TMW's countdown to the Oscars

By Jenny Ledig

Oscar outrages: Why wasn’t Ryan Gosling and/or “Blue Valentine” nominated? Was “Waiting for Superman” rightfully excluded? Why was Hailee Steinfeld nominated for supporting actress when she was the protagonist while Jeff Bridges gets a best actor nom for a supporting role? Where is Christopher Nolan’s recognition for “Inception?” Despite these injustices, I’ll be tuning in for a heated race in almost every category. Here’s a roundup of Oscar gossip and a summary of the biggest categories along with some predictions, and on the opposite page you can fill out your own picks. Watch ABC on Sunday at 6 p.m. for the red carpet excitement and at 7 p.m. for the main event.

Best Picture

Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

The dark horses:
Like almost everyone else who saw “Toy Story 3”, I laughed, I cried, and thoroughly enjoyed the animated movie, but I don’t think that it was the BEST movie of 2010. “The Kids Are All Right” the lighthearted family dramedy about a family that’s shaken when the kids find their sperm-donor dad. Critics loved it and it did well at the box office for an indie movie, but maybe lacks the heft necessary to pull of a big win (it only got nominated in two other categories.) “Winter’s Bone” is a gritty film about a teenage girl in the Ozarks who has to track down her meth-dealing dad and take care of her young siblings. While considered to be an Oscar darling, it may be too obscure of a film without enough of a popular following to win this big of a category.

Fair chance of winning:
The western remake, “True Grit,” by the Coen brothers was a great movie and was popular among audiences and critics alike. However, it’s unlikely that a remake could win this category, at least in a year with such tough competition. Also, considering that the main character, Hailee Steinfeld was only entered as a supporting actress, that’s an indication that it didn’t rank high enough with the Academy. “Black Swan” evokes such strong reactions – either you loved it or you hated it. While most think that Natalie Portman will win for her performance, the psychological thriller may be too dark to win. “127 Hours,” the film based on a true story of a man who gets stuck in a canyon and to save himself, cuts off his own arm. The cringe-worthy flick that prompted many theatergoers to vomit may be too much for the Academy, but the inspirational message and incredible performance by James Franco gives it a fighting chance. “Inception,” the groundbreaking and mind-blowing movie was a summer blockbuster. If voted best picture, it would give the Oscars more staying power and respect among mainstream Americans. However, upon closer inspection, there were major plot holes, which could be a problem among the Academy voters.

Best contenders:
You do not need to be a Facebook addict to appreciate “The Social Network.” The glossy production, compelling storyline, fast paced dialogue, powerful performances and haunting soundtrack seem to deserve the best picture. It won big at the Golden Globes, picking up four trophies in highly contested categories, but that isn’t always an indicator of future success with the Academy, and in some cases has hurt Oscar hopefuls. While overall well-received, it was criticized for not having enough positive portrayals of women. Also, the hype surrounding the movie could hurt it; as soon as it came out, it was heralded as the movie to beat for best picture. Finally, in comparison to the struggles that others in the category have to face whether or not the Winklevoss twins receive a large enough settlement could seem trivial. “The King’s Speech” is an incredibly well done period piece following King George in his quest to overcome his speech impediment as well as prepare for his greatest challenge of leading Great Britain in World War II. It gives great insight into the lives of the royals and it’s an uplifting testament to the human spirit. The fact that it’s a period piece could help it or work against it; historically British historical dramas have done well in the Oscars, but it has been criticized for being too cookie-cutter Oscar movie or Oscar-bait. “The Fighter” is a compelling take on “the pride of Lowell” and makes boxing interesting for mainstream audiences. The contentious interpersonal relationships and strong supporting cast give the movie a fighting chance, but the fact that the protagonist, Mark Wahlberg, wasn’t nominated for best actor severely hurts the film’s chances.

Who will win: The King’s Speech
Who should win: The King’s Speech

Actor in a Leading Role

Javier Bardem Biutiful
Jeff Bridges True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg The Social Network
Colin Firth The King’s Speech
James Franco 127 Hours

Bardem has an edge since he’s the first to be nominated for a non-english speaking role. Eisenberg made the elusive Mark Zuckerberg a more sympathetic chararacter in his portrayal. Franco’s hard to watch performance cutting off his own arm is Oscar worthy in many people’s books, but this year the competition might prove to be too tough. Bridges won last year for “Crazy Heart” so he’s unlikely to win again this year although he was captivating as the grizzled Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit” and maybe deserves it even more this year. On the other hand, Firth is expected to win this year for “The King’s Speech,” but it could be argued that Firth’s performance in “A Single Man” last year was better. So some find it a twist of fate that the (presumed) wins should be reversed.

Who will win: Colin Firth
Who should win: Colin Firth

Actress in a Leading Role

Annette Bening The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman Rabit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman Black Swan
Michelle Williams Blue Valentine

Kidman, who won best actress in “The Hours,” gave another stirring performance as a mother coping to deal with the death of her young son. However, due to her relatively recent win, she’s unlikely to win again. Annette Bening moved audiences with her portrayal as the stoic mom whose life is rocked when the sperm-donor enters their lives. As the only semi-lighthearted role in the bunch, she may be at a disadvantage compared to the heavier topics in other films. Lawrence, the youngest of the bunch, impressed critics with her brave performance as a teenager standing up for her family and confronting her meth dealer father. However, the previously unknown actress may have trouble up against bigger Hollywood players. Michelle Williams delivers a heartbreaking and real performance in Blue Valentine as a young mom falling out of love. The controversy surrounding the film could help or hurt her, but mostly it seems that the Academy didn’t like the film enough (only ONE nomination) to secure her a win. At the end of the day, it seems that Natalie Portman is the one to beat this category with her legendary performance as a driven to the brink ballerina. However, the hype surrounding her may work against Portman and the Academy may try to choose someone less expected.

Will win: Natalie Portman
Should win: Michelle Williams

Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale The Fighter
John Hawkes Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner The Town
Mark Ruffalo The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush The King’s Speech

Hawkes’ menacing performance in the drama set in the Ozarks could be raw enough to nab the win, but doesn’t have mainstream support. Renner, conversely, was in a popular film “The Town,” and he was nominated last year for his performance in The Hurt Locker, which won best picture last year, but the crime drama role may not be meaty enough to score the win. Ruffalo was perfect as the cool, nonchalant sperm donor, but it might be too chill for an Oscar. The big match-up is between front runner Christian Bale for his gritty performance as the drug-addict, washed-up broth
er in the boxing pic and Geoffrey Rush as the firm yet endearing speech therapist to the king. Bale has swept the awards at other award shows and is likely to win again for playing such a convincing delusional junkie, but Rush has paid his dues and deserves the Academy’s recognition.

Who will win: Christian Bale
Who should win: Geoffrey Rush


Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld True Grit
Jacki Weaver Animal Kingdom

Jacki Weaver was a surprising choice for her work as the matriarch to an Australian crime family. While well received, it is a little known movie and she has a tough fight ahead of her against women in more popular movies. Bonham Carter was equal parts prim-and-proper and assertive as Queen Elizabeth. While she had a huge year starring in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and “Alice in Wonderland” and this was by far her best performance, it wasn’t the best performance of the year. The women of “The Fighter” bring a lot of heart and personality to the film, however the votes may be split between them, ruining their chances. Melissa Leo has done well in previous award shows as the manipulative manager mother. However, after being frustrated with the lack of promotional opportunities and magazine covers, she launched a very aggressive Oscar campaign going as far as to personally take out ads asking the Academy to consider her for best supporting actress. Such actions could backfire on her, but the strength of her performance could redeem her. Also, helping her is fact that there aren’t a lot of good roles for older women in Hollywood so this could be one of her last chances, so there’s a sense of urgency that’s not there for other nominees. On the other hand, Amy Adams got a lot of praise for playing against type. Her tough girl role as the saucy girlfriend of a boxer is a far cry from her recent projects like “Leap Year,” “Julie & Julia,” and “Enchanted.” However, Leo has gotten more acclaim for her performance and between the two has a better chance of winning. Hailee Steinfeld deserves this win since she carried the film and outshined seasoned actors Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Hopefully the Academy will make up for her not being in the correct category (Best Actress in a Leading Role) by choosing her.

Who will win: Melissa Leo
Who should win: Hailee Steinfeld