Movie News

The Oscar Warrior's 2010 Predictions - Part 2

Source: Edward Douglas
January 25, 2010

Our apologies about part 2 being a bit later than we had hoped, as we contiue our look at the upcoming 82nd Annual Academy Awards and who the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) might honor this year in the writing, directing and Best Picture categories. If you missed Part 1 of our Oscar predictions where we talked about the acting races, you can read that here.

Guide:
HFPA = Hollywood Foreign Press Association
BFCA = Broadcast Film Critics Association
NBR = National Board of Review
SAG = Screen Actors Guild
PGA = Producers Guild of America
WGA = Writers Guild of America
DGA = Directors Guild of America
NYFCC = New York Film Critics Circle
LAFCC = L.A. Film Critics Circle
NSFC = National Society of Film Critics

Original Screenplay

This is usually one of the hardest categories to call, not only because screenwriters are a strange and mysterious breed, but also because the strongest precursor for this category, the Writers Guild of America, have so many rules and regulations that automatically prevent some movies/screenplays from being nominated.

The Frontrunner(s):

There really are two strong possibilities here, both for war movies: Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker (Summit) and Quentin Tarantino's screenplay for his WWII flick Inglourious Basterds (Weinstein Co.).

While Tarantino wasn't nominated by the Writers Guild of America, that was merely a technicality because he wasn't a member of the group. Even so, he's still considered a writers' writer among his peers and has been since he came onto the scene back in the '90s. The Hurt Locker's Mark Boal is a lesser-known commodity, but that hasn't stopped first-time screenwriters like Diablo Cody (Juno) or Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) from winning the Oscar their first time out of the gate. Tarantino's script may have lots of his great trademark dialogue, but Boal's overall story and characters are just unforgettable, so Hurt Locker will win this one.

The Competition:

Except for John Lasseter's Cars, almost every Pixar movie since Finding Nemo has received an original screenplay nomination and we expect Pete Docter and Bob Peterson's screenplay for Up to continue that tradition, even as an action-comedy on par with Brad Bird's The Incredibles, which also received a screenplay nomination.

Although could rightly claim that James Cameron's Avatar (20th Century Fox) has the best writing of a movie released last year or that it's terribly original, one cannot entirely discount what many of the story elements bring to the movie as an experience. One of Avatar's hurdles is that getting a screenplay nomination is almost MANDATORY in order to be considered a Best Picture frontrunner, and some might think that if Cameron's screenplay doesn't at least receive a nomination, Avatar has less chances at winning Best Picture. (See below for some other reasons.) Going back through history, you'll have a hard time finding a single movie that won Best Picture without that nomination, including Mel Gibson's Braveheart and Ridley Scott's Gladiator. In fact, there is only one exception, and that was Titanic, Cameron's previous movie. It received so many nominations in other categories, including two acting nominations, but received no love from the Academy writers, even after the Writers Guild nominated it, which is a similar situation as Avatar.

The Coen Brothers have been nominated many times in this category, having won in this category for Fargo back in 1996, and their screenplay for A Serious Man (Focus Features) is a strong part of why critics have been raving about their latest work. We don't like betting against a sure thing like the Coens, especially with the amount of love they have received from the industry in the past, but their latest movie is hindered by the fact that it's going against a number of very creative and original comedy screenplays that will be gunning for a slot that might have been taken up by Cameron's Avatar. It's hard to imagine that a highly creative and original screenplay like this one won't get nominated, but it's also the most likely to get bumped. If for some reason, A Serious Man doesn't get the screenplay nod, it's also unlikely to get into one of the 10 best picture slots, and vice versa.

Strong Comedy Scripts:

Every year, the Academy screenwriters has nominated strong comedies, both studio movies and those with indie roots in this category, maybe because it takes an original premise and strong writing to help comedies break out into big hits. This year, we have two very original comedies that have gained lots of buzz and fans support both in the industry and among moviegoers, and it's doubtful the Academy's writers will be able to completely ignore both of them.

Since it's debut at Sundance, critics have been raving about Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber's screenplay for Marc Webb's indie rom-com (500) Days of Summer (Fox Searchlight), and it's the one award that the studio has been really pushing for, sending out script books to many awards voters. While the duo might be new to the business, as we mentioned above, the writers of the Academy rarely differentiate the newbies from the vets when honoring the screenplay category. Another strong possibility is Jon Lucas and Scott Moore's screenplay for Todd Phillips' The Hangover (Warner Bros.), which would be following in the footsteps of Borat: Cultural Learnings etc. as far as a raunchy R-rated comedy that gets Oscar love. (Borat was nominated in the Adapted category though.)

Nancy Meyer's screenplay for her new comedy It's Complicated (Universal) received a Golden Globe nomination, but was ignored by the WGA and the critics, and the Academy writers will probably follow suit.

The Story So Far:

HFPA/Golden Globes (Combine adapted and original): Up in the Air (Nominations: District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, It's Complicated)

BFCA/Critics Choice: Inglourious Basterds (other noms: The Hurt Locker, (500) Days of Summer, A Serious Man, Up)

WGA: (500) Days of Summer, Avatar, The Hangover, The Hurt Locker, A Serious Man

NYFCC: In the Loop (not eligible for "original")
LAFCC: Up in the Air (runner up: In the Loop)
NBR: Up in the Air
NSFC: A Serious Man

My Pick: Part of what really makes Duncan Jones' sci-fi thriller Moon so memorable is the fantastic premise and script about a lone worker, played by Sam Rockwell, on a lunar base who suddenly discovers he's not so alone. The script by Jones and Nathan Parker is astounding and sadly, it's the one part of the movie that seems to be getting neglected for praise, while people continue to rave about Sam Rockwell's performance and Jones' cool lunar visuals.

Predictions: (500) Days of Summer, The Hurt Locker (winner), Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man, Up (alternates: Avatar)

Adapted Screenplay

This category tends to offer fewer surprises, that is if you don't include movies like Borat getting into the nominations. In the past, this category has been so close to the Best Picture nominations because so many Best Pictures have been adapted from other sources. This year, the adapted category certainly seems to be taking a backseat to the originality for the most part. So many of this year's best adaptations were ignored by the Writers Guild due to their heavy stipulations, so the Oscar nominations should differentiate quite a bit from their selections.

The Frontrunner:

The fact that three of the movies considered to be frontrunners for Best Picture are all based on original screenplays makes this category somewhat easier for one of the other movies to win a prize for screenplay and that's likely to be Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner's screenplay for Up in the Air. Even though there's been quite a bit of backlash and a last-minute smear campaign against Reitman for fighting against giving Turner credit for his early contributions, this is the one category where Reitman's timely film is sure to shine. Two years ago, Diablo Cody won an Oscar for her screenplay of Reitman's second movie Juno and this year, it's Reitman's turn to give the Oscar night speech.

In the Running but Not Much Competition:

Two movies that have also received a lot of festival love are Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire (Lionsgate) and An Education (Sony Classics), not just for their performances but also for their writing, and it's doubtful the Academy won't honor the fine work by Geoffrey Fletcher and Nick Hornby in bringing both of these unique coming-of-age stories to the screen. Hornby was omitted from the WGA due to their stringent rules, but it's doubtful the Academy writers will ignore him as well, especially since both movies live or die by the solid writing.

Other Possibilities:

This is where things get interesting because while the three screenplays above are almost guaranteed to get in, corresponding with their respective Best Picture nominations, there's a numbers of adaptations that have received just as much love and respect for their writing, and they'll be fighting it out for those two open slots.

Just as Pixar tends to get nominated for screenplay in the original category, it's main competition in the animated category is Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox (Fox Seachlight), and one of the reasons why people have appreciated the movie is due to Anderson's distinctive way of bringing his own voice to Roald Dahl's children's book. Anderson was previously nominated in 2002 for his screenplay for The Royal Tenenbaums, and he is one of those auteur screenwriters appreciated more by his peers than by mainstream moviegoing audiences.

Just because the Academy has been tough on science fiction movies, that doesn't mean writers will be and this has been such a strong year for the genre. Neill Blomkamp's directorial debut District 9 (Sony) has impressed many of those who've seen it, and it's chances at getting into the Best Picture race (as filler basically) is supported by the fact that it has a strong original premise and screenplay by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, which is only included in the "adapted" category due to an earlier short film. It was neglected by the WGA in favor of Orci and Kurtzman's screenplay for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek (Paramount), but that was another one of those technicalities we mentioned earlier; there's a better chance Neill Blomkamp's first movie will get recognition here.

Even MORE Possibilities:

It's really not that uncommon for this to be a crowded category especially when there are so many good screenplays. The 10 Best Picture nominations just complicates matters further, so this category is obviously a mess that can go a lot of different ways.

One movie that is somewhat of an underdog, but has a lot of support among writers who know about it is Armando Iannucci's hilarious political comedy In the Loop (IFC Films), which has unfortunately been overshadowed by so many other movies. It's also unfairly being labeled "adapted" due to some of the characters appearing on Iannucci's BBC show "The Thick of It." While a lot of the movie involves improvised humor, taking all of the ideas and editing them into such a tight laugh-a-minute movie is just much a testament to Iannucci and his writing team.

Other strong adaptations that could sneak in include Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia (Sony) and Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight), both which have the benefits of being nominated by the WGA in this category. Tom Ford's A Single Man (Weinstein Co.) also has a strong script, but most of its focus seems to be on Colin Firth's performance. (Maybe it will get a nomination for cinematography?)

Jane Campion's John Keats drama Bright Star (Apparition) stood a good chance at getting nominated if it were included in the original category but the Academy decided to shunt it over to Adapted which is much more crowded, as you can see above.

There are a lot of other really long shots, movies that live or die by their adapted screenplays like Michael Hoffman's The Last Station, Clint Eastwood's Invictus and Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, but considering their underdog chances at getting into the Best Picture nominations, they're likely to be overlooked in this category as well.

The Story So Far:

HFPA/Golden Globes: Up in the Air (see above for other nominees)

BFCA/Critics Choice: Up in the Air (other nominees: District 9, An Education, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Precious, A Single Man)

WGA: Crazy Heart, Julie & Julia, Precious, Star Trek, Up in the Air

My Pick: Gotta go with John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road (Dimension Films) on this one. Granted, I haven't read the original novel, which might change my opinion, but I was really impressed with the script and how this tough story was brought to the screen in an incredibly artistic way, and much of that has to do with the writing and translating McCarthy's words into images.

Predictions: District 9, An Education, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Precious, Up in the Air (winner!) (alternates: In the Loop, Crazy Heart)

Director:

This category seems almost sewn up with the announcement of the DGA nominations, which often go four for five or better with very few deviations.

The Frontrunner(s):

Much of the talk this season has been about whether Kathryn Bigelow can become the first woman director to win an Oscar for her stunning war film The Hurt Locker (Summit) or whether she'll have to watch as ex-husband James Cameron wins his second Oscar for Avatar (20th Century Fox). There's no question they're both stunning directorial achievements that have left a lasting impression on anyone who has seen them. Because of that, they'll both get nominated for sure, but we think that when it comes to voting on the category by the membership at large, they'll go towards Bigelow, not only as the underdog, making such an impressive movie for barely $10 million, but also honoring her for such an amazing return to filmmaking after a number of years off. Unfortunately, we don't have any precursors to base this on and we're going completely on instinct, but Bigelow beats Cameron.

Bubbling Under:

While there's plenty of room for surprises in this category--remember Roman Polanski a few years back?--if that happens, the potential upset could come in the form of Quentin Tarantino whose WWII thriller Inglourious Basterds (Weinstein Co.) has really blown people away, although we think Tarantino's generally smarmy attitude will bring him to the game but keep him sitting on the sidelines.

Jason Reitman is back in awards season with his new dramedy Up in the Air (Paramount), which most people feel is better than the previous movie he was nominated for, Juno, but this doesn't really seem like his year to win a directing Oscar, and he'll have to be happy with his screenplay win.

The Others

The last DGA nominee is Lee Daniels, the producer and talent manager who has really impressed many with the direction on his sophomore effort, the tough drama Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire (Lionsgate). While we think he shouldn't have a problem getting into the Oscars and adding a bit of diversity to the category, he's also on the weakest leg, only because Clint Eastwood has a new movie this year, and the Academy's love for Eastwood is renowned.

That said, few feel that the South African rugby movie Invictus (Warner Bros.) is Eastwood's best effort, and it's getting more attention for its performances. Some feel that even that isn't deserved.

The critics haven't been too kind to Rob Marshall for Nine (Weinstein Co.), nor has the box office, but the movie's insidery themes about the film business and Marshall's innovative way of bringing the musical to the screen might get noticed by the directors in the Academy.

The Story So Far:

HFPA/Golden Globes: Cameron (Other noms: Bigelow, Eastwood, Reitman, Tarantino
BFCA/Critics Choice: Bigelow (other noms: Cameron, Daniels, Eastwood, Reitman, Tarantino)
DGA: Bigelow, Cameron, Daniels, Reitman, Tarantino

NYFCC: Bigelow
LAFCC: Bigelow (runner up: Michael Haneke for The White Ribbon)
NSFC: Bigelow
NBR: Eastwood

My Pick: John Hillcoat for The Road (Dimension Films) - An amazing film that really comes together due to the decisions made by Hillcoat, who also directed the Australian Western The Proposition. The film just looks amazing and it maintains a slow and deliberate pace that really builds the tension of not knowing whether the father and son at the center of the story will survive.

Predictions: Kathryn Bigelow (winner), James Cameron, Lee Daniels, Jason Reitman, Quentin Tarantino (alternate: Eastwood)

Best Picture

There are many factors to consider, including the expansion of the category to ten nominations, but also the crazy process the Academy uses to select those ten nominations which gives preference to the top two or three choices by voters, often to the point of neglecting movies that have a lot of support lower in the ballots. This might make an even bigger difference this year where voters are

Steve Pond at The Wrap has written a lot about the process of counting ballots, which you can read over at The Wrap and it does make a huge difference even with ten nominations.

The Frontrunners:

At this point, the two movies that seem to be fighting it out to win this category is Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker (Summit) and James Cameron's Avatar (20th Century Fox), and while the former has all the critics on its side, the latter has grossed more than 40 times the former at the box office. So once again, the Oscars are a battle between quality and profit.

What makes these movies frontrunners? Besides the critical support both movies have garnered, they're both war movies that appeal to the testosterone-heavy Academy, whose male-dominated ranks have often picked big war epics and other genre-based movies in terms of Westerns or war epics, accounting for winners such as Gladiator, Dances with Wolves and others. (That's partially why Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan losing to Shakespeare in Love was such a major shocker.)

Hurt Locker already won both the New York and L.A. Film Critics' highest honor, but if you look at their track records, neither group has picked the movie that ultimately won Best Picture over the years--neither group selected Slumdog Millionaire last year for instance--although the NY Film Critics have the better track record, having picked eight of the same movies that went onto win Best Picture in the last thirty years. If you think about it, that's still not a very good track record.

On top of that, The Hurt Locker's minimal box office does put it a disadvantage, because one of the longest standing traditions at the Oscars is that the movie that makes the least amount of money doesn't stand much of a chance. To date, Crash is the lowest grossing movie to win the Oscar Best Picture and that made more than $50 million. What's interesting is that the Producers Guild of America (PGA) yesterday awarded Bigelow's movie with its highest honor, an award most expected to go to Cameron's movie because it grossed the most money. (These are producers after all.) But their support of The Hurt Locker is a good sign and if the DGA gives their top honor to Bigelow, this could weigh things back in that direction.

What hurts Avatar is that it's not being taken that seriously among actors, proven by its lack of any acting awards up until this point, not even an Ensemble nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. Since SAG first started giving out this award, only one other movie has won Best Picture without at least being nominated in the SAG Ensemble category and that was Mel Gibson's Braveheart in the very first year. Since then, every other Best Picture winner has at least been nominated, and sometimes, the winner for SAG Ensemble was an early clue of a Best Picture upset, which was the case both with Shakespeare in Love and Crash. SAG Ensemble gave that honor to Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds rather than The Hurt Locker, which is somewhat telling that Bigelow's movie might not be connecting with actors as much as with critics.

While The Hurt Locker has won every critics award, Avatar took the Golden Globe in drama, which in fact, might HURT its chances because the Academy seems to deliberately vote against whatever wins the Golden Globe. Last year's Slumdog Millionaire was the first movie since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to win both group's top prize. Peter Jackson's magnum opus trilogy was also one of the few straight fantasy films to win the Oscar, something which may also be holding Avatar back, because some think that the Academy might have difficulty awarding a big budget science fiction movie, as much as the genre has been very prominent in 2009. Even with all those factors working against it, we still think Avatar will follow in the footsteps of Lord of the Rings and Cameron's own Titanic and win Best Picture mainly due to the enormous amount of support from moviegoers which reflects the similarly diverse demographics that make up the Academy.

The Strongest Contenders:

Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (Weinstein Co.) is yet another war movie that's been getting rave reviews throughout the year and while Tarantino has generally had a hard time being recognized by the Academy, his unique take on the war genre, mixing elements of classic European cinema with his own style of violent humor, has made the film one of the surprise critical hits of 2009. The fact that Tarantino's movie won the SAG Ensemble award over the weekend is fairly big, since as we said above, they've often foreshadowed an upset BP win, although that's likely to have won more for the size of the cast, and its SAG win over The Hurt Locker just lessens that film's win more.

Similarly, Jason Reitman's Up in the Air has more than enough fans for them to put the movie first or second on their ballot, so it's nomination is guaranteed, although there's just as many detractors of the movie that don't like the ending or are just sick of Reitman's unavoidable presence come awards' season.

We've already talked a lot about Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire and An Education in previous categories, but movies like these don't win audience awards and get strong word-of-mouth for any reason that people love them.

Frankly, we've been fighting tooth and nail with the suggestion that Pixar's Up might get into the Best Picture category but enough people love so much about it, that at this point it's hard to imagine it not getting into the 10 nominations. The main issue is that there is a Best Animated Feature category and many Academy voters will be stuck in the belief that animated movies should go there and not be put in this category alongside all the other movies, which involve live actors and filmmaking processes very different from animation. One also would imagine that if Up is considered good enough for a Best Picture nomination than it will easily win an Oscar in that other category, so why waste one of the coveted ten slots for a movie that is already likely to win elsewhere? The Academy has had a few animated movies in their Best Picture category in the past but that was before they created the Animated categories, but since the movie is eligible and some Oscar voters might struggle to list ten movies they liked, one can expect this will be considered one of their favorites.

The Filler:

So potentially, that's seven of the most likely nominees above with three slots left to go and we can look at a couple of the precursors to see which ones stand the best chance.

Similarly, Clint Eastwood's Invictus (Warner Bros.) has not received a lot of love from critics groups with Eastwood himself looking less and less likely to get another directing nomination, but the Academy tends to love Eastwood and the film's inspirational story might play better with them than critics might think.

People were raving about Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi debut District 9 (Sony) since it debuted at Comic-Con and it was popular enough to get into IMDb's Top 250 already, similar to Avatar. A few people had problems with the movie (this writer included) but people seem to be well behind the creativity shown in the movie which makes it a likely candidate for a nomination.

The critics have rallied behind the Coen Brothers' latest A Serious Man (Focus Features), a quirky and funny comedy set in the Minnesota suburbs of the late '60s and following a Jewish guy, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, whose life is falling apart. The movie may be too weird and esoteric for Oscar voters, especially the vague ending, something the Coens are very good at, and the lack of name actors and any support from the guilds so far isn't going to help matters.

A few months ago, it seemed very likely that Rob Marshall's second movie musical Nine (Weinstein Co.) would follow in the footsteps of Chicago, because he had an amazing cast and the movie had the type of industry insider subject matter that would immediately appeal to those who work in the movie biz. Critics trashed the movie and it bombed at the box office, and yet, it has received a number of Golden Globe and Broadcast Film Critic nominations, as well as a SAG Ensemble nod (and a cinematographer nomination for Dion Beebe). Although it's doubtful the movie will get that many individual nominations, the actors still seem to enjoy the movie and they make up the largest part of the Academy, but expect this one to get the whiniest complaints if it gets into the Top 10 ousting something else.

The Long(er) Shots

Oren Moverman's drama The Messenger (Oscilloscope Labs) has received a lot of praise and found a lot of fans, enough to guarantee Woody Harrelson's nomination in the supporting category, but are there enough Oscar voters who've seen the movie and like it enough to put it in their Top 10?

People are also digging Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight), but is it just for Jeff Bridges' performance or might they be enjoying it enough to help it get into the Top 10? So far, few are suggesting it.

It's already hard to believe that the Academy might nominate two science fiction movies in a single year and three is even more unlikely, which is why J.J. Abrams' Star Trek (Paramount) will probably have to contend with its PGA nomination and others.

Some people even think that Sandra Bullock's drama The Blind Side (Warner Bros.) might get into the nominations because the movie is obviously gaining enough love to get Bullock an Oscar nomination, not to mention the $200 million plus the movie has grossed so far. It's somewhat unlikely considering that not even the National Board of Review or Golden Globes included it in their nominations, nor did the Producers Guild. As before, it's all about Sandy.

The Story So Far:

HFPA/Golden Globes: Drama - Avatar won (other noms: The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air); Musical/Comedy –The Hangover won (other noms: (500) Days of Summer, It's Complicated, Julie & Julia, Nine (noticeably absent: Invictus, A Serious Man and An Education)
BFCA/Critics Choice: The Hurt Locker (other nominees: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, b>Inglourious Basterds, Invictus, Nine, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

PGA: The Hurt Locker (Other noms: Avatar, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Invictus, Precious, Star Trek, Up, Up in the Air)

SAG Ensemble: Inglourious Basterds (other noms: An Education, The Hurt Locker, Nine, Precious)

NYFCC: The Hurt Locker
LAFCC: The Hurt Locker
NSFC: The Hurt Locker
NBR: Up in the Air (Top 10 films: An Education, (500) Days of Summer, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Invictus, The Messenger, A Serious Man, Star Trek, Up, Where the Wild Things Are

My Pick: Obviously from the other categories above, it should be fairly obvious that I would love to see John Hillcoat's The Road get into the nominations but since critics don't seem to be on the same page with this one and Dimension seems to have lost interest in backing the movie, it's doubtful many Academy voters will even see it.

Predictions: Avatar, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Invictus, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air (alternates: The Messenger, Nine)

While The Hurt Locker has everything going for it other than its theatrical box office, we think Avatar's pervasive media presence during awards season will win out over The Hurt Locker's almost unanimous critical support.

Docs, Foreign Language and Animated

Even though we've been running late this year, we didn't want to completely let

As far as the animated category, which has been extended to five nominations this year, it looks very likely that Pixar will win again as Pete Docter's Up is likely to get into the Best Picture race, almost guaranteeing it's the favorite here as well. The only real competition comes in the form of a couple of stop-motion animated movies - Fantastic Mr. Fox (Fox Searchlight) and Henry Selick's Coraline (Focus), the former which has received just as much critical love, even though neither has come close to the public awareness of Pixar. As far as 2D animation, which still gets a lot of love in this category, we see Disney's The Princess and the Frog getting nominated over Miyazaki's latest Ponyo, even if he is one of the few non-Pixar animators to have won an Oscar in this category. The only other CG-animated movie that's likely to get nominated is Sony's movie based on the children's book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which wins due to the strength of the humor.

The Foreign Language category is somewhat tougher, but they've at least been nice enough to narrow it down to nine movies on the short list. The German entry, Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, and France's selection, Jacques Audiard's Une Prophéte, are probably the frontrunners, having split up many of the critics awards that were eligible. (Movies like Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces and Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours have also received a lot of love but were ineligible, having been overlooked by their respective countries.) Israel's Ajami has received some early critical notices, and it already has distribution with a limited release on February 3, while Juan Jose Campanella's The Secret in Their Eyes from Argentina has the backing of Sony Classics. Holland's Winter in Wartime has the benefits of being a WWII movie, a subject matter near and dear to the Academy's hearts, while Warwick Thornton's Aboriginal drama Samson and Delilah from Australia found many fans during festival season. Right now, we think Haneke's movie has the best chance at winning.

Likewise, the Feature Documentary category has been vetted down to 15 movies since last November, which makes it somewhat easier to figure out the top five even though so many of them haven't been screened heavily. Of the ones that have already gotten releases, Louie Psihoyos' dolphin-saving doc The Cove and Robert Kenner's informative Food, Inc. have the benefits of having the highest profile among the possible candidates, both of them having achieved mainstream awareness due to their subject matter. We've also seen Bill Gutentag and Dan Sturman's Soundtrack for a Revolution about the Civil Rights movement and The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers about the whistleblower who took down the U.S. government and their lies about the country's involvement in the Vietnam War, and both deal with strong American subject matters with ties to the current political climate. The Beaches of Agnes from Agnès Varda has received a surprising amount of critical support, having been awarded by both the L.A. Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics. Lastly, Matt Tyrnauer's Valentino: The Last Emperor about the late fashion mogul has received a good amount of buzz in the past year, and its subject matter helps its chances at a nomination. While The Cove probably stands the best chance at winning this category, we could see the Oscar to go to any of the other movies mentioned above.

Predictions Recap:

Picture: Avatar
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Actor: Jeff Bridges
Actress: Meryl Streep (though Sandra Bullock has pulled ahead with her SAG win)
Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer (though probably Christoph Waltz)
Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique
Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker
Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air
Animated: Up
Foreign Language: The White Ribbon
Documentary: The Cove

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will announce all of the Oscar nominations on Tuesday, February 2, and then present the winners at their annual awards ceremony on March 7.

A couple quick shout-outs and special thanks to Sasha Stone of Awards Daily, Tom O'Neil of The Envelope's Gold Derby, Scott Feinberg of And the Winner Is, Katey Rich of CinemaBlend, Nathaniel Rogers of Film Experience, Jeffrey Wells' Hollywood Elsewhere and Kris Tapley from In Contention. Most of these individuals and their sites are analyzing the Oscar races year-round and this article could not have been written without their thoughts and opinions, debate and dissent throughout the last year.





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