2011 Oscar Roundtable

Features, Roundtables, Top Story

One of the things we as a staff always like to do is speculate on who will and will not win the almighty Oscar.  As such, we’ve all decided to get together and tabulate our picks.  Enjoy!

Best Picture

The Nominees – 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit , Winter’s Bone

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz – This is fairly cut and dry based on the pre-Oscar build up. The King’s Speech has been sweeping nearly everything it touches, has the right amount of nominations and is the sort of film the Academy likes to honor. So it seems that it would be the favorite and seemingly untouchable in riding the wave of hype to a win. But there’s a problem; there are plenty of films who had that same wave and ended up losing. When the nominations were announced, the biggest shock to me was that the Coens got nominated for True Grit in the directing category over what seemed more likely in Christopher Nolan. That looms large as usually winners for Best Picture have their director nominated as well. If Speech doesn’t take the Oscar, look for True Grit.

Travis Leamons: For someone to say that the nominees for Best Picture of the Year are underwhelming would not be an understatement. It’s not that any of the ten nominees are particularly bad; it’s just that having ten nominees seems to only cater to those who enjoy lists (like a Top 10, for example). By having ten nominees it only dilutes the chances of dark horse picks. Which is why The King’s Speech is the clear-cut favorite to win. The Social Network may have won handily in the different critics organizations, but it is Speech that has grown to be this unstoppable force, getting lots of acclaim from the different guilds – particularly the Producers Guild. Remember, the best picture is awarded to the producers after all.

Jenny Rushing Alme – 127 Hours – It’s unfortunate that Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours is unlikely to take home the gold statue on Oscar night. This film is my personal favorite of the 10 films nominated, and I feel it’s the most deserving. It’s an excruciating story of survival, the ultimate battle of man vs. nature. 127 Hours is the true story of Aron Ralston (played by James Franco), an outdoor enthusiast who finds himself literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. The majority of the action takes place while Ralston is stuck in one place, and yet the film is riveting, unrelenting, and not for the squeamish. Emphasized by a soaring score by A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire), 127 Hours is a perfect film from start to finish.

Brendan Campbell: A majority of the film critics in North America have chosen The Social Network as the best picture of 2010, and if I had to predict if it will win at the Oscars (and I do) I’d have to say, yes, it will. Do I agree with that decision? No. I’d definitely place The Social Network in my top ten list of last year; however, I still feel that fellow nominees Black Swan and Inception are superior films. Of course, with the Academy snubbing Christopher Nolan in the directing category, I strongly believe that Inception wouldn’t have even made the cut in this category had it been only five nominees. That being said, out of the possible contenders that still have a chance, who do I want to win? Black Swan. Who will win? The Social Network.

Robert Saucedo: As much as I’d like to see The Social Network take home the award on Sunday, it seems like a forgone conclusion at the point that The King’s Speech will walk away with the award. While there’s no denying that The King’s Speech is a great film and a definite crowd pleaser, it’s a shame that The Social Network — a film that will be seen as much more important to the world of cinema as time progresses — is being stampeded by the momentum of The King’s Speech. A crazy scenario that’s not too far out of the realm of possibilities would be votes being split between The King’s Speech and The Social Network — leaving True Grit giving the Coen Brothers their second Oscar. I wouldn’t put any money on that scenario, though. The King’s Speech will win on Sunday.

Joe Corey: True Grit. I’m going for the wide open upset. The King’s Speech is about the man who got Rupert Murdoch’s dad to speak better and thus insure us of some of the worst reality TV shows of our lifetime. Social Network bored me. A bunch of [Joe Coreys] fighting over a website? Blah. I’m thinking Academy Members are going to want to pay tribute to the Western.

Mike Noyes: Having seen 8 of the 10 nominees my choice goes hands down to Inception. This was my absolute favorite film of the year. Nolan managed to make an intelligent, thought provoking blockbuster. Again, I think I’d be happy to see anyone win here, accept The Social Network. I don’t think it was bad film, it just wasn’t all that great.

Best Director

The Nominees – Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Ethan Coen and Joel Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), David O. Russell (The Fighter)

Sawitz: This is where it gets interesting. In most normal years Tom Hooper would be the favorite to win because of how overwhelming the hype for The King’s Speech is. And he does have this year’s Director’s Guild award to show for it and usually it matches up with the Oscar winner. But not always, as Ang Lee won in the DGA for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Soderbergh for Traffic in the last time the DGA and Academy split. My guess is that the Academy awards Fincher the Best Director as consolation for not getting Best Picture, but the vote could split and let in someone like Aronofsky for the win.

Leamons: This year’s Best Director race may be the most loaded one since 2001. That was the year that had Robert Altman, Peter Jackson, David Lynch, Ridley Scott, and Ron Howard vying for Oscar. This race also bears a striking similarity to 2008 when comparing the nominees. You see four of the five names listed and you know that they belong there. It’s the fifth name that makes you wonder. Not surprisingly, both 2008 and 2010 were years where Christopher Nolan was passed over by the Academy. But I won’t cry over spilt milk. While my gut wants me to go with Darren Aronofsky, who expertly directed Black Swan (or as he calls it a “were-swan movie”), this race will again be decided by The King’s Speech and The Social Network. In the past decade Best Picture and Best Director have split and that could be the case this year. But some in the Academy might take offense to Fincher’s multiple-take directing style and favor Tom Hopper and his more traditional directing style. So while Fincher may have been given kudos from the Director’s Guild, I’m going with Tom Hopper.

Alme: Darren Aronofsky – This is probably a pipe dream of mine, but I would love to see Darren Aronofsky onstage accepting an Oscar. This Oscar could easily go to any of the directors nominated; they’re all very deserving this year. This is the first nomination for David O. Russell, Tom Hooper, and Darren Aronofsky. David Fincher is underappreciated by the Academy as well, his only nomination was for the silly The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The Coen Brothers have had many days in the Oscar spotlight, but True Grit is a very good film. I would be happy with either of these directors getting the Oscar, Aronofsky is just my personal favorite to win.

Campbell: While the Academy would like to be seen as a group that has taken strides forward in recent years to recognize more mainstream films that aren’t just box-office blockbusters, but also great films in general, that’s just not the case. The lack of Nolan being recognized in this category just proves that they’re really just giving the impression that they’re making any changes in their views, just as they did in 2009 when they failed to nominate The Dark Knight. Sure they’ve since raised the number of Best Picture nominees to ten, but that’s only so they can toss in a few of the hits to say, “See, we recognized them, now let’s focus on our real contenders.” Regardless, the directors that were chosen are obviously fantastic at what they do, and their work was worthy of recognition, with that being said, I’d say that my choice for who should win the award would be Darren Aronofsky. His work on Black Swan was beautiful, mesmerizing and really helped catapult the film, and Portman, to the levels they’ve both achieved. Who will win? David Fincher.

Saucedo: Once again, momentum gained by The King’s Speech in recent weeks will mean this is another category that will be wrongfully stampeded. Tom Hooper will win an Academy Award for his work on The King’s Speech — despite the fact that out of the five directors nominated, Hooper may be one of the least deserving. He made a fine film but, when seen in the same light as the other movies being recognized this year, The King’s Speech just seems too vanilla. This is a category I’d love to be proven wrong in.

Corey: David O Russell The Fighter – Everyone keeps praising David Fincher for restraining himself and just letting actors spew out the dialogue. He should reject the award if he wins. Russell gets the underdog victory.

Noyes: Finally, a category in which I’ve seen all the films! This is one of the best selections of directors I’ve seen at the Oscars in a long time. Yet they still somehow found a way to once again rob Christopher Nolan of a nomination. As Nolan can’t be my pick I’ll go with Darren Aronofsky, however I’d be happy if just about anyone one. Well, anyone but The Social Network.

Best Actor

The Nominees – Javier Bardem ( Biutiful), Jeff Bridges ( True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg ( The Social Network), Colin Firth ( The King’s Speech), James Franco (127 Hours)

Sawitz: Firth is the overwhelming favorite here and I don’t see anyone else winning. However things are funny in that sometimes the overwhelming favorite loses out ala Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls not so long ago. Firth was extraordinary in this film and seems to have the right role in the right film at the right time, especially coming off a couple nominations over the past couple years. The stars seemingly have aligned for him as the sentimental pick (Bridges) won last year and only twice has an actor won Oscars in two successive years. Bardem is a winner, as well, and there are two newcomers flanking them. It just feels right that Firth would win but crazier things have happened. If it’s not Firth it’ll end up being Eisenberg due to the success of The Social Network, I think, but it’s hard to imagine Firth not walking away with an Oscar here. The Pick: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)

Leamons: Though I think Javier Bardem and James Franco did more with their performances without having the least amount of assistance from a supporting cast, it is clear that Colin Firth will win this award. For one, he got nominated last year for A Single Man, so already he’s in the running for the “Russell Crowe Academy Makeup Award” (as some will recall, Crowe was nominated for Michael Mann’s The Insider, but won the following year for Gladiator). But Firth is totally deserving of Best Actor. His performance as stuttering King George VI hits all the right notes. He plays a man of nobility who has a disability. Oscar voters love a performance where the character has to overcome some kind of disability. And because he doesn’t go “full retard” in his performance he is a venerable lock.

Alme: James Franco – There are only three actors nominated for this award that I think are deserving. Javier Bardem’s performance in Biutiful is the glue that holds that film together. Colin Firth nailed his stutter to play King George VI, making what could be a potentially boring film into a great one. But James Franco’s performance in 127 Hours is the one that stands out for me. In those hours that he spends trapped in a canyon by himself, dehydrated, starving, and in enormous physical pain, we also learn everything we need to know about his life. He confesses his sins, his regrets, and his dreams to his digital camera. He carries the film on his shoulders.

Campbell: In all honesty, I’ve yet to see The King’s Speech, or 127 Hours. I do, however, recognize the great variety of actors chosen in this category, and believe that whoever wins will be worthy of the award. James Franco is supposedly great in the film; however, I just don’t see him taking this award. If I had to place a bet, I’d put my money on Colin Firth for The King’s Speech. I have no doubt once I finish seeing all these films in the next month or so, that I’ll appreciate each nominee, and their work, it’s just that Firth has the same kind of momentum going into this year that Jeff Bridges and had last year. Then again, look at the momentum Mickey Rourke had going in 2009, and Sean Penn took home that award. Still, I’ll stick with my gut on this one, and when asked who will win? I’ll say, Colin Firth.

Saucedo: New verse, same as the first. Colin Firth will this category for his work as Prince Albert in The King’s Speech. The only difference is, I have no problem with Firth winning this category. His work was top-notch and the biggest heavy lifting seen by the actors nominated this year. Firth’s work deserves to be recognized and I’m more than happy to forecast his win this year.

Corey: James Franco 127 Hours – as a tribute to Dick Clark’s “If you host the show, you get hardware” rule.

Noyes: I’d really like to see Colin Firth land this one. He’s an amazing actor and this is easily the best performance of his career. Jeff Bridges was amazing and Eisneberg was pretty good too, but both pale in comparison to Firth. Sadly I haven’t seen Biutiful or 127 Hours yet so I can’t weigh in on those.

Best Actress

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

Sawitz: This is a stacked category but this is Portman’s to lose. Benning would be the next candidate, I imagine, because she is nominated and … well … Hilary Swank isn’t. That would be more sentiment for Benning than performance, which might leave someone like Jennifer Lawrence walking away if the vote splits.

Leamons: From the moment I saw Natalie Portman in Black Swan, I knew she was the odds on favorite to not only be nominated for Best Actress but to also win. Mentally breaking down as the film progresses and also performing ballet makes for a commanding performance. But if Nicole Kidman were somehow able to surprise everyone and win for Rabbit Hole it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Her performance is so nuanced in the way we’ve seen grief depicted on screen. The scene where she questions God’s need to take a life to create another angel is a showcase scene for her and could see her win gold again.

Alme: Natalie Portman – While I’m glad that Jennifer Lawrence was recognized for Winter’s Bone, and that Michelle Williams was recognized for Blue Valentine, I would be surprised if either of the two actresses won the Oscar. This race is between Annette Bening and Natalie Portman. The Kids Are All Right is more of an ensemble piece though and Annette Bening and Julianne Moore had the same amount of screen time. This award belongs to Portman for her shocking, stunning turn as a tortured ballerina in Black Swan.

Campbell: This is without a doubt the easiest choice of any award at the show, and that’s including Best Animated Film category. Natalie Portman has this award in the bag, and I wonder if that makes it easier for her fellow nominees, in that they don’t have to be strung out all night wondering if they’re going to win (well, at least for ten minutes, since the award is presented so early in the evening.) Her performance in Black Swan was so fantastic, it may be the performance of her entire career, both past and future. Regardless, this young woman will be seen a lot more in 2011, with multiple films on the horizon, and once she returns from her leave of absence due to pregnancy, her stock will be so high that Hollywood will be her oyster. Yes, this is one Best Actress winner who will not fade into oblivion after winning, like various past winners, as she’s just hitting her stride now, and definitely has much more to offer, which means only good things for moviegoers. Who will win? Natalie Portman.

Saucedo: Natalie Portman seems to have this category locked. As with Firth, Portman’s role had the heaviest lifting when it came to emotional baggage. Her transformation — both physical and mental — was flashy enough for voters to take notice, overshadowing the rest of the nominees in this category.

Corey: Annette Bening The Kids Are All Right – they’ve been wanting to get her an Oscar to go with hubby’s golden men. Natalie Portman will lose since she’s make a bunch of dumb films in a row. Do you really want “Thor” sold with Oscar cred?

Noyes: Having only seen two films in this category I don’t feel puts me at a disadvantage. Natalie Portman was so amazing in Black Swan that I don’t see how this could go to anyone else. Bening was good, but not great.

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees –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)

Sawitz: Bet the mortgage on Christian Bale and don’t look back.

Leamons: The year I first started taking a serious interest in the Supporting Actor category was in 1995 when Kevin Spacey won for The Usual Suspects. And in the years since then there’s been no shortage of great supporting performances, some of which that are even superior to the main leads themselves. Like the previous three years, this category has been easy to predict, what with standout performances by the likes of Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds). I really like all the nominees, but Christian Bale’s performance as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter is something to behold. The actor has gone through so many physical transformations over the last ten years it’s scary. From rock-hard abs in American Psycho to The Machinist – where he dropped from 182 lbs. to 120 lbs. for the role – he has shown a commitment to his craft. Though I think many make a big deal about his weight loss and overlook the performance. Essentially, his character is a screw-up that has the best intentions for his younger brother Micky. Don’t we all.

Alme: Christian Bale – For me, the competition for the Best Supporting Actor award is between Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush. Both of them brought so much to their films, but I think that Christian Bale will walk away with the golden statue on Oscar night. He’s known for transforming himself for his roles. Just like with The Machinist, he is nearly unrecognizable in The Fighter. His performance is outstanding and worthy of the Oscar.

Campbell: Reading my above statement, you’ll know that I have yet to see The Fighter, or The King’s Speech, and while I’ll catch up on these films in March, I will go above and say that Christian Bale will take home this award. While certain categories don’t always reflect previous award shows, this is one that usually has its eye on someone, and rides them to the finish line. Luckily for Bale, he’s that horse. As an actor who has played all types of roles, most to perfection, it’s amazing that he hasn’t won an Oscar as of yet. While his competition are all worthy, Bale will take this one home, and as his star continues to rise (just as The Dark Knight will in 2012!) this may just be the first of what should be a very crowded display case by the time he hangs up his acting cowl. Who will win? Christian Bale.

Saucedo: I can’t imagine Christian Bale didn’t feel some level of jealousy when his Dark Knight co-star Heath Ledger got all the attention and took home an Oscar a few years ago. He shouldn’t feel too bad, though — he’s likely to take home his very own statue for his work in The Fighter. As Dicky Eklund, Bale completely transformed himself to play a drugged-out, washed-up ex-boxer. The hard work will pay off when he’s clutching gold on Sunday.

Corey: Christian Bale The Fighter – cause he’s Batman. Also actors respect a man willing to tear McG and his punk cameraman a new one for running the mood.

Noyes: I haven’t seen Winter’s Bone or The Town, but of the other ones, this goes to Christian Bale, no contest. For an actor known for completely losing himself in a roll, he somehow managed to top himself. Rush did what he does best and was fun to watch and Ruffalo was at the top of his game as well, but neither comes close to what Bale achieved.

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees – Amy Adams (The Fighter) Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech ), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Sawitz: Any time you have two people in the same category for the same people odds are they’ll cancel each other out. I’d be genuinely shocked if Adams or Leo walked away with an Oscar. Not many people saw Weaver’s brilliance, leaving it to Steinfeld or Carter. Speech has more momentum going in and that should be able to garner her a trophy. Steinfeld wouldn’t be all that shocking, though.

Leamons: The Supporting Actress category is one that can go any number of ways. There are three leading candidates for this year: Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech, Melissa Leo in The Fighter and Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit. All are worthy of winning; it’s just a shame that there can be only one victor. In the case of The Fighter, the film was dominated by the supporting work, specifically Leo and Bale. The King’s Speech covers all acting accolades except for Best Actress. But in the case of Haille Steinfeld, studio politics have prevented her from being in the category she belongs in, the Best Actress race. At the tender age of fourteen she shows tenacity in her depiction of Mattie Ross, a teenage girl looking to avenge the death of her father. Whether she’s word sparring with a shopkeeper or with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (as played by Matt Damon), Steinfeld is able to hold her own. If she does win, which I think she will, she’ll be in select company as the third youngest supporting actress to win the award (Anna Paquin was eleven when she won for The Piano and Tatum O’Neal was ten when she won for Paper Moon).

Alme: Melissa Leo – There was much debate about Hailee Steinfeld and if her performance should be recognized as Best Actress or Best Supporting. While she was amazing in True Grit, I think that being nominated for Best Supporting Actress hurts her chances even more. Especially when put up against the one two punch (it’s a pun!) of Amy Adams and Melissa Leo in The Fighter. Melissa Leo’s turn as Mark Wahlberg’s mother, the overbearing matriarch of the Ward family from Lowell, Massachusetts, is jaw-droppingly amazing. Personally, I’m always fascinated by the performances by villains in films. If an actor can get me to loathe them, I’ll love them. Leo did that.

Campbell: I’m not sure how it happened, but I somehow missed a couple of the films that I meant to see, and just never found the time to do so. Of course, these few films I missed just happen to have the majority of the nominees for these categories in them, which makes my job here that much harder. One film I missed that has two nominees in this category was The Fighter, which is shocking, as I’m a big fan of Christian Bale, and who doesn’t like a good boxing movie? Needless to say, when plans are constantly swapped around, eventually, other things take priority and you end up missing the movies entirely. I did, however, see True Grit, and I honestly have a hard time believing that any woman in this category put out a better performance than Hailee Steinfeld in the Coen Brother’s western tale. It was the type of role that could make or break a film, as if the young woman was annoying in her delivery, audiences wouldn’t accept her, and the film would fall flat; however, if done to correctly, audiences would not only fall in love with her, but also eagerly await to hear what she had to say next. Any scene she wasn’t in, while still strong and enjoyable, had you waiting for her to return and speak her proper English to the seemingly less educated characters played by Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. She deserves recognition for her role, and I believe it will come on this night. Who will win? Hailee Steinfeld.

Saucedo: Although Hailee Steinfeld was wrongfully nominated for Supporting Actress despite being the star of True Grit (blame studio politics), she seems to have the push to take home her first gold statue Sunday night. Don’t be surprised when the young actress is tearing up on stage — she deserves it.

Corey: Melissa Leo The Fighter – even her little own PR stunt won’t kill her chances. She wanted to prove she didn’t always have to look haggard for a camera.

Noyes: I’m torn on this one. I’d like to see either Melissa Leo or Hailee Steinfeld win this one. Both performances blew me away. Amy Adams was good and Helena Bonham Carter was better than usual, but it’s rare I’m as impressed by a performance as I was by Leo and Steinfeld.