Oscar Picks 2010

I guess one of my pet peeves is people for whom the Oscars are a pet peeve. Every year at this time you read columns bemoaning the fact that the writer’s favorite film of the year isn’t even nominated or isn’t given any chance by the pundits. But you know it’s always been that way. The first year of the Oscars there were two awards given that might have been considered best picture, one for Wings, a sappy World War I epic and the other for Murnau’s Sunrise, still considered a classic from that era. The next year when the Academy decided to only give out one award for production and call it Best Picture, Wings was retroactively given the first Best Picture Oscar, creating a controversy that still resonates today, and setting the tone for all the outrages to come. Over the years I’ve become convinced that this is the best part of the process, hearing all those wonderful stories about why this film won over another film that time has shown is clearly better. It’s politics and that’s how we deal with each other. Oscar history is a lot more interesting because of it. Because it’s human and hypocrisy is all part of the fun. Of course getting incensed about these things is fun foo, so maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on people who do it.

So here are my picks. As usual these are my preferences not my predictions. If you’re in an office pool and you want predictions, go to ew.com and find Dave Karger’s predictions. The man speaks nothing but truth and wisdom.

Adapted Screenplay

The Social Network stands above a crowd of strong contenders, both for Aaron Sorkin’s sharp dialog and his ability to boil down a complex legal issue into something we can understand.

Original Screenplay

Once again we have an example of a writer, in this case Christopher Nolan, taking a complex story and presenting it in a way that is both understandable and palatable for the general audience. Inception is a great film that’s unfortunately been surpassed by greater ones as the year wore on. But it deserves this award.

Director

Darren Aronofsky’s dark vision for Black Swan was brilliantly carried out, using all the tools in the director’s kit: lighting, camera movement, acting, even the subtle use of special effects. He brings it all together into a moving whole.

Animated Feature

Pixar is so far ahead of everybody in this field right now, it’s hard to see anyone catching up. Even if Toy Story 3 consisted only of that last scene it would be the winner.

Supporting Actress

I know everybody’s praising Melissa Leo and I liked her in Frozen River, but I thought she was over the top in The Fighter. I’d give it to Amy Adams. She does things in The Fighter that I’ve never seen her do before.

Supporting Actor

Christian Bale is ferocious in The Fighter. He’s always been an actor who subsumes himself into roles, even to the point of changing his physical appearance, but this is his best performance yet, manic, self-destructive and yet he knows his boxing and can genuinely help his brother.

Best Actress

Natalie Portman’s vulnerable portrayal of a mentally unstable ballerina struggling with her first lead is one of those rare great performances that cannot be ignored. What a triumph.

Best Actor

Okay, I’ll stick a toe on The King’s Speech bandwagon and give it to Colin Firth just because it couldn’t have been easy doing that stammer and still delivering clever lines that are funny. But I couldn’t argue much if either Jesse Eisenberg or James Franco won.

Best Picture

This year will be like 1941 when How Green Was My Valley, a perfectly fine John Ford saga about Welsh miners at the turn of the 20th century won out over Citizen Kane, arguably the greatest American movie ever made and The Maltese Falcon, a classic and one of the most watchable movies ever made. Bogie and I go after the black bird about once a year. The 2010 Oscar for Best Picture will go to The King’s Speech, a perfectly fine and inspiring movie. It will be the wrong choice. In the years to come, critics will cry in their beers and mutter that it should have been The Social Network. They’re wrong too. The most cinematic and most emotionally moving film of 2010 is Black Swan.

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