Using the most advanced heuristic available to me, namely my own cynical reasoning about the Academy, here are my predictions:
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Both Bridges and Firth are exceptional in not particularly good movies that play to Academy tastes, addiction and identity politics. Clooney is in the best movie here, but he'll lose to Bridges for the same reason Firth will: Bridges has been around for nearly 40 years and has always been excellent. Call this his "should've won for The Big Lebowski" win. Renner is competent in a stereotypical hot shot role -- big deal. Freeman plays the Freeman role once again -- this time they call him "Nelson Mandela."
Mauro Fiore, Avatar
Bruno Delbonnel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker
Robert Richardson, Inglourious Basterds
Christian Berger, The White Ribbon
My friend Will said Avatar looks like a moving Yes cover. And was it all the shadows in Half-Blood Prince that got it nominated? No quibbles with the other three, though. I'm going with the master of the down-and-dirty-shaky-cam, Ackroyd, because this is Bigelow's year (on which, I'll have more to say anon). I'm more infatuated with Richardson's colors, though.
Foreign Language Film
El Secreto de Sus Ojos (Argentina)
The Milk of Sorrow (Peru)
The Prophet (France)
The White Ribbon (Germany)
I've only seen two of these, The (A?) Prophet and The White Ribbon. The latter is more of Haneke's miserabilism, but with some really dry humor thrown in. That doesn't sound like something Oscar likes, but he'll sometimes give it a nod to show he treats films seriously. A Prophet (which is correct, I believe) is an excellent genre film that interlaces France's race problems with Arabs into a gangster story. It might win, but I'm going with the recent history of this award going to uplifting tales of kids in a traumatic situation, which fits Ajami to a tee.
Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Avatar
Paul N.J. Ottosson, The Hurt Locker
Wylie Stateman, Inglourious Basterds
Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin, Star Trek
Michael Silvers and Tom Myers, Up
This award typically goes to big budget, special effects extravaganzas, since (I suppose) the editors quite obviously have to create these "magical" worlds from scratch (as opposed to the "real worlds" that also have to be created from scratch, but with a real model to work from). Avatar is really big -- the biggest -- so it has to get something. I'd prefer The Hurt Locker or Inglourious Basterds.
Christopher Boyes & Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
He acts in four languages with the same amount of nuance as if they were all his native tongue. There can be only one.
Janet Patterson, Bright Star
Catherine Leterrier, Coco Before Chanel
Monique Prudhomme, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Colleen Atwood, Nine
Sandy Powell, The Young Victoria
At one time, Edith Head might've reigned, but for the last 30 years this award has gone to the films with obvious costumes: fantasy, musicals and period pieces. Leterrier has "obviously about fashion" on her side, true, but I'm going with recent precedent. Powell and Atwood have both won before for doing the same sort of thing they've done here, but who cares about Bright Star or Doctor Parnassus? Nine is about movies, with big, big stars, so I'm predicting Atwood.
Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano, Il Divo
Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow, Star Trek
Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore, The Young Victoria
Mostly this award goes to special effects films -- one doesn't have to create foreheads and ears in dramas. Therefore:
Barney Burman, Mindy Hall & Joel Harlow
Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson, Avatar
Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett, The Hurt Locker
Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano, Inglourious Basterds
Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin, Star Trek
Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Noisy clutter is too often celebrated here (cf. Transformers), but provided Academy members actually heard these films in surround, The Hurt Locker's use of aural space probably wowed them as much as it did me. See explosion … wait for it … "boom!"
Paul N.J. Ottosson & Ray Beckett
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
Bullock only stars in pap. Now, people like her pap once again, thereby justifying her big salary, I guess. It's a comeback story, even though she's unfortunately never gone away. Keep serving shit, and people will get used to the taste, even grow to love it. The circulation of cultural capital. Going with the consensus:
James Cameron, Avatar
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
"I'm queen of the world!" Women can make macho action films, too. Take that, James Cameron, with your annoying, self-aggrandizing speeches. For what it's worth, this is Bigelow's best film (a rare situation for this award), but that ain't saying much. Tarantino deserves this, but he gives annoying, self-aggrandizing speeches, too.
James Horner, Avatar
Alexandre Desplat, Fantastic Mr. Fox
Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders, The Hurt Locker
Hans Zimmer, Sherlock Holmes
Michael Giacchino, Up
Horner, Zimmer and Howard Shore (although he's not on the list this year) specialize in the most forgettable scores in movies. For that reason, I always forget which one is which (except Shore once did a memorable one because of Ornette Coleman blowing sax over his tones -- kind of like your next door neighbors arguing while you're trying to relax to a New Age album). Zimmer used Lisa Gerrard to liven up one of his. As for Horner, I can't think of anything kind to say. I probably preferred Desplat's music, but I'm going with the less quirky, but still pretty good one from Giacchino. He's been hovering around the Oscars for a while now. It's probably his time. Beltrami and Sanders' score, as best I can remember, is sort of diegetic, adding to the sound effects, which wasn't bad, but not as noticeable.
Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones, Avatar
Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken, District 9
Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton, Star Trek
Again, going with the leviathan.
Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham & Andrew R. Jones
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo'Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Despite my contention that Precious is pure blaxsploitation, it clearly conforms to the stereotypes that rich liberals have of poor blacks. And nothing plays to their do-gooder misprision more than Mo'Nique's role (just look at the picture). Critic Jim Emerson compared the film to those of John Waters, which is apt. Note that Divine's characters didn't elicit the same condescending sympathies as the mother here. Of course, no one treats Waters' films seriously, but the same should've been true of this film, too.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home
Where the fuck is Tyson!?! Anyway, I'm guessing based on the health conscious ideology in Hollywood. But the butchering of dolphins might get more votes for The Cove.
Music and lyrics by Randy Newman, “Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog
Music and lyrics by Randy Newman, “Down in New Orleans” from The Princess and the Frog
Music by Reinhardt Wagner and lyrics by Frank Thomas, “Loin de Paname” from Paris 36
Music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, “Take It All” from Nine
Music and lyrics by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett, “The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from Crazy Heart
Newman might get split votes, so why not …
Ryan Bingham & T Bone Burnett
Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, District 9
Nick Hornby, An Education
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche, In the Loop
Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
I hear Academy members really like Up in the Air, so they have to give it something.
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Fantastic Mr. Fox is too ugly with that moving fur. Pixar wins again.
China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
Music by Prudence
Rabbit à la Berlin
Going with precedent. This award tends to go to disadvantaged kids overcoming adversity. Music by Prudence really fits that bill.
Music by Prudence
Fabrice O. Joubert, French Roast
Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell, Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
Javier Recio Gracia, The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)
Nicolas Schmerkin, Logorama
Nick Park, A Matter of Loaf and Death
Is there a contest here? Wallace and Gromit.
A Matter of Loaf and Death
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Bob Peterson, Pete Docter and story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy, Up
Since writing isn't very important, this award is another concession prize to a filmmaker not appropriately recognized. Call it implicit guilt. Thus:
Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg (Art), Kim Sinclair (Set), Avatar
Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro (Art), Caroline Smith (Set), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
John Myhre (Art), Gordon Sim (Set), Nine
Sarah Greenwood (Art), Katie Spencer (Set), Sherlock Holmes
Patrice Vermette (Art), Maggie Gray (Set), The Young Victoria
Judging by the past thirty years of this award, painting reached its apex on the covers of fantasy mass markets. The only improvement left was computers making these images move. Thus, the Oscar is definitely going to:
Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg & Kim Sinclair
Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron, Avatar
Julian Clarke, District 9
Bob Murawski and Chris Innis, The Hurt Locker
Sally Menke, Inglourious Basterds
Joe Klotz, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
I'm guessing this one comes down to The Hurt Locker versus Inglourious Basterds. Menke has been around for awhile, editing all of Tarantino's films. Think nonlinear = lots of editing. But she deserves it, too. Plus, it's the year of the woman in macho genres.
Live Action Short
Juanita Wilson and James Flynn, The Door
Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström, Instead of Abracadabra
Gregg Helvey, Kavi
Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey, Miracle Fish
Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson, The New Tenants
Again, kids overcoming adversity:
The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker
Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
I have a three-part theory as to why The Hurt Locker will be the big winner: (1) The stick-it-to-James-Cameron factor, which involves throwing support to his ex, and in the action genre, no less. (2) The Avatar-just-isn't-very-good factor, which involves a group who fancy themselves big-A artists, only reluctantly acknowledging genres that aren't considered big-A art (after three years and a whole lot of profit, The Lord of the Rings finally made it). Critiquing Avatar is akin to criticizing a theme park ride for its predictable narrative qualities. Finally, (3) the Spielberg factor, which involves stripping a story's serious subject of its most difficult ideological and moral issues to where it becomes more or less an entertaining genre film, but with an illusory commitment to its serious originary inspiration (this is why Inglourious Basterds has no chance -- it's quite honest about being entertaining). The only thing The Hurt Locker really has going for it is the great action sequences. The story is nothing but a clichéd reiteration of men on a mission being led by a hotshot. Since it's contemporary and set in Iraq, it's supposed to connote something important about current problems. If it actually said anything, it would've gone the way of all the other important Iraq-based films of the past few years. Oh well, the violence is sublime.
The Hurt Locker