Here are my predictions for the 2009 Oscar winners:
It's incredible that the first year they decide to change the number of nominees in this category from 5 to 10, is in one of the weakest years of film in recent memory! In my mind only five of the films have any chance, and they happen to be the five best films of 2009 in my opinion. The Blind Side should NOT be in this category. Precious has been lauded and pounded by both critics and general public, and while I haven't seen the film, it's brutal premise seems over-the-top, and the writing/directing amateurish. A Serious Man is another film I am yet to see, and while it received positive reviews across the board, it has flown under the radar, and considered a solid Coen Bros. film, and not of the quality of previous Oscar winners Fargo, and No Country for Old Men. Having said that, both of those films would be favorites hands-down to take the award if they were released in 2009. District 9, while I loved it and thought it was a fascinating sci-fi film, is just happy to be there. As is An Education, which is 90% a great film, let down by an unforgivable error at the conclusion. I would love to see UP win, because I think it is Pixar's greatest film along with Wall E, but it is unlikely that the Academy will select an animated film. It will have to be content with Best Animated Film. AVATAR is a groundbreaking visual masterpiece, and the highest grossing film of all time, but the script, the acting and the shallow characters failed to keep me interested in my second viewing. It will probably win, and this isn't right! That leaves three films: Inglorious Basterds, Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker. I would love to see Tarantino win his Oscar, but Up in the Air is a masterpiece and has lots of support. A victory here would not surprise me, and I would also be delighted to see Jason Reitman win. My pick, however, is The Hurt Locker, the outstanding tale of a bomb disposal unit in the Iraq War.
My pick: The Hurt Locker
Dark Horse: Up in the Air
After winning the SAG Award and the Golden Globe (Drama), Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart is the frontrunner and likely winner. Colin Firth for A Single Man has apparently never been better, and both Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker and George Clooney for Up in the Air also have a shot after delivering memorable performances. An interesting category.
My Pick: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Dark Horse: George Clooney (Up in the Air)
This category is a joke this year. Sandra Bullock, the winner of the Razzie Award for her performance in All About Steve, is the favorite for her 'solid' lead performance in the painfully bad, The Blind Side. Meryl is her only real contender for her portrayal of Julia Child in Julie and Julia. This is a fine performance but is in the shadow of last years performance in Doubt, where she should have won. Will they forgive this mistake and award her this time? I really liked Carey Mulligan in An Education but she seems too young to win just yet. Gabourey Sidibe and Helen Mirren don't have much of a chance. Bullock is likely to win, which is just ridiculous, but i am going to go for Meryl.
My Pick: Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia)
Dark Horse: Carey Mulligan (An Education)
This is probably the easiest to pick. Christoph Waltz for his menacing portrayal of Hans 'The Jew Hunter' Lander in Inglourious Basterds will win for sure. Matt Damon and Stanley Tucci have outside shots, but Waltz is as sure a bet as Daniel Day Lewis was for There Will be Blood!
My Pick: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Dark Horse: None
I am in strong support for the two Up in the Air girls in this category. Both delivered fantastic performances. Vera Farmiga is overdue for some recognition after some quality performances in recent years. Anna Kendrick is a major talent, and is just superb in Jason Reitman's film. The award is going to go to Mo'Nique though, for her menacing portrayal in Precious. She has won everything so far, and is likely to add an Oscar to her collection. Maggie Gyllenhaal has emerged as a potential dark horse alongside Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, but sadly I don't see anyone beating out Mo'Nique.
My Pick: Mo'Nique (Precious)
Dark Horse: Vera Farmiga/Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
James Cameron should not, repeat not, win this award for Avatar. Somehow he took out the Golden Globe. This award should go to either Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds or Jason Reitman for Up in the Air. Bigelow won the Directors Guild Award, and Tarantino and Retiman are very likely to take out the screenplay awards for their respective films, so I'm going to go with Kathryn Bigelow taking out the award to complement the Best Picture nod.
My Pick: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Dark Horse: Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Up in the Air will dominate this category. While I loved the premise of District 9, the second half of the film let down what was so brilliantly developed in the first 30 minutes. An Education, whether it was adapted from real events or not, mishandled the final 10 minutes, and that was unforgivable. In the Loop has proven to be quite popular during it's short release in Australia, but is unlikely to challenge. Precious seems to be the most likely competitor, but word around is that the adaptation is tripe compared to the original work. So, Up in the Air by a long long way!
My Pick: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air)
Dark Horse: Neill Blomkamp and Teri Hatchell (District 9)
Best Original Screenplay
This is one of my favorite categories, with some genuinely great screenplays. The Coen Bros. must always be considered for their work. There are fewer more inventive filmmakers in the world at the moment, and A Serious Man is the latest in their odd resume. UP is a fantastic screenplay, creating an entertaining story for all ages, and managing to transform a grumpy old man and a young Asian scout, into the film's central characters! Kudos to Pete Docter on that one. The Hurt Locker is also a fantastic screenplay, but i think more praise should go to Kathryn Bigelow for this one, but if an Oscar sweep were in store for The Hurt Locker, then it might upset. My pick is for QT for Basterds. A brilliant re-writing of the conclusion of WWII, it is darkly comic, and appropriately dramatic and moving. It possesses a heart that many of his recent films have lacked. While it can potentially win both of the top awards, QT is going to have to be content with this one I think.
My Pick: Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
Dark Horse: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)
Best Animated Film
This will go to Pixar again, for UP. This is the right choice. It is one of the best films of the year, and one of the great animated films of the decade! I do feel for Wes Anderson and Henry Selick here. Fantastic Mr Fox was thought by many (including me) to be an outside chance for a best picture nomination. It is superb! I also loved Coraline. Both would have been a winner in a weaker year. The other two nominees have no chance.
My Pick: Up (Pete Docter)
Dark Horse: Fantastic Mr Fox (Wes Anderson)
Best Foreign Film
Sadly I haven't managed to see any of the nominees yet, but Das Weisse Band (The White Ribbon) by Michael Haneke took home the Palme D'Or at the Canne Film Festival and won the Golden Globe for Foreign Language Film. Un Prophete (France) and The Milk of Sorrow (Peru) appear to be it's closest challengers. But if this is Haneke's greatest film, as many critics are saying, then this must win, and it's strange to think why it wasn't given a Best Pic Nomination if it really is this good!
My Pick: Das Weisse Band (Michael Haneke)
Dark Horse: Un Proffete (Jaques Audaird)
Best Art Direction
My Pick: Avatar
Dark Horse: Nine or Sherlock Holmes
This potentially could go to four of the nominees. It is very likely that Avatar's beautiful 3D will take out the award, but Robert Richardson's work in Inglourious Basterds deserves the award, especially for that stunning final sequence at the theatre. But Christian Berger's black and white cinematography in Das Weisse Band also has a shot. The hand-held camerawork in The Hurt Locker paints a gritty portrayal of the situations thrown at the characters in the film, and works brilliantly, but I don't think it will take out this award, likely film editing though.
My Pick: Robert Richardson (Inglourious Basterds)
Dark Horse: Christian Berger (Das Weisse Band)
Best Costume Design
I'm not sure about this one at all.
My Pick: Coco Before Chanel
Dark Horse: Nine
Best Film Editing
Spectacularly done in The Hurt Locker. Also can't fault Sally Menke for her work in Inglourious Basterds, especially that final sequence.
My Pick: Bob Murawski, Chris Innis (The Hurt Locker)
Dark Horse: Sally Menke (Inglourious Basterds)
Best Music (Original Score)
My Pick: Up
Dark Horse: Fantastic Mr Fox
Best Sound Editing
My Pick: Avatar
Dark Horse: Inglourious Basterds
Best Sound Mixing
My Pick: Avatar
Dark Horse: The Hurt Locker
Best Visual Effects
My Pick: Avatar
Dark Horse: None