Oh, how I wax factual, elucidating to whomsoever is unfortunate enough to be stuck in the lounge with me the worthiness of writers, editors, cinematographers, production designers and the like. Oh, how I emit despondency at the death of a talent during the memorial, or trail tears during a montage of classic moments. Y’know, dear reader, I do love a good montage.
As many have uttered in their winning speeches I too was one of those kids who watched the ceremony thinking one day that could be me, as my as yet unmade films spooled through the projectors of my mind.
For now, as I take time from my writing tales of violent villains on the streets of Melbourne or some sort of sci-fi saga, I’ll cast my runes and offer my predictions on this years winners.
Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air.
The Hurt Locker.
A rare ‘apolitical’ war film that managed to be both a tense visceral thriller and a portrait of the psychology of servicemen; intelligent and moving, with top performances and indelible imagery.
The only real threat to The Hurt Locker is Avatar. Okay sure the latter was an amazing cinematic experience, pungently polemic with its environmental message and allegory of human history but it was shallow and memorable for the tableaux rather than the text.
Kathryn Bigelow ( The Hurt Locker ), James Cameron (Avatar), Lee Daniels (Precious), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds)
Bigelow, though hardly prolific, has wallowed too often with films like Point Break or the routine, K-19, but always delivers tight, tough films of integrity in the vein of Robert Aldrich or Sam Fuller. I’ve been a fan since her debut the classic vampire flick Near Dark, and the cultish Strange Days, a showcase for her ability to imbue an off-centre genre piece with stellar film-craft. Hopefully the success of her latest film will offer more opportunities to show off her skills.
The gong will no doubt go to Cameron though. Arguably, he did invent a new technology to shoot films in 3D, which will change the face of film production. He's always been the guy ahead of the pack, so in spite of everything else, I'm sure he'll end up asking us all to offer a minute of silence in memory of the indigenous people wiped out by capitalist greed.
Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), George Clooney (Up in the Air), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Mogan Freeman (Invictus), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
I was surprised and pleased to see both Firth and Jeremy Renner included with the likes of Bridges, Clooney and Freeman, with the former a long time fave and Renner for his powerful performance in The Hurt Locker. I’d love to see Renner win as he perfectly presented the conflicted conscience of the servicemen that I know and have met, but I think Firth will get up in spite of Bridges much lauded turn. Firth is the king of the introspective, ‘quiet’ performance, and this film is his crowning moment.
Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Meryl Streep (Julia &Julia)
As a long time fan of Sandra Bullock I'm glad she was recognised for contributing a serious role, instead of phoning in her usual pratfalls in yet another pile of poo, but Carey Mulligan should beat out Bullock and the stalwarts with her brilliant performance. She is more than worthy to be listed in the same ranks of Streep and Mirren. She is that good. If she doesn’t win here her future is a bright one, you can bet on that. She’ll always be Sally Sparrow to me though.
Gabourey Sibide may be a dark horse, but if she’d actually stacked on the weight to play her character she would be in a with a greater shot.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Matt Damon (Invictus), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)
A mixed bag here with a lot of great character actors though Waltz’s Colonel Landa easily joins the ranks of the great screen villains. Suave, softly spoken, ever patient, every scene featuring him was compelling and electrifying.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Penelope Cruz (Nine), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Mo’Nique (Precious)
To be honest I haven’t seen any of these films, but Mo’Nique has won everything else and seems the safe bet.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker), Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds), Allesandro Camon/ Oren Moverman (The Messenger), Joel & Ethan Coen (A Serious Man), Tom McCarthy, Bob Peterson, Peter Docter (Up)
I think this will come down to Boal and Tarantino, though I think the honesty and empathy of Boal’s script will beat out a WW2 fantasy piece.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell (District 9), Nick Hornby (An Education), Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannuci ( In the Loop), Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious), Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air)
I think this one will come down to Precious or the Nick Hornby adaptation. In the Loop was an extension of the brilliant TV show The Thick of It, offering more of the same, which doesn’t quite seem the same as transferring a book or play to the screen.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
Ajami (Israel), El Secreto de Sus Ojos (Spain), The Milk of Sorrow (Peru), Un Prophete (France), The White Ribbon (Germany)
Along with The White Balloon this has been garnering awards from Cannes onwards. I think these are the only two contenders, and Un Prophete will pip Haneke’s film because that man is just too nihilistic for most.
BEST ANIMATED FILM:
Coraline, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, Up.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Wes Anderson is a near-genius film-maker and neither repeats himself nor produces anything generic. This was yet another eccentric choice with a top-notch cast, gorgeous stop-motion puppets and production design. A perfect match for the imagination of Roald Dahl.
Odd that Up is nominated for two best film categories. If it doesn’t win ‘the big one’ it will surely win this one.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
Avatar (James Horner), The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Alexandre Desplat), The Hurt Locker (Marco Beltrami/ Buck Sanders ), Sherlock Holmes (Hans Zimmer), Up (Michael Giacchino).
Whereas fellow veteran James Horner delivered a routine, forgettable score, Zimmer’s composition was a surprising, rousing, skein woven with piano, violin, and accordion. It’s been a long time since a score has been so suitable, striking and so idiosyncratic.
BEST SOUND FX EDITING:
BEST SOUND MIXING
This one is a three-way photo finish between Star Trek, Avatar and The Hurt Locker.
The Hurt Locker
I'll go with Bigelow's film again. The soundscape created for the film was eerie, humming, unnerving, almost a 'score' in itself. The other films are more voluminous, brimming with whizzes and bangs while The Hurt Locker is the opposite; clenched, hushed, subdued.
BEST ART DIRECTION:
Avatar, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Nine, Sherlock Holmes, The Young Victoria.
Again I show my bias towards the 19th century but Holmes was a grim, grimy London, unlike any other presentation of the time. Dark, dour lanes and ale house, clogged docks, the unfinished bridge balance with the opulence of wealth and pulchritude of parliament.
Gilliam’s imagination is wild and wonderfully rendered on screen, and Avatar’s world was a jungle with big blue people and some cool dragons, showy but superficial.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Bright Star, Coco before Chanel, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Nine, The Young Victoria.
All fairly traditional period pieces or sexy frocks with Gilliam’s film the exception.
Supporting the locals on this one.
Avatar (Maoro Fiore), Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince (Bruno Delbonnel), The Hurt Locker (Barry Ackroyd), Inglorious Basterds (Robert Richardson), The White Ribbon (Christian Berger)
A long time favourite DP of mine he is up there with the greats: Ballhaus, Kovas, Zsigmond, Willis; always delivering awesome, impossible cranks and tracks, with a consistent lustrous palette.
Ackroyd perfectly captured Bigelow’s neo-realism though loses out for not being able to hold the fucking camera still.
Maoro Fiore will probably win for the sheer technicality of his achievement, along with Cameron (notoriously hands-on), working on Avatar. Though I wonder how much actually photography, as opposed to ‘framing’, is involved when so much of the imagery is digitally rendered.
BEST FILM EDITING:
Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, Precious.
While The Hurt Locker was a series of tense set-pieces edited with the slow burn of DePalma at his best Avatar will win, again, for the sheer enormity of the task of combining so much multi-media.
BEST VISUAL FX:
Avatar, District 9, Star Trek
A no-brainer that one. The opening ten minutes of Star Trek was truly exhilarating, and continued to remain impressive throughout, and District 9’s prawns were gorgeously grotesque and realistic, but as I said earlier Avatar’s artistic achievements are largely advances to the artform.
Il Divo, Star Trek, The Young Victoria
Clearly the front runner here, though that isn’t saying much.
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Right, there you go. Almost as long as the ceremony itself.
I’ll be off to sort the cake, biscuits and cider, and maybe what T-shirt I’ll wear to watch the whole thing, all the while working on my own acceptance speech.
“I’d like to thank the Academy…”
Seems a good start, if a generic one…
Not sure where to go from there. I guess I should make notes while I’m watching.
You just never know…