The wait is nearly over ...
Will Avatar be able to add a collection of trophies to its astounding box office success, or will it be upstaged by the best-reviewed film of 2009? Will a woman finally win the award for top director? Will audiences -- especially younger viewers -- tune in to watch? These and other questions will be answered in just a few days.
The 82nd Annual Academy Awards ceremony will air on ABC on Sunday night, March 7th, from 8:30pm ET (5:30pm PT) to "11:30pm" (meaning, let's say, 11:45 or 12:00), preceded by a half-hour red carpet special at 8:00pm ET (5:00pm PT). Hosting duties for this year's ceremony will be split between Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, and despite a last-minute controversy surrounding a killed Avatar-related skit that was to star Sacha Baron Cohen, preparations seem to be running smoothly.
Announced presenters include Robert Downey Jr., Sam Worthington, Barbra Streisand, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kathy Bates, Miley Cyrus, Queen Latifah, Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Charlize Theron, Chris Pine, Gerard Butler, Keanu Reeves, and John Travolta. And while the broadcast will feature a dozen dancers from "So You Think You Can Dance," in a major switch, there will be no live performances of the best original song nominees this year.
But enough about what will happen; let's talk about what might happen. We have surveyed the predictions of dozens of awards "experts" in order to gauge the consensus about who is likely to take home the Oscar in each category. This year, most of the races seem predetermined (only a few categories are genuinely up for grabs at this point), which can only mean one thing: expect at least one out-of-leftfield upset on Sunday night.
The predictions: Best Picture
|The Hurt Locker||45%|
Who Could Win: As expected, it looks like a two-horse race between The Hurt Locker 94 and Avatar 84. While all the momentum and buzz is behind the indie Hurt Locker -- which, among other indicators, recently collected a BAFTA for best picture -- a new controversy involving active email campaigning by one of Locker's producers could give new life to James Cameron's blue blockbuster. (Read The New York Times' coverage here.) Either way, the intriguing battle between these two films should keep viewers tuned in until the end of the broadcast, no matter how late it runs. Read our previous discussion about predicting the best picture winner.
Who Could Sneak In: Inglourious Basterds 69. It would be a longshot, but a massive Harvey Weinstein-led advertising push (including television commercials that ran during the Olympics and an innovative poster art campaign), coupled with reported confusion related to the Academy's new instant-runoff voting system, means that Quentin Tarantino's brash, alternative-history war film could sneak into contention. The Envelope's Tom O'Neil predicts such an upset, but critic Jack Mathews recently changed his mind and now prefers Hurt Locker.
Who Won't Win: The other seven nominees. However much you may have liked District 9 81, do yourself a favor and don't pick it in your Oscar pool.
|Experts Predicting "Avatar"||Experts Predicting "The Hurt Locker"|
|Richard Corliss (Time), Erik Davis (Cinematical), Paul Gaita (The Envelope), Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Steve Pond (The Wrap), Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York), Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood Elsewhere)||Lane Brown (Vulture/New York), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), David Fear (Time Out New York), Scott Feinberg (And The Winner Is), Pete Hammond (The Envelope), Dave Karger (Entertainment Weekly), Peter Keough (Boston Phoenix), Tariq Khan (Fox411), Peter Knegt (indieWIRE), Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood), Jack Mathews (AOL), Sasha Stone (Awards Daily)|
The Predictions: Other races
Who Could Win: Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker. The clear favorite among the experts, Bigelow has been cleaning up on the awards circuit this year. Among her trophies is the DGA award, and in the past 61 years Academy voters have mirrored the Directors Guild's selection all but six times. If she wins, Bigelow will be the first woman in history to receive the directing Oscar.
Who Could Sneak In: James Cameron, for Avatar. Bigelow's ex-husband not only directed the most successful film in box office history, but he reinvented filmmaking in the process. If Avatar manages to take home best picture, Cameron certainly has a chance at the directing award as well.
Who Could Win: Quentin Tarantino, for Inglourious Basterds. The early frontrunner for this award, Tarantino is still attracting the support of many awards experts, and with that huge promotional campaign, it seems unlikely that Basterds will go home completely empty-handed. However, out of all the Oscar races, this is one of the few that still looks open.
Who Could Sneak In: Mark Boal, for The Hurt Locker. Though he hasn't unseated Tarantino as the front-runner, the former journalist is starting to pick up steam and could benefit from the overall buzz surrounding his film. Boal actually won the Writers Guild's award this year, although Tarantino -- who isn't a WGA member -- wasn't eligible.
Who Could Win: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for Up in the Air. At one point, the George Clooney dramedy was pegged as a major favorite for multiple awards, although now conventional wisdom states that the screenplay trophy will represent the film's one and only victory.
Who Could Sneak In: Although Reitman and Turner are the prohibitive favorites, Geoffrey Fletcher's well-regarded adaptation of the novel Push -- which became the movie Precious -- is probably the only other film with even a remote chance.
Who Could Win: You could not have predicted it a year ago, but Sandra Bullock is the current favorite for her work in The Blind Side. A win would cement Bullock's 2009 as a year to remember; her two films (The Proposal was the other) combined to gross over $500 million. (Yes, we are intentionally forgetting All About Steve.)
Who Could Sneak In: Well, there is always Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia). Of course, that's the problem, isn't it: she's nominated so frequently (16 times, to be exact) that voters figure there is no urgency to pick her in any given year. Streep's last win was in 1982 for Sophie's Choice, but her role in Julie & Julia is the type that Academy voters seem to enjoy: celebrity impersonation. A few pundits have her winning over Bullock, so a Streep win wouldn't be a major upset -- but a win by longshots Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) or Carey Mulligan
(An Education) will certainly elicit gasps from the audience no matter how deserving each of them might be.
Who Could Win: Jeff Bridges, for Crazy Heart. The Golden Globe and SAG winner impressed critics with his performance as a struggling country singer, and has been the front-runner for months. Even more telling is that the likeable, hard-working Bridges has been nominated five times over his 30-year career, but has yet to win -- and the Academy likes to reward such people.
Who Could Sneak In: Jeremy Renner, for The Hurt Locker. It could be Hurt Locker's night, and Renner's memorable performance certainly contributed to that film's success.
Who Could Win: Mo’Nique, for Precious. She was the overwhelming favorite well before the nominations were announced, and continues to be so today.
Who Could Sneak In: No one. The only upset that would be more surprising on Sunday night than Mo'Nique not winning would be Avatar failing to receive the visual effects award.
Who Could Win: Christoph Waltz, for Inglourious Basterds. Unknown (outside of his native Austria) a year ago at this time, Waltz captivated Cannes audiences with his performance as the villainous Hans Landa, and has been hailed as the likely Oscar winner ever since.
Who Could Sneak In: Christoph Waltz's stunt double. Oh, and possibly Woody Harrelson, for The Messenger. The Academy likes actors who play against type, and Harrelson delivers a serious, moving performance. Unfortunately, his movie reached theaters during the wrong year.
Animated Feature and Animated Short
Who Could Win: Up 88. Speaking of locks, here's another. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn't predict Pixar's latest triumph to take home the trophy, a consolation prize for losing the bigger award (best picture) to Avatar or The Hurt Locker.
Who Could Sneak In: No one. While the field is unusually strong this year, it's Up in a landslide.
|The Lady and the Reaper||31%|
|A Matter of Loaf and Death||26%|
Who Could Win: "A Matter of Loaf and Death." Nick Park's fourth comedic short (although at 29 minutes, it's a long short) starring beloved characters Wallace and Gromit is the overwhelming consensus pick, which would bring Park's Academy Award total to five.
Who Could Sneak In: "Logorama." The work of French design collective H5, Logorama depicts a cityscape and characters composed entirely of corporate logos, and has picked up a number of awards worldwide. The pick of Metacritic users, "The Lady and the Reaper" was not similarly picked by experts, but it has more star power than other entries: Antonio Banderas is a producer.
Who Could Win: The Cove. A well-made movie focusing on an issue that Academy members can support (animal rights), this eco-activist doc is the pick of most pundits.
Who Could Sneak In: Food Inc. This slick and alarming examination of the food industry has attracted the most attention out of the remaining films.
|China's Unnatural Disaster||30%|
|The Last Truck||26%|
Who Could Win: "China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province" or "The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant." Many prognosticators likely haven't seen all (or any) of the nominees in this category -- so do what you will with their predictions -- but these are the two films that have been mentioned repeatedly as likely winners. “The Last Truck” certainly benefits from timeliness, while "China's Unnatural Disaster" focuses on grieving parents after a deadly 2008 earthquake.
Who Could Sneak In: "Music by Prudence," a look at African musicians suffering from a variety of disabling diseases. Oddly enough, it's probably the most uplifting of the contenders.
Who Could Win: Argentina's El Secreto de Sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes). Not yet released in the United States, this crime drama is the choice of many -- but certainly not all -- experts.
Who Could Sneak In: Michael Haneke's White Ribbon 82. Another popular pick, the director's latest challenging drama is a black-and-white exploration of the roots of evil in pre-WWI Germany. A dark horse contender is the French gangster drama Un Prophète (A Prophet) 89. While it's the best reviewed film of all the contenders, that's not necessarily a good thing as far as the Oscars go.
Who Could Win: Any of the nominees. "The Door" attracted the most votes from the experts, but no one will ever get rich trying to forecast the winner of the live-action short film category. This is one of those categories that will help decide the winner of your Oscar pool.
Who Could Sneak In: "The New Tenants" also turned up in multiple prediction articles.
Music: Original Score
Who Could Win: Michael Giacchino, for Up. The "Lost" composer's score for the best picture nominee was singled out for praise at the time of the film's release, and is close to a unanimous pick by the experts.
Who Could Sneak In: James Horner, for Avatar. It has the advantage of being the most-heard film score this year, and the veteran composer already has two Oscar trophies sitting at home.
Music: Original Song
|"Take It All"||15%|
Who Could Win: "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart. Written by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett, the song features prominently in the movie -- Jeff Bridges' character "writes" the tune as the movie progresses -- and it was the winner at the Golden Globes.
Who Could Sneak In: Randy Newman. The 18-time Oscar nominee has just one win to his name -- which the Academy might want to rectify at some point -- but is in the unfortunate situation of competing against himself here, nominated for two different songs from The Princess and the Frog.
|The Hurt Locker||24%|
Who Could Win: Either Mauro Fiore for Avatar, or Barry Ackroyd for The Hurt Locker. An intriguing matchup, the category seemingly pits advanced technology against grit, yet Ackroyd's work in Hurt Locker features some nifty technology of its own -- especially in the extreme slow-motion sequences. Either front-runner could take home the trophy.
Who Could Sneak In: The dark horse is Robert Richardson for Inglourious Basterds, but it's hard to see the Academy looking past the first two films.
Other Technical Categories
|Imaginarium of Dr. Parn.||28%|
|The Young Victoria||25%|
Who Could Win: An Avatar sweep in all five of the remaining technical categories where it was nominated would surprise no one, though most experts predict that film editing honors will go to the taut, suspenseful Hurt Locker.
Who Could Sneak In: Since Coco Before Chanel is actually about a fashion designer, that film is an automatic contender in the costume design category. And The Young Victoria has a slight chance at upsetting Star Trek for the makeup award.
Either -- or both -- of the two sound categories could fall to The Hurt Locker instead of Avatar, although the latter is still the likelier pick. Don't look for any serious challengers in the art direction category, though if any film has a very slight chance, it's Sherlock Holmes. And if Avatar somehow doesn't win the visual effects award, the Academy should stop handing it out.
What do you think?
Are you planning on watching the Oscars on Sunday? Is there one film you are rooting for more than others? Are you pleased with the choice of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as hosts? Let us know in the comments section below.