And the winner is . . .

And the winner is . . .

VCReporter’s Academy Awards forecast

By Ivor Davis 03/04/2010

Everyone is a film critic.
But not everyone can accurately predict Oscar winners.
Veteran showbiz writer Ivor Davis of Ventura uses the passion, publicity and, above all, the behind-the-scenes politics of the Oscar frenzy, to predict who will go home with the little gold man. Oscar warfare heats up as the ceremony draws closer because studios know that winning brings glory — and above all, big bucks at the box office. So why does one film conquer all others? And who’s going to make it this year? Will it be Sandra Bullock or Meryl Streep?  Will it be a clean sweep for Avatar or will the serious business of  The Hurt Locker take the day? Davis divulges his picks for the Academy Awards, airing Sunday, March 7, and tells us why things might turn out one way or the other.

Best Picture
Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
Get serious: Only two films are really frontrunners for these prime awards, even though the Academy decided to make it a free-for-all by nominating 10 pictures this year. James Cameron’s Avatar cleaned up at the box office, boosted movie attendance, and as a reward should collect best picture. But Cameron’s ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow will make history as the first woman to win a directorial Oscar for Locker.

Politically, many voters feel that Cameron has become too big for his boots, and they love the idea that an ex-wife could best her husband. Also, in an era of firsts, the temptation to give the statuette to a woman, especially for the kind of macho picture that a woman rarely directs, may prove too great to resist.

While Hurt Locker is not subconsciously antiwar, it is spellbinding as it chronicles the nail-biting dangers of a maverick bomb disposal expert (Jeremy Renner). The futility of Iraq also sits well with the older and more liberal Academy voters who wonder what the heck we’re still doing in Baghdad.

Cameron, with a gigantic budget, has turned out a movie that has attracted a remarkably wide-ranging audience of seniors to teens.  Hurt Locker has brought in an older, better-educated crowd. And so they eye each other from opposite sides of the field.

The only dark horse in all this could be Precious, which might sneak in if Mr. Cameron and Ms. Bigelow divide the votes. But I think not.

The Also-Rans
In 2009, many were enchanted by Sandra Bullock’s The Blind Side, or Ethan and Joel Coen’s dark and tragic A Serious Man. It’s the Coen’s effort I loved. Even Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds was pure, outrageous entertainment. But there’s no way an animated film like Up can walk away with a Best Picture Oscar. It’s a wonderful film but the Academy has an out. It can give Up the award for Best Animated Feature and have it both ways.

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart
Well, Clooney is great, but another year perhaps.  And while we loved Jeremy Renner as the bomb disposal crazy — not this year, either. Morgan Freeman was totally believable playing Nelson Mandela in Invictus, and hunky Brit Colin Firth turned in a superb, subtle performance as a gay professor in A Single Man.  But not this year for Freeman or Firth, either. Bridges, who is from a great showbiz legacy, has paid his dues. His role as an aging country singer may or may not be original, but it won’t matter: barring a stunning upset, the Oscar is his.

Best Actress
Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side
It’s OK for first-timers to win best supporting awards, but never Best Actress. Sandra Bullock (also nominated for a Razzie for the worst  actress of the year in All About Steve,  like Bridges, has worked her tail off. So it’s sorry to Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), but she’s got her whole career ahead of her.  Ditto the luminous Carey Mulligan for An Education. And Meryl Streep just has no room in her closet for another golden trophy, even though she brought Julia Child so vividly to life in Julie and Julia that they might be checking the cemetery to make sure Julia has really passed. Helen Mirren is definitely an also-ran for The Last Station — Tolstoy’s wife is a might highbrow for much of the audience, and the film was barely seen. No worries: She already collected her Oscar for The Queen in 2007, so that leaves Ms. Bullock preparing her thank you speech.

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Walz in Inglourious Basterds
It’s a shoo-in. No contest. The veteran German actor will dance away with the Oscar, leaving the competition far behind. When was the last time you saw an actor take a stereotypical part, a vicious Nazi (ho hum), and turn him into a unique creature — vicious, yes, but charming, civilized yet barbarian, sensitive yet savage? The guy was great!

Honorable mention goes to Woody Harrelson in The Messenger, which most people haven’t seen; and critics liked Stanley Tucci as the serial killer — but hated the movie Lovely Bones. Sayonara and no chance to Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy in The Last Station and Matt Damon as the South African rugby player in  the Clint Eastwood-directed Invictus.

Best Supporting
Actress Mo’Nique in Precious
She was perfect as Precious’ putrefying mother. Another shoo-in. Noone liked the musical Nine — so Penelope Cruz is out. Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air knock each other out. And despite an excellent performance by the versatile and supremely talented Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart, she will bask in the Oscar sun another day.


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