The Oscars are in just three days. To prepare you to fill out your ballots and express your outrage at your favorite films’ losses — or in case you haven’t seen all the nominees — here are some predictions and assessments of who really deserves the major awards:
Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress: “The Fighter’s” Christian Bale provided one of the two best performances of the year as a cracked-out retired boxer. Both he and Melissa Leo, who plays his disgustingly possessive mother, already won the Screen Actors Guild awards this year. Look to “True Grit’s” Hailee Steinfeld as a possible alternative if Leo’s self-promoting ad campaign turns off the Academy.
Actor and Actress: Colin Firth is a near shoo-in for his role in “The King’s Speech.” In the second of the year’s two best performances, Natalie Portman completely immersed herself in her role in “Black Swan” — almost to the same degree that the titular ballet role consumed her character.
Adapted Screenplay: The last of the no-brainers. Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network” is as witty and alive as his television show “The West Wing.” A jargon-y story with despicable characters is propelled by its dialogue’s inertia.
Original Score: This is a tighter field. A.R. Rahman, who won for “Slumdog Millionaire,” again teams with Danny Boyle to bring a distinctly expansive, energetic feel to “127 Hours,” but “Slumdog” was better. Hans Zimmer has scored many blockbusters with only one Oscar to show for it, but “Inception,” while grand and memorable, seems unlikely to bring him his second. This is Alexandre Desplat’s fourth nomination in five years, but he hasn’t won yet. Desplat deserves the award — and he won the BAFTA — but my money’s on “The Social Network.” Its composers, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, won the Golden Globe, and its pulsing electronic theme is chilling and strangely popular.
Original Screenplay: David Seidler should win for “The King’s Speech,” which has no dull moments and is the most gloriously romantic of the year’s offerings. Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” may be popular, but it isn’t nearly as theoretically innovative as it was made out to be, and it was appropriately released over the summer, when fun beats creative.
Director: Darren Aronofsky should win for “Black Swan,” but he won’t. Instead, the race is between Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech” and David Fincher for “The Social Network.” I’m going with Fincher, who already won the BAFTA and the Golden Globe.
Best Picture: Preposterous movies are nominated because of the newly expanded field. When I saw “The Kids are All Right,” it never dawned on me that I would be thinking about the film in February; it’s not in the same league as most of the others in this category. “Winter’s Bone” is a compelling depiction of the meth-ridden Ozarks, but it’s ultimately pretty empty and not nearly as good as 2008’s similar “Frozen River.”
The “True Grit” remake was well done, but doesn’t have much to say. “127 Hours” met deserved critical approval for making a mind-numbingly boring — and disgusting — story watchable. If the plot weren’t such a terrible idea for a movie, this film might have deserved real consideration. “The Fighter” is brilliantly acted and tells a gripping story, but it’s little more than a good profile.
“Inception” and “Toy Story 3” are fun summer movies, but neither is terribly innovative. The latter is a lock for Best Animated Feature, but it’s a very long shot for Best Picture.
This leaves the year’s top three films: “The Social Network,” “The King’s Speech” and “Black Swan.” “Black Swan” is the most ingeniously disorienting. It’s the most artistic movie of the year and the only one that takes art as its subject. But it may be too daring for the Academy.
With eight nominations, “The Social Network” did well. It depicts the origins of the defining phenomenon of our generation with appropriate distance and is extremely well executed.
It’s risky to split the director/picture predictions, but this is the year of “The King’s Speech,” which leads the field with 12 nominations. It adds humanity to “The Social Network’s” portraiture, majesty to “Toy Story 3’s” sentimentality, meaning to “127 Hours’” humor.
Like “The Social Network,” it brings to life the men who shape our world. But where the Facebook movie leaves us with little to strive for and less to admire, “The King’s Speech” offers the royalty we all long for even as it struggles to guide us. In the face of other films’ social upheaval, the beauty of “The King’s Speech” — Edmund Burke brought to the big screen — gives us something to believe in. The Academy seems to have fallen for it.
Julia Fisher is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays.