So you’ve received your invitation to your local Oscar party but can’t decide which winners to pick for your ballot contest? FilmEdge peels back our envelopes for a peek at who we think will walk away with the gold on Sunday night. Our walk down the red carpet predicts winners for every category from Best Picture to behind-the-scenes arts and technical trophies. Plus we recap our Best Picture reviews from the year to compare the 10 nominated films head-to-head for the big award of the night. Get your ballots ready to mark and welcome to the FilmEdge 2011 Academy Awards prediction preview.
Staff reviewer Joan Radell and FE owner Scott Weitz compare and contrast our predictions below with relevant comments on our picks when we split decisions:
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
* Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
* Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
* Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
* Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”
* James Franco in “127 Hours”
JR: With the royal wedding just weeks off, we’re all about the Royals. After not winning for “A Single Man,” Firth can rest easy this year and write a lovely speech.
SW: Colin Firth won’t be crowned simply because he’s due and has been overlooked before. His performance carried “The King’s Speech” and showed the humanity fighting to emerge from under the pressure of his royal destiny. Had this performance not arisen from 2010, I suspect Jeff Bridges would have repeated as Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit.”
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
* Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
* John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
* Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
* Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
* Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”
Consensus pick: emaciated Bale is a lock and unstoppable force in the category.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
* Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
* Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
* Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone” – JR
* Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” – SW
* Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”
JR: I am the only reviewer I know who thought Natalie Portman fell terribly short in “Black Swan.” She will win, but my vote sticks with Jennifer Lawrence. I felt Bening was in “look at me, I can pretend to be a lesbian” mode in “The Kids Are All Right.”
SW: Agreed about Bening specifically and Portman generally. Natalie’s awards season has been a steamroller of momentum and nothing will stop her from winning for Best Actress, if not accepting it in person due to her pregnancy.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLL
* Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
* Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
* Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
* Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
* Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”
Consensus pick: Leo is a lock in her category with too much momentum to allow anything but the greatest upset.
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
* “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
* “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
* “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich
JR: Best movie of the year.
SW: Since no film has won for both Best Animated Feature and Best Picture, “Toy Story 3” should be a lock here.
* “Alice in Wonderland”
Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
* “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
* “Inception” Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat – SW
* “The King’s Speech”
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
* “True Grit” Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh – JR
JR: How do you compare the beauty of a fantasy, of a dream, of a palace, and of the old American West? By looking for seamlessness. By looking for details. Nobody does details better than the Coens. The sets in this film looked transported in time.
SW: This is a tough prediction given the array of wildly different films in the category. My pick splits the difference between environments which existed in our past and those which never existed. “Inception” had the toughest job to blend both in flawless fashion to maintain an illusion crucial to the film’s conceptual success.
* “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique – JR
* “Inception” Wally Pfister
* “The King’s Speech” Danny Cohen
* “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
* “True Grit” Roger Deakins – SW
JR: The camera work necessary to make Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis appear to be real ballerinas must have been exhausting. Although “Inception” was visually immersive, so much was CGI that I have to give a nod to live-action work. I also liked the camera work in “The Social Network,” but again, I wonder how much of that was editing?It’s very hard to film a stage production and preserve the intimacy theater provides seen in “Black Swan”.
SW: Libatique is a fine cinematographer with awards in his future, but Deakins’ eight previous losses in the category (including a rare 2008 standoff against himself for two nominated films) makes the brilliant DP due if there ever was such a deserving nominee. Wally Pfister might steal the Oscar for his brain-spinning spectacle, but Deakins’ photography kept “True Grit” an intimate, human story sprawling across unforgiving landscapes.
* “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood – SW
* “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi – JR
* “The King’s Speech” Jenny Beavan
* “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
* “True Grit” Mary Zophres
JR: This movie is all about the fashion, and it’s spectacular.
SW: “Alice” appeared to me as the toughest costuming assignment of the five films, literally defining the characters by how they looked and dressed throughout the film while tweaking fantasy and reality with detailed artistry. Jenny Beavan might take it for the typical ‘costume drama’ vote the Academy often bestows in this category, but I’m picking Atwood.
* “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
* “The Fighter” David O. Russell
* “The King’s Speech” Tom Hooper
* “The Social Network” David Fincher – SW
* “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – JR
JR: In all honesty, I think Fincher is going to take this. The film is very well crafted and it shows a real vision. But if considering a director’s work includes the question “Does the film feel like more than the sum of a series of scenes,” I am not sure that I can answer “yes” about “The Social Network.” I honestly felt I could SMELL the characters in “True Grit” onscreen. Maybe it was the guy next to me. I cannot vote against them. I just can’t do it.
SW: While I wasn’t as impressed with Fincher’s film, I suspect he will take away Best Director recognition both for his career largely overlooked by the Academy (only one nomination two years ago) and as ‘compensation’ for”The King’s Speech” likely being crowned Best Picture over “The Social Network,” a technically superb but less likable movie.
* “Exit Through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
* “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
* “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs – SW
* “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger – JR
* “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley
JR: I sobbed through most of this.
SW: While “Exit through the Gift Shop” got a lot of buzz, I’m guessing the film about financial meltdown takes the award on timely relevance while riding the wave of cultural and political zeitgeist.
DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
* “Killing in the Name” Jed Rothstein – SW
* “Poster Girl” Sara Nesson and Mitchell W. Block
* “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon – JR
* “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
* “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon
JR: I’ll pick this one on the basis of subject matter only: kids in Israel.
SW: And I’m selecting my pick based on the theme of terrorism and those confronting it on a personal level.
* “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
* “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
* “The King’s Speech” Tariq Anwar
* “127 Hours” Jon Harris
* “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
Consensus pick: much of the film’s palpable, kinetic energy and tension arose from Wall and Baxter’s editing work.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
* “Biutiful” Mexico
* “Dogtooth” Greece
* “In a Better World” Denmark
* “Incendies” Canada
* “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria
Consensus pick: though there may be some momentum for Canada’s entry in the category. Academy voters might consider an award here as reward extended to Javier Bardem who won’t win for Best Actor.
* “Barney’s Version” Adrien Morot
* “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng – JR
* “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey – SW
JR: It would be nice to see a winner that’s not about aliens or monsters. And it’s an inspiring story.
SW: Only one ‘typical’ nomination in this category, which is refreshing and good to see. But given the actual artistry Baker and Elsey used to create their creature atop the visage of Benicio Del Toro, they get my pick as a nod to the legacy of Jack Pierce.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
* “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
* “Inception” Hans Zimmer
* “The King’s Speech” Alexandre Desplat – JR
* “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
* “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – SW
JR: Desplat was true to the “authentic as possible” mantra, using vintage equipment and recordings to score the film. An amazing piece of work.
SW: Since summer, I considered Zimmer’s “Inception” score as the most iconic of the year, but Reznor and Ross hardwired the vibe of “The Social Network” directly into audiences ears. Plus, theirs is an example of 21st century scoring which the younger strata of the Academy have trended to reward in recent years. I pick them to continue to trend.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
* “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
* “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
* “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
* “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3″ Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
Consensus pick: while “Country Strong” centered on music, it’s tough to buck Academy history and bet against Newman’s tear-inspiring tune for the Disney•Pixar fable about toys and children growing older.
* “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
* “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
* “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
* “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
* “The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers – SW
* “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
* “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
* “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer – JR
* “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
* “Winter’s Bone” Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers
JR: By far, the best picture of the year. But can it win? I think it can.
SW: The Academy will reward the toys with Best Animated Feature but the king will reign overall, beating out contending Facebook film for top honors.
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
* “Day & Night” Teddy Newton
* “The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
* “Let’s Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
* “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
* “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois
Consensus pick: the imaginative 3D short which opened for “Toy Story 3” continues the sweep in animation categories.
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
* “The Confession” Tanel Toom
* “The Crush” Michael Creagh – JR
* “God of Love” Luke Matheny
* “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt – SW
* “Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite
JR: From the descriptions, I choose “The Crush.”
SW: Likewise I admit I haven’t seen the nominees, but opt for “Na Wewe.”
* “Inception” Richard King
* “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
* “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
* “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
* “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger
JR: One thing I remember vividly from “Inception” is the sound of the top spinning on the table. I remember wondering just how they got that perfect sound. Stuff like that sticks with you.
SW: Normally I would have picked “Tron:Legacy” to sweep these technical categories with its totally created visions and sounds, but since the Academy virtually snubbed Disney’s sci-fi sequel, voter ‘bias’ against the film seems likely to rob it from the gold. “Inception” seamlessly integrated sound and visual design to make its illusion as convincing as it was perplexing.
* “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
* “The King’s Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley – JR
* “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
* “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten – SW
* “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
JR: The sound of “The King’s Speech” overall really transports you to another era.
SW: Similar to my pick for Best Original Score and Editing, Sound Mixing is the third rail of this cinematically kinetic triangle for “The Social Network.” Were I to hedge my bet, “Inception” might steal this one.
* “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
* “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
* “Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojansky and Joe Farrell
* “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
* “Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick
Consensus pick: tough competition in this category, but “Inception” offered more of what visual effects haven’t provided before in sheer terms of storytelling. Willing to bet you remember more iconic visions from Nolan’s film than the other four.
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
* “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
* “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
* “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
* “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
* “Winter’s Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini
Consensus pick. JR – Aaron Sorkin manages to stay fresh and witty and so so fast without too much talk-and-walk. What hit me about the dialog in “The Social Network” was that the college kids sounded just like the college kids I know. It’s just so authentic. SW – A script unto itself among its category peers which contributed the most impact to its film.
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
* “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
* “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
* “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
* “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
* “The King’s Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler
Consensus pick: “The Fighter” captured a fight-town cultural voice with transcendent effect, “Inception” created a fascinating puzzle which actually required viewers to extend attention spans, but Seidler’s humanist blend of history both personal and public raised audiences up out of their seats and lives to join the lonely battle with fear and triumph over it.
These are FilmEdge’s 2011 Oscar predictions over the entire ballot this year, and we hope our picks help you make yours either for fun or for victory at your local viewing party Sunday night. If you haven’t read it already, be sure to check out our FilmEdge blog recapping our reviews and opinions on all ten Best Picture nominees this year, elaborating on our reasons for the picks in that category listed above. Enjoy the award festivities, and we’ll see you in theaters as 2011 sets its own course for cinematic excellence.