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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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The Oscar race: Isn't anyone picking 'The Hangover' for best picture?

February 1, 2010 |  6:00 am
Oscar

In politics -- even with pollsters hounding voters every day of the week -- whenever you look around at election time, you can find a stunning upset in the making, as we all saw recently in the Massachusetts Senate race. So why doesn't it happen in Hollywood at Oscar time? Do members of the motion picture academy really have such drearily predictable artistic tastes that any half-bright Oscar blogger can pretty much predict what films they'll nominate?

With the Oscar nominations announced Tuesday, I was pondering this imponderable, especially after reading Vulture Oscar expert Lane Brown's latest predictions for the top Oscar races. I was all set to take issue with Brown's choices, since there's nothing more fun than belittling the crazy conjectures of my favorite breathless Oscar pundits. But after talking to a few Oscar consultants and awards-season veterans, I have to admit that, for the most part, Brown seems to be right on the money, at least in terms of this year's Oscar consensus. 

When it comes to the best-picture category, it's especially intriguing (and I plan to have more to say about this on Oscar day) that no one is betting that any of the year's big studio blockbusters -- outside of "Avatar," of course -- will make the academy top 10. After the obvious favorites -- "Avatar," "The Hurt Locker," "Inglourious Basterds" and "Up in the Air" -- Brown has the same list of films that every Oscar pundit seems to have: "An Education," "District 9," "Invictus," "Precious," "A Serious Man" and "Up." Though "District 9" made a lot of money, it was an independently financed film, not one made through the studio system. But no one is picking "Star Trek," "The Hangover" or "The Blind Side," just to name a trio of well-received commercial studio hits.

Here are Brown's picks in a few other categories (the favorite listed first), along with my reaction:

Best director: Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker." James Cameron, "Avatar." Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds." Lee Daniels, "Precious." Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air."

Hardly anyone disagreed with this list, except for one insider who thought Reitman was losing so much steam that he could drop out in favor of "An Education's" Lone Scherfig.

Best actor: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart." George Clooney, "Up in the Air." Colin Firth, "A Single Man." Morgan Freeman, "Invictus." Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker."

Pretty much a consensus here too, although there was a bit of sentiment for adding "An Education's" Peter Sarsgaard, although that would probably mean dumping Freeman, which seems unlikely, since its hard to imagine anyone in liberal Hollywood not giving a nomination to an actor playing Nelson Mandela.

Best actress: Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side." Helen Mirren, "The Last Station." Carey Mulligan, "An Education." Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious." Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia."

No disagreements here. These are the obvious favorites.

Best supporting actor: I'm not even bothering with this one. The race is already over. Christoph Waltz from "Inglourious Basterds" has it all sewn up.

Best supporting actress: Mo'Nique, "Precious." Penelope Cruz, "Nine." Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air." Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air." Julianne Moore, "A Single Man."

Dissenters say the reaction to "Nine" was so uniformly lousy that even Cruz may not end up with a nomination. It's also possible that one of the "Up in the Air" actresses might get dropped out of the mix. The most likely replacement: Maggie Gyllenhaal from "Crazy Heart."

If you think all these experts are nuts, feel free to offer up your own choices. It's a free country!

Photo: Oscar statues. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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