This year, Oscar’s eyes are bigger than his stomach. Or bigger than our stomach, anyway. Ten Best Picture nominees? What, you may ask, is the point? If you answered commerce, move to the head of the class. NOMINATED FOR BEST PICTURE can scream from 10 ads, not just five.* Even with that extra helping, Oscar still didn’t get it all right. A few highly deserving movies failed to get their just deserts. Rebecca Miller’s The Private
Lives of Pippa Lee merited better than it got, and no picture last year delivered more enjoyment than
Pirate Radio; but complaining is a chump’s game, and hey, it’s only the Oscars.
Ever look at a long menu and not find anything you want to order? Quantity is no guarantor of quality. Still, 2010 offers some strong choices and no clear favorite. A Serious Man had the ill luck to come out at the same time as A Single Man, and nobody could remember which one they were going to see. Up in
the Air was an early favorite, but Hollywood loves a back story, and our hunch is that it will come down to a battle between ex-husband-and-wife James Cameron ( Avatar) and Kathryn Bigelow ( The Hurt
Locker). Cameron’s 3-D blockbuster will draw votes from Oscar’s technical suburbs, which may put
Avatar over the top. Choice: Avatar Prediction: Avatar
Our guess is that, whichever ex Oscar favors in Best Picture, he’ll make it up to the other in this category. Which is bad news for Quentin Tarantino ( Inglourious Basterds) and Jason Reitman ( Up in
the Air), both wearing their second nominations in this category, but neither of them is likely to take home the big prize. And Lee Daniels should understand that Precious: Based on the Novel “Push”
by Sapphire is just too long a title to engrave on a small statuette. If our theory holds up, Kathryn Bigelow should break the celluloid ceiling as the first woman to win this award. CHOICE: Kathryn Bigelow PREDICTION: Kathryn Bigelow
Now we’re moving out of the quicksand of guesswork and onto surer ground. This year, as so often happens, there is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Some fine work will get swamped as that tide lifts a well and deservedly loved veteran, Jeff Bridges, and carries him to the podium. It helps that there’s a “gotcha!” element at work here; the locally shot Crazy Heart was ticketed for the DVD shelves until a last-minute rescue pushed it into the big picture. George Clooney ( Up in the Air), Colin Firth ( A Single Man), Jeremy Renner ( The Hurt Locker), and Morgan Freeman ( Invictus) won’t waste much time polishing acceptance speeches. Choice: Jeff Bridges Prediction: Jeff Bridges
That same mojo of fate is turning Best Actress into a one-woman race. Never mind that Meryl Streep cooks up another delicious dish (and a record-setting 16th nomination) as Julia Child (in Julie and Julia), or that that other grande dame, Helen Mirren, unleashes an epic performance as Mme. Tolstoy in The Last Station. Newcomers Gabourey Sidibe ( Precious) and Carey Mulligan ( An Education), thanks for playing. This time, the stars line up for Sandra Bullock, a talented actress who’s found Oscar gold in The Blind Side, a feel-good based-on-a-true-story sports movie just a degree removed from a TV movie-of-the-week. Choice: Helen Mirren Prediction: Sandra Bullock
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR In a field of locked-up acting categories, the biggest lock is probably Cristoph Waltz, the unknown Austrian actor discovered and cast by star maker Quentin Tarantino as Hans Landa, “The Jew Hunter,” in Inglourious Basterds. Left on the outside looking in are Christopher Plummer ( The Last Station), Matt Damon ( Invictus), Woody Harrelson ( The Messenger), and Stanley Tucci, who should have been recognized for Julie and Julia and was nominated instead for The Lovely Bones. Choice: Cristoph Waltz Prediction: Cristoph Waltz
We see you, all right: Zöe Saldana in Avatar
* There is precedent, however. In the ’30s and early ’40s, the Best Picture lists swelled, topping out at 12 nominees in ’34 and ’35.
A queen no more: Helen Mirren in The Last Station