Friday, February 25, 2011

2011 Academy Awards are likely to be easy to predict

I follow movies like most people follow sports, so the Academy Awards are my Super Bowl. I'm well aware that it is just an overblown party for Hollywood types to pat themselves on the back for a job well done and yet each year I am compelled to watch with a mixture of elation and horror.

The 83rd Academy Awards are on ABC Sunday, Feb. 27, starting at 8 p.m. with the odd pairing of James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting. This year, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science got it mostly right with the nominations, at least as correct as you can be in something as objective and often arbitrary as picking the best films of the year.

Where the academy did go wrong, almost consistently does so every year, was in ignoring fine comedic work. There are examples of the academy nominating and even awarding comedic performances — notably Kevin Kline in “A Fish Called Wanda” and Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny — but comedy is largely seen as being easier than drama and thus is dismissed. There needs to be a separate category for comedy.

This year at least two comedies, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” and “Get Him to the Greek” were worthy of at least consideration. At the very least, these films should've received best song nominations as they both had fictional bands in them that performed surprisingly good songs. Quirky rocker Beck wrote the songs for “Scott Pilgrim” and “Greek” features songs written and/or co-written by Jarvis Cocker, of the band Pulp, and Mike Viola who has written or produced songs for such films as “That Thing You Do” and “Walk Hard.”

That rant aside, in terms of who wins, it is a rare year where those who should win and those who will win are likely going to be one in the same. It should be a very predictable year and my predictions are the same as just about everyone.

Natalie Portman will most certainly get the Oscar for best actress for her powerful work in “Black Swan.” There's some discussion that Annette Benning could win for “The Kids Are Alright” simply because hasn't won an Oscar, but this would be a huge upset if this happened. This is Natalie's year.

Colin Firth is a lock for best actor as King George VI in “The King's Speech.” Firth has been a reliable actor for decades now, primarily used in romance or romantic comedies, but in 2009 he was allowed to go deeper in “A Single Man.” Now he gives another nuanced performance. He was nominated for a “A Single Man.” He will win for “The King's Speech.”

Helena Bonham Carter is a near sure thing for best supporting actress. If there is a wild care category this year, it is this one, but Carter is an actress who hasn't won and who has been consistent in both period and modern roles. Her work in “The King's Speech” is her most warm and human in years.

Geoffrey Rush is absolutely superb in “The King's Speech” and in any other year the statue would go to him, but Christian Bale will win for his extraordinary performance as a junkie in “The Fighter.” Physically he transformed himself, but most is more remarkable is that he doesn't play it for broad cliche. This is a subtle performance with real shading.

Of the 10 films nominated for best picture the general consensus is that the race is between “The Social Network” and “The King's Speech.” As of now the debate seems to be leaning more towards “The King's Speech,” but I'm going to go against the grain and say “The Social Network.”

It is a film that is a reflection of this moment in time and 10 years from now it will be time capsule film. Beyond that it is a highly entertaining film that manages to find a way to turn the seemingly mundane creation of Facebook into something approximating a thriller.

If it doesn't win picture, the academy may compensate by giving David Fincher best director and best adapted screenplay to Aaron Sorkin. But if Tom Hooper wins for best director put all your money on “The King's Speech” to win.

No comments: