An Oscar Primer (or “Before You Vote”)

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2011 at 12:48 am

Submitted By: Kevin Smith Clark

I admit it…I’m an Oscar-junkie.  I think I’ve watched every Academy Awards show (in part or entirety) since 1991 (when GoodFellas got screwed in favor of Dances With Wolves), except 1997’s (the year of The English Patient) ceremony.  Wanna hear me go even dorkier?  This Sunday night, my wife will humor me for the 9th straight year, and we’ll go head-to-head on choosing who will win each of the 24 categories.  Ready for me to go even further off the deep end?  I’m giving you a strategy, a rubric if you will, to increase your chances of picking the winners by showing you the “trends.”  Disclaimer: my categories/reasons may sound offensive, prejudicial, homophobic, red-state-ish, misogynist, or any other label you can conjure.  That’s not my intent…I’m simply going on 20 years of watching and research.  Just stating what I see, not necessarily what is there.  And for time’s sake, I’ll only deal with major categories.

Acting awards – Actors/actresses will typically earn nominations/awards for the following: (1) playing crazy (Charlize Theron, Monster; Forrest Whitaker, Last King of Scotland; Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men; Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight), (2) playing anyone involved in either the Holocaust or WWII (Adrien Brody, The Pianist; Kate Winslet, The Reader; Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds), (3) straight playing gay (Tom Hanks, Philadelphia; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote; Sean Penn, Milk; Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain; Annette Benning, The Kids are All Right), and (4) The Lifetime Achievement Award (Denzel Washington, Training Day; Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich; Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side)

Picture awards – Best Picture winners are either (1) The Three-Hour Epic (Dances With Wolves, Braveheart, Titanic, Return of the King) (2) War-related (Schindler’s List, The English Patient, Gladiator, Hurt Locker), (3) Overcoming Odds Award-Bait (Forrest Gump, Shakespeare in Love, A Beautiful Mind, Million Dollar Baby, Crash, Slumdog Millionaire, this year’s The King’s Speech), and (4) Wild Card (usually reserved for when Oscar actually gets it right – The Silence of the Lambs, American Beauty, No Country for Old Men).

Director – this one usually angers me the most, because it falls under (1) “Your film will win Best Picture, so we’ll go ahead and give you Best Director” (Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby; James Cameron, Titanic; Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump) (2) You won the Director’s Guild Award, so 95% of the time, you get the Oscar (Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven; Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan; Danny Boyle, Slumdog) (3) We passed you over on better work, so here’s The Lifetime Achievement for Directing (Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind; Scorsese, The Departed; Coens, No Country…; Roman Polanski, The Pianist)

Now that you know what to look for, here’s why I’m choosing whom in the major categories:

Best Supporting Actress – easily the toughest to choose, because of its history of randomness (did you know Mary Steenburgen has a Best Supporting Actress Oscar?  Yep, that Mary Steenburgen.).  That’s why I’m going with Hallie Steinfeld in True Grit…because no one’s heard of her.  Nobody knew who Marisa Tomei was in 1993, or Anna Paquin in 1994, or Mira Sorvino in 1996, or Angelina Jolie in 2000, or Jennifer Hudson in 2007, or…you get the picture.  Upset alert: following the rubric, watch out for Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech, because she’s been around forever, and has been overlooked a few times, so she may pull a Lifetime Achievement.

Best Supporting Actor – Going with Christian Bale in The Fighter, because his loose-cannon, drug addicted character qualifies him under “playing crazy” and this too is a Lifetime Achievement…especially with the way he alters his appearance every time he steps on screen…double whammy. Upset alert: the only person I see bumping Bale is Geoffrey Rush from The King’s Speech…but he already has an Oscar from Shine…but he’s also playing the “Anne Sullivan” role in this film, which has Oscar-bait all over it.

Best Actress – this one’s easy…Natalie Portman in Black Swan…this is ape-nuts crazy, screaming, crying, picking feathers out of her back-crazy.  Voters love this crap (cf. Peter Finch, Network; Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman; Jack Nicholson, As Good as It Gets).  She’s cleaned house at the awards, this is merely a formality.  Upset alert: only Annette Bening’s overrated turn as the doctor mom in The Kids are All Right can derail Portman, because she meets the criteria “straight playing gay” and “Lifetime Achievement” (she was WRONGED for American Beauty).

Best Actor – Jesse Eisenberg was great in The Social Network, as was James Franco in 127 Hours, but Colin Firth’s stammering monarch in The King’s Speech is your winner.  He’s overcoming odds, it has the Merchant-Ivory British pretense, and he was passed over for A Single Man last year (straight playing gay, btw) so Jeff Bridges could get the Lifetimer for Crazy HeartUpset Alert: Eisenberg, but it ain’t happening.

Best Director – This really should be David Fincher’s for The Social Network because (1) he did this film without relying on the visual flair that made Se7en and Fight Club great (2) he’s been nominated before and has made some Kubrickian flicks over the years.  But guess what…the Academy no likey Kubrick, so Fincher’s out, and The King’s Speech’s Tom Hooper is in (he won the DGA earlier this year).  Upset alert: it’s Fincher, Hooper, or nothing.  And for the record, what does Christopher Nolan have to do to get a nomination?

Best Picture – The King’s Speech.  Haven’t seen it, but it seems to have the momentum.  I’ve seen five of the ten nominations, and I’d rank them in this order: (1) Inception (I don’t care what you think, I loved it, it hooked me and never let up), (2) Toy Story 3 (again, I don’t care, this one messed me up), (3) The Social Network, (4) 127 Hours (great stuff…like Cast Away, but 50 minutes shorter…and better), (5) The Kids are All Right (the more I think about it, the less I like it…Julianne Moore – great in anything…but not Best Picture caliber).  Upset Alert: if we can learn anything from Shakespeare in Love and Crash (which sucked, btw), is once in a while, anything can happen.  So, I guess it’s possible The Social Network could pull an upset.  We’ll know Sunday night around 11:30pm.

Best of luck with your voting…

  1. I’m sorry, but the phrase “Firth’s stammering monarch” has been trademarked.

    Well done, sir.

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