Well, since I'm always chiming in with my opinions on movies, I figured I'd throw my hat in the ring with respect to the Oscar races. I'm utilizing the typical Should Win/Will Win format, as employed by most major respectable magazines and newspapers, because...well...I'm not creative enough to come up with something original. So, here it goes...
Let's start with the least interesting...what Entertainment Weekly classifies as "The Other Races." These include Best Visual Effects, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography. Safe to say, I wouldn't know a brilliant sound mixer if he or she hit me over the head with a...er...sound mixing machine. I'm just going to go out on a limb and say that Avatar SHOULD and WILL win all of these. It won't, but I know it should and will win at least half of those, so the odds are on my side here. Primarily, if it doesn't win Best Visual Effects, an international investigation needs to be launched.
Best Adapted Screenplay
SHOULD WIN: Precious - Geoffrey Fletcher
WILL WIN: Up in the Air - Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
Best Original Screenplay
SHOULD WIN: I haven't seen either The Messenger or Up, but based on how much I enjoyed the other three films here, I'd say one of those two deserves to win.
WILL WIN: Inglorious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino. QT hasn't won anything significant since Pulp Fiction, so I expect this to be the Academy's make-up kiss to him. It's possible that voters might go with The Hurt Locker here in lieu of giving it the nod for the more major awards.
Best Supporting Actress
SHOULD WIN: Mo'Nique (Precious) - I didn't quite flip out over this performance as much as others have, but it still blows away the other two nominees who I actually saw...Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick from Up in the Air. Kendrick has no business being nominated for anything...she gave one of the most annoying performances of the year, in my opinion. I didn't see Nine, but it certainly looked ridiculous, and Penelope Cruz got her award last year. I also didn't see Crazy Heart, but according to general consensus, Jeff Bridges overshadows everything else in that film.
WILL WIN: Mo'Nique - this is as much of a lock as Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem were a couple years ago for There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men. There is absolutely no way on Earth Mo'Nique loses.
Best Supporting Actor
SHOULD WIN: Haven't seen enough of these films, but I wonder why Alfred Molina wasn't rewarded with a nomination over Matt Damon (Invictus) for his work in An Education. I walked out of the theater halfway into that film, but he was the only even mildly entertaining aspect of it.
WILL WIN: Christoper Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) - Not quite as much of a walk as with Supporting Actress, but close. If The Lovely Bones had been a box office and critical success, this would have been Stanley Tucci's to lose, but the lackluster response to that film led The Messenger's Woody Harrelson and especially Waltz to leapfrog him in the awards season showdowns.
SHOULD WIN: Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia) - On another planet, in another cosmos, in some distant time, Sandra Bullock's name might warrant mentioning in the same sentence as Streep's. But sorry, Sandy...not in this world. The surprising thing for me, was how much I actually enjoyed Julie and Julia. That marks the second year in a row that Streep led the charge in what I thought was one of the best films, or in last year's case of Doubt, THE best film, of the year. I was also surprised that I liked The Blind Side, but it was not even close to J&J.
WILL WIN: Meryl Streep - She's becoming the Susan Lucci of the Oscars. Although she won three awards earlier in her career, she's 0 for her last 12 nominations. I think it's time to put an end to that nonsense. I can only pray that Bullock's name is not called, which it may well be. I also think Gabourey Sidibe deserved more buzz for her performance in Precious. Why did Mo'Nique get all the attention there when she was only in a supporting role?
SHOULD WIN: My SHOULD WIN unfortunately wasn't even within 10,000 miles of being considered for a nomination. Robert DeNiro in Everybody's Fine, to me, was a return to form for our generation's greatest actor. I still don't get how nobody else liked that film. Out of the actual nominees, again by virtue of the fact that I didn't like the three movies I saw (Invictus, Up in the Air, and The Hurt Locker), I'd say either Colin Firth (A Single Man) or Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart).
WILL WIN: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) - If you had asked me three months ago, I would have said George Clooney, hands down. Crazy Heart originally wasn't even supposed to be released in time for this year's Oscar race. So Bridges basically came out of nowhere, but it looks like he is a strong favorite.
SHOULD WIN: James Cameron (Avatar) - I know I'm prone to hyperbole, but I say this with extreme seriousness; if Cameron loses to The Hurt Locker's Kathryn Bigelow, his ex-wife, somebody, somewhere should die a slow and painful death. I mean honestly, there will be no comprehensible excuse. There's already no excuse for her beating him for the Director's Guild Award - a primary reason many people now think she'll actually win the damn Oscar. True, I know nothing about the nuances of film direction, but for the love of Pandora, Cameron freakin' invented the technology he used to helm Avatar. He basically revolutionized film making as we know it, with the entire industry now scrambling to figure out how to make every film 3D and not look like colossal failures up against Cameron's benchmark work. Please tell me how...HOW does Bigelow's accomplishment even approach this level? Thankfully, she's the only threat and no one else has a shot.
WILL WIN: I'm sticking to my guns and saying James Cameron wins.
SHOULD WIN: Avatar - It bears repeating that Cameron is easily a much better director than he is a writer, as the story here was not up to snuff. But for once, that truly was nearly inconsequential. I think it's painfully ironic that this was the year, of all years, that the Academy opted to expand to 10 nominees in this category. I mean, this is the freakin' year where they may as well have had only ONE nominee. For me, it's Avatar, and then everyone else. The blood, sweat, and tears that must have gone into this film couldn't possibly be comparable to what it took to produce An Education or The Blind Side. People completely overlook how difficult the acting tasks must have been...playing against blank screens, having to get accustomed to the technology being used, and even learning an entirely new language! I just don't get how anyone else is even in this conversation.
WILL WIN: Avatar - Again, many people believe The Hurt Locker is now the film to beat. I'm thinking that babies and kittens will cry if that happens. And we wouldn't want that. I say saner heads will prevail. As an anonymous industry Producer so eloquently put it in an Entertainment Weekly sampling of how four Academy voters voted, "He (Cameron) is such a bastard. He's really a hard guy to root for, and always has been, but what he created with this movie--just the beauty of it--he blew me away." Even THAT chick didn't vote for The Hurt Locker!
I'm still looking forward to seeing more of the nominated films, so there are some holes in my analysis here, but oh well...there are other things besides movies.