The 2011 Oscar Nominations will be announced Tuesday, January 25th at 5:30am. In case you’re keeping score, that’s tomorrow at a time when no decent human being should have to be awake. But as we wait with bated breath for our lives to suddenly have meaning again – or at least for us film critics to have something to write about for the next month and a half – we here at CRAVE Online wanted to take this last opportunity to present our predictions for the Academy Awards nominations. Everyone else is doing it, and who are we to turn down such a beguiling cliff?
Besides: for some of us, the Oscars are practically the Super Bowl. The entertainment in which we invested ourselves for the last year is finally about to be judged and validated. Who will win is a question for February 27th. Right now we get to guess who will have an opportunity to win, or rather who will have an opportunity to lose to The Social Network. Here are our predictions for the 2011 Academy Awards nominees. We’ll be back tomorrow to see how we did.
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
The Ghost Writer
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
For the second year in a row there will be ten nominees for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but ironically that seems to be making the race less exciting with 10 slots and at best 16 viable contenders, and more likely only 12: Blue Valentine and Winter’s Bone might have the momentum to knock the popular but unremarkable The Town out of the 10th slot, but long shots like the critically acclaimed box office duds The Ghost Writer, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World are coming across like, well, real long shots. (We’re still hoping Scott Pilgrim can eke out the populist District 9 vote, but that’s wishful thinking at best.) With all these viable contenders and only five nominees we would have had some real excitement in the Best Picture race, with something worthwhile getting snubbed no matter what, but instead it seems like a pretty straightforward year in which practically ever great film will get a chance to compete.
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
David Fincher, The Social Network
Christopher Nolan, Inception
David O. Russell, The Fighter
Ben Affleck, The Town
Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
The Coen Brothers, True Grit
Debra Granik, Winter’s Bone
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer
Lee Unkrich, Toy Story 3
Traditional Best Director nomination rules – four out of five matching up with the Best Picture nominees, with one consolation prize wildcard – no longer applies with ten Best Picture candidates. Like last year, we expect every director to have a matching Best Picture nod, but which ones? David Fincher, Christopher Nolan and David O. Russell are considered locks, and Aronofsky will probably come out on top of Danny Boyle and Ben Affleck with the extremely directed – good or bad or otherwise – Black Swan, but we’re thinking Tom Hooper’s classy but understated The King’s Speech might undersell his talents, leaving room for Lisa Cholodenko’s emotional critical darling The Kids Are All Right to snag the last spot. A very competitive race this year.
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Less competitive are the Best Actor Nominees, with Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Firth and 2011 Oscar host James Franco all sitting on sure things. Jeff Bridges pulled out a memorable performance in True Grit, all the more impressive for successfully stepping out of John Wayne’s shadow, so we think he’s in, but that last slot is still being fought for by indie performances like Robert Duvall, Ryan Gosling and Javier Bardem. Gosling has a fighting chance, but we think he’s no match for The Fighter himself, Mark Wahlberg, who anchors a film filled with flashier performances with impressive dignity.
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Noomi Rapace, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Halle Berry, Frankie & Alice
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Lesley Manville, Another Year
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Tilda Swinton, I Am Love
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Given the lack of high quality roles for women in Hollywood, the Best Actress nominations usually aren’t much of a race. This year is one hell of an exception with only frontrunners Natalie Portman and Annette Bening guaranteed a spot on the list. Jennifer Lawrence impressed the hell out of critics with her noble performance in Winter’s Bone so we think she’ll make the cut, but while Julianne Moore gave one of her better performances in years with The Kids Are All Right, her co-star Bening might siphon off some votes, leaving room for Nicole Kidman in the underseen Rabbit Hole, underdog favorite Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine or Tilda Swinton in the acclaimed but possibly forgotten I Am Love. And don’t count out Hailee Steinfeld or Lesley Manville, who are contenders in both the Actress and Supporting Actress categories, and could end up in either one. But we’re going to go with our gut and predict that Noomi Rapace, giving one of the most memorable performances in several years as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, will turn heads with a well-deserved but perhaps surprising nomination.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech
Matt Damon, True Grit
Michael Douglas, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Armie Hammer, The Social Network
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Bill Murray, Get Low
Pete Postlethwaite, The Town
Justin Timberlake, The Social Network
We’re betting conservatively in the Best Supporting Actor race: all of our picks are the frontrunners, and deservedly so. But there are a lot of talented performers who are making it difficult for them. Justin Timberlake and Matt Damon were early favorites, but Timberlake pulled a Norbit after his role in Yogi Bear and Damon’s simply been overshadowed by other, bigger performances. Michael Douglas and Bill Murray both represent the old guard albeit with underseen films, and exceptional performances by John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone and Armie Hammer in The Social Network might get them some recognition, but if anyone’s going to unseat the frontrunners it’s the late Pete Postlethwaite with his memorable turn as ‘Fergie’ Colm in The Town. It’s a small role (which hasn’t stopped the Academy before: see William Hurt’s brief nominated performance in A History of Violence), but the sympathy vote could throw him over the top and give the talented thespian his second Oscar nomination after 1993’s In The Name Of The Father.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Barbara Hershey, Black Swan
Lesley Manville, Another Year
Miranda Richardson, Made In Dagenham
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Olivia Williams, The Ghost Writer
Though not as competitive as the Best Actress category, it’s still a pretty good year for Supporting Actresses. Amy Adams is likely to earn her third Oscar nomination for her spunky turn in The Fighter, Helena Bonham Carter’s looking to get her first nomination since 1997’s The Wings of the Dove, and Melissa Leo should earn her second after 2008’s Frozen River. Mila Kunis has been raking in the nominations – if not the awards – for her free-spirited turn in Black Swan, although Barbara Hershey’s sympathetic and crazy turn in the same film could provide an upset. We’re thinking that True Grit’s breakout star Hailee Steinfeld will pull out a nomination in this category since Best Actress is so crowded, but it’s not a sure thing what with Another Year’s Lesley Manville (also up for both categories), The Ghost Writer’s Olivia Williams and indie long shots Miranda Richardson and Jacki Weaver vying for those last slots.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:
How To Train Your Dragon
Toy Story 3
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
Let’s not insult our own intelligence by claiming this is a race. It’s Toy Story 3’s award to lose, and unless we find out that Tom Hanks has been sacrificing puppies to Cthulhu nothing’s likely to change that. The remarkably successful and surprisingly good How To Train Your Dragon has sunk its claws into the second slot, but with only three nominations this year – which we still think is ridiculous, but whatever – this has become a real race, quite unlike the Best Picture nominees. That third slot is completely up for grabs, mostly by deserving contenders like the dryly-cynical Despicable Me, the badass Legend of the Guardians and the utterly hilarious Tangled, but we think The Illusionist has the best shot, with its classy animation and a story that doesn’t reek of populism. Call it the Secret of Kells vote. Or better yet, call it recompense for the year that Illusionist director Sylvain Chomet’s exceptional The Triplets of Belleville lost this prize and, what’s worse, Best Original Song for its memorable, whistle-able theme song.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Stuart Blumberg & Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin, Black Swan
Christopher Nolan, Inception
Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, The Fighter
David Speidler, The King’s Speech
Derek Cianfrance & Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis, Blue Valentine
Alejandro Gonzalex Innaritu & Armando Bo & Nicolas Giacobone, Biutiful
Mike Leigh, Another Year
There aren’t too many viable contenders for Best Original Screenplay this year, and we expect few surprises in the category. The Kids Are All Right is a lock for its familiar family melodrama with a twist, The Fighter is almost certainly getting nominated for its remarkable character-driven take on the old underdog sports clichés, The King’s Speech seems to have made a big impression on audiences for combining the buddy picture with political shenanigans and Inception is Inception, so it should have a nomination in the bag. That last slot is kind of a toss-up: acclaimed independents like Biutiful and Another Year stand a chance, but it’s probably only a real race between the low-budget romance Blue Valentine and Black Swan, with Black Swan’s current popularity giving it the edge, despite the fact that it’s clearly adapted from Swan Lake. Whatever.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Michael Arndt, Toy Story 3
Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy, 127 Hours
Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, True Grit
Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini, Winter’s Bone
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Nikolaj Arcel & Rasmus Heisterberg, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Peter Craig and Ben Afflteck & Aaron Stockard, The Town
William Davies & Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders, How To Train Your Dragon
Robert Harris & Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer
The odds of Aaron Sorkin losing the actual award are slim-to-none, but he can’t keep anyone else from actually getting nominated so here’s who has the best chance at coming in second: Michael Arndt’s heartbreaking Toy Story 3 is a lock – Pixar usually nabs a writing nod, anyway – and Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini’s exceptional Winter’s Bone should take the indie vote. The other two nominations aren’t as easy to predict, with the “hip, young” vote possibly going to The Town, How To Train Your Dragon, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or even Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and Roman Polanski and Robert Harris’s classy The Ghost Writer could overcome the director’s controversy for a well-deserved nom, but we’re betting on the clever and inspiring (and probably really, really difficult) adapted screenplay for 127 Hours and Oscar favorites The Coen Brothers’ script for True Grit to round out the contenders.
We’ll be back tomorrow with the actual nominees to see how accurate our predictions are. Keep looking to CRAVE Online for all the latest Oscar news.