The Oscar Watch begins now.
Nominations were announced on the night of 2 February, Singapore time, and it is high time for inSing.com’s resident reviewers to make some predictions.
Bear in mind that the fortunes of these actors and films may hinge upon the Academy Awards ceremony on the evening of 7 March (8 March morning, Singapore time). Winning an Oscar can help launch a budding career or offer fitting recognition for long careers marked by excellence.
This year, the focus is on the battle for the top honours between ex-spouses James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, whose Avatar and The Hurt Locker respectively each topped the nominations list with nine.
Other interesting sub-plots to the awards include the potential for Inglorious Basterds (eight nominations) and the Oprah Winfrey-backed Precious (six nominations) can upstage the more favoured films, and whether first-time nominee Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) and fifth-time nominee Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) can snag their first Oscars in the best actress and best actor categories.
Without further ado, here’s what we at inSing.com think will happen in the major categories:
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
InSing.com Movie Lover, Noor Hidzir Junaini, predicts: Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker
In a year where Jeff Bridges is the new Mickey Rourke, I’m hedging my bets on underdog Renner. His intensely riveting turn as a seething war-addicted ordinance expert is by far the most deserving yet somehow the least visible.
Ken Kwek predicts: Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker
Renner deserves an Oscar look-in for his quiet, quietly debilitating turn as an Iraqi bomb disposal expert addicted to the adrenaline of war. Golden Globe winner Bridges’ country singer is a broken man in need of redemption. But Renner’s soldier must continue living where no redemption can be found. This tips the scale.
Shu Chiang predicts: Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
Academy voters love a good comeback story, and so do I. Jeff Bridges will forever be a Fabulous Baker Boy to me, as well as The Dude from The Big Lebowski. He would be a deserving winner.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Movie Lover: Carey Mulligan for An Education
Mulligan’s career-defining, show-stealing performance in An Education is at once charmingly spectacular and winningly self-assured. She’s another outside shot that I’m rooting for, but once you’ve seen Mulligan’s brilliance, it’s hard not to.
Ken: Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side
Mulligan is luminous as an ingénue who rejects the pre-feminist mores of 1960s English society; Precious’s Gabourey Sidibe nails it as the personification of dysfunction in Harlem. But it is Bullock – the hardworking veteran – who gets my vote. Her character is neither underprivileged nor bound by society’s rule. She is strong, and Bullock embraces that strength, combining curtness with kindness.
SC: Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side
Are the Oscars a popularity contest? Most definitely yes. And while voters love Meryl Streep, her past success – she won two Oscars from 15 nominations prior to 2010 – will count against her. Bullock is herself a popular—and highly bankable—figure among Hollywood glitterati and she is the favourite here. A dark horse is talented rising star Carey Mulligan, who has been described as “the new Audrey Hepburn”.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Movie Lover: Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds
Col. Hans Landa will go down in history as one of the greatest villains in cinema. Much like Ledger’s Joker last year, Waltz’s showmanship makes Landa that dastardly antagonist you just hate to love.
Ken: Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds
It is his role in Basterds, far more than his competent acting, that underpins his ‘favourite’ status. Matt Damon is impressive as South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar in Invictus; Alfred Molina is affecting as an over-controlling but ultimately loving father in An Education – these are real characters. By comparison, the cartoonishly diabolical Landa, written by the diabolically cartoonish Quentin Tarantino, is pure fiction. If Waltz wins, it’ll be a screenwriting victory for Tarantino.
SC: Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds
No other supporting actor, or character, commanded a movie goer’s attention like Waltz/Landa did in 2009. His win is as close to a dead certainty as there can be.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Movie Lover: Mo'Nique for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Mo’Nique’s staggeringly magnificent performance here is the only thing I adored in a movie that everyone else seems to love more than me. She’s a shoo-in.
Ken: Samantha Morton for The Messenger
Golden Globe winner Mo'Nique is an obvious favourite for playing the abusive matron of a dysfunctional family. She takes on an in-your-face role magnificently. But I favour twice-nominated Morton, who takes on a more understated role of a soldier’s widow. Her grief is gentle, and all the more heartwrenching for being so.
SC: Mo'Nique for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
In a category that is wide open, she has the most buzz and momentum coming in. If there is to be an upset, one of the ladies (Vera Farmiga or Anna Kendrick) from the well-regarded Up in the Air may snatch this.
Best Achievement in Directing
Movie Lover: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
Her ex-husband has put one over Bigelow one too many times this year already, and it has to stop. Bigelow infused a masterful Hitchcock-ian take on the played out war movie genre and should rightfully be rewarded.
Ken: James Cameron for Avatar
Bigelow delivers a brutally realistic drama about war-damaged heroism, her scenes kinetic, palpitating, and tense. By comparison, Cameron’s film is an all-out fantasy, full of grace and splendour. Her film is impressive, but not groundbreaking the way his is. His direction ameliorates the clichés of his screenplay, and the result combines heart with groundbreaking technological innovation.
SC: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
Women don’t win directing awards, until this year. Bigelow recently broke a long streak of male dominance at the Directors Guild of America awards, an important bellwether for the directing Oscar. All signs point to her besting Cameron—a three-time past winner for Titanic, obviously—here.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
Movie Lover: The Hurt Locker
I would love to have picked District 9, just to show Avatar-devotees what intelligent sci-fi really is, but alas I had to go with The Hurt Locker. The Hurt Locker is a startling accomplishment in filmmaking, suspenseful transfixing and undeniably definitive in its portrait of war.
The Hurt Locker, a closely observed portrait of a warrior’s psychology, and District 9, an unusual and highly entertaining South African alien movie with allusions to post-apartheid prejudice, fully deserve their accolades. If as compelling – if not more – than Avatar in subject matter, they are simply incomparable in visual splendour. Avatar is unabashedly romantic with its simple, even simplistic message: “Take care of the planet, for we are all connected.” But it’s also a product with heart, driven as it is by an abiding faith in cinema’s ability to create new worlds, and take one’s breath away.
If Bigelow gets the directing award, then it’s more than likely Avatar will snag the Best Picture prize. Oscar voters have in recent years, particularly last year, shown a tendency to spread the awards around. And frankly, Avatar was a tremendous achievement.
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