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Post-Toronto Oscar Predictions: Category by Category

Post-Toronto Oscar Predictions: Category by Category

I figured it was time to take on 2009 Oscar predictions once again… A more in depth article should be up on tomorrow morning discussing how boring Toronto was in terms of how it affected the race. But here’s where I think it stands at this point:

We know this much for sure: “An Education,” “Precious” and “Up In The Air” are headed for Oscar’s top ten. Beyond that, things are much more murky. Summer releases like “Up,” “The Hurt Locker,” and surprise near-blockbuster “Inglourious Basterds” all have good-to-great shots at hanging in there; Festival titles “A Serious Man,” “Bright Star,” and, to lesser extents, “The Road” and “A Single Man,” lack “Precious”-size buzz but should not be counted out; And then there’s that batch of Oscar-baity films that have yet to be seen – “The Lovely Bones,” “Amelia,” “Nine,” “The Tree of Life,” “Brothers” and “Invictus.” Arguments for other films, both seen (“Julie & Julia,” “Star Trek”) and unseen (“Where The Wild Things Are,” “Avatar”), can certainly be made – but I’m confident the top ten is coming from the sixteen films I’ve listed here (unless of course the Academy shows some serious class and gives a slot to a foreign-language contender like “A Prophet” or “The White Ribbon”). So here’s where I’m seeing this heading, for what it’s worth, with “Precious” making sense as my current frontrunner for the win:

Bright Star
An Education
The Hurt Locker
The Lovely Bones
A Serious Man
The Tree of Life
Up In The Air

The rest of the categories after the jump…

I can’t remember a year when a lead acting category felt so bare, with no real juicy question marks lingering. Which makes it even more the shame a surprise acquisition with a fantastic female lead didn’t come out of Toronto or Venice (yet… Annette Bening’s work in “Mother & Child” is still a possibility, but I really don’t feel that’s the type of film to win someone an Oscar). Right now, the most considerable contenders are mostly very young and enjoying their first major lead role if not their first role ever: “An Education”‘s Carey Mulligan (24), “Precious”‘s Gabourey Sidibe (25), “The Lovely Bones”‘s Saorise Ronan (15), “Bright Star”‘s Abbie Cornish (27). Oscar doesn’t usually stack its lead categories with this many just-proven talents, but the only major competitors any of them seem to have right now are “Julie & Julia”‘s Meryl Streep and “Amelia”‘s as-yet-unseen Hilary Swank. Both of those actresses have already one twice, the former deserving of a third any day now (but is this really the performance for it?) and the latter – frankly – already ridiculously overrewarded. At this point, it’s most definitely Mulligan that’s the brightest not-quite-star of the newbies, and Steep the formidable veteran. But that’s just such a boring, boring race. And I can’t really picture either of them winning, but I also can’t imagine any other competitor coming even close. Things are so weak that the following list of performances actually stand a (small) chance at coming into play, which would be an entirely improbable suggestion in other years: “Cheri”‘s Michelle Pfieffer, “Julia”‘s Tilda Swinton, “Trucker”‘s Michelle Monaghan, “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee”‘s Robin Wright Penn, even “Antichrist”‘s Charlotte Gainsbourg (now wouldn’t that be fun?). So at this point betting against Carey vs. Meryl is not a wise decision. Though another slight possibility I should mention before moving on to my boring predictions: Natalie Portman in “Brothers.” I have little faith in the Jim Sheridan-remake at this point, but if Portman hits it out of the park, there’s so much room in this race she could become a very fast frontrunner. Anyway, the following really doesn’t look right, but it’s all I’ve got to work with and I can’t bring myself to put Swank in there even if all she really has to remotely resemble Amelia and she’ll probably get a nod:

Abbie Cornish, Bright Star
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Saorise Ronan, The Lovely Bones
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

(if “Mother & Child” gets picked up, I’d be tempted to sub Bening in for Cornish, but with hesitation)

Unlike its female counterpart, this race is far from slight. Toronto gave us a ton to chew on, from performances we already expected to be in contention (Matt Damon in “The Informant!” and George Clooney in “Up In The Air”), to surprises in acquisition titles (Colin Firth in “A Single Man” and Robert Duvall in “Get Low,” though the latter has yet to been given a 2009 release date). Those four men – working with the assumption “Get Low” will be released in 2009 – seem like a strong bet for the final five. Their major competitors are both big names in as-yet-unseen films (Robert deNiro in “Everybody’s Fine,” Sean Penn in “The Tree of Life,” Morgan Freeman in “Invictus” and Daniel Day-Lewis in “Nine”) and small names in seen-and-loved films (Michael Stuhlbarg in “A Serious Man,” Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker” and Ben Winshaw in “Bright Star”). And unlike, best actress, there’s plenty of possibilities beyond them. Does “The Road” have enough supporters to get Viggo Mortensen in serious contention? What about Sam Rockwell in “Moon”? And maybe “Leaves of Grass,” “The Last Station” or “That Evening Sun” will end up released this year, giving Edward Norton, Christopher Plummer or Hal Holbrook a shot? For now, though, let’s play it safe:

George Clooney, Up In The Air
Matt Damon, The Informant!
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man

(if “Get Low” gets released this year, sub Duvall in over Stuhlbarg)

Mo’Nique is probably the surest winner prediction one can make right now, but who fills out the rest of this category should prove pretty interesting. “Up In The Air” has offered us two formidable candidates in Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga, “A Single Man” could very well get Julianne Moore her fifth Oscar nod, and I’d imagine a campaign for “Inglourious Basterds”‘s Mélanie Laurent in in the works. In fact, it could be Weinstein fever in this category. Moore and Laurent will be competing against the seemingly endless batch of candidates from distributor sister “Nine” – from Penelope Cruz to Judi Dench to Marion Cotillard to Nicole Kidman to, uh, Fergie. Because so many of this category’s likely candidates are in films we’ve yet to see – add to the “Nine” ladies Susan Sarandon and Rachel Weisz’s work in “The Lovely Bones,” and Jessica Chastain in “The Tree of Life” – it’s hard to clearly understand what’s materializing here. But here’s my best shot:

Judi Dench, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up In The Air
Anna Kendrick, Up In The AIr
Mo’Nique, Precious
Julianne Moore, A Single Man

Probably the most stacked category of them all, supporting actor is seems like it could become the character actor show, with “An Education”‘s Alfred Molina, “The Lovely Bones” (or “Julie & Julia”‘s) Stanley Tucci, “Bright Star”‘s Paul Schneider, “Inglourious Basterds”‘s Christoph Waltz all looking to be major contenders in this year’s race. They’ll be facing off against a few bigger names – almost none of which have performances any of us have seen: Matt Damon in “Invictus,” Brad Pitt in “The Tree of Life,” Tobey Maguire in “Brothers”…. and then there’s big question marks like Bill Murray in “Get Low” (will it get released?), Robert Duvall or Kodi Smit-McPhee in “The Road” (will enough people like it?), and Anthony Mackie in “The Hurt Locker” (who?). I’m thinking Molina and Waltz are the locks at this point, and beyond that it’s just gonna take some time to figure out…

Matt Damon, Invictus
Robert Duvall, The Road
Alfred Molina, An Education
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

(if “Get Low” gets released this year, sub in Bill Murray over Robert Duvall)

Now on to my favourite category this year… or perhaps the category with the most potential to disappoint me. Of those sixteen best picture contenders I listed earlier, five directors will come forth. And what’s so interesting about this? Of those contenders, five are directed by women, three by openly gay men, and one by an African-American. After years and years of criticism in various demographic regards in this category, Oscar has some opportunities to start making amends. And I’m thinking they will:

Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Lee Daniels, Precious
Terrance Malick, The Tree of Life
Jason Reitman, Up In The Air
Lone Scherfig, An Education

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