Return of the Balls
...All-Seeing Awix's Crystal Balls, that is. (I always think it's wisest to carry a spare, just in case.) Attentive masochists may recall that for several years I gamely attempted to predict which way the major Academy Awards would go - without, it must be said, notable success - and I see no reason not to do the same this year. Please bear in mind I'm writing this on Saturday afternoon, well over 24 hours before the Oscars are actually handed out.
I feel I should take a moment to reiterate my opinion that I don't think the Oscars really merit serious treatment, given the way they invariably reward certain types of film and certain types of performance. Horror and SF movies and comedies are almost never nominated (unless they make a gajillion dollars at the box office, anyway) and the entire vast sweep of non-Anglophone cinema is likewise almost entirely overlooked. Put it this way: Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles never won an Oscar in competition. Roberto Benigni and Ron Howard have. Whose movies do you think people will still be watching and talking about in a hundred years?
Anyway, onto my predictions. As well as saying who I think will have won, I'll also say who I think should have won (not necessarily the same thing). When it comes to performances, I should say that I'm always more impressed by performances that genuinely communicate emotion and character than those which are simply technically brilliant or unusual in some way (able-bodied actors pretending to be disabled, or attractive young women not wearing make-up - both things which Oscar always used to have a soft spot for).
Best Supporting Actress: Hmm. Haven't seen The Fighter (which has provided two of this year's nominees)... my prediction is that Helena Bonham-Carter's turn as Buffy the Sherry Slayer will win another gong. As to who should win it... I really don't know, as none of the movies I've seen in the last year have been well-endowed with parts for women. Oh, what the hell, give it to Helena.
Best Supporting Actor: I've only seen one of these films, too... this is starting to look like a bad idea for an article. My gut instinct is that Christian Bale's been doing good enough work for long enough to have earned a little statue of his own. I wouldn't be at all upset if Geoffrey Rush won it for King's Speech, though. Part of me thinks Andrew Garfield deserved at least a nod for his role in Social Network - they gave Tobey Maguire an Oscar before he was Spider-Man, didn't they? Oh, hang on, I'm thinking of Michael Caine. (I am so rusty.) Come to think of it, Jackie Chan was rather fantastic in The Karate Kid remake, too.
Best Actress: And again, I've only seen one of these films so can't comment with any authority. Like everyone else I will be astonished if Natalie Portman's wrenching performance in Black Swan doesn't get an award. But having said that, I think it should probably go to Hailee Steinfeld for her amazing début in True Grit. Now, Steinfeld is up for an Oscar, but only in the Supporting Category - a purely political decision on the part of the film-makers, based on her percieved chances of actually winning. It's absurd, given she's in practically every scene of the movie. See what I mean about it being difficult to take the Oscars seriously?
Best Actor: Finally! The only one of these films I haven't seen is the foreign language one. Anyway... given that Colin Firth was by all accounts robbed of his rightful statue last year, and that The King's Speech ticks so many of the right boxes, I think he has a very good chance of taking home the Award. But I would not be wholly surprised if Jesse Eisenberg snuck through and stole it, as his performance in Social Network is in many ways every bit as good. However, in terms of sheer magnetism and emotion, if I were voting then the name on my slip would be James Franco, for 127 Days. His performance there is very nearly miraculous.
Best Director: The usual discussion is 'why split the Best Film and Best Director categories?' - answers on a postcard, please. If Best Picture has The King's Speech's name on it, then I think this will go to David Fincher, who's been around long enough to have earned it by now, and because it'll be a nice consolation prize for the Facebook movie. (Maybe that's the reason they split the categories.) Of the nominated people, I'd give it to Darren Aronofsky for the hallucinatory Black Swan - but of all the directors whose work I enjoyed last year, I think the worthiest winner would be Christopher Nolan for Inception.
Best Picture: ooh, the big one. Will the Academy go trad and reward The King's Speech or be funky and honour The Social Network? I think The King's Speech may, on balance, just ease Social Network out. My favourite film of last year, Monsters, hasn't even been nominated, of course. Even so I still think the most deserving winner in terms of both artistry and technical skill would be Inception.
So there you go. Publishing predictions after the actual event is always a slightly silly undertaking, especially when I'm doing so from a position of near-total ignorance. If nothing else you should be able to see how well I did fairly easily, for a change. See you next time.