A strong field of nominees for this year's show proves otherwise. Colin Covert picks the winners.
The 82nd Academy Awards ceremony is more than a parade of you-gotta-be-kidding evening gowns and maudlin tributes to deceased actors. It's also a chance to see Hollywood at its most pretentious. And for that we must be thankful.
The annual mutual appreciation party where celebrities hand one another gold statues and thank their business managers and God for making miracles happen is the reason that every once in a while a worthwhile film is produced. Our moviegoing experience would be a conveyor belt of orange-fireball action flicks and cotton-candy romcoms if it weren't for the possibility of earning that prestigious Oscar-night close-up. For that ego boost, people do what is ambitious rather than safe -- risk money, take artistic chances and push creative boundaries. Don't tell me the Oscars don't matter.
And so, on to the picks.Original screenplay
"The Hurt Locker" by Mark Boal; "Inglourious Basterds" by Quentin Tarantino; "The Messenger" by Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman; "A Serious Man" by Joel and Ethan Coen; "Up" by Bob Peterson and Pete Docter.
Will win: "The Hurt Locker." History in this category suggests that voters will pick the most critically acclaimed movie. Because it's a serious war film, this will trump Tarantino's coocoo-bananas riff on World War II movies. The Coens' "A Serious Man" is a rich piece of work, but like "Burn After Reading" it's a goof, not An Important Work of Art.
Should win: Tarantino, as a consolation prize for his best-director and best-picture losses.Animated feature
"Coraline"; "Fantastic Mr. Fox"; "The Princess and the Frog"; "The Secret of Kells"; "Up."
Will win: "Up," from Bloomington's own Pete Docter. The film was a huge, honking delight, and the four-minute sequence following Carl Gustafson from puppy love to widowed solitude is more affecting than most full-length movies.
Should win: "Up," though I harbor crazy love for Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," with its mix of sight-gag insanity and blasé wit.Supporting actress
Penélope Cruz in "Nine"; Vera Farmiga in "Up in the Air"; Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Crazy Heart"; Anna Kendrick in "Up in the Air"; Mo'Nique in "Precious."
Will win -- and should: Mo'Nique. She plays a monstrous ghetto mother in a ruthless, shocking eruption of rage and self-loathing. If Brando was a black woman, he'd be Mo'Nique.Supporting actor
Matt Damon in "Invictus"; Woody Harrelson in "The Messenger"; Christopher Plummer in "The Last Station"; Stanley Tucci in "The Lovely Bones"; Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds."
Will win -- and should: Waltz. Hats off to Quentin Tarantino for casting an unknown in his film's key role, and double kudos to Waltz for nailing the Nazi we love to hate. His is the only performance in a Q.T. movie where the performance soars higher than the dialogue. Even if you watch the movie with the sound off (yeah, I've done it), Waltz is awesome.Actress
Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side"; Helen Mirren in "The Last Station"; Carey Mulligan in "An Education"; Gabourey Sidibe in "Precious"; Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia."
Will win: Bullock. Everybody likes her; she has made Hollywood a lot of money; Streep has two Oscars.
Should win: Sidibe. For a first-time performer to carry a film this dramatically demanding is miraculous. Attention should be paid.Actor
Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart"; George Clooney in "Up in the Air"; Colin Firth in "A Single Man"; Morgan Freeman in "Invictus"; Jeremy Renner in "The Hurt Locker."
Will win -- and should: Bridges. Clooney looked like the leader early in the season, but Bridges' late entry as a broken-down country crooner lapped him. Nobody thinks this is Bridges' career-defining role, but we'll raise a White Russian for his acceptance speech anyway.Director
James Cameron, "Avatar"; Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"; Lee Daniels, "Precious"; Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"; Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds."
Will win: Bigelow. Even ex-hubby Cameron has repeatedly says she deserves it, a move that smacks of preemptive face-saving. She'll win because it's time for a female director to win, not just on the merits of her work.
Should win: Cameron. If filmmaking is about creating a unique vision, overseeing every facet of the process, and connecting with millions of viewers ... who did a better job?Best picture
"Avatar," "The Blind Side," "District 9," "An Education," "The Hurt Locker," "Inglourious Basterds," "Precious," "A Serious Man," "Up," "Up in the Air."
Will win: "Hurt Locker."
Should win: "Avatar." Remember, this is the evening when money lust takes a back seat to artistic ambition, and to Academy Award voters, serious drama trumps fantasy epics. Get those "Queen of the World" headlines ready.
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186