It’s official — I’m clairvoyant.
Before I get too puffed up with pride, I have to acknowledge that it was not too difficult to come up with this list, which is sort of a sad statement. Truth be told, I’d have liked to be wrong on one or two of these picks. I’d have been intrigued to see a “wild card” selection.
Perhaps this presages a year of few surprises at the Oscars, after a year of mostly lackluster movies.
I was never a fan of broadening the field of Best Picture nominees to 10 titles: at a time when many will acknowledge that fewer outstanding movies are seeing the light of day, it seems downright counterintuitive.
Although Oscar history offers plenty of examples of inferior movies getting the top prize, this field of 10 really illustrates how movies that would once have been judged solid or even just serviceable, are now, in a sort of perverse creative inflation, praised to the skies.
To my mind, the Best Picture nominees that meet the historical standard (discounting those glaring instances when Oscar gets it wrong) number five: The King’s Speech, The Social Network, 127 Hours, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone.
The other five may be wildly successful commercially (some even critically), but hardly Best Picture calibre.
Black Swan may be the most overrated of the bunch, in my view — a psycho-sexual thriller which offers only cheap thrills — though admittedly Natalie Portman executes a demanding role effectively.
The Fighter is a solid, highly diverting boxing picture, but let’s face it — no Raging Bull. Toy Story 3 is fun, but it’s a franchise that’s getting milked, with diminishing returns for the viewer.
Inception is a visually impressive but otherwise pretentious and incomprehensible sci-fi entry, while The Kids Are All Right is a smart, hip comedy — admittedly a rarity these days — but hardly in the realm of the few comedies that have taken Best Picture in the past (think 1934’s It Happened One Night or 1977’s Annie Hall.)
Some thoughts on the acting nominations:
Colin Firth should win Best Actor, and I think he will. As runner-up and potential dark horse, I would favor James Franco (his fearless turn in 127 Hours will make him a BIG star, I predict), over Jesse Eisenberg. Jeff Bridges certainly deserves the nod, but I doubt he’ll get it a second time.
For Best Actress, I vote for Annette Bening, whose heartfelt, pitch-perfect performance elevates Kids to a movie worth seeing. She will get heavy competition from Portman, who’s obviously blazingly talented. (I myself have yet to come down with the Portman bug, though I hear it’s catching.)
For Supporting Actor, I dearly hope Geoffrey Rush gets it — he underplays so beautifully next to Firth’s more showy portrayal of King George VI. Still, I think Christian Bale will likely take it for The Fighter, a role in which I thought he was miscast ( you see folks — as good as he was, I could feel him acting).
For Supporting Actress, I’m rooting hard for Melissa Leo — she did for The Fighter just what Bening did for Kids.
For Best Screenplay, I think either The King’s Speech or The Social Network will prevail, and you can bet Inception will clean up on awards relating to visual effects and sound.
And what about Best Picture? Personally, I hope it’s The King’s Speech, but I believe The Social Network will take it. It powerfully captures the Zeitgeist of our times, while Speech will inevitably strike some voters as a first-rate but somewhat dusty period drama. I do hope I’m wrong.
I’ve enjoyed being clairvoyant for this short period. Now that I’ve raised the stakes on myself, I fear I’ll be brought back down to earth very soon — because in the end, no one can totally understand the mysterious ways of Oscar.
But it sure is fun trying.