The Oscar Warrior’s Final Oscar Predictions

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It’s hard to believe that the 83rd Annual Academy Awards are just days away, and ComingSoon.net’s The Oscar Warrior has now had a chance to see every single one of the movies that has received nominations in all categories including the 15 short films, and he’s come up with what he hopes will be the definitive analysis of the Oscar race. A lot has changed in the months since our earlier predictions, which you can read here and here,and because of that, a few of our picks have changed since our earlier predictions. There’s still some room for Oscar night surprises in a couple of the categories.

Art Direction

This category is about the overall look of the film which incorporates production and set design which starts with preproduction concept art and the like. Most often, this Oscar will go to a big lush fantasy epic, which basically gives the advantage to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (Disney) and Christopher Nolan’s Inception (Warner Bros.) over the gorgeously-produced Best Picture favorite The King’s Speech (Weinstein Company). It has gone a number of times to movies not nominated for Best Picture which doesn’t rule “Alice” out for the win, but we think Nolan’s spectacular vision for Inception and the way it was created will win Guy Hendrix Dyas and his team their first Oscar.

Costume Design

This award specifically for the costumes almost always goes to a period piece, which would give King’s Speech the advantage, except that this category is just right up the alley for the amazing outfits created for Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, so it’s likely costume designer Colleen Atwood will add a third Oscar to her mantle following Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha. (It would also make it the sixth year in a row the Oscar in this category went to a movie not even nominated for Best Picture.)

Makeup

There are three very different movies nominated for this award, and the most obvious choice would be The Wolfman, because it does involve the most drastic amount of make-up FX and genre films have long been winners here going back to the first Oscar in this category for An American Werewolf in London. That went to Rick Baker who has won six previous times, but the award has also often gone to films where actors are shown at a lot of different ages, which is the case with the actors in Richard Lewis’ Barney’s Version (Sony Pictures Classics). While most Oscar pundits are going with Baker, we think this one is going to Barney’s Version because it’s actually a good movie and not just about good make-up.

Film Editing

It’s shocking to many that Inception didn’t even get nominated in this category, but of the five movies that did, the ones with the most impressive editing are Jon Harris’ work in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours and Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter for The Social Network. That said, they’re going up against Pamela Martin’s work in The Fighter (Paramount), a movie that benefits from its genre, since many boxing movies have won in this category. Even so, we think this will be one category where The Social Network will win out over The King’s Speech.

Sound Mixing

This is the more straightforward of the sound categories in that it basically involves the mixing of music, dialogue and sound FX, a category that’s often gone to big budget blockbusters like Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and King Kong, though it’s also been awarded to musicals and movie that rely heavily on music. With nothing in the latter category in this year’s offerings, it seems likely that Christopher Nolan’s bombastic sound for Inception will be considered more impressive than the others, although Best Picture favorites The Social Network or The King’s Speech could pull out a surprise win.

Sound Editing

What differentiates this category from Sound Mixing is that this is about the actual sound effects, which is why this often goes to war movies like Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor and others, but this one is probably going to be Richard King’s to win for Inception, which would make it his second Oscar. The only possible spoiler in this category may be TRON: Legacy, though the fact that it wasn’t even nominated for the visual effects category makes one think it didn’t really impress the Academy’s tech voters.

Visual Effects

This is the first year with five nominees in the one category that often can award summer blockbusters for the amount of money they spend on cool CG FX and while only the second “Harry Potter” movie to be nominated may seem like an obvious choice, the Academy are more likely to wait until the final chapter later this year. That makes this another guaranteed Oscar win for Nolan’s Inception.

Cinematography

Like everyone else, we’re hoping Roger Deakins will break his long-running jinx, having been nominated nine times in this category without winning, and his work in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit (Paramount) is some of his best work as he captures the wild expanses of the untamed wilderness of the Old West. Deakins’ work on the Coens’ Oscar Best Picture No Country for Old Men was defeated by the cinematography for Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. One shouldn’t assume that being a Western will help the film as even Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-winning Unforgiven lost in this category. This time around, Deakins has been doing more interviews than usual to help his case, though he’s taking on the amazing camerawork by Wally Pfister for Christopher Nolan’s Inception (Warner Bros.) which already beat True Grit for the American Society of Cinematographers award; Pfister is a four-time nominee himself. While this one should be down to one of those two, one can’t ignore the glorious look of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (Fox Searchlight), which might help cinematographer Matthew Libatique be the category spoiler similar to Guillermo Navarro’s work in Pan’s Labyrinth a few years back, especially if votes are split between the other two. Still, we have to at least imagine that Oscar voters do have a heart and are sensitive to the fact Deakins’ incredible work has never been honored, so they probably will use this category to award the Coens’ heavily-nominated True Grit.

Music (Original Score)

There are plenty of options in this category including the soundtracks for the two Best Picture frontrunners, though in the last 15 years, only three Best Picture winners have also won in this category. Unfortunately, one of those is Shakespeare in Love, the movie that this year’s frontrunner The King’s Speech is being compared to the most, and composer Alexandre Desplat is going on his fourth nomination in five years, which might make him the favorite. Lots of Nine Inch Nails fans would love to see Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross win for The Social Network, as they did at the Golden Globes, though it’s an electronic score that goes against the grain of what normally wins. Similarly, Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception is his best work in years and it certainly is the biggest and most prominent score, although it’s also far less conventional than previous scores for which he’s been nominated. We think this is going to be a surprise win for former Zimmer collaborator John Powell and his score for How to Train Your Dragon, which many actual music lovers feel is the strongest work, which works as well on its own as it does with the picture.

Music (Original Song)

This is another difficult category as two Disney songs are vying for the win with “I See the Light” from Tangled having the benefits of being written by the biggest winner in this category to date, Alan Menken. 19-time song nominee Randy Newman was snubbed twice last year for his songs for The Princess and the Frog and he’s only won one Oscar after all these years though his song “We Belong Together” from the Pixar blockbuster Toy Story 3 should benefit from the fact that so many people will know the movie and hopefully it will fare better than “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” the beloved song from the first “Toy Story,” which lost to Menken’s “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas. (Does anyone even remember that song?) A.R. Rhaman became the third foreign composer to win in this category with Slumdog Millionaire‘s inescapable “Jai Ho,” though his new song “If I Rise” for Danny Boyle’s follow-up 127 Hours with Dido hasn’t had the same impact and “Coming Home” from Country Song seems to have been nominated just to give Gwyneth Paltrow another chance to sing at an awards show. While Alan Menken’s return with Tangled may be welcomed by Academy members who missed his sensibilities, we think this is Randy Newman’s year to win only his second Oscar after winning for Monsters, Inc. ten years ago.

(Thanks to Magnolia Pictures and Shorts International for providing screeners of all the films in the three shorts programs, which are still playing in select cities and some of which are now available on iTunes.)

Short Film (Animated)

This is another interesting year for this category because all five short animated films are very different and will appeal to a different demographic of the Academy voters. In the past few years, few have been able to predict which of the nominees will win since it seems fairly random.

Pixar Animation has had seven short films nominated going back to 1997’s “Geri’s Game” which won the Oscar in this category. Teddy Newton’s “Day & Night” played in front of Toy Story 3, the biggest movie of 2010 (and potentially the winner in the feature length animation category), so a lot more voters are likely to be familiar with it and have seen it on the big screen. It’s extremely complex in the way it mixes two seemingly 2D characters with 3D environments, and it’s an incredibly mature work rather than just being a bit of comic entertainment.

Britain’s Magic Light Pictures is offering the overly-long fable “The Gruffalo,” which is sure to get the British Academy members’ votes, especially those with kids who will already know the tale, but more than the other films, it’s kiddie stuff that is impressive for its big name voice cast and that alone.

“Let’s Pollute” by Geefwee Boedoe is a witty and ironic response to movies like An Inconvenient Truth suggesting viewers do the exact opposite of what all the liberal doc filmmakers are telling you; it’s funny but the writing and animation are far more primitive than the other choices for it to be taken seriously as a contender. Similarly, the Australian short “The Lost Thing” by Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann is quite clever and quirky and pleasant enough as well, but it just doesn’t seem distinctive enough to be remembered.

“Madagascar (Carnet de Voyage” (no relation to the DreamWorks Animation movies!) by Bastien Dubois uses rotoscoping and other animation techniques to create a travelogue of the country, capturing all aspects of the culture there. It’s really quite masterful and it could be the spoiler for “Day & Night” in that it will appeal to the more mature Oscar voters over some of the kiddie stuff. Still, we think “Day & Night” is too powerful and poignant to ignore so it should be Pixar’s first win in this category since 2001’s “For the Birds” ten years ago.

Short Film (Live Action)

Four out of the five shorts this year are in English including a duo from Ireland, a country that’s produced a number of Oscar nominees in this category as well as Martin McDonagh’s winning “Six Shooter” a few years back. While Michael Creagh’s “The Crush” about a schoolboy showing feelings for his teacher is cute, Tanel Toom’s “The Confession” is a stronger drama about a pair of boys whose prank goes horribly wrong. We kinda dug New Yorker Luke Matheny’s black-and-white jazz-infused “God of Love,” but it’s probably a bit too young and hip for Oscar voters, and Brit Ian Barnes’ “Wish 143” about a boy with cancer looking to get laid is nice enough but just seems too erratic and all over the place in terms of tone. The French-language war-torn Burundi-based “Na Wewe,” involving a van stopped by Hutu soldiers looking to kill all the Tsutsis, is a strong message movie that Oscar voters should appreciate even if they may not be able to relate to it as much otehrs. Being the simplest in terms of storytelling should help it defeat “The Confession,” which is the most skilled in terms of filmmaking.

Documentary Short Subject

In a category with many lengthy offerings, this one tends to be a crapshoot because like in the feature documentary category, so few Oscar voters make an effort to see all five movies.

Jed Rothstein’s “Killing in the Name” is a film about one Jordanian man’s quest for justice for the murder of his family by a suicide bomber, a film that gets further into the mind of Muslim fundamentalists and those who justify their actions than any previous film. “Warriors of Quigang” is about a group of Chinese villagers fighting against environmental pollution by the filmmakers behind the 2006 winner “The Blood of Yingzhou District,” though the subject for this one doesn’t seem as strong and the loss of the Chinese entry last year may be telling. Sara Nesson’s “Poster Girl” is about Robynn Murray, a female soldier angry about being left in the lurch by the government after being severely injured in Iraq and suffering trauma from what she saw while stationed there. It’s a fairly emotional film as she recounts her experiences, and not to sound insensitive, but it just feels like we’ve seen better movies about this subject, including The Tillman Story, which was never even nominated in the feature-length doc category.

Apparently, voters who’ve seen Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon’s “Strangers No More” about Bialik-Rogozin, a Hebrew school in Israel where kids struggling in war-torn countries come together, are digging it, and it has just the right heartstring-pulling elements to win over voters, although so does Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger’s “Sun Come Up,” about an island village forced to relocate due to the rising waters that threatens to envelope their home.

In our trained opinion, “Killing in the Name” is the best doc of the bunch just because it goes into dark territory where few filmmakers have gone before, and “Sun Comes Up” is an incredibly memorable story, but we think the crowd favorite “Strangers No More” will win just because it has a similar feel good overtones as previous winners “Music by Prudence” and “Smile Pinki” and like those, it also deals with kids, which seems to be a driving force for getting Oscar votes.

Documentary Feature

This is an interesting category mainly in the number of high profile docs that were omitted such as David Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman, Alex Gibney’s Client 9 and The Tillman Story, yet there are still three fairly high-profile docs taking on two underdogs which should lead to interesting results. There are a lot of fans of Banksy’s cheekily self-aware semi-doc Exit Through the Gift Shop that might go for the more unconventional choice in hopes the enigmatic filmmaker might show up to the awards, though there’s no denying the powerful war footage shot for the Afghanistan-based doc Restrepo (National Geographic) makes it a serious contender. The similarly-named Gasland and Waste Land are fairly low profile films that are lucky to get in, though neither really have much of a chance to pull a surprise win ala Born Into Brothels. Banksy’s film has a lot of fans and it’s certainly funny and entertaining, but so was Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, which many felt would win that year before it lost to Brothels. That leaves Charles Ferguson’s second Oscar-nominated doc Inside Job (Sony Pictures Classics), which we think will have just the right resonance with everyone in the industry to the current economic climate to win over Oscar voters and pull out the victory.

Animated Feature Film

At this point, it’s a foregone conclusion that Lee Unkrich’s Toy Story 3 (Disney•Pixar) has this one in the bag being that it was the only animated feature nominated in the Best Picture category, similar to Up last year. It’s also the highest grossing movie of 2010, which means that very few Oscar voters will have missed it. Pixar Animation has won this category every year they’ve been nominated other than 2001 when it lost to Shrek. It’s the clear no-brainer favorite to win and the only thing that may hold it back is that it’s a sequel and some Oscar voters might consider it a kiddie movie, so the members not into that kind of thing might go for Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist, though there won’t be enough of that small group to give it a surprise win, guaranteeing another Oscar in the Pixar offices next Monday.

Foreign Language Film

This year’s foreign language category is a strange mix of films with countries like Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Japan unrepresented, but others like Greece, Canada and Mexico getting in. So far, Susanne Bier’s In a Better World seems to be the favorite, having won the Golden Globe in this category and being her second film to get nominated, but Alejandro Iñarritu’s Biutiful (Roadside Attractions) also has some heat behind it, being the only foreign language film to receive an Oscar nomination in another major category, that being Javier Bardem’s acting nomination. On the other hand, Incendies is a powerful emotionally-charged drama out of Canada that’s received tons of accolades but may just be too dark and disturbing for Academy voters. While Bier’s film is the most heartwarming of the bunch, we think that long-time Academy fave Alejandro Iñarittu will take this one for Mexico, a country that’s also yet to ever win an Oscar, even if the material is more challenging.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Although David Seidler’s screenplay for The King’s Speech (Weinstein Company) didn’t get nominated for a Writers Guild award, it’s not only a great script but Seidler has an amazing story that will help him win over Oscar voters who already clearly love the movie, having struggled to write and sell the script for years. Christopher Nolan’s uniquely original but challenging script for Inception won the WGA, and the only other screenplay that might be under consideration is Lisa Cholodenko’s for The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features), but this is Seidler’s to lose.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Last year, this category delivered the most shocking win of the night over the clear-cut favorite, but that won’t happen this year because one thing everyone agrees on is that Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for The Social Network (Sony) is nothing short of brilliance incarnate. This one is a lock.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Every year, this category offers the most surprises and last minute switcheroos on Oscar night, which doesn’t bode well for Melissa Leo for her transformative role in The Fighter. She’s won almost every previous award and Paramount has been running ads that focus on her performance, but the actress pulled a cardinal no-no with a series of self-promotional print ads that belied her status as the frontrunner. There’s also the thought that her votes may be split with Amy Adams for the same movie. Many pundits have started thinking (rather randomly) that 14-year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld will win this for the Coens’ True Grit, maybe because she was put in this category despite being the lead, but I just don’t think there’s enough of a consensus of love for the movie for that to happen. As much as we hate to count Jacki Weaver out just yet, she was almost as unknown as the newcomer Steinfeld when she starred in David Michod’s Animal Kingdom (Sony Pictures Classics) and it’s the movie the least number of people will have seen. (Some may feel she was lucky to get into the nominations because of that fact.)

At this point, there seems to be so much indecision there’s just as likely a chance that Helena Bonham Carter might take this one. To use Leo’s word of choice, “Consider” the actresses who have won in this category in past years. With Mo’Nique being an exception, this Oscar has often gone to older veteran actresses who have been around for a while with the likes of Rachel Weisz, Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett winning over other actresses who have won the SAG or the Golden Globe in this category. Normally, Leo might be the surprise winner if she hadn’t already won the precursors. With that in mind, you would think that any voter who had seen and liked The King’s Speech (which is many, going by the turning of tides for the film as the Best Picture favorite) will easily remember Bonham in the movie and mark her name down on their ballot. So there you have it; that’s how Helena Bonham Carter wins her first Oscar.

Actor in a Supporting Role

This category seems like far more of a no-brainer than its female counterpart with an easy win for Christian Bale’s portrayal of Dicky Edlund in David O. Russell’s The Fighter (Paramount), a transformative performance that made Bale unrecognizable from previous roles. Paramount has been pushing this in a big way with tons of commercials and ads but the performance stacks up, and the only possible spoiler is Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech. Though that movie is also generating heat with Rush winning the BAFTA, it seems that Bonham Carter pulling out a surprise win in her category and Firth being the favorite for Lead Actor might keep Rush on the sidelines.

Actress in a Leading Role

This year’s race once again comes down to two actresses and heat has been picking up for Annette Bening’s performance in Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, mainly because she’s been nominated four times without a win, similar as Kate Winslet a few years back. Even so, her performance is not even close to the same level as Natalie Portman in Black Swan (Fox Searchlight), which is why she’s been winning everything up until this point. We don’t expect to see a surprise turnaround on Oscar night ala Marian Cotillard–who beat out the significantly older favorite Julie Christie–Portman is just as deserving, having acted for 17 years herself.

Actor in a Leading Role

This one is this year’s one true no-brainer that the actor who has been a frontrunner ever since his movie played the festival circuit, and there’s little doubt Colin Firth will win his first Oscar for The King’s Speech without breaking a sweat. Any other contender who has received support such as James Franco or Jesse Eisenberg will likely split up any remaining votes, just helping Firth coast past them for his first Oscar after only two nominations.

Directing

When David Fincher didn’t win the Directors Guild award, a lot of people felt The Social Network was doomed for winning Best Picture and that Fincher was jinxed in this category, but we have to remember that the DGA is a different group made up solely of directors (and only a small percentage who are also in the Academy) while this category will be voted on by the full Academy membership including producers and actors. The thing is that Fincher was already nominated once before for his previous movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and he’s a filmmaker who has a history of great filmmaking with The Social Network being a departure that has brought together all sorts of diverse groups supporting the film. While the movie may not have the warmth of The King’s Speech, his brilliant direction is hard to ignore, which is why his only competition Tom Hooper should accept his DGA graciously and look forward to being a future Oscar winner, ’cause this year, this is going to Fincher.

Best Picture

Just like last year when everyone seemed to be split between Avatar and The Hurt Locker, the latter sweeping many of the critics’ awards, this year is also down to two movies, and there has been an odd last-minute tide shift so that what was the frontrunner in January is now struggling to stay ahead. David Fincher’s The Social Network proceeded to win every single critics’ award as well as the National Board of Review and Golden Globes, who tend to have disparate tastes from the critics. Then in January, The King’s Speech received the most Oscar nominations, took the Producers Guild and SAG Ensemble and then Tom Hooper won the DGA award. Suddenly, everyone has made the inspirational tale of British royalty the frontrunner, because it’s rare for a movie to win all those precursors and then not win an Oscar for Best Picture. The thing is that The Social Network is a very cool movie but it’s also tougher for older audiences to relate to, and The King’s Speech has an advantage in that its emotional core would appeal towards the Oscar’s largest voting branch, the actors, as well as the older voters and the Brits. Because of this, there’s a good chance that the The King’s Speech‘s lighter feel-good nature might win out over the stern and nearly emotionless craft behind Fincher’s film. It certainly won’t hurt that the movie has made enough money that Harvey Weinstein could fund some of the same marketing genius he used to help Shakespeare in Love beat Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan in the year they went up against each other.

Recap of our Predictions:

Art Direction: Inception

Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland

Makeup: Barney’s Version

Film Editing: The Social Network

Sound Editing: Inception

Sound Mixing: Inception

Visual FX: Inception

Cinematography: True Grit

Music (Original Score): How to Train Your Dragon

Music (Original Song): “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3

Short Film (Animated): “Day & Night”

Short Film (Live Action): “Na We We”

Documentary Short Subject: “Strangers No More”

Documentary Feature: Inside Job

Animated Feature: Toy Story 3

Foreign Language Film: Biutiful

Original Screenplay: The King’s Speech

Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network

Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech

Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter

Lead Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Lead Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Direction: David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Picture: The King’s Speech

That would mean four Oscars for The King’s Speech and Inception, three for The Social Network, and two for The Fighter, although if one of the first three wins the Original Score category, that will up their total further, obviously.

The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences will give out the 83rd Annual Academy Awards live on Sunday, February 27 on ABC.