Going for the gold on Oscar night

Who will be the big winners this year? Our movie critic gives her take on the Academy’s best bets.

avatar sam worthington 248.88 (photo credit: )
avatar sam worthington 248.88
(photo credit: )
It’s Oscar time again. The ceremony is airing live at 3:30 a.m. Monday morning local time (red carpet coverage begins at 3 a.m.), and for the third time in a row Israel has a film among the nominees. Ajami co-directors Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti will be sitting in the auditorium in Los Angeles, while many here in Israel will be waiting anxiously to see if Israel gets its first Oscar. But whether or not they go home with a gold statuette for Best Foreign Language Film, it’s a triumph that they were nominated for their first film in a highly competitive category. Their nomination is especially sweet in a year in which prominent filmmakers called – unsuccessfully – for a boycott of Israeli films at the Toronto Film Festival.
It’s also an interesting year for many other reasons. For one, this is the first time since 1943 that there have been 10 Best Picture nominees rather than five. Now everything but the kitchen sink has been nominated. For information on the complex new voting system, go to www.awardsdaily.com, the all-Oscar all-the-time Web site that features links to many predict-the-awards contests.
And now, without further ado, here are my predictions for the awards:
• BEST PICTURE: The consensus is that the real contest is between special-effects epic Avatar and The Hurt Locker, a tough film about the war in Iraq. They were directed by James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, respectively, who were once married to each other. Bigelow is only the fourth woman ever nominated for Best Director, and if she wins she’ll be the first woman to win. The spoiler in this category could be Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
Winner: The Hurt Locker
Winner: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
• BEST ACTOR: This award would be a much deserved one for Jeff Bridges, who plays an aging country music singer in Crazy Heart.
Winner: Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart
• BEST ACTRESS: This is the hardest category to call. Meryl Streep, the most nominated actress in Oscar history, is probably not going to win for her sublime performance in Julie and Julia. This will be the year for Sandra Bullock, a very well-liked actress.
Winner: Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side
• BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Undoubtedly Christoph Waltz, who played the charming Nazi in Inglourious Basterds.
Winner: Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds.
• BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: This is another category dominated by a single performance, Mo’Nque in the very unsympathetic role of the mother in Precious.
Winner: Mo’Nique in Precious
Winner, Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air
Winner, Best Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker
• BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: This will be the most-watched category here, of course. Only voters who can prove they have seen all five nominated films at screenings (not on DVDs) by means of a stamped card can vote for this award. What this means, though, is that only Oscar voters with time to attend five screenings vote (conventional wisdom says that these voters tend to be semi-retired, older and more conservative). Ajami is a great achievement for first-time directors Copti and Shani, but French director Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophete covers similar ground (it’s a gritty prison drama about young Muslims, while Ajami is a gritty crime drama mostly about young Muslims). The Milk of Sorrow, the Peruvian nominee, is a kind of Latin-American Precious and is arguably the weakest of the nominees. Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, which won top prize at Cannes, is considered the front runner. But it is a slow, pretentious, black-and-white, relentlessly downbeat film about how repression and child abuse in pre-World War I Germany led to Nazism. Oscar voters traditionally don’t warm to this type of film. So I’m going to go with the far more lively and accessible El Secreto de Sus Ojos (The Secret of Her Eyes) from Argentine director Juan Jose Campanella.
Winner: El Secreto de Sus Ojos
I will be as happy as anyone if that last prediction is wrong and the winner turns out to be Ajami, but with Oscars there’s always next year.
The Academy Awards ceremony airs livelocally at 3:30 a.m. Monday morning on HOT Gold, HOT Drama, HOT VOD andYES 1, with a recap on Tuesday on HOT Gold at 10 p.m. and YES 1 at 9:30p.m and 11 p.m.