Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roger Ebert and I Pick Some Oscar® Winners


Firth and Carter
Mr. Roger Ebert made his Oscar® predictions for the 83rd Academy Awards® on his blog a couple of days ago. I made some of mine (best picture and acting awards) a couple of weeks ago, and posted them here on the second post down. I repeat those here with more explanation, and add some more because every year I do this competition with Ebert, but he doesn't know I do it. I can never enter an Oscar picking contest, because I can never pick the lesser categories, but I fare pretty well in the major ones.

Okay, I'm rolling up my sleeves, confirming my previous picks, and announcing some additional ones. Ebert writes his preference for Best Feature Motion Picture of 2010 would be THE SOCIAL NETWORK, if he were a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. However, he believes THE KING'S SPEECH will win because, “A British historical drama about a brave man struggling to overcome a disability, and then leading his people into World War II, looks better to the Academy than a cutting-edge portrait of hyperactive nerds.”

I, too, choose THE KING'S SPEECH for Best Feature Motion Picture. I choose it because I think it is as near to a perfect a movie as one can make. Normal viewers and Academy members appreciate a film they can enjoy without constantly being distracted by flaws here and there, especially in writing, directing, cinematography, film editing, sound editing, and an overpowering music score.

THE KING'S SPEECH is based upon the life of King George VI and his wife, later known as the Queen Mum of Britain. At this time in history, they are the parents of two young Princesses Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, and her late younger sister, Margaret.

The movie's focus is on Colin Firth's character, known to his family as Bertie, who becomes King George VI of England when the older brother Edward abdicates the throne to marry a divorcee, Mrs. Simpson. Young Bertie is confronted with the prospect of World War II looming on the horizon even before he becomes king.

As King of England, Birdie will need to address the nation over the new "fangeled" radio. No longer can a king wave from a car or a balcony. He must speak. However, Birdie has a debilitating stutter. What to do?

Firth's portrayal is not only about the mechanics of stuttering, but the anguish in the eyes of the young prince because he despises his inadequacy, which he cannot help but might overcome. Plus, the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) honored Firth for best performance of a male actor. As I often point out, 80% of SAG's nominees go on to win an Oscar. I, like Ebert, think Firth will win Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. In my judgment, his performance is above fantastic.

I saw a poll where people who viewed THE KING'S SPEECH gave it a 97% enjoyment rating. TRUE GRIT was next with 88% followed by THE FIGHTER at 80. No other movie in the poll but THE KING'S SPEECH was higher than 88%.

Geoffrey Rush may well win Best Supporting Actor on his own merit portraying the king's speech therapist and eventual friend, as Ebert predicts. I feel the role limited Rush's acting, but he could win due to the "coattail" effect from the movie.

However, SAG gave their award to Christian Bale, who in THE FIGHTER depicts the ne're-do-well, drug-ravaged older half-brother boxer, Dickey Ecklund. Dickey's younger half-brother Mickey Ward, portrayed by Mark Wahlberg, also boxes but defers to his mother's support of Dickey to go for the title, rather than seeking the title himself.

This movie, as is THE KING'S SPEECH, is based on a true story. Some of the family are still living, especially the brothers. Bale in THE FIGHTER, like Firth, disappears into the character of Dickey. I choose Bale.

Ebert goes with Hailee Steinfeld, TRUE GRIT, for Best Supporting Actress. Although, he points out, she was really an actress in a leading role. I do not dispute that. However, she is just "out of the gate" as an actress, so she was nominated in the supporting category. I do not think she will win anything, not that she doesn't deserve it. Again, as with Bale, I am going with SAG who honored Melissa Leo (THE FIGHTER). See my second post down about the SAG Awards.

Natalie Portman
For Actress in a Leading Role, beautiful Natalie Portman (BLACK SWAN) was born in Israel, received an Oscar nomination for THE CLOSER (2001), seems to be the favorite, and has all the chops to win. I should choose her to win, as did Ebert. I am  not doing so. I am swallowing hard and choosing someone else.

There are extenuating situations concerning Annette Bening, also nominated in the category for THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, which compel me to go against the popular assumption and choose her:

(1) Besides the current movie, Bening has previously been nominated three times for an Oscar for acting, two for best actress, BEING JULIA (2004) and AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999), and one for supporting actress for THE GRIFFTERS (1990). (2) THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT received three nominations for 2010, for best motion picture, screenplay, and Bening. Obviously, she has support from her peers for an acting Oscar.

(3) Also, both Bening and her husband, Warren Beatty, are well respected by Academy members, and her interpretation of the "male" in the movie's Lesbian relationship is superb. (4) Bening is now slightly over 50,  has made 28 movies as an actress, is still beautiful, and she has no Oscar for her efforts.

(5) Natalie Portman is young, turning 30 this year, and was nominated for an Oscar in 2001 for CLOSER. She still has time to hone her acting, and I do not think she has reached her acting potential yet. Remember, SAG winners receive an Oscar 80%, not 100%, of the time, and I think this may be one of the times their nominee does not win. I know it is a long shot, but I am taking it.

I believe the Best Director will be Tom Hooper, THE KING'S SPEECH. H received the Directors Guild of America award. Again, unlike with THE SOCIAL NETWORK, I became so engrossed in the movie, I never noticed the camera. That is the way it should be. If anyone has ever directed on stage or screen they watch the blocking in a production. I have, and the blocking was excellent. For those that do not know what blocking is, it is the placement of the actors in a scene.

I agree with Ebert that Aaron Sorkin's adapted screenplay for THE SOCIAL NETWORK will be the topper. The movie is based on the novel, The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich.

Ebert believes Mike Leigh's original screenplay for ANOTHER YEAR is the best original screenplay of the year, but he thinks David Seidler will win for THE KING'S SPEECH. So do I. It won the Writers Guild Award for best original screenplay.

I agree with Ebert that TOY STORY3 will win the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar hands down. It is the most popular animated movie of the year, grossed over $400 million, and is also nominated for Best Feature Motion Picture. I would say it has a big edge over the other two nominated movies in the animated feature film category.

I also agree with Ebert about BIUTIFUL (Mexico), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who also co-wrote the screenplay.  I hope it will win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film because it deserves to win. Iñárritu received a directing Oscar nomination for BABEL in 2006.

BIUTIFUL'S star is the Spanish Oscar winner (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN), Javier Bardem. He and his Spanish wife Penelope Cruz have a new son, and many Academy members like that because they also like both Bardem and Cruz. He is nominated for Best Actor for his performance in this movie as the dying father, a performance that is, "magnifico!" 

Hans Zimmer won the Hollywood Music in Media Award in November for his original score for INCEPTION, and Ebert liked the score for THE SOCIAL NETWORK, but he believes, as do I, that the Oscar will go to Alexandre Desplat for THE KING'S SPEECH. For me, the score was like the camera, I hardly noticed it was there, but when I listened during transitions, I liked what I heard. As Ebert says, THE KING'S SPEECH will sweep some of the awards with it, i.e., that "coattail effect" again, and the score may be one.

For Achievement in Music, Original Song, I must go with A.R. Rahman's "If I Rise" from 127 HOURS. Actually, Rahman's score for 127 HOURS may fool us all and win the Oscar for the score as well.

Two more to go. One for Outstanding Cinematography, and the other for Outstanding Film Editing. I agree with Ebert that the cinematography of  Roger Deakins, nominated for TRUE GRIT is outstanding. According to Ebert, Deakins has been nominated nine times and has not won one. Ebert thinks this might be his year, however, he goes with THE KING'S SPEECH and Denny Cohen. True, Cohen could benefit from the "coattail effect" but I am going with Deakins and TRUE GRIT, because I think he deserves it.

For Outstanding Film Editing, I go with THE SOCIAL NETWORK (TSN) since INCEPTION did not get a nomination in this category. The editing by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter for TSN obviously was a complex challenge, and I think they met it. I do not fault the editing for THE KING'S SPEECH, but I think its complexity does not match that of TSN.

And that is as far as I go with my predictions now. Ebert has more choices on his blog, and you can read those by clicking the title of this post. Do you think you can outguess Ebert's picks? Click the title of this post and scroll down to find the $100,000 contest information. Can you outguess me? Sorry, if so, no money.

Here's a big tip in picking Best Motion Picture. Early on in the ceremony watch and note which film wins for: directing, cinematography, film editing, sound editing, writing, and it helps if it scores a win for best actor or actress. The film that wins at least the first five of these will, almost without exception, be the winner in the category. You can make book on it.

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