How to Win the Office Oscar Pool
With so many alleged long-shots and shoo-ins, this year's odds are more complex than ever. From a Sandra Bullock upset to a Best Picture underdog, The Daily Beast places your bets.
WINNER: The Hurt Locker Avatar The Blind Side District 9 An Education Inglourious Basterds Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire A Serious Man Up Up in the Air
• The Daily Beast’s Complete Oscar CoverageThe Hurt Locker may have only made $17 million worldwide, but it's been a critics' darling since it was released last summer, and has swept most of the guild and critics' awards during Oscar season, including the Producers Guild Awards and the BAFTAs. For the past few months, the Best Picture race has been a David vs. Goliath battle between director Kathryn Bigelow's war film and James Cameron's sci-fi extravaganza, Avatar. Both films lead the nominations, with nine each, but we're placing our bets on Bigelow. Cameron has won a Best Picture Oscar before (for Titanic), and Bigelow is drenched in goodwill for making a timely and important film, as well as for being a woman in male-dominated territory.
WINNER: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart George Clooney, Up in the Air Colin Firth, A Single Man Morgan Freeman, Invictus Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
WINNER: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side Helen Mirren, The Last Station Carey Mulligan, An Education Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Jeff Bridges' Oscar feels like destiny. His performance as hard-drinking, hard-living Bad Blake in Crazy Heart has had Hollywood abuzz for months now. Also in his favor: The Dude is a beloved actor with a long, venerable career, dating back to The Last Picture Show. It seems almost a crime he hasn't won an Oscar yet. Bridges has been waltzing through the awards season, picking up wins at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards—traditionally a bellwether for Oscar wins—and critics awards. We expect his good fortune to continue on Oscar night.
Much like Julia Roberts surprised audiences with her grittier side in Erin Brockovich (which won her an Oscar), Sandra Bullock is one of the year's biggest surprises. In The Blind Side, America's favorite sexy tomboy shows she's more than just the funny girl. Although Meryl Streep ( Julie & Julia) is another favorite, the feeling is that this may be Bullock's only shot at an Oscar, which will likely give her the edge. Already, the Golden Globes and SAG have shown their love.
Supporting Actor/Supporting Actress
Matt Damon, InvictusWoody Harrelson, The MessengerChristopher Plummer, The Last StationStanley Tucci, The Lovely BonesWINNER: Christoph Walz, Inglourious Basterds
Penélope Cruz, Nine Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air WINNER: Mo'Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Christoph Walz has been racking up awards for his performance in Inglourious Basterds since the Cannes Film Festival. His winning streak hasn't slowed a bit—he's picked up trophies at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and BAFTAs. He's considered the shoo-in of shoo-in's this year for a role that stole the Basterds show. Check another box at your peril.
Ditto for Mo'Nique for her magnificently terrifying performance as a really, really mean mom in Precious. No one guessed that this sassy standup and talk-show host could throw such poise and power up on the big screen, and it's virtually unanimous that she should be rewarded for it, as she already has been at the Golden Globes, SAG, and critics awards.
Coraline Fantastic Mr. Fox The Princess and the Frog The Secret of Kells WINNER: Up
It's always a good bet to go with Pixar on Oscar night, but never more so than this year. Up is the blue-ribbon animation studio's most groundbreaking and critically beloved feature film to date—indeed, it is one of the best-reviewed films of the year. The story of an unlikely friendship between an old man and a young man who go on an even unlikelier airborne adventure, Up is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture (the first time an animated film has been up for the honor since 1991's Beauty and the Beast) and Best Original Screenplay. Last month, it was awarded the top prize at the Annie Awards, the animation industry's version of the Oscars.
Avatar WINNER: The Hurt Locker Inglourious Basterds Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire Up in the Air
There's tough competition in this category, but every indication points to a win for The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, who will be the first woman to ever accept a Best Directing Oscar. Already, Bigelow has been honored by BAFTA, the Directors Guild, and critics associations, all of which selected her as the best director of 2009 for a film made under challenging conditions (it was shot in a desert in Jordan in 110-degree heat) and on a shoestring budget of $11 million. That Bigelow's win would be an historical milestone has added to her support. Even her ex-husband and chief rival, Avatar director James Cameron, has been publicly saying she has his vote .
The Hurt Locker WINNER: Inglourious Basterds The Messenger A Serious Man Up
District 9 An Education In the Loop Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire WINNER: Up in the Air
Thus far, The Hurt Locker has won the more prestigious screenplay awards this season (at the Writers Guild Awards and BAFTA's), but Quentin Tarantino, who wrote and directed Inglourious Basterds, was not eligible for the WGA award, as he's not a member of the guild. We're predicting that on Oscar night, he'll get his due. Basterds was a decade-long passion project for Tarantino, who's well-liked by the Academy and hasn't won an Oscar since 1995, for his Pulp Fiction script. Furthermore, Hurt Locker is seen more as a director's than a writer's movie.
Adapted from Walter Kirn's novel, Up in the Air has given every indication of being this year's Oscar winner for Best Adapted Screenplay. Writers Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner have already won a WGA award, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and numerous critics awards for a script that's smart, timely, and loaded with strong female characters.
Foreign Language Film
Ajami El Secreto de Sus Ojos The Milk of Sorrow Un Prophète WINNER: The White Ribbon
One of only two films in the Best Foreign Language Film category to be released in the U.S., Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon has the benefit of not only having been seen by American audiences ( Un Prophète, another marvelous film, is the other American release), but receiving widespread praise. Also in its favor is its subject matter: Germany on the eve of World War I. Although the Academy's traditional soft spot is World War II, White Ribbon—a stark, black-and-white, eerie meditation on evil—is ultimately an examination of how the children of the First World War grew up to be the adults of Hitler's Third Reich.
Live Action Short/Animated Short
The Door Instead of Abracadabra WINNER: Kavi Miracle of Fish The New Tenants
French Roast Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty The Lady and the Reaper ( La Dama y la Muerte) Logorama WINNER: A Matter of Loaf and Death
Shorts are always a tough category to predict, but we're going with Kavi for Best Live Action Short. Made by Gregg Helvey as a USC thesis project, the film went on to win a Gold Medal at the Student Academy Awards and a Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival. The story of a young Indian boy forced to work as a slave, the film should arouse Slumdog Millionaire associations among voters that lead it to a win.
As for Best Animated Short, all indicators point to a win for A Matter of Loaf and Death, Oscar-winning Nick Park's latest effort, which The New York Times has called "a tour de force." Made by the U.K.'s Aardman Animations studios, the film follows the latest claymation adventure of Wallace and Gromit, the beloved dog and master team who have always been a hit among critics and high-brow animation fans.
Avatar The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Nine WINNER: Sherlock Holmes The Young Victoria
Sherlock Holmes' impressively classic feel is owed to the work of art director Sarah Greenwood and set director Katie Spencer, who have a combined six Academy Award nominations between them. Although Nine could be a potent foe, Sherlock arguably depended more on its art and set direction than did that musical. And while Avatar has also generated buzz in this category, voters may have a difficult time imagining a CGI world as truly qualifying for amazing "set" direction.
Avatar Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince WINNER: The Hurt Locker Inglourious Basterds The White Ribbon
This is a tough one. The Hurt Locker's Barry Ackroyd was steadily making the guild and BAFTA rounds until The White Ribbon's Christian Berger took top honors at the American Society of Cinematographers Guild. It's unlikely, however, that the Academy would award White Ribbon, as only one grayscale movie since the 1967 merger of color and black-and-white cinematography has been rewarded ( Schindler's List). Avatar, meanwhile, will likely suffer from voters who don't consider animation and CGI to count as cinematography verité. That leaves the running between Ackroyd and Inglourious Basterds' Robert Richardson, a six-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner. The heat, however, is on Hurt Locker, which has received countless kudos for its gritty, claustrophobic, doc-like quality.
Bright Star Coco Before Chanel The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Nine WINNER: The Young Victoria
Costume designer Sandy Powell has quite a track record at the Oscars, and Young Victoria (already her eighth nomination) should earn her a hat trick's worth of little gold men. She's already on her way, having carried the Designer's Guild of America Awards, and facing little serious competition save for Nine, a film that fizzled with the critics. Doctor Parnassus, meanwhile, has less Heath Ledger sympathy this year than Dark Knight carried last year; and Coco Before Chanel, whose Catherine Leterrier has never been nominated in the past, will likely suffer from the film's focus on the legendary designer as opposed to her clothes.
Il Divo Star Trek WINNER: The Young Victoria
In makeup, Il Divo's twice-nominated makeup director Aldo Signoretti ( Apocalypto, Moulin Rouge!) has an impressive record, but Young Victoria's Jon Henry Gordon (a winner for 1998's Elizabeth) is expected to repeat his BAFTA win and take the top spot.
WINNER: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of the Sichuan Province The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner Music by Prudence Rabbit a la Berlin The Last Truck: The Closing of a GM Plant
WINNER: The Cove Burma VJ Food, Inc. The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Elisberg and the Pentagon Papers Which Way Home
Tears of the Sichuan Province combines all the elements of an Oscar favorite in this category: history, tragedy, and an honest, heartfelt delivery. The tale of the 2008 earthquake and its aftermath—in which many children were killed as a result of shoddy school construction—was documented by Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill.
Though Food, Inc. makes a compelling case against big industry farming and agriculture, the film feels a bit like a Fast Food Nation redux. Louie Psihoyos' The Cove, on the other hand, feels entirely fresh, and is as dramatic and gripping as any live-action thriller. The story of dolphin murders off the coast of Japan, The Cove demands emotional attachment, a key in distinguishing between a field of otherwise mostly historical films. It's also already won the Critic's Choice Award for Best Documentary, so an Oscar doesn't seem far off.
Avatar District 9 WINNER: The Hurt Locker Inglourious Basterds Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
The Hurt Locker took the editing award at the BAFTAs, and while it may not be the most technically involved film (compared to, say, Avatar or District 9), its pedal-to-the-medal pacing and heart-pounding feel secure its position as the frontrunner in this category. Some have pointed to Precious for its purple hues and general mood, while still others pine for Avatar or Inglourious to snag an award. But history doesn't bode well for these films: The winner of the American Cinema Editor's Eddie Award has won the Oscar for Film Editing every time but once in the past decade, and this year's Eddie went to Hurt Locker.
Avatar Fantastic Mr. Fox The Hurt Locker Sherlock Holmes WINNER: Up
"Almost There" ( The Princess and the Frog) "Down in New Orleans" ( The Princess and the Frog) "Loin de Paname" ( Paris 36) "Take It All" ( Nine) WINNER: "The Weary Kind" ( Crazy Heart)
A sweet and endearing film that also dealt with daunting issues such as death and the evasive nature of youth, Up was helped along by a solid score courtesy of Michael Giacchino. The composer also wrote the score for Ratatouille, which earned him a 2007 Oscar nomination. Giacchino is perhaps already the winningest nominee of the season, having scooped up awards at the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, numerous critics awards, and the Grammys.
Despite news of the decision to not have Best Song nominees perform their acts during the telecast, there has been a decent amount of buzz swirling around this category – and most of it centers on Crazy Heart. Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett's "The Weary Kind" is the clear favorite in the class that includes two Disney anthems and a musical number. Fox Searchlight certainly thinks so, as the studio has been sending Bingham and T-Bone out to perform the song on what has evolved into, for all intents and purposes, a tour.
WINNER: Avatar Inglourious Basterds The Hurt Locker Star Trek Up
WINNER: Avatar The Hurt Locker Inglourious Basterds Star Trek Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Yet again, it's a race between the blue people and Iraq War soldiers, but look for Avatar to win in the sound categories. Jim Cameron's sci-fi epic won out at the Motion Picture Sound Editor's Awards, where Hurt Locker was completely shut out. As with visual effects, in sound, it will be hard for anything to stand in the Cameron film's way.
Though The Hurt Locker took the BAFTA and is definitely a contender, Avatar's Christopher Bayes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, and Tony Johnson have a staggering 37 nominations between them. That means that the Academy knows their names well and has little qualms about voting for them (they have nine wins already). Avatar also beat out Hurt Locker at the Motion Picture Sound Editor awards.
WINNER: Avatar District 9 Star Trek
Another gimme for Avatar. The film's VE team has a total of four Oscar wins between them—Joe Letteri is responsible for three of them, and was the recipient of the 2003 Scientific and Technical Achievement Award for his work in creating skin-rendering technology. As for the competition, the Star Trek reboot offered solid visual appeal, but was hardly more than an updated version of its Star Wars/ Star Trek predecessors in terms of special effects. And while District 9 aptly incorporated CGI creatures and humans in one movie, it did so in 2-D. Avatar, the 3-D masterpiece, left audiences stunned (and yes, left some feeling so disheartened by the grayness of the "real world" that they contemplated ending their lives). Anything other than Avatar winning this category would be the biggest Oscar upset in recent memory.