No doubt the question on everyone’s mind is, “What’s the BOF take on this year’s Oscar race?” Answer: if you’re looking for informed and erudite prognostication, better try another blog, because I’ve only seen five of the films nominated in any category (Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, The Lovely Bones, Nine, Star Trek). But if you’re looking for a highly personal rundown of the folks and films I’ll be rooting for in the major categories during the annual confab at Castle Drax, and why, read on.
Best Actor: A toughie. I haven’t seen any of the nominated performances, but I’m a big fan of Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, and Morgan Freeman, and favorably disposed toward Colin Firth, albeit unfamiliar with Jeremy Renner. I see Bridges is 0 for 4 in Oscarville, and was definitely robbed for Starman; since Clooney and Freeman each have one already, and Jeff’s been at it a lot longer, I’m gonna have to go with him as a sentimental favorite for Crazy Heart.
Best Supporting Actor: I admire Stanley Tucci, and thought he was excellent in The Lovely Bones, and am painfully aware that his was the sole nomination that fine film captured. But of the two nominees I saw, I think Christoph Waltz is more deserving for Inglourious Basterds. Of the rest, I loathe Woody Harrelson and am favorably disposed toward Matt Damon, but would root for Christopher Plummer in The Last Station because of both his age and his Matheson connection (Somewhere in Time).
Best Actress: Again, I’ve seen none of the nominees, and am completely unfamiliar with two of them (Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe). As a longtime Sandra Bullock supporter, and mindful of the fact that she’s not going to get nominated too often, I’ve gotta root for her in The Blind Side, especially since Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep each have an Oscar (or two) already.
Best Supporting Actress: I’m happy to support the only nominee I saw, Penélope Cruz in Nine, partly because she gave an excellent and, uh, gutsy performance; partly because Maggie Gyllenhaal—who should have many more chances—is the only other one I’m familiar with; and partly to please my host, who is La Cruz’s biggest fan.
Best Animated Feature: With no dog in this race, I would have been rooting for Fantastic Mr. Fox, because I love Roald Dahl’s novel, but the clips I saw made it look like they trashed the book, so—unfair as it may be—I’ll consider it guilty until proven innocent (much as I like Wes Anderson’s other work). Since my family adores The Nightmare Before Christmas, they’re probably rooting for Henry Selick’s Coraline. Other than predicting that Up will probably win, I’ll just make my standard observation that I don’t think a film should be allowed to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Animated Feature (or Best Foreign Language Film, as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a few years ago).
Best Art Direction/Cinematography/Costume Design: So much of Avatar was created in the computer that it’s difficult for me to think of it as having art direction and cinematography in the traditional sense, and of course James Cameron will laugh all the way to the bank no matter how many or few awards he gets. For those reasons, as well as my natural contrariness, I’ll root for the other two films I actually saw, i.e., Nine (ditto costume design, for which Avatar was, not surprisingly, not nominated) and Inglourious Basterds, respectively.
Best Director: Here’s where the rubber meets the road. I’m unfamiliar with the oeuvres of Messrs. Daniels or Reitman, but I’m a big fan of James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow, and Quentin Tarantino. Since Q.T. probably isn’t likely to be a contender too often, and I loved Inglourious Basterds, it’s tempting to let ex-spouses Cameron and Bigelow cancel each other out and root for him. And as much as I enjoyed Avatar, I don’t necessarily see it as a brilliant directorial effort. But without even having seen The Hurt Locker, I’m rooting for Bigelow, partly because she made one of my favorite underrated movies (Strange Days), and partly because, God damn it, it’s time a woman won.
Best Documentary Feature or Short Subject/Animated or Live Action Short: Nothing to go on here, so I recuse myself.
Best Film Editing/Sound Editing/Sound Mixing: I’m not even sure how we civilians are supposed to assess these things, so again, I recuse myself.
Best Foreign Language Film: On the basis of almost nothing whatsoever (e.g., I’m part German, but I’m also part French, so that’s a wash), I’m rooting for The White Ribbon, which I’ve heard good things about and would like to see.
Best Makeup: No reason not to root for Star Trek, which I saw and quite enjoyed.
Best Original Score: With none of my favorite composers in the running this year, most of them being dead by now, I’m happy to let James Horner grab this one for Avatar without a fight. (I like Hans Zimmer, but don’t want to legitimize Sherlock Holmes, which appears to trash the character so completely that they might as well have called him Joe Fishbein.)
Best Original Song: I liked the nominated song from Nine, so why not root for it?
Best Picture: I think the move to ten nominees was unnecessary, although ironically it probably helped me to have seen two of them for a change, and enabled a couple of genre pictures (Avatar, District 9) to make it on the list. With such limited firsthand experience to go by, I’ve gotta root for Inglourious Basterds, although I’d be happy to see either the former Mr. or Mrs. Cameron win this on general principle.
Best Visual Effects: Again, I’m not gonna stand in the way of the presumed Avatar steamroller on this one.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Although he didn’t script it himself, I enjoyed the adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity, so that seems as good a reason as any to root for his work on An Education.
Best Original Screenplay: I think I’ve already displayed sufficient bias toward Inglourious Basterds that I can safely root for the Coen Brothers, whom I adore, in this case. I haven’t seen A Serious Man yet, but I’ve loved almost every one of their other films I have seen, especially The Big Lebowski.
In closing, can’t wait till next year, when we’ll undoubtedly be voting on the biopic Sapphire: Based on the Precious Novel We’re Pushing. Bradley out.