up and older with these dolls, action figures and gadgets for fifteen years now, TOY STORY 3 may be the best TOY STORY yet, and that’s saying a lot.” Joan raved: “The result of 10 years of often contentious development, TOY STORY 3 is a pinnacle achievement in the art of filmmaking. If art can be defined as a creative expression that evokes an emotional response in the viewer, TOY STORY 3 is purest art.” FilmEdge figures the third adventure of Buzz and Woody is a lock to win Best Animated Feature, but can it also be named Best Picture? Joan thinks TOY STORY 3 will prevail as the top film of 2010 in a FilmEdge split decision, declaring it “by far, the best picture of the year.”
Nominees which are given less of a chance begin named Best Picture include 127 HOURS, which despite earning nominations for James Franco as Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy plus three more, was very likely too harrowing and difficult a film to enjoy and reward as representing 2010’s best. Recognition is well deserved but FilmEdge doesn’t predict 127 HOURS to strike gold with any of its six nominations. Conversely, Lisa Cholodenko‘s modern family drama THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT about a lesbian couple grappling with the emergence of their kids’ biological father into their lives probably lacks the impact needed to take Best Picture. Annette Bening’s Best Actress and Mark Ruffalo’s Best Supporting Actor nominations have improved odds of success, but for FilmEdge this film was a timely in social topicality but not quite a stand out film from the pack. Darren Aronofsky‘s BLACK SWAN definitely elicited strong audience reaction, but the reviews ranged across positive and negative extremes among critics and audiences alike. Lead actress Natalie Portman is a shoo-in as the double-edged ballet dancer, and while Joan praised the supporting work of Mila Kunis, she found BLACK SWAN “a disappointment.”
Debra Granik‘s adaptation of the novel WINTER’S BONE stands tall if as a worthy Best Picture long shot, if definitely overshadowed by its more commercially appealing and glamorous competitors. The tough to take but easy to appreciate tale of a young girl struggling to keep her family in tact while searching for her drug-dealing father, lead actress Jennifer Lawrence and supporting actor John Hawkes both earned Oscar nominations for their involving performances, along with Granik and Anne Rosellini garnering a Best Adapted Screenplay nod. WINTER’S BONE definitely displays the Academy’s growing streak of recognizing independent and low-budget films telling harsh, contemporary stories — Joan declared it “a film not to be missed” — but it faces steep competition on many fronts from the class of 2010.
David O. Russell‘s hard hitting biopic with Mark Wahlberg as THE FIGHTER Micky Ward earns kudos as a dark horse favorite of FilmEdge in the 2010 field. A top notch cast also boasts Best Supporting nominees Amy Adams, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale in a gripping, tough yet uplifting family drama of failure, faith and self-resurrection in the face of physical and psychological challenges. When a film doubles up nominees in the same category, Academy history shows that votes tend to split between them, canceling out either nominee’s shot at a win. Such wealth of acting power in THE FIGHTER — save Wahlberg’s omission for Best Actor consideration — only demonstrates how strong its performances are, and FilmEdge fully expects Melissa Leo to buck tradition and earn the Oscar in her category. Best Director nominee Russell’s film itself will likely lose on points to the close bout between the top two Best Picture contenders, but in a lesser year it might have won the title.
One of the very best films of 2010 was Joel and Ethan Coen‘s more faithful adaptation of the western revenge drama TRUE GRIT, which FilmEdge ranks in the top three of Best Picture contenders for Sunday night. Enlivened by one of the Coen’s best scripts in years (which is saying a lot given their track record), a stellar cast includes last year’s Oscar winner Jeff Bridges with back-to-back Best Actor nominations, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Best Supporting Actress nominee Hailee Steinfeld as the young girl avenging her father’s murder. Earning 10 total nominations, FilmEdge suspects Bridges would take home his second straight statue were it not Colin Firth’s year for an Academy coronation. Likewise, TRUE GRIT has at best a third place shot at Best Picture behind the late-year critical front-runners. Our Joan lauded the Coens who “succeeded in bringing a true Western film to audiences, and it’s a masterful film.”
Building critical review steam through the end of 2010, David Fincher‘s edgy exploration of rampant ambition THE SOCIAL NETWORK has since lost some Oscar momentum as 2011 opens. Befriending 8 Academy nominations, the cautionary tale of obsessive and socially backward Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (via Best Actor nominee Jesse Eisenberg) may have a near-lock on the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Aaron Sorkin‘s pyrotechnic feat over the Coens’ laconic, lyrical script for TRUE GRIT. While the odds have wavered wildly recently between Tom Hooper and Fincher to grab Best Director honors, the Academy voters may pull one of their infamous “getting this instead of that” decisions and hand Oscar to Fincher for directing since THE KING’S SPEECH has gathered much of the late-season awards heat to emerge as a Best Picture closer. Joan evaluated the Facebook fiasco with reservations: “The best films become more than the sum of their parts. THE SOCIAL NETWORK’s parts are all very, very good. They just don’t add up to special.” Nevertheless, FilmEdge expects the voting between the two films to be close at the wire.
The tenth nominee for Best Picture, THE KING’S SPEECH, received a bounty of 12 Oscar nominations including Colin Firth as Best Actor, Helena Bonham Carter as Best Supporting Actress and Geoffrey Rush as Best Supporting Actor, all of which remain within the realm of possibility for statue success. As noted above, Firth is two days short of being anointed Best Actor for his emotionally engaging portrayal of King George VI overcoming his lifelong stammer to lead his nation on the verge of World War II. Likewise writer David Seidler may win Best Original Screenplay for forging this drama built on the most intimate and global pressures on one man to meet his fate. Scott proclaimed: “History may provide you with the answer beforehand, but watching Firth, Rush and Carter skirmish and struggle together, rushing headlong into Britain’s destiny is truly an awe-inspiring feat.” The question remains will director Tom Hooper and his THE KING’S SPEECH split their respective nominations on Sunday? There’s a good chance the Academy gives David Fincher the gold for directing THE SOCIAL NETWORK in lieu of his film earning Best Picture prominence against the more popular, uplifting personal heroism of THE KING’S SPEECH.
Comparing predictions head-to-head, FilmEdge’s staff is split on our Best Picture prognostication: Joan sides with the animated upset of TOY STORY 3 parlaying its Best Animated Feature Oscar into the top film honors for 2010, while Scott opts for late-gaining front-runner THE KING’S SPEECH to be crowned Sunday night. The odds of Woody and Buzz doubling up on golden statues are thin even if their film may be the emotional winner of the year, since BEAUTY AND THE BEAST failed to win Best Picture, prompting the Academy to create the Best Animated Feature category in 2001. Disney•Pixar’s UP was the first to span both categories but fell short of the Best Picture victory. Barring Joan’s predicted upset, the King may indeed reign at the 83rd Academy Awards airing this Sunday on ABC.