Monday Morning Critic – 1.24.2010 – Oscar Predictions & The Town

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

The big story this week is that the 2011 version of the Oscars are going to have their nominees soon. As in tomorrow, actually, and as such this entire column is going to be devoted to making predication on who will, and will not, earn nominations by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Call it:

The overly massive 2011 edition of “Kubryk’s Guide to the Oscars”

I’m not going to go into screenplay nominations, et al, because those can be all over the board. Plus the only ones people debate and discuss with any real vigor are the four acting categories, Best Picture & Director as well as Best Animated film. So I’m only going to focus on those, and as always I’ve broken them down with four distinctions underneath:

Probably: Most likely to be nominated, would be hard to think they wouldn’t be
Likely: Should be nominated but could be left off in favor of something else
Maybe: Oscar worthy but most likely to be left off the final five
Doubtful: Unless a miracle happens, don’t bank on it

Best Picture

Probably: Inception, Black Swan, The Social Network, Toy Story 3

Kubryk’s Commentary: With ten nominations in Best Picture, with everything else going in five, there’s more certainty with who probably will get on the list. Certainty in this case meaning that some genre films will get rewarded when they’d otherwise be ignored for more prestigious films, which is the point of 10 films instead of five. They still have no chance in hell, so you have to figure out who’ll get on there as filler. This isn’t about winning (yet), it’s about the nomination game.

Inception made a ton of money, received insane reviews and Chris Nolan is coming off what’s been perceived as a royal screw job for Dark Knight. If expanding the field to 10 films wasn’t a make good, then nominating this will be seen as a make good for Dark Knight to Nolan by a lot of voters. The Social Network has been sweeping nearly every other award and only an act of God will prevent this from getting nominated. Black Swan has been nominated just as many times, as well, so you can pencil this in.

Likely: True Grit, 127 Hours, The Kids Are All Right, Love and Other Drugs, The King’s Speech, The Town, The Fighter, Blue Valentine, Rabbit Hole

KC: Here’s where it gets interesting. There are a lot of good to great films that have come out this year, and a number that have gotten great reviews on the art house circuit, so with 10 nominations there’s plenty of wiggle room. Someone deserving is going to be left out and someone unexpected is going to get in, like how District 9 managed to earn a nomination a year ago. You can make a case for any of the above to be nominated but there are only 10 spots available overall and most likely four of them are already taken.

Maybe: Shutter Island, Mao’s Last Dancer, Another Year

KC: Scorsese’s thriller would normally be in the mix but it was an early 2010 release and those tend to be overlooked in most nominations. That and Scorsese has his Oscar, so the chase to win isn’t quite as big as it was six years ago. Nominating him doesn’t mean as much as it used to be, despite the fact that this was one of his biggest grossing films and got good reviews, so I’d doubt if this got a nomination. One could see an art house stalwart like Mao’s Last Dancer getting a spot out of nowhere because it’s had great reviews and great per screen averages. There’s always one film that comes out of nowhere and this has a decent chance at it. Another Year didn’t get released until this 2011 but had a qualifying run, thus putting it in play. It was on a handful of Top 10s of 2010 but didn’t get any of the exposure.

Doubtful: Frankie and Alice, Somewhere, Get Low, Casino Jack

KC: Indie film has a much tougher time with nominations now that the field is expanded, allowing for genre films to pick up a slot or two. One of these films has a slight shot at a nomination but not more than one.

Best Director

Probably: Christopher Nolan (Inception), David Fincher (The Social Network), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)

KC: Nolan is long overdue whereas Fincher and Aronofsky are the alternating choices for most critics’ organizations as winner of Best Director. Makes sense that they’d both wind up in the final five.

Likely: David O. Russell (The Fighter), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), Danny Boyle (127 Hours)

KC: Boyle might be the odd man out in this case, as Slumdog Millionaire is a recent winner. This is a case where the winner will likely be Fincher or Aronofsky, with Nolan being nominated as a makeup for being passed over for The Dark Knight. Odds are two of these three will be watching the winner picks up their trophy.

Maybe: Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3), Ben Affleck (The Town), Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island), Mike Leigh (Another Year)

KC: Toy Story 3 will probably get a Best Picture nomination but the people behind it will have a tougher time being recognized as animated story-telling is treated differently than live action. Story-telling in animated films isn’t given the same premium that it is for live action because you’re not directly working on a set, etc, and as such is viewed a bit differently. Because you’re working with voices and animators, not actors, Lee Unkrich will probably on the outside looking in despite being the auteur behind one of the best reviewed films of the year (and the biggest grossing animated film ever). Affleck got rave reviews for his second crime flick but, much like Gone Baby Gone, hasn’t been mentioned with the contenders in the meaningful awards. That’s normally not a good sign. Scorsese is never out of the mix but it would be a surprise if he snagged another nomination considering Shutter Island was released earlier in the year. Scorsese may be unforgettable but sometimes even his films can be overlooked.

Doubtful: Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are Alright)

KC: Both films will probably be given a Best Picture nomination but will be on the outside looking in for Best Director.

Best Actor

Probably: Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), James Franco (127 Hours)

KC: Firth and Eisenberg seem mortal locks and Franco’s not far behind either. The winner will be probably one of these three so it makes sense that they’re all the front runners for nominations.

Likely: Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter), Leonardo DiCaprio (Shutter Island / Inception), Aaron Eckhardt (Rabbit Hole), Robert Duvall (Get Low), Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Aaron Eckhardt (Rabbit Hole)

KC: You can almost call this category the “Mel Gibson lost his marbles again so someone gets his spot” because without it he’d be up in “Probably” for his role in The Beaver if the buzz holds up. Lot of talent here, too, as Wahlberg will be a solid choice but the Golden Globes love for The Fighter might be the same kind of love it had for Dreamgirls. DiCaprio has two great roles that might cancel each other out. Duvall and Bardem have the same dilemma: neither of them has been seen by as many audiences as the first three. Eckhardt, too.

Maybe: Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine), Stephen Dorff (Somewhere), Paul Giamiatti (Barney’s Version), Jake Gyllenhaal (Love and Other Drugs), Michael Nyqvist (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Ryan Reynolds (Buried), Jim Carrey (I Love You Phillip Morris), Jim Broadbent (Another Year)

KC: Reynolds would normally be likely to be nominated but he’s been overshadowed by Franco doing a similar character in a similar predicament in a better film. Everyone else just is good in a year with a lot of great.

Doubtful: Kevin Spacey (Casino Jack), Sean Penn (Fair Game), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), George Clooney (The American), Ben Affleck (The Town), Vincent Cassel (Mesrine), Michael Douglas (Solitary Man)

KC: Everyone but Cassel on this last has an Oscar win already (Affleck for writing, albeit) and while this isn’t a loaded category there aren’t any weak performances to create wiggle room. As such, usually past winners have a tougher time getting nominated. Cassel should be nominated for Mesrine but will most likely get it for Black Swan. Same with Douglas and the Wall Street sequel.

Best Actress

Probably: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

KC: Considering this is the most stacked category in the Oscars, with some who won’t be nominated likely able to win in other years, there’s only one thing that’s close to being a guarantee: Natalie Portman will be nominated and is (presumably) the front-runner to win.

Likely: Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Annette Benning (The Kids Are Alright), Halle Berry (Frankie and Alice), Leslie Manville (Another Year), Carey Mulligan (Never Let Me Go), Michelle Wiliams (Blue Valentine), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Tilda Swinton (I Am Love)

KC: This is where the fun begins, I think, because my guess is that the four remaining nominees will come out of this pool. In many years any of these could probably be a front runner to win but 2010 was a great year for female performances, perhaps one of the best in quite some time. And maybe the winner will come out of this group, too, as Portman is a near lock to win but there are never any guarantees at the Oscars.

Maybe: Hilary Swank (Conviction), Julianne Moore (The Kids are Alright), Naomi Watts (Fair Game)

KC: In any normal year one of these three would be nominated, but this is an insane year for Best Actress. Swank has a pair of Oscars and the Academy rarely nominates multiple winners again unless it’s ridiculous not to. And even then it sometimes doesn’t, like Nicholson in The Departed. Despite being in a total Oscar bait film, and being really good in it, it’ll most likely be easy for those voting to leave her off the top five despite a worthy performance. Watts is in a politically charged film and the Academy has been running away from those as of late whereas Moore will be overshadowed by being in the same film as Benning. There isn’t enough room for both this year and Benning will probably get the nod. Moore might wind up in the “Supporting” category when all is said and done, so don’t be shocked if she falls there.

Doubtful: Anne Hathaway (Love and Other Drugs), Emma Stone (Easy A), Diane Lane (Secretariat)

KC: A year ago Lane would’ve been in the same boat as Sandra Bullock had in The Blind Side but sentimentality only goes so far this year. There are so many brilliant performances out there that any notions of rewarding someone’s career instead of their performance are probably going to be thrown out the window.

This is a category where those who get left off could have won in most normal years and as such quirky performances in comedies that stand out will most likely wind up being rewarded with box office grosses and not awards. Stone and Hathaway would be quirky, offbeat choices but comedy roles generally don’t move the Academy and won’t with the depth of talent available this year.

Best Supporting Actor

Probably: Christian Bale (The Fighter)

KC: Bale is in the lead for this and unless he has another Terminator style meltdown it’s hard to see him not be nominated.

Likely: Michael Douglas (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Andrew Garfield (The Social Network / Never Let Me Go), Justin Timberlake (The Social Network), Vincent Cassel (Black Swan), Sam Rockwell (Conviction), Jeremy Renner (The Town)

KC: This is where this category gets to be fun. Cassel and Douglas seem like locks, normally, but Supporting Actor is where the Academy does funny things sometimes. Garfield seems like the likely candidate but Timberlake was extraordinary in that film as well. Both could be nominated and both could cancel each other out, too, and Garfield has a double whammy of being in a second prestige film that could pull votes away from him. Rockwell is a great choice, especially after being passed for Moon a year ago. Renner lost a year ago in Best Actor so the desire for the Academy to try and make good could come into play.

Maybe: Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech), Matt Damon (True Grit), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are Alright)

KC: This is the category of guys who’ll probably leap ahead of Garfield or Timberlake if voters decide to nominate only one of them. The likely candidate would be Rush, as The King’s Speech is a bit more of an Oscar flick than a gritty western and the ladies are focused on more in Ruffalo’s case. When in doubt, always go for the film that’ll appeal to voters’ sensibilities (or the Holocaust film). And the voters tend to skew towards biopics with names attached to them.

Doubtful: Ned Beatty (Toy Story 3)

KC: If the Academy really wanted to send a statement that animation matters, this would be it. Beatty made that film something more than just an animated film. He gave it something deeper. A brilliant voice performance like this will eventually get its due from the Academy, probably right after a good comedic one.

Best Supporting Actress

Probably: Amy Adams (The Fighter), Melissa Leo, (The Fighter), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Leslie Manville (Another Year)

KC: The buzz has been strong for both of the supporting ladies in The Fighter and it wouldn’t be all surprising if it ends up like Up in the Air with two nominations. Steinfeld carries the Coens’ film in a lead role but everywhere is putting her in Supporting, probably due to the strong field in Best Actress. Manville was powerful in Mike Leigh’s film but could be hurt by not being in front of as many eyeballs as the others.

Likely: Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)

KC: Kunis makes for a potentially interesting nomination, as she could potentially step over Adams and Leo if voters split on them. Weird to think that Jackee from That ‘70s Show could be an Academy Award winner but who’d have thought the star of Booty Call (Jamie Foxx) would catapult to one of Hollywood’s top leading men after a biopic? Black Swan has such a strong buzz that it could elevate everyone in it who isn’t Natalie Portman.

Maybe: Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom), Keira Knightley (Never Let Me Go)

KC: Great performance but Animal Kingdom was ignored at the box office. Those kinds of things tend to matter sometimes as awareness is a big to do. Knightley has been a stalwart of period pieces so she might get a nomination for having a great performance without having to dress up. Stranger things have happened.

Doubtful: Thekla Reuten (The American)

KC: A Marissa Tomei type of nomination if it happens, and I’m talking My Cousin Vinny instead of The Wrestler.

Best Animated Film

Probably: Toy Story 3, Despicable Me, The Illusionist

KC: The third film has been getting buzz but not the big pomp and circumstance of the other two. Toy Story 3 is a mortal lock to win this category; it’s a matter of figuring out who else gets nominated alongside it.

The Rest: Tangled, Megamind, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Alpha & Omega, How to Train Your Dragon, Shrek Forever After

KC: Call this the “happy to be here” category as everyone from here should be happy to get a nomination and honorably lose to Toy Story 3.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – The Town

Since this is a potential Oscar nominated film, and I hadn’t seen it since its run in theatres, I figured why not tackle this on DVD again. Sometimes a film can elevate itself on DVD because you miss things you didn’t see the first time. That’s the beauty of watching it at home, where you can watch it a handful of times and pause & rewind as necessary. In the case of The Town it was unnecessary. Why?

Because it’s still a great film … not a masterpiece, nor will it be the crime equivalent of something like Goodfellas, but it’s in that second tier of crime films that are excellent films but just miss that final gear to take into overdrive.

It’s a fairly simple story. Doug (Affleck) is the ring leader of a first rate crew of bank robbers. With his childhood best friend Jem (Jeremy Renner) and two other guys named “Cannon” and “Fodder,” they take down armored cars and banks in meticulously planned ways. When one robbery leads to them taking a hostage (Rebecca Hall) and earns them a pit bull FBI agent on their tale (Jon Hamm), this is essentially the Boston version of HEAT.

Based off the novel “Prince of Thieves,” Ben Affleck is showing off some brilliant directorial chops so far. Clint Eastwood might be the easy comparison, the leading actor turned director being the easier storyline, I think a better comparison in terms of style would be to Michael Mann of the aforementioned HEAT. He does many things similar to Mann as a director, like Peter Berg but without the need to shake the camera every five seconds. So far he’s 2 for 2 when it comes to making enjoyable, great films and the next one is the big decider.

Is he like Jason Reitman, who followed up Thank you for Smoking and Juno with Up in the Air, or is he going to follow it up with a Brett Ratner escapade of crap? I would lean towards the former but Justin Lin was once the next great director after Better Luck Tomorrow and the best we’ve gotten from him is Annapolis. I expect more from Affleck since he is a big star and has the ability to pick and choose what he directs.

Strong recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

The Mechanic – Jason Statham is a hitman who takes on a protégé (Ben Foster) when his handler is killed.

See It – A remake of a great Charles Bronson flick, Statham rarely disappoints.

The Rite – Some guy gives Anthony Hopkins an exorcism.

Skip It – Anthony Hopkins, however, does disappoint. Constantly. Don’t expect much out of this.

Biutiful – Javier Bardem is dying and has to set things up for his kids.

See It – Bardem has been getting massive amounts of publicity and awards hype for this, so if anything it merits a watch just to see if it lives up to the hype.

From Prada to Nada – The Hispanic version of “Sense and Sensibility.”

Skip It – Didn’t we see this with the Duff sisters already in Material Girls?

Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster – The dude who taught Bruce Lee how to kick ass is back. More ass is out there that needs kicking and he’s the man to do it, apparently.

See It – The first one has been raved over by everyone I know, can’t see why this would disappoint.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at Kubryk@Insidepulse.com and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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