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For Your Consideration: Final Oscar Winner Predictions, Part II

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 16, 2011 at 6:17AM

Last week, this column took on the artistic and technical categories at this year's Academy Awards and complained that things looked mighty predictable. While that remains the case, this time around we'll take a look at a group of categories where the majority of Oscar night's suspense should lie. With less than two weeks to go until Hollywood's big night, races like best documentary feature, best foreign language film, best original score and, as always, the short film categories, remain mired in murky waters. They might not have the same glamour as the acting trophies or best picture, but they do contain the actual potential for surprise.
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Last week, this column took on the artistic and technical categories at this year's Academy Awards and complained that things looked mighty predictable. While that remains the case, this time around we'll take a look at a group of categories where the majority of Oscar night's suspense should lie. With less than two weeks to go until Hollywood's big night, races like best documentary feature, best foreign language film, best original score and, as always, the short film categories, remain mired in murky waters. They might not have the same glamour as the acting trophies or best picture, but they do contain the actual potential for surprise.

Of the eight Oscar categories predicted below, only one of them has an absolute lock of a winner: Best animated feature. The third animated film ever nominated for best picture, should Pixar's "Toy Story 3" lose the category, it would be the most shocking possibility this side of anyone beating Colin Firth. It should easily give Pixar's its fourth animated feature trophy in a row, and its sixth in the ten years since the category's inception.

"Toy Story 3" is also the likely winner in the best original song category, which is a pretty lackluster race (that could have severely benefited from the presence of Cher-sung "You Haven't Seen The Last of Me," written by six-time Oscar loser Diane Warren). "We Belong Together" should give songwriter Randy Newman his second Oscar (after a whopping 19 nominations), though that prediction is no sure thing. Any of the other three nominees - "Coming Home" for "Country Strong," "I See The Light" from "Tangled," and "If I Rise" from "127 Hours" - could sneak in, though Dido's track from "Hours" is perhaps the most reasonable alternate suggestion. It would be a nice way to throw a solitary Oscar bone to the best picture-nominated film.

Beyond the potential double win for "Toy Story," things get harder to peg. The other music-related category, best original score, seems to be a real race between a trio of best picture nominees: "Inception" (Hans Zimmer), "The King's Speech" (Alexander Desplat) and "The Social Network" (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross). The former two are usual suspects: Zimmer has nine nominations and one win, while this is Desplat's fourth nomination in five years. Desplat's never won, making him the sentimental favorite (in a best-picture frontrunner to boot). But both need to watch out for two new kids in town - Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and his partner Atticus Ross, whose music for "The Social Network" has definitely been the year's most talked about and lauded. But are the Oscars too stuffy to give this award to an electronic, innovative and non-traditional nominee? Maybe. Or maybe after the gruff they've received for snubbing or disqualifying the likes of Clint Mansell and Jonny Greenwood in recent years, they're ready to show some modernity? It's a risky pick, but let's go with the latter. It would certainly make for one of the night's most-deserved Oscars.

Perhaps the night's biggest nailbiters are two categories with which the Oscars also has a problematic history: Best documentary feature and best foreign-language film. But for the first-time in recent memory, there were more 'yays' than 'nays' when the nominations were announced, as the acclaimed and unconventional likes of "Dogtooth" and "Exit Through the Gift Shop" made the cut over the more traditional fare Oscar usually goes for.

While "Dogtooth"'s chance of winning are about as great as "Exit"'s director Banksy showing up to the ceremony, Bansky actually stands a reasonable shot at becoming the first potentially non-existent person to win an Oscar (no, "Roderick James" has never actually won). Standing in Bansky's way is PGA and DGA winner "Inside Job," directed by Charles Ferguson and enjoying the backing of Sony Pictures Classics. Deserving in its own right, financial crisis doc "Inside Job" is the safest bet to win, though a winner beyond either "Exit" or "Job" is completely possible (particularly Lucy Walker's "Waste Land).

"Dogtooth" is the only film to really rule out for best foreign-language film, though it's probably more or less a three-country race between Canada (Denis Villeneuve's "Incendies"), Denmark (Suzanne Bier's "In a Better World") and Mexico (Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Biutiful"). Denmark's won twice in the past, Canada once, and Mexico zilch (despite eight nominations) and each nominee has a lot going for it: Golden Globe-winner "World" probably has the momentum and is the most accessible of the three (which has been the case of a lot of winners in the past); "Biutiful" has the star power, with best actor nominee Javier Bardem also making it the only film with a nomination outside this category (though overall it's a very divisive film); and "Incendies" is perhaps the most powerful, the most acclaimed and, like "World," has the backing of Sony Pictures Classics, which has won this award in two of the past three years. It could go any which way, but most pundits are calling it for "In a Better World." A reasonable suggestion, though this pundit is taking a road slightly less traveled and predicting Canada's "Incendies" for the win (disclaimer: this pundit is Canadian). Winning the Golden Globe means little (it's only transferred to an Oscar once in the past eight years) and "Incendies" is just such a deeply affecting film (but hey, same could have been said for "A Prophet" and "Waltz With Bashir").

As for the shorts, indieWIRE's Eric Kohn took an extensive look at the categories last week and his guess is as good as mine. The Oscars are infamously unpredictable when it comes to its short films and there's rarely such a thing as a sure thing. Check out my predictions on the next page of this article, as well as noted predictions in five other categories. Next week, this column will finish up predictions with takes on best picture, best director and the acting and screenplay categories.

Best Animated Feature
The nominees: How To Train Your Dragon; The Illusionist; Toy Story 3
What will win: Toy Story 3
What might win: N/A
What should win: The Illusionist
What shoulda been a contender: It's really a perfect lineup.

Best Animated Short
The nominees: Day & Night; The Gruffalo; Let’s Pollute; The Lost Thing; Madagascar, carnet de voyage
What will win: Madagascar, carnet de voyage
What might win: Day & Night or The Gruffalo
What should win: Madagascar, carnet de voyage
What shoulda been a contender: Unqualified to say.

Best Documentary Feature
The nominees: Exit Through the Gift Shop; Gasland; Inside Job; Restrepo; Waste Land
What will win: Inside Job
What might win: Exit Through the Gift Shop
What should win: They're all great, honestly, but if I ha gun to my head: Exit Through the Gift Shop (if only to see who accepts the award)
What shoulda been a contender: The Oath and Last Train Home, both of which didn't even make the shortlist.

Best Documentary Short Subject
The nominees: Killing in the Name; Poster Girl; Strangers No More; Sun Come Up; The Warriors of Qiugang
What will win: Poster Girl
What might win: The Warriors of Quigang
What should win: Poster Girl
What shoulda been a contender: Unqualified to say.

Best Foreign Language Film
The nominees: Biutiful; Dogtooth; In a Better World; Incendies; Outside The Law
What will win: Incendies
What might win: In a Better World
What should win: In a perfect world, Dogtooth, but Incendies is exceptionally deserving as well.
What shoulda been a contender: I Am Love, had Italy actually submitted it.

Best Live Action Short
The nominees: The Confession, The Crush, Na Wewe, The New Tenant, Wish 143
What will win: God of Love
What might win: Wish 143
What should win: Na Wewe, though God of Love and Wish 143 are also great.
What shoulda been a contender: Unqualified to say.

Best Original Song
The nominees: "Coming Home" (Country Strong); "I See The Light" (Tangled); "If I Rise" (127 Hours); "We Belong Together" (Toy Story 3)
What will win: "We Belong Together" (Toy Story 3)
What might win: "If I Rise" (127 Hours)
What should win: I couldn't care less.
What shoulda been a contender: "You Haven't Seen The Last of Me" (Burleseque).

Best Original Score
The nominees: How To Train Your Dragon; Inception; The King's Speech; 127 Hours; The Social Network
What will win: The Social Network
What might win: The King's Speech
What should win: The Social Network
What shoulda been a contender: The disqualified likes of Black Swan, I Am Love and True Grit (get a best adapted score category, already).

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

Previous editions of this column:
For Your Consideration: Final Oscar Winner Predictions, Part I
For Your Consideration: Sundance and Next Year's Oscars
For Your Consideration: Final 2011 Oscar Nomination Predictions
For Your Consideration: Guessing The Golden Globes
For Your Consideration: If I Had An Oscar Ballot...
For Your Consideration: 60 Women That Defined "The Year of the Actress"
For Your Consideration: A Mid-December Stab at Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: A Guide To The Oscar Precursors
For Your Consideration: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Spirit Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: The 10 Worst Original Song Oscar Snubs of the Past 10 Years
For Your Consideration: A Mid-November Stab at Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Gauging a Crowded and Female-Friendly Spirit Award Field
For Your Consideration: Could a Documentary Be Nominated For Best Picture?
For Your Consideration: Assessing Those Gotham Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actors
For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actresses
For Your Consideration: Save For "Love" Snub, Foreign Language Submissions Uncontroversial
For Your Consideration: Post-Toronto Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Updating Oscar Contenders In The Eye of The Storm
For Your Consideration: 10 Things The Fall Fests Should Say About Awards Season
For Your Consideration: Assessing Oscar In The Calm Before The Storm

This article is related to: Features, Academy Awards