- Javier Bardem -- Biutiful (Roadside Attractions)
- Jeff Bridges -- True Grit (Paramount)
- Jesse Eisenberg -- The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing)
- Colin Firth -- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
- James Franco -- 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight)
He's cute, cuddly, British and speechifying with a speech impediment. Firth's only competition is Spanish-speaking Bardem, who stars in some emotive porn not many voters will have seen, but would've really loved if they had.
- Matthew Libatique -- Black Swan (Fox Searchlight)
- Wally Pfister -- Inception (Warner Bros.)
- Danny Cohen -- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
- Jeff Cronenweth -- The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing)
- Roger Deakins -- True Grit (Paramount)
With very few exceptions, Best Cinematography goes to period pieces. That suggests two rivals: The King's Speech and True Grit. This is Deakins' ninth nomination, but he's never won. Cohen is a first-timer, but for the kind of film that's always been more respected by the Academy. Based on a cursory search of the web, everyone's predicting anyone but Cohen. The King's Speech is a classically beautiful film, set in the past, and I don't think voters care much if this is Deakins' ninth nod, since repeatedly losing didn't make much of a difference on his eighth. Besides actors and directors, do the voters really pay much attention to how long someone's been shafted? The American Society of Cinematographers gave it to Pfister, but they're not the only ones voting now.
Foreign Language Film
- Biutiful (Roadside Attractions) -- Mexico
- Dogtooth (Kino International) -- Greece
- In a Better World (Sony Pictures Classics) -- Denmark
- Incendies (Sony Pictures Classics) -- Canada
- Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) (Cohen Media Group) -- Algeria
Dogtooth is pretty amazing, sort of Salò as a family dramedy, but that hardly sounds like something the Academy will cotton to. And, what, Carlos couldn't even be represented here? Both Bardem and Iñárritu have made solid connections with Hollywood, so if voters pay attention to any of these films, it'll be Biutiful.
- Richard King -- Inception (Warner Bros.)
- Tom Myers and Michael Silvers -- Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney)
- Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague -- Tron: Legacy (Walt Disney)
- Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey -- True Grit (Paramount)
- Mark P. Stoeckinger -- Unstoppable (20th Century Fox)
With the exception of The Incredibles, cartoons have lost out on the sound effects award in the past decade. It tends to go to action films, either with a sci-fi/fantasy bent or a war theme -- particularly the latter, probably because 'war' connotes seriosity. No war film this year, so I'm going with the most pompous of the batch, Inception.
I noticed when using my picks for an Oscar pool that I had the same film, Inception, predicted for the two Sound categories (can the listening voter really distinguish the two?). The same film has won the two awards fairly frequently over the past 20 years, but most often when it's the clear favorite, either commercially or in terms of sweeping the other awards. Thus, on second thought, I think Toy Story 3 will probably get this (and it's not up for Sound Mixing). Inception was popular, but it wasn't that popular.
- Christian Bale -- The Fighter (Paramount)
- John Hawkes -- Winter's Bone (Roadside Attractions)
- Jeremy Renner -- The Town (Warner Bros.)
- Mark Ruffalo -- The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features)
- Geoffrey Rush -- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
It's between Bale and Rush. Note the rationale here, because it'll be used for Leading Actress, too. Bale once again undergoes physical transformation, this time to play a withered drug addict with a receding hairline. Rush just looks like himself in different clothes (plus, he's already won an Oscar). It'll be Bale.
- Colleen Atwood -- Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney)
- Antonella Cannarozzi -- I Am Love (Magnolia Pictures)
- Jenny Beavan -- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
- Sandy Powell -- The Tempest (Miramax)
- Mary Zophres -- True Grit (Paramount)
Not since The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert won in 1994 has this award gone to anything but a story set in the past. Only one fantasy (at least, in the sense that magic is literal), The Return of the King, has won in that time. In lieu of major box office cash to make up for its disreputable genre, Shakespeare and Helen Mirren add a bit of respectability to The Tempest, but not enough. So that leaves two contenders: The King's Speech and True Grit, just as in the Cinematography category. The last four winners for Costume have been about royalty. I predict predictability.
- Adrien Morot -- Barney's Version (Sony Pictures Classics)
- Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng -- The Way Back (Newmarket Films in association with Wrekin Hill Entertainment and Image Entertainment)
- Rick Baker and Dave Elsey -- The Wolfman (Universal)
The Wolfman is so awful that I didn't even remember having seen it until now, but this award is practically a celebration of tomorrow's bargain bin debris. Baker is the namebrand here, doing for this film an updated variation on what he did for his first Oscar win, An American Werewolf in London. I'm guessing his gooey transformations will win over famous actors disguised by funny noses and hair pieces or cheap tattoos and bad teeth.
- Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick -- Inception (Warner Bros.)
- Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley -- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
- Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin -- Salt (Sony Pictures Releasing)
- Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten -- The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing)
- Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland -- True Grit (Paramount)
Action and musicals have dominated the category for over a decade, so I'm whittling the choices down to Inception versus Salt. And no one gives a shit about Salt.
- Annette Bening -- The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features)
- Nicole Kidman -- Rabbit Hole (Lionsgate)
- Jennifer Lawrence -- Winter's Bone (Roadside Attractions)
- Natalie Portman -- Black Swan (Fox Searchlight)
- Michelle Williams -- Blue Valentine (The Weinstein Company)
Bening has been previously nominated four times, but has yet to win. She, however, looks like herself here and plays another version of the suburban virago she played in American Beauty. Only two factors will put her above Portman, who, as the fable goes, underwent five whole months of harsh, physical training to become a ballerina: voters are sick of hearing about how they're going to vote for Portman and it's time to honor Bening. I'm betting on physical transformation.
- Darren Aronofsky -- Black Swan (Fox Searchlight)
- David O. Russell -- The Fighter (Paramount)
- Tom Hooper -- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
- David Fincher -- The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing)
- Joel Coen and Ethan Coen -- True Grit (Paramount)
His only competition here is Hooper, but because Fincher's film won't win Best Picture and because he's a veteran moneymaker who hasn't won an Oscar, he'll get this one. This would mean that a director actually won for the best of his films, rather than as some consolation prize for not winning when he should've, which makes me think I'll be wrong.
- John Powell -- How to Train Your Dragon (Paramount)
- Hans Zimmer -- Inception (Warner Bros.)
- Alexandre Desplat -- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
- A.R. Rahman -- 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight)
- Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross -- The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Rahman has that public radio, early morning eclectic sound that many, not-too-old, well-to-do voters go for, but he recently won (for Slumdog Milliionaire). Powell and Zimmer are pulling from the same fan base, so the former will likely suck votes from the latter. For once, this adds up to the two best scores probably being the real contenders. Because I prefer Reznor and Ross' score, I predict Desplat's will win. He's been nominated three times before without winning and his music is classically melodic. People love melody.
- Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips -- Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney)
- Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi -- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Warner Bros.)
- Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell -- Hereafter (Warner Bros.)
- Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb -- Inception (Warner Bros.)
- Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick -- Iron Man 2 (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment)
Like picking Colin Firth for Leading Actor, easy peasy: Inception.
- Amy Adams -- The Fighter (Paramount)
- Helena Bonham Carter -- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
- Melissa Leo -- The Fighter (Paramount)
- Hailee Steinfeld -- True Grit (Paramount)
- Jacki Weaver -- Animal Kingdom (Sony Pictures Classics)
We can eliminate the actresses from The Fighter, because of split voting. Although she's yet to win, I'm eliminating Carter, because she's playing her typical role, a woman who provides wisdom to all the main male characters (and in a period piece). Steinfeld is the star of True Grit, but reconfiguring her as a supporting actress means she "surprisingly" dominated the picture. (Producers of All About Eve tried to get star Anne Baxter to take a supporting nod, but she insisted on going up against her co-star Bette Davis in the leading category, resulting in neither winning.) Additionally, everyone loves when kids win Oscars. Weaver really is a supporting actress, and had the juiciest role in Animal Kingdom as a devious criminal matriarch. Unfortunately for her, she's in the least commercially noteworthy film of the bunch. The True Grit tactic will work.
- Banksy -- Exit through the Gift Shop (Producers Distribution Agency)
- Josh Fox -- Gasland
- Charles Ferguson -- Inside Job (Sony Pictures Classics)
- Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger -- Restrepo (National Geographic Entertainment)
- Lucy Walker, Karen Harley and João Jardim -- Waste Land (Arthouse Films)
Of the two best known, Exit through the Gift Shop is a bit too "edgy" -- too "urban" -- so I predict suburban, middle-class plight: Inside Job.
- “Coming Home” from Country Strong (Sony Pictures Releasing (Screen Gems)) -- Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
- “I See the Light” from Tangled (Walt Disney) -- Music by Alan Menken, Lyric by Glenn Slater
- “If I Rise” from 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight) -- Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
- “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney) -- Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
As Gwyneth Paltrow sings in "Coming Home," this category always reminds me of a "four-letter word." Does anyone really like this stuff? If so, does it fill the void left by Phil Collins? You could switch the nominees and movies and no one would notice. The across-the-board monotony defies any clear ideological or aesthetic prediction. Enya is experimental within this alternate realm. So I guess Dido and Rahman's song is the stand out.
- Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy -- 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight)
- Aaron Sorkin -- The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing)
- Michael Arndt, story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich -- Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney)
- Joel Coen and Ethan Coen -- True Grit (Paramount)
- Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini -- Winter's Bone (Roadside Attractions)
Toy Story 3 is certainly the most ideologically interesting, but a cartoon. The Social Network is about the dialogue, and it's by the most popular scenarist currently working. The other three candidates are driven as much by physical action as by words. Ergo, Sorkin.
- Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois -- How to Train Your Dragon (Paramount)
- Sylvain Chomet -- The Illusionist (Sony Pictures Classics)
- Lee Unkrich -- Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney)
At least Toy Story 3 will win in its ghetto.
- Jed Rothstein -- Killing in the Name
- Sara Nesson -- Poster Girl
- Kirk Simon -- Strangers No More
- Tim Metzger -- Sun Come Up
- Ruby Yang -- The Warriors of Qiugang
Killing in the Name is a Muslim anti-terrorist film. Poster Girl is about a former high school cheerleader turned Army vet suffering post-traumatic shock from her time in Iraq. Stranger No More is about a school in Tel Aviv where poor kids from various countries and antagonistic backgrounds come together and love one another. The Warriors of Qiugang is an environmentalist film about central China villagers taking on a chemical company. Who doesn't love indigent children in heartwarming scenarios?
Animated Short Film
- Teddy Newton -- Day & Night (Walt Disney) -- A Pixar Animation Studios Production
- Jakob Schuh and Max Lang -- The Gruffalo -- A Magic Light Pictures Production
- Geefwee Boedoe -- Let's Pollute -- A Geefwee Boedoe Production
- Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann -- The Lost Thing (Nick Batzias for Madman Entertainment) -- A Passion Pictures Australia Production
- Bastien Dubois -- Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) -- A Sacrebleu Production
Day & Night played before Toy Story 3. It's on the home video. It's also great.
- Mike Leigh -- Another Year (Sony Pictures Classics)
- Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, story by Keith Dorrington, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson -- The Fighter (Paramount)
- Christopher Nolan -- Inception (Warner Bros.)
- Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg -- The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features)
- David Seidler -- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
A sci-fi spectacle has never won this award, so Inception is out, even if it did win the Writer's Guild Award. Smaller, artier films (as in few special effects) tend to dominate, particularly if they're heavily dramatic. It's a logocentric category. As it was last year with The Hurt Locker (an exception to the rule), the Best Picture drive will push the votes here. The King's Speech has lots of talking and lots of struggling to talk, which lets the audience know just how much talking there is. Even better, it doesn't have explosions. So why not The Kids Are All Right, which has the bonus of gentrified gay sexuality? If there's an upset, it'll be the one. But I suspect it's included here for giving Annette Bening something to be dramatic with (cf. Julianne Moore and Far from Heaven).
- Robert Stromberg (Production Design), Karen O'Hara (Set Decoration) -- Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney)
- Stuart Craig (Production Design), Stephenie McMillan (Set Decoration) -- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Warner Bros.)
- Guy Hendrix Dyas (Production Design), Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (Set Decoration) -- Inception (Warner Bros.)
- Eve Stewart (Production Design), Judy Farr (Set Decoration) -- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
- Jess Gonchor (Production Design), Nancy Haigh (Set Decoration) -- True Grit (Paramount)
Fantasy often does well here, but so do big, serious epics. Looks like Inception to me.
- Andrew Weisblum -- Black Swan (Fox Searchlight)
- Pamela Martin -- The Fighter (Paramount)
- Tariq Anwar -- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
- Jon Harris -- 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight)
- Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter -- The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing)
All those cuts between timelines, places and people. The Social Network has to win a few.
Live Action Short Film
- Tanel Toom -- The Confession (National Film and Television School) -- A National Film and Television School Production
- Michael Creagh -- The Crush (Network Ireland Television) -- A Purdy Pictures Production
- Luke Matheny -- God of Love -- A Luke Matheny Production
- Ivan Goldschmidt -- Na Wewe (Premium Films) -- A CUT! Production
- Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite -- Wish 143 -- A Swing and Shift Films/Union Pictures Production
The Crush, Wish 143 and God of Love deal with youthful lust with respectively decreasing levels of perversity, but increasingly irritating central characters. Politics or religion will probably win. Na Wewe is a whimsical yarn about the Rwandan genocide. The Confession is a more somber critique of Catholic sin. Both involve kids, so I can't use that. The latter's in English and I've read that it contains a very simple, direct message (whatever that might be), so I'll go with anti-religious sentiment.
- Black Swan (Fox Searchlight)
- The Fighter (Paramount)
- Inception (Warner Bros.)
- The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features)
- The King's Speech (The Weinstein Company)
- 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight)
- The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing)
- Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney)
- True Grit (Paramount)
- Winter's Bone (Roadside Attractions)
There isn't much of a contest here: The King's Speech, about a decent guy overcoming a disability to inspire others, versus The Social Network, about an asshole who triumphs over others. Never mind that a king, by dint of his social privilege, is always going to be just as big an asshole as a rapacious capitalist, Hollywood loves the illusion of adversity overcome. That's why The King's Speech swept the Guild awards and why it'll win here, too. As Christopher Hitchens once said, I prefer my leaders denuded.