WTF!? Friday: Uncle Oscar

Way back in the uncharted backwaters of time (the mid-90s), I graduated from Syracuse with what is maybe the most ridiculous degree ever: a B.S. in “Writing for Telecommunications” -- i.e., writing for television, radio, and film. I am proud of my degree, of course, but to say that it goes unutilized in my current field of employment is probably the greatest understatement in the history of ever.

I mean, really: I do billing for a technology company. Aside from the occasional nastygram to particularly belligerent salespeople, I don’t do much writing at my day job.

But back in the day, I had aspirations. One of my professors, who is now one of the world’s leading experts on TV criticism (yes, really), said once that I might have had a future in that business, but I guess it’s pretty fair to say that life got in the way. Not that I will ever let that stop me from having opinions (see: “Dancing with the Dorks”). I love the movies, always have, always will, and I generally have some strong opinions about them. There are films that are beloved that I can’t stand (“Gone with the Wind,” “Forrest Gump,” “Titanic,” just to name a few), and I tend to champion little bitty things that nobody but me has seen (“Searching for Bobby Fischer”). If you have a week and a half and enough booze to get us through it all, I could tell you where the Academy has gotten it wrong and where they have gotten it right in the last 20 years.

So even though I’ve only seen two movies that got nominated for Academy Awards this year -- and one of those was “Star Trek!” -- I refuse to let that stop me from jumping on the bandwagon and making my own predictions about this year’s Oscars. Never let it be said that I am afraid to make a fool out of myself for your entertainment, people. I live to serve. Here we go. Let’s see how many of these I can get completely wrong.

(Take the over, if you’re a betting man.)

Best Supporting Actor
  • Who’s Nominated: Matt Damon in “Invictus,” Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger,” Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station,” Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones,” Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds.”
  • Who Will Probably Win: Christoph Waltz.
  • Who I Wish Would Win: This Oscar often goes to the old guy, and I love me some Christopher Plummer -- he was Captain von Trapp, for God’s sake! -- but based on what I have seen and heard, Christoph Waltz is the closest thing to a sure bet at the Oscars in a very long time. I have no horse in this race, since I haven’t seen any of these movies (and I even own “Julie & Julia,” which comes up later). Am asshole.

Best Supporting Actress
  • Who’s Nominated: Penélope Cruz in “Nine,” Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air,” Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart,” Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air,” Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.”
  • Who Will Probably Win: Mo’Nique.
  • Who I Wish Would Win: Mo’Nique. If she doesn’t win, I think Hollywood will be burned down to tinder. I have absolutely no desire to even see “Precious” because I’ve heard that Mo’Nique’s performance is so real and powerful that I am afraid I will never be able to look at her the same way again. I know it’s called “acting,” but still. (Go watch “Secretary” and tell me if you will ever view Maggie Gyllenhaal in the same light.)

Outstanding Costume Design
  • Who’s Nominated: Janet Patterson for “Bright Star,” Catherine Leterrier for “Coco Before Chanel,” Monique Prudhomme for “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” Colleen Atwood for “Nine,” Sandy Powell for “The Young Victoria.”
  • Who Will Probably Win: Catherine Leterrier.
  • Who I Wish Would Win: NOBODY. Nobody should win this award again until they make a sequel to “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Seriously. NOBODY. Those are the best costumes ever committed to celluloid, and Lizzy Gardiner’s American Express gold card dress is the most fabulous thing in history.

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • What’s Nominated: “District 9” (written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell), “An Education” (screenplay by Nick Hornby), “In the Loop” (screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche), “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher), “Up in the Air” (screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner).
  • What Will Probably Win: “Precious” -- even though there should be a one-tenth point deduction for the full, awful, long-ass name.
  • What I Wish Would Win: “Up in the Air.” I am not saying that the screenplay for “Precious” is not good (again, haven’t seen it), but it is in the screenwriting categories where hot new young things like Reitman get a chance to show that they are here to play. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won their Oscars for screenwriting (“Good Will Hunting”). I think Reitman is capable of really great things in the future, and this category is like the “Best Supporting Actress” category for up-and-coming directors -- generally a recognition of future potential as well as an acknowledgement of good work done right this second. The screenplay categories are also often “consolation prizes” for those movies which are almost, but not quite, ready for “Best Picture” (see: “Pulp Fiction,” 1994.)

Best Animated Feature Film
  • What’s Nominated: “Coraline,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Princess and the Frog,” “The Secret of Kells,” “Up.”
  • What Will Probably Win: “Up.”
  • What I Wish Would Win: “Up.” Honest to God, this is the best movie I’ve seen all year, and probably the best movie I’ve seen in three years. (I can’t remember back before that.) Everything about this movie astounds and amazes me, not the least of which is the fact that I would still totally see -- and still totally love -- this movie even if it were live-action and not animated. True story: I used to go to the movies a lot. I used to sit there, in the dark, and deliberately find things wrong with movies: editing mistakes, bad accents, terrible dialogue, disobedience of the laws of physics, etc. I can’t find anything wrong with this movie. Nothing. Pixar made me love movies again, and they keep getting better and better. The only thing that could possibly make this movie any more perfect would be if Russell were a girl.

Best Picture
  • What’s Nominated: “Avatar,” “The Blind Side,” “District 9,” “An Education,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” “A Serious Man,” “Up,” “Up in the Air.”
  • What I Think Will Win: But first, a caveat. This is the one category that I think is consistently and regularly fucked up -- and not just screwed up, either, but genuinely fucked up. There is absolutely no good reason why “Forrest Gump” won this Oscar in 1994. It was NOT better than “Four Weddings and a Funeral” AND “Pulp Fiction” AND “Quiz Show” AND “The Shawshank Redemption.” It just wasn’t. “Titanic” was NOT better than “As Good As It Gets” AND “The Full Monty” AND “Good Will Hunting” AND “L.A. Confidential.” No way. “Gladiator” -- really? These are (arguably) great movies, but not "best" movies. I say this because I fear that the winner in this category is going to be “Avatar,” and while I think there are things about “Avatar” that are impressive (even without having seen the movie), to me the fact that this movie got no nominations in other major categories except Best Director is telling. (I mean, come on, even “Titanic” at least got acting and screenplay nominations.)
  • What I Wish Would Win: “Up.” See “Best Animated Feature Film” above. However, I think that “Up” is going to win in the animation category, so I think people who might otherwise have voted for “Up” to win Best Picture will feel that their obligations to this flick have been satisfied. (Kind of the “Hoop Dreams” phenomenon, or at least “Hoop Dreams”-adjacent.) My next choice is “The Hurt Locker,” followed by “Inglourious Basterds,” because I think Tarantino is due. I doubt that “The Blind Side” or “District 9” really has a chance here, but “Precious” might maybe squeak in if the infighting between James Cameron and Katherine Bigelow causes enough people to give it 2nd and 3rd place votes.

Best Visual Effects
  • What’s Nominated: “Avatar,” “District 9,” “Star Trek.”
  • What Will Probably Win: “Avatar.” Because -- hello! Na’vi!
  • What I Wish Would Win: “Star Trek.” Because -- hello! Chris Pine!

Best Director
  • Who’s Nominated: Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), James Cameron (“Avatar”), Lee Daniels (“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”), Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”), Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”).
  • Who Will Probably Win: Kathryn Bigelow.
  • Who I Wish Would Win: Kathryn Bigelow. She’s only the fourth woman nominated, which is stunning (I could have sworn Barbra Streisand was nominated for “The Prince of Tides” but it looks like she wasn’t), and she’s also the only one who made a “war movie.” Crossing thresholds wins awards, even if the thresholds are stupid and arbitrary.

Best Original Screenplay
  • What’s Nominated: “The Hurt Locker” (written by Mark Boal), “Inglourious Basterds” (written by Quentin Tarantino), “The Messenger” (written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman), “A Serious Man” (written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen), “Up” (screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy).
  • What Will Probably Win: “Inglourious Basterds.”
  • What I Wish Would Win: “Up,” but I honestly would have no objection to Tarantino winning this one. He is an asshole sometimes, but he is also a genius, and it takes a hell of a lot of balls to deliberately put your name on a two-word title with both words spelled wrong. I admire the hubris, I really do.

Best Actress
  • Who’s Nominated: Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side,” Helen Mirren in “The Last Station,” Carey Mulligan in “An Education,” Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia.”
  • Who Will Probably Win: Either “Miss Congeniality” herself, Sandra Bullock, who won all the early awards, or Meryl Streep, who didn’t win any of the early awards but who is well-admired by the Academy.
  • Who I Wish Would Win: Gabourey Sidibe. This woman is awesome, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime role (probably literally, since Hollywood is not exactly a fat-positive place), and if you ever hear Gabby speak in interviews, you will see exactly how much acting went into this portrayal. Call me, Gabby! I want to be your friend! (But for once I would actually have no objection to any of these women winning, because they are all fantastic and deserving and I seriously mean that with absolutely no snark.)

Best Actor
  • Who’s Nominated: Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart,” George Clooney in “Up in the Air,” Colin Firth in “A Single Man,” Morgan Freeman in “Invictus,” Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker.”
  • Who Will Probably Win: Jeff Bridges.
  • Who I Wish Would Win: Colin Firth. Hello, lover! (By the way, the answer to this question will ALWAYS be Colin Firth, or if he is not available, George Clooney, but George already has an Oscar, so give someone else a chance, ‘mkay?)

So that’s that. As I said, I am probably wrong about many of these, but we’ll see. If you have picks, I hope you are not disappointed.

And I really, really hope “Up” ekes out the win.

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