Another year has gone by, and we are well into the 2011 awards’ season. Unlike many years, in which a group of ragtag entries form a popular collective around a clear tent-pole winner, this years ceremonies have highlighted just how many great films were released in 2010 – and how many different opinions there were on those great films. Where the Golden Globes gave the nod to The Social Network and The Kids Are All Right, the BAFTAs handed out the golden mask to home-grown favourite The King’s Speech. Indeed, a few months ago, we may have predicted that the Globes had it right with David Fincher’s film about Facebook, but a lot of recent buzz about the royal majesty of The King’s Speech has seen it emerge as a late favourite. So we gaze deep into the office crystal ball and ask the two most pertinent questions of our time: “Who will win?” and “Is there an app for that”?
The big award of the night is always Best Picture, and since 2010 it has gotten even bigger. Raising the nominations to 10 from 5 was seen by some as a cynical move so that big budget blockbusters like Avatar could be included. Of course, there is historical precedent: in 1933 the Academy went from 5 to 8 nominees, to 10 in 1934 and a whopping 12 in 1935, before returning to a humble 10 in 1937. It returned to 5 in 1945, where it remained until last year. What does all this mean? Well, it makes it harder for us to pick a winner!
The nominees this year are Darren Aronofsky’s psycho-thriller Black Swan, David O. Russell’s biopic The Fighter, Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending Inception, Lisa Cholodenko’s unconventional family drama The Kids Are All Right, Tom Hooper’s royal favourite The King’s Speech, Danny Boyle’s fast-paced one-man drama 127 Hours, David Fincher’s Facebook film The Social Network, Lee Unkrich’s animated piece of perfection Toy Story 3, the Coen Brothers’ remake of western True Grit and Debra Granik’s criminally underrated Winter’s Bone. And the Oscar goes to…
Unlike the Best Picture category, there are still only five slots for the top director of the year. So of the ten best pictures of the year, only five of their helmsmen (and women) can win for their contributions. This is disappointing for those who’d love to see Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo) finally recognised for his outstanding contributions to the medium. Despite a phenomenal track record, David Fincher has been often overlooked in the Oscar stakes. Perhaps it has been his choice of cinematic fodder, such as serial killers (Se7en and Zodiac), anarchistic schizophrenics (Fight Club). The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was nominated 13 times, including Fincher’s first, but failed to take any of the top spots. If 2010 saw Mark Zuckerberg named Person of the Year, we reckon this year is the Year of the Fincher.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Having a first name that starts with the letter J seems to be the prerequisite for securing a best actor nomination this year, with four of the five actors boasting such a moniker (Javier Bardem for Biutiful, Jeff Bridges for True Grit, Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network and James Franco for 127 Hours). Yet, the man hotly tipped to take home the statuette is the sole competitor breaks this rule in his second nod in as many years, with The King’s Speech‘s Colin Firth likely to be victorious. Indeed, 2008 supporting actor winner Bardem (for No Country For Old Men) is considered the least likely challenger, and 2010 winner Bridges and first-timer Eisenberg have lost momentum of late. Surprisingly, host Franco is firming as a contender, however anything other than a win to Firth would be an upset.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
The case for the dwindling number of strong roles for women may be a strong one, with a clear leader emerging early and sticking there until the awards season is over. The nominees this year are especially strong, and are almost evenly divided into old school and new school Hollywood leading ladies. Representing the former camp are veterans previous multiple nominees Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right) and Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), who won for The Hours in 2002. Previously nominated for Brokeback Mountain, Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) has been largely hailed as one of the new shining lights of the silver screen and newcomer Jennifer Lawrence should be accepting offers left right and centre after her amazing turn in Winter’s Bone.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
If you are still looking for patterns in nominees, if you were a supporting actor in a film starting with ‘The’, there was a fairly good chance you’d be nominated for an award this year. Christian Bale, in what is surprisingly his first nomination, has seen an almost clean sweep in his awards wins to date, winning the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Golden Globes, the National Board of Review and countless critics associations for his body-shifting performance in The Fighter. Will this pattern hold? With Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech), the underrated John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town) and Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right) also up for a statuette, the game is still afoot.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
History has not been kind to fellow acting nominees from the same film (with only two of the last thirteen instances resulting in wins, both in this category), however that may change in 2011. Although Up In The Air‘s Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga were unable to overcome the stigma of competing against each other in 2010, The Fighter‘s Melissa Leo and Amy Adams may have more than a fighting chance. The former is considered the more likely winner, although three-time nominee Adams (for Junebug and Doubt prior to this year) may be the wildcard. If they do split the vote between them, expect True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld to join the chorus of young recipients, or The King’s Speech‘s Helena Bonham Carter to ride the film’s wave of success. Sadly, although she has the weight of a nation behind her, veteran Australian actress Jacki Weaver is considered an outsider for crime drama Animal Kingdom.
Best Screenplay (Adapted)
While nobody put the name of the original author in the title this year (see: Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire), there was some quality reading going on in Hollywood over the last few years. Something we all learned this year was that sequels, even if they are wholly originally creations, are considered ‘Adapted’ from their previous entries. As such, the tear-jerking Toy Story 3 (written by Michael Arndt, with a story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich) was considered an adapted screenplay. It faces incredibly stiff competition from Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network (adapted from Ben Mezrich’s 2009 nonfiction book The Accidental Billionaires), Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy’s 127 Hours (from Aron Ralston’s autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place), the Coen Brothers’ True Grit (not only a remake, but an adaptation of Charles Portis’ lyrical book of the same name) and Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini’s script for Winter’s Bone, based on the Daniel Woodrell book.
Best Screenplay (Original)
Always a category of interest, the original screenplay field for 2011 is populated by yet another close bunch of nominees. With Mike Leigh securing his fifth nomination in the field for Another Year, he faces stiff competition from playwright David Seidler, the BAFTA winner for The King’s Speech. The remaining three films represent a vast departure in terms of tone and theme, with The Fighter (written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington), The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg) and Inception (Christopher Nolan) hailing from the biopic, comedy and action genres. With Nolan overlooked in the director category, a nod here is not unexpected, particularly given his triumph at the recent Writers Guild Awards.
The 83rd Annual Academy Awards will be held 27 February 2011 in Los Angeles, California. They will air LIVE in Australia on 28 Monday 2011 due to the time difference.