Tag Archives: Academy Awards

Oscar-feat

Judging Films as Oscar-Winners

As Oscar-season hits a fever pitch, of course lots of people are also looking at the history of the Oscars and what’s won in previous years, and what maybe SHOULD have won in previous years. This is a fun pastime, one I’ve certainly indulged in it myself (as evidenced by this monster post over at Row Three), and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it.

But it does bring to mind something that kind of bothers me about how Oscar-winning films are often seen on down the road, especially those that are popularly deemed unworthy of their Oscars.

The most egregious case in point is How Green Was My Valley. Poor How Green Was My Valley is best known today for being the film that stole the 1941 Best Picture Oscar from Citizen Kane, as if the film mounted a sneak attack on Xanadu and snatched the statuette from Charles Foster Kane’s dying fingertips. Now, don’t get me wrong. If you ask me straight up which film is better, yes, Citizen Kane wins in a heartbeat. But that doesn’t mean that a lovely and evocative film like How Green Was My Valley deserves for its reputation to hang on the fact that some group of people voted to give it an award over seventy years ago.

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Bringing it closer to home, I was pretty pissed when The Lives of Others won the Best Foreign Film Oscar over my darling Pan’s Labyrinth. I hadn’t seen The Lives of Others at the time of the awards, but it was nonetheless a TRAVESTY that my #1 film of the year had been passed over. Then a few months later I begrudgingly watched The Lives of Others, just so I could feel justified in my anger. And you know what? It’s a damn good movie. Maybe it doesn’t hit my personal buttons as much as Pan’s did, but it certainly was just as excellent a choice to win the award. And even if it wasn’t, doesn’t it deserve to be watched and judged on its own terms, rather than in competition with another film that it’s only related to because they happened to be pitted against each other for an award?

There are lots of other examples – I happen to think Shakespeare in Love deserved its Oscar over Saving Private Ryan but there are many who don’t, Chariots of Fire (a favorite of mine) is most often remembered as a film that didn’t deserve its Oscar, The Greatest Show on Earth is considered one of the worst films to win Best Picture, and on and on. Sure, The Greatest Show on Earth is a weird choice for Oscar, but ignore the baggage that you think belongs with the words “Best Picture Academy Award Winner” and it’s a pretty rip-roaring good time at the movies.

I’m not saying you can’t consider which films should’ve won Oscars instead of those that did, or that you can’t compare two films based on their both being Oscar nominees (or winners). But ultimately, that’s a fun parlor game, and in the final analysis every film deserves to be taken on its own terms. It doesn’t matter how great a film Citizen Kane is – it doesn’t mean that How Green Was My Valley isn’t also a great film. And it deserves better than the short shrift it often gets as “the film that beat Citizen Kane.” Oscars don’t matter that much. The films are what matter.

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The Roundup: 18 Feb 2012

And another series back from very long hiatus (with a new name), and another well-meaning intention to do a better job of keeping up. I’d really like to do these every week, a task made more challenging and yet more fun by deciding to include more sections of links. The idea being that I can just keep this up as I read blogs and sites thoughout the week and have it all ready to go by the end of the week. Here’s hoping. As usual, most of these are movie-related links, but that won’t necessarily always be the case, and there are some music and gaming links in the subsections. Anything that’s a video will open in a lightbox, so you won’t have to go anywhere else to watch them.

Featured Links

For the Love of Film III: The White Shadow by the Self-Styled Siren

The For the Love of Film Blogathon is now in its third year, with bloggers focusing on a specific aspect of film preservation, with the intent to raise awareness and funds for the National Film Preservation Foundation. This year, the focus is on the recently unearthed early Hitchcock film The White Shadow, one of a few films Hitchcock assistant-directed under director Graham Cutts in the early 1920s. The funds raised will support the costs of the NFPF streaming the film (that is, the four reels of it that still exist) on their website for four months. I’ve actually seen the film – I was at the Academy screening the Siren mentions – and though it certainly isn’t among the best silent films you’ll ever see, it does have more than historical interest, and it has a whole lot of that. The blogathon goes live in May, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it then.

Hitchcock’s Most Beautiful Shot Ever by Joel Gunz, guest-posting at The Lady Eve

Speaking of Hitchcock, The Lady Eve has been hosting a whole series on Vertigo, with this close-reading of a single shot of the film one of the highlights. Guest poster Joel Gunz looks at the shot of Madeline standing under the Golden Gate Bridge in terms of composition and cinematography, as well as artistic antecedents and psychological readings. By the end, he’s explicated a lot about Vertigo as a whole, simply by analyzing this one gorgeous still. Makes me want to go watch the film again immediately.

Why Don’t the Critics, Oscar, and Audiences Agree? by Jim Emerson on scanners::blog

It’s almost a cliche at this point to mention that the films the end up on critical best lists (whether print critics or bloggers), the films that end up the year’s box office champions, and the films nominated for Oscars are pretty much three different groups of films. There may be some overlap here and there, of course, but by and large, the goals of each group seem to be irrevocably dissimilar. Jim Emerson invokes an article from Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir to explain a bit about the Academy’s point of view, and then points out that their nominations used to be more actually populist, rather than prestige-y the way it is now.

It’s An Honor to Be Nominated, But These Iconic Films Never Were by Wilde.Dash at Love and Squalor

Lots of Oscar-y type talk this week, and I doubt that’ll stop until after the awards are announced and everyone’s done dissecting them. Here the always entertaining Wilde.Dash highlights a bunch of films that are widely considered top-notch classics yet weren’t even nominated for Academy Awards. Some of these (2001, Psycho) absolutely appalling to me. Just goes to show you, these little statuettes? Not that big a deal in the grand scene of things.

Culture Warrior: The Importance of Honoring Motion Capture Performances by Landon Palmer at Film School Rejects

In a year when the Academy doesn’t nominate Andy Serkis for acing (perhaps because motion capture is too cartoony to go against live action) and doesn’t nominate The Adventures of Tintin for Animated Feature (perhaps because motion capture is too live action to go against animation), Landon Palmer discusses why mocap seems to be such a disdained technology – because the very idea of motion capture, which renders actors unrecognizable behind a veil of CGI, threatens the concept of celebrity upon which Hollywood is built. (To be fair, I wouldn’t necessarily argue that either of the “perhaps” clauses above are correct; but Palmer’s assessment of the threat of mocap is an interesting read.)

Pioneers of Animation: Ub Iwerks – The Early Disney Years by Brandie at True Classics

Everyone knows Walt Disney. But not everyone knows Ub Iwerks, who was with Disney almost every step of the way, from the very beginning when they were partners in Kansas City working on Laugh-o-Gram shorts, through the move to Hollywood and the creation of Oswald the Rabbit and Mickey Mouse. But Iwerks isn’t only Disney stuff – he also had many successful cartoons of his own in the early sound era. Brandie has the full story in two posts (the second part is here, and they’re well worth reading – just as Iwerks’ films are well worth watching.

48 Hidden Images in Black Swan by Sati at the Cinematic Corner

Even a single viewing of Black Swan reveals the constant parallels that Aronofsky is making between Nina and Lily, with their faces often morphing into each other for split seconds here and there. But Sati has gone through the film with a fine-tooth comb and screencapped a TON of trick shots that I certainly never noticed before. As you look through these, some will seem obvious (Nina seeing herself on the subway or the sidewalk, or Lily’s face swapping for Nina’s during the sex scene), but most of the things during the club scene I hadn’t seen at all. Kudos to Aronofsky for his attention to detail, and kudos to Sati for uncovering that detail.

In Character: William Fichtner by Alex Withrow at And So It Begins

One of the most memorable and consistently awesome “hey, it’s that guy!” actors working today, William Fichtner shows up all over the place, and he’s often the best thing in any movie he’s in. Like, oh, say…Drive Angry for example. And many, many others. Alex Withrow runs down Fichtner’s best roles in this entry into his ongoing series highlighting character actors (the whole series is worth reading).

Katie-Bar-the-Door Awards by the Mythical Monkey

Speaking of ongoing series, I’ve been away from the blog-reading long enough I didn’t even notice he was doing this until now, but the Mythical Monkey has been posting entries every day with his alternate Oscars for each year since 1927. The awards (named for his wife) were his original impetus for starting his blog, but he’s since gotten lost in the silent era – lost in the best possible way. But he recently decided to get these posted and out there, and I gotta say, these awards are awesome. I don’t necessarily agree with them all (though mostly in cases where I haven’t seen all the films in question!), but they’re pretty great to read through. He just posted 1970, and is taking a break, but the whole series is worth a peruse.

More links!

Sam Fragoso of Duke and the Movies asks us to choose between Howard Hawks or John Huston. I picked Hawks, but that’s a tough question!
Kim Wilson at the Classic Film and TV Cafe reviews Man in Grey, a little-known British film that sounds rather transgressive for its time!
Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence announces the March in March blogathon – posts about Fredric March, in the month of March.
Hollywood Reporter explains why there are only two Best Song Oscar nominees this year.
Ryan at The Matinee kicks off his Blind Spot series by watching John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Alex Withrow of And So It Begins runs down the entirely of Spike Lee’s career.
Wilde.Dash of Love and Squalor picks her 30 most anticipated movies of 2012. Some great stuff to look forward to, for sure!
Nicolas Winding Refn talks to The Playlist about Drive
Bonjour Tristesse reviews Dario Argento’s The Bird With a Crystal Plumage, and likes it quite a bit. One I definitely want to catch up with.
Monty at All Good Things counts down his favorite actresses – some great picks here! Love the Lombard love.

Trailers of Interest

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Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress
Justin Kurzel’s The Snowtown Murders (though I think this one is better; so is the former name)
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s Intruders

Max Payne 3
Far Cry 3

Cool videos

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The ABCs of Cinema by Evan Seitz
The Knights Who Say Ni! Kinetic Typography by Evan Seitz
Salvador Dali on “What’s My Line”
Music Video: Jack White’s “Love Interruption” (from upcoming album Blunderbuss)
Music Video: YACHT’s “Shangri-La” (from album Shangri-La)
Live Performance: James Mercer singing “September” (from upcoming Shins album Port of Morrow)

News of Interest

Joss Whedon is writing a RomCom. Not my fave genre, but okay.
Netflix is developing an original series with Weeds creator Jenji Kohan
People are planning to remake Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Suspicion. WHY? Although, of all his films, those two are among the least untouchable.
Gina Carano lines up another action film: In the Blood. I’ll watch it.

Bonnaroo lineup is announced

Rockstar is bringing the original Max Payne game to iOS. Cool!
Touch Arcade reviews Beat Sneak Bandit, a new iOS game. I downloaded it; we’ll see what I think.

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Join RowThree’s Oscar Live Chat

As we do every year, RowThree is hosting an Oscar live chat throughout the ceremony. Last year was the first year I participated in it, and it was definitely the best part of the whole Oscar shindig. No holds barred, everything’s open game. Come out and join us, starting at 4:30pm PST, just in time to get in some red carpet action before the main event starts at 5:00pm PST. We’ll be around for the whole thing, and believe me, the shenanigans are worth it.

I’m going to try embedding the chat over here as well – if all works properly, you’ll be able to get to it from here as well as RowThree. Definitely head back to RowThree afterwards in any case, as we’ll be continuing the discussion in the comments of the results post.

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Cinema 101: The Academy Awards

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With the 83rd Academy Awards coming up this evening and all the entertainment media and blogs going crazy with coverage and predictions and stats and publicity, I thought it might be fun to pull back and look a bit at the history of the awards and the Academy that bestows them, as well as how the Awards work. The Academy Awards are one of the oldest awards in cinema, and however right or wrong or self-congratulatory they are, they can be a great springboard for the study of Hollywood. I may rail against the Academy’s choices and wonder why the Awards get the prestige that they do, but truth be told, I have a big soft spot for the Academy and its history.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

First of all, who is this “Academy”, and what do they do besides hand out little gold statues every year? Today the Academy is a group of 6000 industry professionals, from all different areas of filmmaking ranging from studio executives to actors to writers to special effects technicians and everything else. Membership is by invitation only, which tends to give the group a bit of a snooty insider facade, and of course lends that Hollywood insider bias that the Oscars are often ridiculed for. But the Academy does a lot more that you might think – let’s take a look at how it got started.

mayer.jpgIn 1927, a dinner party at MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer’s house sparked the idea to start an institute that would benefit the entire film industry. By which they mostly meant the American film industry, and of course, the Academy has remained focused on Hollywood and American cinema, but there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. From that initial conversation, which also involved actor Conrad Nagel and director Fred Niblo, the project soon brought heavy hitters Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks (who became the first president), Sid Grauman, Jesse Lasky, Cecil B. DeMille, Irving Thalberg, and others on board. With both major studios like MGM, Paramount, and United Artists as well as exhibitors like Grauman and Lasky involved, the Academy had the talent and connections necessary to fulfill the role it created for itself.

The Academy quickly started publishing books of interest to industry professionals on technical and artistic topics like cinematography and sound recording – these first books were out as early as 1928. A program of film screenings was created, catering specifically to industry professionals – allowing them to see films in state of the art conditions prior to or concurrent with their theatrical release. By the 1930s, the Academy ran educational programs for non-industry people as well, teaching the US Signal Corps how to make their own training films, for example, and later acting as a liason between the government and the industry to make WWII training films. It was even involved in industry labor disputes during the 1920s and 1930s, though it explicitly moved away from such involvement in 1937, preferring to maintain its distance from labor conflict.

The Academy is probably best known today (aside from the Academy Awards) as an extensive resource both for industry professionals and outside researchers interested in the history of Hollywood film. Right from the start they started keeping detailed records of every film produced with full credits as well as directories of actors and their agents for the use of producers and filmmakers. Soon they were maintaining a full library of film-related material, from scripts and books to actual prints. As academic interest in film school and film studies grew in the 1960s, the Academy began scholarship and grant programs for film students, and in 1972 they opened their archives up to scholars and historians as well as indiustry professionals. This library and archive are invaluable for researchers even today, and the Academy is heavily involved in the preservation and restoration of classic Hollywood films. Expanding their reach beyond the industry, the Academy started putting on public lectures and later public screenings, often with the filmmakers in attendence. These events continue into the present, with events, exhibitions and screenings scheduled all the time.

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While it’s easy to see the Academy as simply “those people who give out the Oscars,” the institution performs an important function for both filmmakers and film historians, providing symposiums and information for industry professionals and the public alike, access to an extensive film library and archive to researchers and cinematheques, and a valuable reminder of the rich heritage of American cinema. The Academy has preserved much of the history of Hollywood, and its founders were among the pioneers in recognizing the importance of film preservation and education.

The Academy Awards

Of course, the reason we’re talking about the Academy is the thing they’re most famous for – doling out awards every year. And the Awards were one of the first initiatives undertaken by the Academy, as a way of celebrating the work of their colleagues. One of the things the Academy is often criticized for is their Hollywood centrism, and that’s a valid objection, but the Academy’s whole purpose is to provide information and recognition for the American film industry, so it shouldn’t really be surprising.

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The first Academy Awards of Merit were presented in 1929 for films released between August 1, 1927 and July 31, 1928. The practice of using an August-to-August eligibility calender would remain in effect until 1934, when the current January-to-December schedule was adopted. The first awards were not kept secret, but were announced several months in advance and presented at a private awards dinner to the winners. It was only the next year, however, that the awards were kept secret until the ceremony and the awards were radio broadcast live – the awards would only grow in prestige and public spectacle. By 1942 they had outgrown a banquet-style ceremony and were moved into Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Now they are held in the Kodak Theatre, right next to the Chinese at the center of Hollywood.

The actual statue is officially known as the Academy Award of Merit, and was designed by production designer Cedric Gibbons. It depicts a naked gold man driving a sword into the reel of film upon which he stands. It’s unclear exactly how it got the nickname “Oscar” – one story is that when Academy librarian (and later Executive Director) Margaret Herrick first saw the statue, she remarked that it looked like her Uncle Oscar. The nickname was popularly used as early as 1934, and was officially adopted by the Academy in 1939.

There’s enough trivia about the Oscars to fill several books (and it has), but here are a few important dates.

1934 – awards for editing, score, song added
1934 – It Happened One Night sweeps Picture/Director/Actor/Actress/Screenplay
1936 – awards for supporting actor/actress added
1939 – award for special effects added
1941 – award for documentary added
1942 – Greer Garson’s speech lasts minutes, instigating speech limits
1947 – special award given for foreign language film – the Italian Shoeshine
1953 – first televised Oscars
1956 – award for foreign film added (special awards were given most years from 1947)
1959 – Ben-Hur sets 11-win record, unmatched until 1997
2001 – award for animated feature added

How the Awards Work

There are a lot of eligibility rules that are specific for each category, but the basic rule is that a film must have played a one-week commercial run at a Los Angeles theatre between January 1st and December 31st. A lot of times films will open for an Oscar qualifying run at one LA cinema (often the Laemmle Sunset 5), then not release any further until later the next year. Certain categories have further restrictions – for instance, foreign films have to have a certain percentage of the dialogue be non-English, and original scores can only contain a certain amount of pre-released music. These restrictions have led to odd non-nominations, like The Band’s Visit, which was deemed ineligible for foreign film because the Israeli and Egyptian characters resorted to English to understand each other, even though the film was totally produced by Israel.

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For most categories, only the members of the relevant branch of the Academy may submit nominations – for example, only cinematographers can nominate in the Best Cinematography category, and only directors can nominate in the Best Director category. All members may nominate for Best Picture, however, and Best Foreign Film nominees are selected by a committee representing all branches. When it comes to final voting, all members may vote in every category, though in certain categories (the short film categories, for example) they must have seen all the nominated films to vote. It is possible, though rare, for ties to happen in the final vote. The only two times it has happened in major categories is 1932, when Fredric March and Wallace Beery tied for Best Actor (for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Champ, respectively) and in 1967, when Barbra Streisand’s performance in Funny Girl tied Katharine Hepburn’s in The Lion in Winter.

As mentioned above, the awards tend to be very Hollywood-centric, making it surprising when a foreign film gets any nominations other than as a foreign film. In fact, many studios refused to support the 1948 awards when it became clear that the UK-produced Hamlet was likely to win the Best Picture award (and it did).

Recently, the Awards have come under media attention for their tendency to reward middle-of-the-road “Oscar-bait” pictures – lushly produced films with recognizable actors and inspirational plots, bonus points if the film is pseudo-independent or smaller-scale. This means that most of the films nominated tend to be limited release films that don’t play multiplexes or get a lot of publicity, which makes it harder to get the interest of the public, who often haven’t heard of the front-runners for the awards. On the other hand, critics and film buffs who follow independent and foreign cinema find the awards painfully safe, not reaching into the more interesting corners of lesser-known cinema. Still, it’s hard to appeal to every audience who pays attention to the Oscars – it’s probably best just to see the Awards as a fun and glitzy celebration of the movies rather than as a truly meaningful recognition for films that deserve it.

Further Reading

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

2010 Oscar Prediction Time!

We’re only a day away from the Academy Awards, and I figured I’d put up a few prediction thoughts. We’ll be live-blogging the ceremony itself over on Row Three, so look out for that starting around 4pm PST. Plus, if you think you’ve got a good peg on the awards this year, throw your predictions into the Row Three Oscar Pool for a chance to win a sweet minimalist Reservoir Dogs poster (valued at $99). My predictions are already in the comments over there, but I’d like to say a bit more about them over here.

Best Supporting Actor

inglourious-basterds-christoph-waltz-2.jpgMatt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

This is a gimme for Christoph Waltz. He’s been getting Oscar talk since Inglourious Basterds came out, he’s been winning all the awards up to this point, and if anyone else won this, it would be the upset of the year.

Best Supporting Actress

MoNique_Precious.jpgPenelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up In The Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up In The Air
Mo’Nique, Precious

I haven’t seen Precious myself, but everyone who has considers Mo’Nique‘s win here a done deal. I’ll defer to that, since I think Maggie won’t win on a surprise nomination, Penelope won’t on the weaker of her two performances this year (and she wasn’t the strongest performance in Nine, either), and Vera and Anna will cancel each other out.

Best Actor

Jeff_Bridges_CrazyHeart_72dpi.jpgJeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up In The Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

All the momentum right now is behind Jeff Bridges, whose Golden Globe for Crazy Heart makes him a heavy favorite for Oscar. Invictus hasn’t been very visible, A Single Man is likely too small a release, and Clooney is almost a token nom for Up in the Air (he does a good job, it’s not that Oscar-riffic a role). Jeremy Renner might possibly upset, but look for Bridges to take it.

Best Actress

blindside.jpgSandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

This is a tough one for me. Sandra Bullock is going in as an unlikely favorite, having won the Golden Globe and some other critics and guild awards, but I’m still torn on whether the Academy will actually give it to her. Especially up against such a strong category. Mirren and Streep are simply perfection in everything they do, and the younger generation Mulligan and Sidibe are both brilliant in their films. Yet Bullock is the industry insider, the one whose film was a ginormous hit, and the one who apparently turned in a strong performance after a career of slight romantic comedies and thrillers. That kind of gets the Academy’s attention. So I give Sandra Bullock the nod for “will win”, but I stand firm that Carey Mulligan should go home with the prize for her mature-beyond-her-years, incredibly subtle performance.

Best Director

hurtlockerbigelow.jpgJames Cameron, Avatar
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up In The Air

It would be going against years of tradition for Kathryn Bigelow not to win Best Director after winning the Directors Guild award a few weeks ago. So that’s my prediction, and I’m sticking to it.

Best Picture

the-hurt-locker-pic1.jpgAvatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up In The Air

It’s unusual for the Best Picture winner to be different from the Best Director winner, and I’m fairly sure Bigelow is taking that Director prize. Even leaving that aside, The Hurt Locker has a whole lot of momentum on its side right now. Which still surprises me a little. I watched it this week, and it’s quite well-done and I enjoyed it a lot, but it doesn’t strike me as an Oscar film. But what do I know? I expected Up in the Air to be the frontrunner, and though it is nominated, it has had almost zero Oscar buzz.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Up-In-The-Air.jpgDistrict 9
An Education
In The Loop
Precious
Up In The Air

I personally think Up in the Air has the best dialogue and the most timely script of any film this year, a throwback to Billy Wilder classics, so I’d like to see it win. And I think it has a good chance, especially since it will likely be shut out of other major categories and it’s such a classically-produced studio film that the Academy will want to honor it somewhere. This is its best shot. In the Loop is hilarious, but likely too vulgar for the fuddy Academy; An Education is a strong contender, but doesn’t sparkle in the dialogue quite as much as Up in the Air. I haven’t seen Precious, but have heard much more about its acting than its script, and I doubt District 9 is really in the running.

Best Original Screenplay

inglourious-basterds-1.jpgThe Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The Messenger
A Serious Man
Up

This would seem to be a showdown between Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man – two films in which likely our best currently-working writer/directors turn in some of their best work. But Inglourious Basterds is inarguably Tarantino’s best work, so I give it the edge over the Coens this time around.

Film Editing

2-the-hurt-locker.jpgAvatar
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious

Editing often goes to Best Picture, so my prediction here sticks with The Hurt Locker. And really, it deserves it here, no problem.

Cinematography

weisse-band-1.jpgAvatar
Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

All of these are gorgeous-looking films, but I’m going to give the edge to The White Ribbon, not only because it’s the only black and white film in the bunch, but because it uses its black and white to the best possible effect. Also, it just won the Cinematographers’ guild award.

Art Direction

avatar_pandora.jpgAvatar
Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria

Another category where all of the nominees are quality contenders. The art direction was one of the few things I loved unequivocally about Avatar, so I would be neither surprised nor disappointed to see it win. I doubt Nine will win with its dark and stagey art direction, but Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus‘s brilliantly imaginative look (or looks – there are at least four or five distinct ones in different parts of the film) and Sherlock Holmes‘s steampunk Britain could mount a challenge.

Makeup

star-trek.jpgIl Divo
Star Trek
The Young Victoria

This is an odd category…a futuristic sci-fi film, an Italian film no one’s ever heard of, and a realistic period film. This seems almost a gimme for Star Trek.

Costume Design

the_young_victoria.jpgBright Star
Coco before Chanel
Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
The Young Victoria

Hmmm, will the Academy give their award for costume design to the film about the actual clothing designer? Possibly. Once again, the Academy has gone totally period in this category, and really, any of these could take it. But I’ll throw the prediction to The Young Victoria.

Best Foreign Film

Weisse_band_01_pieni.jpgAjami, Israel
El Secretro de sus Ojo, Argentina
The Milk of Sorrow, Peru
Un Prophete, France
The White Ribbon, Germany

This is a fight to the death between Un prophete and The White Ribbon. Perhaps predictably, I’m guessing the one that I’ve seen will win – The White Ribbon. Even though it is the only one I’ve seen, it is really, REALLY good.

Best Animated Film

29up_600.jpgCoraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and The Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up

SUCH a strong year for animated features this year. There were at least five others that would been nomination-worthy. I’d love it if one of the stop-motion films got it, and I think of this set, The Fantastic Mr. Fox is the one that will be remembered the best for the longest, but I doubt anything is going to stop Pixar from gaining another Oscar with Up.

Best Original Score

holmes-downey.jpgAvatar
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes
Up

Going on the record now to say that if Avatar wins this, I’m puncturing my eardrums. Metaphorically. Sorry, James Horner, recycling bits of your other scores into bland program music does not make for the best score of the year. Honestly, I think I’d pick Sherlock Holmes myself – that was a really interesting score that picked up on themes and characterization in the film and rendered them musically. But I’m not sure it’s likely to win. Fantastic Mr. Fox might, but I remember the song parts of the score more than the actual score, and those don’t count. Eh, I think I’ll stick with Sherlock Holmes.

Best Original Song

crazyheart.jpgAlmost There, Princess and the Frog
Down in New Orleans, Princess and the Frog
Loin de Paname, Paris 36
Take It All, Nine
The Weary Kind, Crazy Heart

Two songs from Princess and the Frog might cancel out, no one saw Paris 36, and while “Take It All” was one of the best numbers in Nine, that was mostly due to Marion Cotillard, not the song itself. That leaves “The Weary Kind”, which based on the snippets in the Crazy Heart trailer, is actually fairly good. So we’ll go with that.

Sound Editing

hurt-locker-june2-590x3311.jpgAvatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Up

I had a sound designer friend explain to me the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing; Editing is the creation and placement of sounds, whereas Mixing is the layering and direction of sounds. Got it? But I usually pick the same film for both categories (which exist separately largely because there are two separate unions for editing and mixing). This time, The Hurt Locker.

Sound Mixing

The Hurt Locker movie image (3).jpgAvatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

The Hurt Locker

Best Visual Effects

avatar-visual.jpgAvatar
District 9
Star Trek

And here’s a category I think Avatar deserves to win, and I’m pretty sure it will.

Best Documentary

the-cove-movie-073009-xlg.jpgBurma VJ
The Cove
Food, Inc.
Most Dangerous Man in America
Which Way Home

The Cove has been getting rave reviews all year from all quarters, so I think it would be pretty shocking for it not to win.

Best Documentary Short

chinas-unnatural-disaster-1024.jpgChina’s Unnatural Disaster
Last Campaign of Booth Gardner
Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
Music by Prudence
Rabbit à la Berlin

I have seen none of these, but I’m placing my bet on China’s Unnatural Disaster, a film about the Sichuan earthquake. Just for reference, Last Campaign of Booth Gardner is about Washington congressman Booth Gardner’s attempts to pass laws allowing assisted suicide, Last Truck is about a rural GM plant closing down and the effects of that on the community, nearly all of whom worked for GM, Music by Prudence is about a disabled woman in Zimbabwe finding strength by making music (that kind of uplifting story in the face of adversity makes this a contender, too), and Rabbit a la Berlin is about a warren of rabbits that lived between the Berlin walls during the cold war and their attempts to readjust after the walls came down. See, I did my homework!

Best Animated Short

LogoramaLA.jpgFrench Roast
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
The Lady and the Reaper
Logorama
A Matter of Loaf and Death

All of these shorts are available online, and I collected them all in a post on Row Three, so check that out. My prediction is for Logorama, but they’re all actually really good.

Best Live Action Short

kavi.jpgThe Door
Instead of Abracadabra
Kavi
Miracle Fish
The New Tenants

None of these are available online. Some are available on iTunes, though – I saw Instead of Abracadabra when it was part of a set of Sundance shorts available for free on iTunes. It was quite good, but I’m not sure it can beat out Kavi, the story of an Indian boy growing up essentially in slavery. The others I wasn’t really able to find out very much about.