Monday, February 28, 2011

Reflections: Oscars 2010

Here's what I thought of the ceremony: James Franco was definitely lacking in energy, but the wonderfully charming Anne Hathaway more than made up for it (I'm biased, I know). The show didn't integrate Oscar history into the program as much as I would have hoped, mostly just as a reminder that, you know, people made good movies back then too. But overall I didn't think it was boring or terrible; not the best Oscars of all time but not a waste of time either.

As for the winners themselves, the night's biggest were The King's Speech and Inception, with four Oscars a piece, while The Social Network won three. I don't get why people are saying TKS swept the awards: yes, it won four, but out of 12 nominations, and its four wins were the big ones (Actor, Director, Original Screenplay, Picture), with no technical awards to show. I don't consider winning on 33% of your nominations a sweep, sorry. And Inception was kind of an unexpected champion; I thought it would win a few technicals but Wally Pfister's cinematography win was a surprise and I would have never thought it would tie for the most awards of the night. Among Best Picture nominees, Toy Story 3 and The Fighter won two awards, while Black Swan took home one.

Meanwhile, on the losers side, The Kids Are All Right, Winter's Bone, and 127 Hours ended up with no wins, while True Grit, which entered the night with 10 nominations, joins The Turning Point, The Color Purple, and Gangs of New York as films with 10+ nominations and 0 wins. So for those of you keeping score at home, that's Alice in Wonderland - two Oscars, True Grit - no Oscars. Speaking of that abomination, its two awards made it the biggest winner among non-Best Picture nominees, while The Wolfman, Inside Job, and In a Better World each claimed one (again, that's The Wolfman - one Oscar, True Grit/127 Hours/Winter's Bone/The Kids Are All Right - no Oscars). Seeing as how more than half of the night's awards went to Best Picture nominees, its clear that the Academy only really liked a handful of films this year.

And now, a few other observations:

- The King's Speech is the first Best Picture winner to prominently feature royalty. The Oscars have always loved films about kings and queens, but apparently never enough to give one the biggest prize until now.

- Biggest surprise of the evening: I'd have to say a tie between Inception's big score of awards and Wally Pfister's cinematography win. That race had shaped up to be a Matthew Libatique (Black Swan) - Roger Deakins (True Grit) showdown.

- I mentioned in my live-blog last night that In a Better World is Denmark's third Oscar win. This leaves the nation tied for fourth all-time with Sweden, the Netherlands, and the USSR, the latter of which obviously can't win any more; Spain is in third with four Oscars, France in second with nine, and Italy leads all-time with 10 wins in this category (the last of which was 1998's Life is Beautiful). Other foreign language stats: Mexico is now 0-for-8 in this category, tying Poland for the second-most nominations without a win. Israel leads that statistic, with nine nominations without a win.

- The King's Speech writer David Seidler is currently 71 years old, and according to what I can find, he is indeed the oldest winner ever in this category. 

- For the seventh time in 10 years, the Best Picture (Drama) Golden Globe winner (The Social Network) lost the Best Picture Oscar (The King's Speech). The three to win both: A Beautiful Mind (2001), Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), and Slumdog Millionaire (2008). 

Well, that's all I've got for now. What did everyone else think?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscars Live-Blog 2010

The time has finally arrived! Be sure to refresh the page to keep up with everything going on. Unfortunately, I never figured out how to get pictures in here easier, so its all going to be words (I know, end of the world). Enjoy the blog and the show!

7:50 Geoffrey Rush is bald. Whoa. I actually really hate these red carpet shows, as I've ranted about in the past. All the banalities and nonsense talk by a group of people who, for one day of the year, call themselves "Oscar experts." Bleh.

7:53 I've learned absolutely nothing about Reese in her interview, which wrapped with them admiring the Green Room. Robert Downey Jr. complimented it too. Is that seriously the big talking point of the red carpet this year?

7:56 Does Source Code look trippy to anyone else? I mean, it could really suck, but Jake Gyllenhaal + Vera Farmiga + Moon Director Duncan Jones + sci-fi = me sold.

8:00 An 8:30 start time? Lame. But Tim Gunn is interviewing Jennifer Hudson, which he seems ecstatic about.

8:01 Natalie Portman's here now, hiding the baby bump. She's got to be tired of having to talk about how grueling the shoot was. But big win: she described Darren Aronofsky as "the bee's knees." I agree.

8:03 I still think its tacky to have a nominee also host the show, as James Franco is doing. Of course his mind is elsewhere, have you noticed everything he's been doing? School + hosting + filming movies + the nerves of being a nominee....I don't know how the multitasker does it.

8:05 Justin Timberlake is here as well, noting how the red carpet is really fuschia. Here's some food for thought: at one point, he was a serious competitor for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for The Social Network. How interesting would that have been?

8:06 Can we stop gushing about Sandra Bullock? Its been over a year since the media fell ravenously in love with her, and it obviously hasn't stopped yet. I know she's a nice person, but come on, she's not that amazing.

8:08 Colin Firth is the favorite for Best Actor? There's been a shift in Best Picture? Take it away, Jesse:

8:12 I never knew that Nicole Kidman is taller than husband Keith Urban. I find that amusing. And "what type of music do you listen to?" continues the banalities. At least nobody has to think too hard in their interviews here.

8:13 Since when has Gwyneth Paltrow been a fashion icon? However, she does think that Jay-Z is a genius and that they are "perfect" duet partners. I seriously have nothing further to say about that.

8:15 Christian Bale looks like he's auditioning to be the new face of Brawny.

8:16 Fashion recap! I could not be more excited!

8:18 Should anyone really be surprised that everyone on the red carpet thinks their own film should win?

8:19 This is a diversion, I know, but seeing a Venus commercial prompted this from me: Jennifer Lopez is famous for no reason other than she's Jennifer Lopez. She's not a strong vocalist, a pitiful actress, and not much of an American Idol judge. She was built in a studio pop-star lab, a name brand without the level of talent to justify her fame. Just thought I'd share.

8:22 Yes, Robin Robins, we are inside now. I like how Hugh Jackman slid in there. He genuinely seems like a fun guy to hang out with.

8:25 Only five minutes left until we get this thing started. Steven Spielberg is helping out, apparently. As he should be. And Tom Hanks is the first presenter.

8:27 Hanks is quite the merry prankster. There's a reason he's one of my favorite actors.

8:30 And so it begins! With a montage of the Best Picture nominees, too. Interesting clips, especially the red-eyed Portman from Black Swan. Welcome to my nightmares.

8:33 So far, this opening sketch is pretty cute. I mean, maybe not the funniest little bit, but Franco and Hathaway are a cute bear. And Franco in a bear suit? Yes, please.

8:34 I like that Hathaway was described as "the naked girl from Love & Other Drugs." That's a nice touch, and so totally true. And I would pay to watch her dance like that again.

8:37 Back to the Future is a bit unexpected. But the producers did say that this year's ceremony would be a "virtual trip through Oscar history," so I guess it fits.

8:39 Hathaway is obviously feeling looser than Franco, who looks a lot more uncomfortable up there. I suspect, despite his shrugging jokes, he's beyond nervous. He's trying, though, and he's just so damn charming.

8:41 I enjoyed their opening bit; I mean, it was sporadically funny, but they're both just soooo cute!

8:43 Tom Hanks is presenting Art Direction and Cinematography. I didn't realize Titanic was the last film to win these two awards and Best Picture. That's stunning to me.

8:44 Art Direction is up first. And the winner is.....ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Ew, that's such an ugly film to win. But Tim Burton films have never lost when nominated in this category, and that's a streak that continues tonight, for better or worse. And just for kicks, one last time, the sets of The King's Speech were originally built for a gay porn. Tee-hee.

8:46 On to cinematography. And the winner is....INCEPTION. This is really surprising to me, as I was sure Black Swan's Matthew Libatique or True Grit's Roger Deakins would win. But Wally Pfister's done incredible work with Christopher Nolan, and I think he's a very deserving winner. Just think of those great shots in Inception, such as the van falling in slo-mo into the water. Brilliance.

8:51 Wow, Kirk Douglas looks AMAZING for his age. I wish we could all age as gracefully. I completely concur with him: Anne Hathaway is very, very gorgeous. He's here to present Best Supporting Actress, and the winner is....MELISSA LEO, THE FIGHTER.

8:58 So it turns out Leo's self-made FYC ads didn't hurt her that much. She's great in the film, I encourage everyone to go check it out. And she swears! Yay FCC-mandated time delay of live events!

9:01 Hathaway is giggly. Awwww.... Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are presenting Best Animated Short Film. More importantly, Timberlake is Banksy. Now you know.

9:03 The winner for Animated Short is....THE LOST THING. So the Pixar short didn't win, but this one looks inventive, to say the least. I'll have to see if I can find it somewhere.....

9:05 Oh, and they're presenting Best Animated Feature as well. The winner there being....TOY STORY 3. There was actually a serious chance of How to Train Your Dragon upsetting, but no, there's no stopping Pixar (they've won this category four years running now).

9:12 Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem: now there's two men who can work a white tuxedo. I really like the look back at the first Oscars: such rich history there. And I like seeing Brolin and Bardem together after they so memorably antagonized each other on screen in No Country for Old Men.

9:13 They're presenting Adapted Screenplay first. The Oscar goes to....AARON SORKIN, THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Its about time he won, and I'm glad to hear him throw out a mention to the legendary Paddy Chayefsky. If you don't know who that is, go rent Network right now. You won't regret it.

9:16 And now its Original Screenplay. The winner is....DAVID SEIDLER, THE KING'S SPEECH. Pretty obvious. He's a pretty funny guy, between unintentionally loosing the microphone and his late-bloomer joke. Is he the oldest winner in this category? I'll have to look that up....

9:23 Anne in a tuxedo. More please. More Anne in general, please.

9:24 And she can sing! I love the Hugh Jackman reaction shot to the song that's obviously about him. Someone get this girl a musical, stat!

9:25 James Franco in drag. Again, more please.

9:26 Russell Brand and Helen Mirren are presenting. Believe it or not, they've now shot two movies together, last year's The Tempest and this year's Arthur. But they're presenting Best Foreign Language Film, and the Oscar goes to....IN A BETTER WORLD, DENMARK. This is Denmark's third win, which puts them in fourth-place all time for the most behind Italy, France, and Spain. And Mexico now ties Poland for the second-most nominated nation without a win.

9:29 Reese Witherspoon is presenting Best Supporting Actor. The winner is....CHRISTIAN BALE, THE FIGHTER. Its taken him this long to be nominated, and he was so good in that film. I hate it didn't go to Mark Ruffalo, though. I loved that performance and I loved that movie.

9:33 Dickie Ecklund and Mickey Ward are at the ceremony, and I thought it was sweet that Bale gave them a shoutout.

9:36 I am so looking forward to Super 8.  June 10 is officially on my calendar.

9:37 I can't find any age statistics on Best Original Screenplay winners, so I can't verify David Seidler's claims. Does anyone out there know?

9:38 Here's the required message from the Academy president. Its mercifully short this year, though.

9:39 Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, aka the biggest stars to come out of Australia, are presenting. What does everyone think about the stage and the glimpses at film history? I'm a fan.

9:42 Jackman and Kidman are presenting the Oscar for Best Original Score, which goes to....TRENT REZNOR AND ATTICUS ROSS, THE SOCIAL NETWORK. I'm really proud of the Academy for embracing a non-traditional (and very deserving) score. And from Nine Inch Nails, no less.

9:45 Scarlett Johansson and Matthew McCounaghy are presenting the Oscars for Sound Mixing. Kind of a lame gag, but whatever. The Oscar goes to....INCEPTION. I'm actually really excited about that; just think about the way music was integrated into the film, and the various sound effects. That's great sound work, people.

9:48 And the Sound Editing Oscar goes to...INCEPTION. Its not often that a film wins both sound awards. And by the way, Inception has the most Oscars of the night so far, with three awards. Who would have thought?

9:53 These Oscars are just zipping by, aren't they? They really do have a faster paced show this year, for once.

9:54 Marisa Tomei is our next presenter, letting us know what happened when she hosted the Technical Oscars earlier this month. As Franco, said, congrats, nerds.

9:55 Cate Blanchett is presenting, introduced by The Lord of the Rings, the only film she'll ever need. She's presenting Best Makeup, and the Oscar goes to....THE WOLFMAN. With seven Oscars, they really do love makeup artist Rick Baker, don't they?

9:58 Blanchett's also presenting Best Costume Design. This Oscar goes to....ALICE IN WONDERLAND. They also really love Colleen Atwood. So now that abomination has two Oscars. If it wins Best Visual Effects and goes three-for-three on its nominations, I will cry and rant. That is a guarantee.

10:01 I was actually talking earlier about movie songs, and how they're a dying breed. Hopefully, you guys learned something from that little montage. Bring back original songs in film!

10:02 Kevin Spacey is introducing Randy Newman, who will perform Best Original Song nominee "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3. Can you believe Newman has 20 Oscar nominations, but only one win (for "If I Didn't Have You" from Monsters, Inc. in 2001)?

10:05 Now its "I See the Light" from Tangled. I'm glad they're actually letting the nominated songs be performed this year, even if they are abbreviated versions. By the way: I want this song to win. Its lovely, and feels straight out of the Disney Renaissance (the songs from that period, by the way, were also written by this song's Alan Menken).

10:11 Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal are presenting. I swear, if Hathaway were on stage right now, it would be a cute overdose. They're presenting Best Documentary Short, which goes to....STRANGERS NO MORE. I guess this is the Academy's nod to education, since it snubbed the private-school-commercial Waiting for "Superman" for Best Documentary Feature.

10:14 The Oscar for Best Live-Action Short goes to....GOD OF LOVE. Whoa, dude is awkward looking. No wonder you're a director.

10:17 Harry Potter musical: lolzy lolz! Auto-Tune the Oscars has arrived!

10:19 When can we get a .gif of Anne Hathaway's shimmy? Soon, please?

10:20 Oprah Winfrey is returning to acting, by the way. She's also presenting Best Documentary Feature. This is the big moment: if Banksy wins, what will happen? We're about to find out, because the Oscar goes to.....INSIDE JOB. And our big panic over the shame Banksy would bring to the ceremony with his monkey-masked shenanigans was all for naught. Instead we get statements about our recent economic crisis, which Inside Job was all about. Fair trade?

10:26 Billy Crystal's here! I don't care what anybody says, that's a funny man.

10:28 There's a reason Crystal is considered one of the best hosts of the Oscars: he's a stand-up comic, and they make the best MCs of any ceremony. This is a fact proven by science.

10:30 Bob Hope is back from the dead! And he's introducing the Best Visual Effects presenters, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. And let me just say that those two are very, very good visual effects. I'm sure many of you will agree.

10:33 And the Oscar goes to....INCEPTION. That's four Oscars for that film tonight, a number that, at this point, The King's Speech or The Social Network can only beat. Inception could be the biggest winner of the night. Who'd have thought?

10:35 And the Oscar for Best Film Editing goes to....THE SOCIAL NETWORK. So far, The Social Network has three Oscars, The King Speech has one despite 12 nominations. Not quite the sweep that was predicted by, well, everyone.

10:41 The Best Original Songs are coming to a close, and the final two plus the award will be introduced by Jennifer Hudson. First up is "If I Rise" from 127 Hours, and its being performed by Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine and composer A.R. Rahman. I'm not a fan of the song, but I do love hearing Welch's booming voice, so I say it evens out.

10:44 Gwyneth Paltrow, aka "country music's newest star," is performing "Coming Home" from Country Strong. Needless to say Paltrow's career is getting crazier and crazier every day.

10:45 And the Oscar for Best Original Song goes to...."WE BELONG TOGETHER," TOY STORY 3. Well, at least his second Oscar came sooner than his first. I wonder if Newman thought this is where he would end up at this point in his career when he got started? And thank you, Newman, for pointing out the need for more original songs. Make this happen, people!

10:52 In Memoriam. You'll all be missed.

11:01 Hilary Swank is introducing Kathyrn Bigelow, last year's Best Director winner. She's presenting the award this year, which goes to....TOM HOOPER, THE KING'S SPEECH. I'm genuinely surprised, since his work was the least impressive this year. But he did win the Directors' Guild Award, so many were expecting it. There could still be a director/picture split, though: The Social Network has more awards tonight than TKS.

11:05 Annette Bening presents the Governor's Awards, which were handed out four months ago.

11:07 Francis Ford Coppola, Eli Wallach, and film preservationist Kevin Brownstein were the recipients of those awards, as well as French director Jean-Luc Godard, who didn't come to either ceremony.

11:11 Jeff Bridges, himself a nominee this year, is presenting Best Actress. Such a strong, wonderful category this year: all of these women are deserve this. But the Oscar goes to....NATALIE PORTMAN, BLACK SWAN. You know, the one who won EVERY SINGLE AWARD this year. But good job, Natalie, you earned it.

11:19 Sandra Bullock, last year's Best Actress winner, gets to present Best Actor. If Colin Firth wins, then all four categories will go exactly as expected. Boring.

11:25 And the Oscar goes to....COLIN FIRTH, THE KING'S SPEECH. He really deserved this last year for A Single Man, but he's an Oscar winner now, finally. And, of course, everybody, myself included, correctly predicted all of the acting winners. People's Oscar pools should have been easy this year.

11:32 Steven Spielberg gets to hand out Best Picture this year. Lucky guy.

11:35 I rather liked the clip package for the Best Picture nominees. But here we go: the Oscar for Best Picture of the year 2010 goes to: THE KING'S SPEECH. I didn't think the Academy would take the old-fashioned route after being so "edgy" this past decade, but there you have it.

11:39 Whoa, those kids are good! If there were ever evidence to support the arts in schools, there it is!

That's a wrap, everyone. Another Oscar season has come to an end. I hope you enjoyed this live-blog and the ceremony, and that'll you'll come back to the site in the future. Actually, I'll be posting day-after reflections on the ceremony tomorrow, so be sure to come back and check out my analysis, along with various bits of trivia about the winners. Thank you all for following!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oscars 2010: Best of the Rest

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are now around 24 hours away from the Oscars, Hollywood's biggest night and my Christmas. If you haven't been keeping up, you can see my pieces on Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Adapted and Original Screenplays, Best Director, and Best Picture by clicking on the links. These are the rest of the nominees, which I've grouped here together because I haven't seen a lot of these nominations, whether because of availability or lack of time. Therefore, there won't be any of my ballots for these, just thoughts and predictions. I hope to see all of them someday.

Also, since I'm a shameless self-promoter, be sure to log on tomorrow night for my 2nd Annual Oscar Live-Blog, which will hopefully be starting exactly at 8 pm EST. I hope you'll all check it out.

 Toy Story 3
 How to Train Your Dragon
 The Illusionist

At first glance, there shouldn't really seem like there's much competition here, since Toy Story 3 has a Best Picture nomination and was the biggest moneymaker and best-reviewed film of the year. However, there's a lot of love for How to Train Your Dragon, and if it did win I wouldn't be very disappointed since its an excellent film, perhaps the best that Dreamworks has made thus far. Unfortunately for Sylvain Chomet, who competed here in 2003 against Pixar's Finding Nemo, he'll most likely have to settle for "its an honor just to be nominated." In the end, though, I think Toy Story 3 will give Pixar its sixth win in this category.

 Alice in Wonderland
 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
 The King's Speech
 True Grit

Yes, yes, The King's Speech was shot on a set that was used in a gay porn, but production designer Eve Stewart has said before that she was using a previously-existing set that had been spruced up for the film, and with ballots having been sent in before this was discovered, it doesn't make a difference now anyway. The least impressive work here comes from Harry Potter, with most of the film occurring outdoors, thus, I assume, little set design (feel free to tell me otherwise - I'm no expert on this stuff, and would love to know better). True Grit is a similar case, but the designs of the Old West town are great, especially that dusty courtroom that Rooster is interrogated in. The best, in my opinion, is Inception, with it's elaborate sets that were creative and eye-catching. And before we say that The King's Speech will take this one, consider this: no Tim Burton film nominated in this category has ever lost. Hopefully, the hideous excuse for a film that is Alice in Wonderland will be the first.

 Black Swan
 The King's Speech
 The Social Network True Grit

If there's anyone in this category who's most overdue for an Oscar, its True Grit's Roger Deakins, who to date has nine nominations but no wins, and he's certainly put forward an incredible piece of work in this film, bringing out the stark, empty beauty of the landscapes. The King's Speech's Danny Cohen, in his first nomination, does some interesting work in his film, but none of its flashy enough to grab attention; he'll need his film to sweep to get a win here. The same goes for The Social Network's Jeff Cronenweth, another first time who does fine work but not vital work. Wally Pfister has collaborated with Christopher Nolan on all of the latter's films since Memento, and one of these days he'll win the Oscar that he so richly deserves for his innovative work (just think of the zero-gravity hallway or the falling van in Inception). If it was my choice, I'd go with Matthew Libatique's claustrophobic handheld camera work in Black Swan, which fittingly added to the paranoia and psychologically-disturbing qualities of the film. But I suspect that they'll give Deakins his first win, partly out of "its his time" sentimentality and because its likely the only place they'll reward True Grit this year.

 Alice in Wonderland
 I Am Love
 The King's Speech
 The Tempest
 True Grit

Of course, all of the costumes in True Grit have that rugged Wild West feel, but I was particularly impressed by the doctor in the bear suit; first-time nominee and frequent Coen collaborator Mary Zophres really outdid herself on that one. Jenny Beavan's work on The King's Speech was positively regal, and is probably the most likely winner here this year. Sandy Powell and Colleen Atwood square off again, this time with two fantasy pieces: the former created some inventive duds for Julie Taymor's Shakespeare adaptation The Tempest (Taymor, directoral abilities aside, must be a dream to work for as a costume designer) while the latter's costumes were probably the best part of Alice in Wonderland, which is damning praise if there ever was any. I haven't seen I Am Love yet, but Antonella Cannarozzi's designs look positively sumptuous. Like I said, though, Beavan will probably take home her second Oscar tomorrow night.

 Exit Through the Gift Shop
 Inside Job
 Waste Land

This year, I only managed to catch two of the nominees, though I could have seen four had it not been for bad timing. Exit Through the Gift Shop has caused quite a stir over how Banksy would claim his Oscar should he win, but since the film may not necessarily be a real documentary a la F for Fake, I doubt that's a very likely scenario. I do think that it was one of the best films of the year, though, as it claimed the #7 spot on my top 10 list. I just missed being able to see Inside Job, and I suspect its something of a frontrunner for its expose of the financial crisis of 2008 that plunged us into what is now being dubbed the Great Recession. Gasland, about the growth of natural gas production in the United States, was another film I missed, but it hasn't been buzzy enough to be considered a frontrunner. The same goes for Waste Land, a film about an artist whose works are composed of recycled products from Rio de Janeiro's largest landfill. I did happen to catch Restrepo on National Geographic one day, and the first-hand footage of the war in Afghanistan is powerful stuff. This film, to me, seems to be exactly what the Academy would like to honor, and I think it'll walk away the winner.

 Killing in the Name
 Poster Girl
 Strangers No More
 Sun Come Up
 The Warriors of Qiugang

I haven't seen any of these films, but based on subject matter, Killing in the Name (a first-hand account of suicide bombings) and The Warriors of Qiugang (Chinese locals protesting a harmful chemical plant) seem like the best bets, but Poster Girl (women in the Iraq War), Strangers No More (a multinational elementary school in Tel Aviv) and Sun Come Up (environmental refugees in Papua New Guinea) certainly sound like possibilities too. Really, I just don't know.

 Black Swan
 The Fighter
 The King's Speech
 127 Hours
 The Social Network

There are very few instances of a film winning Best Picture without having an editing nomination, and with all five of these nominees being BP nominees as well, winning here can only help their case (sorry, True Grit and the egregiously-snubbed Inception). 127 Hours features the usual quick-paced edits that have come to define director Danny Boyle's films, and these cuts help keep the film in constant motion when its protagonist obviously isn't. The edits in The Social Network are essential to the film's time-jumping narrative, and establishes the setting for each scene well. I can't think of anything outstanding about The King's Speech in this regard, but The Fighter has some great work, particularly in the fight scenes. However, if any film deserves this, its Black Swan for the way that the editing does the exact opposite of what it does in The Social Network, blurring the line between delusion and reality until the two are completely inseparable.

 Biutiful, Mexico
 Dogtooth, Greece
 In a Better World, Denmark
 Incendies, Canada
 Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi), Algeria

There's a diverse field of films here this year, and I managed to see two of them before the Oscar ceremony (this is a first for me - before this year, I'd never seen a foreign language nominee before the ceremony). Biutiful, which would seem to be a frontrunner since its from a well-known director who's been Oscar nominated before (Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu, who was nominated for Best Director for Babel in 2006 and had his first film Amores Perros nominated in this category in 2000) and was nominated in Best Actor this year as well (Javier Bardem). However, the film's received mixed reviews, so I doubt Mexico will end its winless streak this year (the nation currently has no wins for eight nominations). Dogtooth, the other film I've seen, is a fantastically and disturbingly original film, but its probably too weird for the Academy's tastes. Incendies tackles the Middle East, and played well on the festival circuit, but I don't think its buzzy enough to win. Denmark's In a Better World is currently the favorite to win, and I think it definitely has the best chance at taking home the prize. However, if they want to get political and show their support for the democratic revolutions in North Africa, they could easily give the prize to Algeria's Outside the Law, which is about the struggle for Algeria's independence from France. Its probably a long shot, but I think an upset is definitely in the cards.

 Barney's Version
 The Way Back
 The Wolfman

I think its telling that all three of these films received their only nominations here. Barney's Version features lots of aging makeup, as the entire cast is aged backwards and forwards to cover their entire lives. The Way Back, which was projected to be a much, much bigger awards presence before it was dumped for release on the last day of the year and being ultimately forgotten, mostly requires the dirtying-up of its protagonists, as well as slimming them down to make them look like they broke out of Siberian gulag. However, I think the obvious winner here is going to be the least-acclaimed film of the group: The Wolfman features dynamic transformation effects courtesy of makeup artist extraordinare Rick Baker, who used similar werewolf-transformation techniques to win the first Makeup Oscar in 1981 for An American Werewolf in London.

 How to Train Your Dragon
 The King's Speech
 127 Hours
 The Social Network

I'm really impressed by all of this year's nominees, who've brought a variety of styles to their films. I don't think anyone would have thought A.R. Rahman would be nominated again after his win in 2008 for scoring Slumdog Millionaire, but he managed to return with his three-themed score for 127 Hours; its not complicated work, but it suits the film well. John Powell, earning his first nomination, deserves recognition for his brilliant, soaring work on How to Train Your Dragon, a beautiful score that is uplifting and majestic. Alexandre Desplat, an Academy favorite, created a lush, regal score for The King's Speech, and I would say that its the most likely to win. Han Zimmer's Inception score is brash and unsubtle, but when integrated into the film its used excellently; stand-alone, though, its not likely to impress voters. If any score deserves it the most, though, I'd have to go with the unconventional industrial score by Trent Reznor (aka Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross for The Social Network. For proof of the phenomenal work they've done, just listen to the foreboding, haunting track from the opening credits, "Hand Covers Bruise." That should be enough to win.


 "Coming Home," Country Strong

 "I See the Light," Tangled

 "If I Rise," 127 Hours

 "We Belong Together," Toy Story 3

Eventually, with the lack of original songs for films nowadays, I think the Academy is going to do away with this category. It used to be that at least some of the nominees were recognizable outside of their films; can you name any of the recent winners or nominees? Anyway, out of these four, "If I Rise" probably has the slightest chance of winning, since its a pretty same-y song. "Coming Home" is standard modern country, and if the voters like the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow has suddenly reinvented herself as a singer, they could go for this saccharine piece. However, I think its going to come down to the two Disney numbers: they love to nominated Randy Newman (this is his 20th nod), but he only has one win (for "If I Didn't Have You" from Monsters, Inc. in 2001). He seems like a strong choice, especially since he has the most upbeat number, but the best song and most likely winner is "I See the Light," a touching song that played over the strongest scene in Tangled. Its from Alan Menken, who did the music for Disney movies such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Hercules and Enchanted. I'd say he's the best bet.

 Day & Night
 The Gruffalo
 Let's Pollute
 The Lost Thing
 Madagascar, Carnet de voyage

I've only seen one of these films, and Day & Night is a pure delight, probably the best short film that Pixar has made yet. It seems like a lock for this category, except that The Gruffalo features a cast of British all-stars (among them Bill Nighy and Helena Bonham Carter), which may be able to pull the upset. Otherwise, I don't know much about the other films, except that they all have a striking visual style. I'm looking forward to finding them all someday.

 The Confession
 The Crush
 God of Love
 Na Wewe
 Wish 143

Again, I'm not really familiar with any of these, but from what I understand, Na Wewe is the most topical, since it deals with the Rwandan genocide, so I'm going with that one as the winner. The others I'll have to check out sometime.

 Toy Story 3
 TRON: Legacy
 True Grit

Did anyone guess that Tony Scott's runaway-train flick would end up with an Oscar nomination? I certainly didn't, but this is a category that tends to like three kinds of films: action flicks, animated films, and musicals. All five of these films exemplify one of those categories, and all seem fitting. Since this award is based on how sound effects are integrated into the film, I'm guessing Inception has a leg-up on the competition, but honestly I'm not sure who they'll go for.

 The King's Speech
 The Social Network
 True Grit

Oh yeah, Salt's an Oscar-nominated movie now as well. Sound mixing has more to do with the overall sound of the movie, and in this regard I can see how The King's Speech would seem like a safe choice, seeing as how radio plays such an integral part in the film. The Social Network, too, mixed its dialogue with various scenes where the music drowned out other sounds, which would make it an interesting choice. And True Grit had gunshots and Jeff Bridges' near-unintelligible dialogue, so there's that. But Inception had the most clever and essential use of sound, as the music for the kicks played a vital role for the plot, and I suspect it will walk away with the win in this category.

 Alice in Wonderland
 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
 Iron Man 2

I've already written an extensive column about these at The Large Association of Movie Blogs for LAMB Devours the Oscars, which you are free to check out here. In summation, Alice in Wonderland's effects are dreadful, Iron Man 2's are boring, Harry Potter's are less than magical, Hereafter's are interesting, and Inception's are the most deserving. I have a feeling that Inception's got this category locked down, but if there's a spoiler here, I'd say its Alice in Wonderland, just because people really like that movie for some reason.

So there you have it: all of the Oscar nominees. Who are you picking to win? Excited about tomorrow? Again, be sure to follow the live-blog!