By Peter Knegt | Indiewire March 3, 2010 at 9:57AM
Over the past few weeks, this column has been taking looks at a variety of categories in the 82nd Academy Award race, from the animated, foreign & doc feature races, the acting races, and the potential directing and screenwriting winners.
For the most part, those races seem to have clear favorites (with the notable exceptions of original screenplay, foreign language film, and maybe best actress), which has generally made for an exceptionally unexciting lead up to Oscar night. But there's one category that hasn't been evaluated yet that has turned into quite the nail-biter, and it also just so happens to be the granddaddy of all categories.
This year has definitely created one of the most peculiar best picture races of all time. Of course, this was fueled two major alterations to the rules of the game: Ten nominees instead of five, and a new preferential voting system in which Academy members rank all of the nominees instead of simply choosing their lone favorite.
These changes - particularly the new voting system - have the ability to significantly alter any Oscar expert's ability to see clearly where the race is going. Essentially, ballots are separated into 10 stacks according to first place votes - one stack for each film. If a nominee has greater than half of the first-place votes, it wins. If there is no film to receive half of the first place votes (which is very likely), the film with the lowest amount of votes is eliminated and the second place on those ballots are counted as first place votes, and so on and so on until one film has more than half of the ballots. So this means that - in the end - having a second or third place ranking on a ballot could mean just as much as having a first place on the ballot.
Even with all that considered, a month or so ago it still seemed like one film was sitting really pretty: "The Hurt Locker."
Other than the Golden Globe, Kathryn Bigelow bomb squad thriller essentially won every precursor out there, from the PGA to the WGA to the DGA to the BAFTAs to the New York and LA film critics. Its main competitor - Golden Globe winning "Avatar" - still seemed like it had something of a shot, but if it were to win it would defy history in becoming the first best picture winner without acting or screenwriting nods since 1932 "Grand Hotel."
However, then came the big mess from "Hurt Locker" producer Nicolas Chartier. Academy rules prohibit “casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film,” which Chartier did when he sent a series of e-mails bashing “The Hurt Locker”‘s main competitor, “Avatar.” The e-mails were first reported by Los Angeles Times Oscar blogger Pete Hammond, sending waves across the Oscar blogosphere and finding many prognosticators re-thinking “Locker”‘s front-runner status. Then yesterday, just before the voting polls closed, the Academy penalized Chartier by uninviting him to the ceremony.
What kind of effect this had on voters - many of whom may have sent in their ballots prior to the controversy - is unclear. But it definitely suggests that "Avatar," as well as the late, dark but considerable horse in the race, "Inglourious Basterds," have better shots than originally expected.
Tomorrow indieWIRE will post the predictions and wishful thinking of dozens of critics and bloggers surveying both the Oscars and the Spirit Awards, but beforehand I'll take one final stab at it in this, the last "For Your Consideration" column before the big show.
Though I've been flipping back and forth between all three contenders over the past few days, I'm going with "The Hurt Locker." I'd like to hope that this sort of dirty politics won't influence voters so strongly that a film with such deserved momentum as "Locker" could defy history and lose the award after winning precursor after precursor after precursor. That said, part of me is glad this last minute shake up has at least given this Sunday night some considerable suspense, as I predict "Locker"'s victory with much nervousness.
Check out my rundown of the best picture race below (with chances for the win in percentages), followed by picks in all categories.
1. The Hurt Locker 28%
2. Avatar 27%
3. Inglourious Basterds 20%
4. Up In The Air 10%
5. Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire 8%
6. District 9 2.5%
7. Up 2%
8. An Education 1.5%
9. The Blind Side 0.8%
10. A Serious Man 0.2%
A complete list of predictions in every category is available on the next page.
My predictions for the 82nd Academy Awards, with the most contested categories given an asterisk:
Best Picture: The Hurt Locker*
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side*
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious
Best Original Screenplay: Inglourious Basterds*
Best Adapted Screenplay: Up In The Air
Best Animated Feature: Up
Best Foreign Language Film: The Secret In Their Eyes*
Best Documentary Feature: The Cove
Best Film Editing: The Hurt Locker*
Best Cinematography: Avatar*
Best Art Direction: Avatar
Best Costume Design: The Young Victoria
Best Original Score: Up
Best Original Song: "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart
Best Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker*
Best Sound Editing: Avatar
Best Visual Effects: Avatar
Best Makeup: Star Trek*
Best Documentary Short: The Last Truck*
Best Animated Short: Loaf and Death*
Best Live Action Short: The Door*
"For Your Consideration" is a weekly column written by indieWIRE Associate Editor Peter Knegt. Check out the previous editions of the column:
For Your Consideration: Predicting The Animated, Foreign & Doc Feature Winners
For Your Consideration: Predicting The Acting Winners
For Your Consideration: Predicting The Directing and Screenwriting Winners
For Your Consideration: Sundance and Next Year's Oscars
For Your Consideration: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Oscar Nominations
For Your Consideration: Final Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Guessing The Golden Globes
For Your Consideration: Is Kathryn Bigelow a Female Director?
For Your Consideration: Re-Assessing The Major Categories
For Your Consideration: How Much Does Oscar Love a Musical?
For Your Consideration: 10 Surprises From The Spirit Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: A Guide To The Oscar Precursors
For Your Consideration: 25 Things The Academy Got Right In The 2000s
For Your Consideration: The 50 Most Despicable Oscar Snubs of the 2000s
For Your Consideration: Assessing The Major Oscar Categories
For Your Consideration: Oscar's Gay Tendencies
For Your Consideration: 11 Underdog Performances
For Your Consideration: History Repeats as Major Foreign Films Left Off Academy List
For Your Consideration: 10 Things The Fall Fests Told Us About Awards Season