Hard to believe we’re already here. Seems like only yesterday I was recording videos for the NT Daily about last year’s crop of greatness. Now, it’s already a year later and it’s time to make my final picks for 2010. Since I’ve got the time, I’ll add picks for categories I haven’t even covered yet, but I care about deeply, even though they’re oftentimes tricky to guess.
Dark Horses: Winter’s Bone, How to Train Your Dragon
Long Shots: Shutter Island, Another Year
The skinny: While there’s a lot of love in the critical community for Winter’s Bone and a school of thought that thinks How to Train Your Dragon out-shined Pixar, these 10 nominees are pretty much set in stone. If anyone takes the fall, it’ll be an under-performing 127 Hours, which would be a crying shame.
Dark Horse: Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
Long Shot: Debra Granik, Winter’s Bone
The skinny: While the Academy loves nominating the Coens, they don’t love to reward them. So I think that, like last year, their effort will be honored through Best Picture and Screenplay nominations, but not with any praise for them as the master filmmakers they are.
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Dark Horse: Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Long Shot: Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island
The skinny: Constantly an over-crowded race, there’s usually five-plus nominees that would be worthy additions to the category. But these five match the SAG’s five and unless Julia Roberts’ serious campaigning pays off.
Dark Horse: Julianne Moore, The Kids are All Right
Long Shot: Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
The skinny: An unusually difficult field this year, as in the past the Academy’s had to stretch to find five nominees to fill out this category. Early odds had both actresses from The Kids are All Right making it onto this list, but it’s highly unlikely at this point. So to whom does that last slot go? I’m picking SAG nominee and two-time Oscar winner Swank, because she has the woman-overcoming-obstacle-and-showing-up-men-in-her-profession role. Michelle Williams is one of the best actresses of her career, but she hasn’t received any accolades for her even-further-out-of-the-box work post-Brokeback.
Dark Horse: John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Long Shot: Matt Damon, True Grit
The skinny: Who cares about the other nominees? It’s high time Bale got nominated and won, not just for his incredible performance but for his career of greatness. I’d love to see Damon nominated again (seriously, has he ever been less than great?) and Hawkes gives a gritty performance as a character with a real arc, but the love for The Social Network is likely to spill over into a much deserved nomination for Garfield, though it would be outstanding to see Justin Timberlake or Armie Hammer pull off a surprise nod.
Dark Horse: Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Long Shot: Lesley Manville, Another Year
The skinny: What a tough call. Any logical person would say Jacki Weaver has no chance, since she’s been recognized by virtually no one. But the Academy has never been logical. So Mila Kunis will likely have to wait for another juicy role to receive Oscar attention, of which she will likely have many in the near future.
Dark Horse: Please Give
Long Shot: Biutiful
The skinny: Unless some insane person nominates the unbearable Greenberg or the beloved-but-ignored Ghost Writer, it’s safe to say these films will be acknowledged for their truly creative writing.
Dark Horse: The Town
Long Shot: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
The skinny: These five also appear to be the real deal. The Town, whose script adds much more characterization to the Boston crime epic than, say, The Departed, could take a slot away from a quickly fading 127 Hours, which of course, would be terrible.
Dark Horse: The Social Network
Long Shot: Shutter Island
The skinny: Another category packed to the gills with worthy nominees. Both the dark horse and long shot have a very legitimate shot at getting recognized, so anything’s possible here.
Dark Horse: The Illusionist
Long Shot: Megamind
The skinny: Rules be damned. There’s no reason there shouldn’t be five nominees in this category this year. Because of this category’s bent toward oddballs, the more avant-garde Illusionist or even My Dog Tulip could make it here. And then there’s the Tangled. The Disney powerhouse has for the past two years found itself a double nominee for its annual Pixar entry and its other homegrown picture. Man, there needs to be five people here.
Dark Horse: Restrepo
Long Shot: Exit Through the Gift Shop
The skinny: This category is always hard to navigate, but easier than the one below it. Each of the five I think will make it all meets the checklist for what the Academy loves: fighting against pollution, finger-pointing, getting angry at the military, tackling a serious social issue and patting people on the back for recycling. Restrepo is the most respected, but since it’s more about brotherhood during war and not blaming the Bush administration for getting us into those wars in the first place, it has less of a chance. And one of the most entertaining films of the year will likely find itself shut out because of accusations of staging. But how awesome would it be for such an anti-establishment feature to walk in and win it all?
Dark Horse: Outside the Law (Algeria)
Long Shot: Dogtooth (Greece)
The skinny: Basically, any five of the shortlisted nine could make it here. In a Better World won the Golden Globe which ordinarily would assure its absence at the Oscars, but deals with tumultuous family relations and a refugee camp in Africa, which is like catnip to the people who vote on this category. I’d love to see the horror-comedy Dogtooth make it here, but it may be too weird for the strait-laced voters.
Dark Horse: The Ghost Writer
Long Shot: Let Me In
The skinny: Another tough category, because you never know how dark or whimsical they’ll feel about this category. How to Train Your Dragon or, God forbid, Alice in Wonderland could be nominated here. Sometimes they’ll honor something creative, sometimes traditional. Is it possible you’ll see none of these five tomorrow? Absolutely.
Dark Horse: 127 Hours
Long Shot: Burlesque (second nomination)
The skinny: I’ve pretty much given up on this category after the past two years, switching to three nominees and then nominating five no one had heard of. There is the significant possibility Burlesque will get up to five nominations while the peerless Scott Pilgrim vs. the World will get none, but that’s a world I don’t want to live in.
Dark Horse: The Social Network
Long Shot: Hereafter
The skinny: This category needed to be five, especially this year. All five likely nominees, despite their flaws, all had jaw-dropping special effects. The only alterations I can foresee is The Social Network‘s twin power, which is less impressive than the reverse aging in Fincher’s last movie, but still mind-blowing. But that means the retro look and feel of the visually inventive Scott Pilgrim. Again, not a world I want to live in.