UPDATE 2/25 And as if on cue, the Hurt Locker backlash is ratcheting up. Paul Reickhoff of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has written an essay in Newsweek pointing out what he perceives as the film’s inaccuracies, saying they ”reveal not only a lack of research, but ultimately respect for the American military.” Since there are only five days left in the balloting process, many voters have already turned in their ballots.
2/21 The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air‘s victories at the Writers Guild Awards don’t change much in the overall awards race — since Inglourious Basterds was ineligible for the Writers Guild prize, The Hurt Locker didn’t have much competition in the original screenplay category. And Up in the Air has swept the adapted-screenplay awards all season long.
2/16 This weekend’s Eddie Awards ceremony, in which The Hurt Locker topped Avatar to win the American Cinema Editors prize, still puts Locker in the lead for the Academy Award. Meanwhile, Avatar‘s James Cameron is packing in the campaign stops in New York: He’s being honored by environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., at a cocktail party tonight followed by a Q&A for Screen Actors Guild members, while tomorrow he’ll be feted at a lunch and will tape an episode of Inside the Actors’ Studio.
2/12 Now that the Academy Award ballots have arrived in voters’ mailboxes, the campaigning is heating up once again. Best Actress nominees Sandra Bullock and Gabourey Sidibe have been making the talk-show rounds, while Inglourious Basterds teammates Quentin Tarantino and Christoph Waltz were just honored at a Manhattan lunch hosted by Harvey Keitel. Here are my predictions of who will win in the eight major categories when the Oscar ceremony takes place on March 7.
The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
Prediction: The Hurt Locker In the (albeit brief) history of the Producers Guild Awards and SAG Awards, no film has ever won Best Picture without winning at least one of the four major guild prizes (PGA, SAG, Directors Guild, and Writers Guild). Avatar already lost PGA and DGA to The Hurt Locker, and it wasn’t even nominated for SAG’s best ensemble prize (Inglourious Basterds won that one). And even though it was nominated, it’s obviously not going to win the Writers Guild award. So I’m siding with history and putting my money on The Hurt Locker.
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Prediction: Jeff Bridges Bridges, a five-time nominee who’s never won, already has a Golden Globe, Broadcast Critics, and SAG Award on his mantel for Crazy Heart. But even more than that, I’m swayed by the standing ovations he’s routinely received at these award shows, where the audience includes dozens of Academy members. He’s got it in the bag.
BEST ACTRESS Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Prediction: Sandra Bullock This is clearly the only thing resembling a race in the acting categories. The Blind Side‘s Best Picture nomination (compared to no other nods for Julie & Julia) means Bullock has the edge. But you can never count out Meryl Streep, who certainly has legions of fans in the Academy, who may be sick of seeing Bullock beat her. Still, it’s Bullock’s to lose right now.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Prediction: Christoph Waltz Waltz has been the front-runner for this award ever since Basterds‘ Cannes debut last May. There’s no way he’s losing.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Penélope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Prediction: Mo’Nique The mother of all locks this year. Precious is likely to lose five of the six trophies it’s up for, but not this one.
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Prediction: Kathryn Bigelow Even if Avatar pulls out the victory for Best Picture, Bigelow still stands to make history as the Academy’s first-ever female Best Director. A similar result happened in 2001, when a blockbuster (Gladiator) took home Best Picture and the filmmaker behind a grittier entry (Traffic‘s Steven Soderbergh) won Best Director.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson & Tom McCarthy, Up
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Prediction: The Hurt Locker This may just be the toughest race to predict. It’s definitely between Boal and Tarantino. Since the Academy likes to double up and give its Best Picture winner a screenplay prize as well, I’m thinking Boal’s you-are-there Hurt Locker script will take it?barely.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, In the Loop
Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
Nick Hornby, An Education
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Prediction: Up in the Air This one, not so tough to call. With Up in the Air a true underdog in all its other races, this is the film’s best (and perhaps only) shot at a win.