Sunday, March 7, 2010

Final Thoughts Before the Oscars

In about 5-6 hours, the stars will begin walking the red carpet to the Kodak theater and 2 hours later, the first award will be given out. It's been a long and sometimes winding road to Oscars this year completely with radical changes, surprising last-minute twists, and your list of obvious front runners.

The story of the season, however, is no one other than Kathryn Bigelow. Not only is she racking awards left and right, but she is also the director of the Oscar Best Picture front-runner, The Hurt Locker. If she does win, she becomes the first woman to ever do so in the 82 years of Oscars. Her film is quite the Cinderella story itself with it debuting in early 2009 and making only $12 million on the box office. It was seemingly forgotten until it reaped awards after awards after awards knocking down big competition.

And thus we get to James Cameron Avatar which broke Titanic-sized records at the box-office amassing nearly $3 billion in worldwide sales including an impressive $700+ million gross in the United States alone. It managed to get Golden Globes for itself and its directing, but precious anything else. Many people still think it's a two-way race between this and The Hurt Locker, but the latter is so far ahead in terms of industry support, it's hard to see the upset.

If anything maybe people should be looking at other Best Picture nominees such as Inglourious Basterds, Precious, and Up in the Air. The first two have been trying to create more buzz for themselves amidst the Avatar-Hurt Locker battle and why not? Both are guaranteed acting wins and are nominated for those important screenplay and editing categories. Basterds also nabbed the SAG Ensemble Award while Precious dominated at this year's Indie Spirit Awards. So if there were films to upset, I'd bet on those two films.

But wait, there was a radical change about this year. Instead of 5 Best Picture nominees, there are 10. The other five films, however, will most likely not threaten to win, but their inclusion does add that extra wrinkle of changing the way votes are tallied. The preferential voting has been analyzed and dissected so much that I feel as if flipping a coin would be more efficient and less migraine-inducing. It'll be interesting to see if any "weird" results happen because of this new way of voting, but no one will ever know because we will never see the voting details. Oh well.

The radical changes kept coming especially since this year's producers, Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman, saw it as their mission to make the Academy Awards the "biggest reality TV show" there is. Many traditionalists vomited at that very thought and were less than pleased with many of the changes the men have made (relegating honorary awards to another night, getting rid of the Best Song performances, inviting Taylor "look at me I'm shirtless" Lautner to present, etc.). Hopefully it'll be like last year where the changes were worrisome and yet they still came off well. I have my extreme doubts, but why stressed out about it? In fact even if the whole ceremony is an epic fail, how fun would that be to talk about the day after?

We then get to the acting categories where it seems the drama usually resides. And yet, this year, not so much. While last year, it was a slam dunk year for Heath Ledger, this year we get two slam dunk performances in Mo'Nique and Christoph Waltz. An upset for them would be unthinkable unless the Academy does its own thing for the latter category and award Tucci or Plummer for their bodies of work. Weirder things have happened in that category. Jeff Bridges for lead actor will win since he's like Mickey Rourke last year without a Sean Penn counterpart.

Here's the bit of drama: Meryl Streep vs. Sandra Bullock. For most of the awards season Bullock was largely absent and it was a three-way race between Streep, Sidibe, and Mulligan. In a last-minute twist, Bullock came in strong grabbing up the BFCA, Golden Globes, and the SAG while the latter two actress faded a bit. Streep has gone toe-to-toe with Bullock, but she ended up losing at the SAGs and Bullock's film was nominated for a Best Picture. ALL INDICATIONS point to Bullock winning tonight, but dammit when is Meryl Streep ever going to get that second Best Actress Oscar? It's just criminal. Fun fact: Sandra Bullock won two Razzie Awards last night and can make history tonight as no one has ever won a Razzie and an Oscar in the same year!

The techs, like always, will let us know the tone of the Academy early on. We will see if it'll be a big Hurt Locker night, a big Avatar night, or a big "everyone gets an award" night. Pay extra attention to who wins Editing, to the sound categories and if they split, and to Original Score.

Finally, just wanted to say that for some reason I ended up getting a bit weary of the awards season this year. Maybe it's because The Hurt Locker wasn't one of my very favorite films of the year (still top 20!). Maybe it was because the precursors happened so early relative to the Oscar ceremony that everyone got complacent. Maybe I was severely spoiled last year with everyone who I wanted to win, winning. I don't really know, but I do have to give a shout-out to the true little-film-that-could this season, District 9.

District 9 is my favorite film of the past year and when I saw it, I had NO HOPES of it being nominated for an Academy Award. When the decision was made to expand the Best Picture category, I still didn't believe a film like this could make it in. I was just happy it made $100+ million at the box office. Come Oscar morning, it was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture only less than the five Oscar front-runners! The other nominations were also pretty huge. It goes toe-to-toe with Avatar in Visual Effects, is up against the four Oscar front-runners in Editing, and contends in really hard-to-predict Adapted Screenplay. So while The Hurt Locker (or Avatar or whoever) will most likely reap the lion share of the awards tonight, in my heart District 9 has already won.

Related links:
Click here to see my official predictions.
Click here to see my own personal ballot.
Click here to see my initial thoughts on the Oscar nominations.
Click here to see all my posts on "Awards Season."

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