Don't remember the last time I made any Oscar picks. Suppose I could look it up, but I don't care that much. So here, without further blather, are my picks (in bold) for this years Oscar winners.
The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
There are a few movies in this category I would be happy with if they won, though Avatar is not among them. While Avatar is visually stunning and should win every SFX Oscar it's nominated for, its story is by-the-numbers and rote, with no originality whatsoever.
Inglourious Basterds, however, is quite possibly Tarantino's best film to date, and an Oscar win would make up for Pulp Fiction losing to Forrest Gump in 1994.
My second pick, behind Basterds is, of course, A Serious Man, which immediately jumped to the top of my list of favorite Coen brothers' films. Such a simple story on its surface, but the more you dig, the more you uncover. It's a film that makes you think, and rewards you for doing so. I think I could watch it 20 times and still not fully grasp its intricacies.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
George Clooney for Up in the Air
Colin Firth for A Single Man
Morgan Freeman for Invictus
Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker
This one is no contest. While the story in Crazy Heart may not have been the most original, the acting was superb, and it doesn't get much better than Jeff Bridges' portrayal of washed up singer/songwriter Bad Blake.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side
Helen Mirren for The Last Station
Carey Mulligan for An Education
Gabourey Sidibe for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia
I'm sure Bullock will win this award for her white-people-aren't-all-racist feel good schlock, and that's fine. I'm sure she's very good as the uber-Christian moralist in The Blind Side, but Carey Mulligan at age 24 is already heads and shoulders above most actresses of her generation. She may not win this year, but there's definitely a gold statuette in her future.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon for Invictus
Woody Harrelson for The Messenger
Christopher Plummer for The Last Station
Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds
Um, did you see Christoph Waltz as the Jew-hunting Nazi Col. Hans Landa? Case closed. Simply brilliant.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Penélope Cruz for Nine
Vera Farmiga for Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal for Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air
Mo'Nique for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
This is a tough call. While I absolutely loved Up in the Air and its great actors, and I loved Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart, all the scenes I saw of Mo'Nique in Push showed an incredible ferocity that is rarely seen these days. Like Christoph Waltz, I don't see how she doesn't win this award.
Best Achievement in Directing
Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
James Cameron for Avatar
Lee Daniels for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Jason Reitman for Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
I know everyone thinks this is a race between James Cameron and his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow because that makes such a great story, but my hat is firmly in the Tarantino ring this year. I wouldn't be surprised, or upset, really, if Cameron won this for Avatar, which was absolutely a technological masterpiece that I'm sure was incredibly difficult to direct. But I think Cameron is something of a smug asshole and I don't want to sit through another one of his sanctimonious speeches.
Besides, Tarantino murdered the Nazi High Command with movies. Literally.
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
The Hurt Locker - Mark Boal
Inglourious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino
The Messenger - Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman
A Serious Man - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Up - Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Thomas McCarthy
Name me another movie that introduces an entirely new cast of characters every 20 minutes and makes you care about them in such a short period of time. The way Tarantino weaved together the threads of this story will be dissected in film schools for years to come.
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
District 9 - Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
An Education - Nick Hornby
In the Loop - Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire - Geoffrey Fletcher
Up in the Air - Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner
While Up in the Air is rooted firmly in today's economic crisis, it also has a timeless quality about it. These characters and their lives can exist anywhere, anytime, and they could be any one of us, which I think is a rare feat to pull off.
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
This category leaves me so torn. I love pretty much anything Pixar makes. But the same can be said of Henry Selick, the director of Coraline (not to mention Neil Gaiman, my favorite writer from whose novel the film was adapted), and Wes Anderson, whose first foray into animation with Fantastic Mr. Fox is a masterpiece. In a just world, all three films would take home awards, but in a world where we value competitions with winners and losers, I don't imagine those two smaller films being able to withstand mighty Pixar's juggernaut. Up, the first 10 minutes of which are perhaps the most perfect 10 minutes ever put to film, will take home the prize.