Here are The Eastern Echo‘s best shots at who’s got the best shot.
Best Picture – “The Hurt Locker”
Few things say more about an era than war. Wars come to define generations, from The Greatest Generation to those still struggling with the Vietnam Conflict or the Gulf War. It only makes sense, then, movies about war become the greatest time capsule of the actions, issues and emotions surrounding that specific conflict.
And it’s almost that alone that makes Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” such a great film. “Full Metal Jacket,” “Platoon” and “Saving Private Ryan” are all great war movies, but they were all made decades after the events they cover.
“The Hurt Locker,” on the other hand, shows a contemporary view of a contemporary war. It takes all of the very modern issues and attitudes regarding war and applies them to a conflict that everyone today is familiar with.
But “The Hurt Locker” isn’t a political film, nor is it exclusively a war drama: it’s a character piece about what soldiers go through in a war that is completely unlike any other war. The film centers on an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, the soldiers responsible for disarming roadside bombs in Baghdad.
Every time they go out they are walking into the places everyone else is running out of, and everything about the film—from the cinematography and editing to the acting—is done in such a way that there is a constant, palpable sense of tension in every frame.
Ten years from now almost everyone will have forgotten “The Blind Side” or “An Education,” and while “Avatar 3” will probably be earning a trillion dollars. But film experts and historians alike will still be analyzing “The Hurt Locker,” and it will join Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” as the standard to which all war dramas are compared.
Best Director – Quentin Tarantino
In the last ten years there have only been three times where the Best Director award hasn’t gone to the director of the Best Picture: Ang Lee in 2006, Roman Polanski in 2003 and Steven Soderbergh in 2001. With those odds it’s still a safe bet to say the two awards will match up, but there’s always an outside chance that there will be a split.
This is no slight to Kathryn Bigelow, but Quentin Tarantino deserves to walk away with this award. “The Hurt Locker” is a superb film, and if Bigelow wins this award it won’t be surprising or upsetting.
Where Tarantino is accomplished in his style, Kathryn Bigelow has done what only three women before her have: pushed her way into the boys club that is directorial nominations, and she did it with a testosterone and adrenaline packed war movie with heart.
She was able to direct a cast of almost entirely men to recreate a job that the military assigns only to men, and accomplished it with a gritty realism that drew audiences into the very documentarian like story.
She shows that war movies don’t have to be epic, romanticized and glamorized as the so often are, but that they can be accurate depictions of what those serving in our armed forces experience both now and when they return home. The Academy is ready to induct a girl into the boys club, and Kathryn Bigelow is the place to start.
But Quentin Tarantino’s entire career has led up to this point. And while “Inglorious Basterds” isn’t Tarantino’s best film, it is by far his best-made film: the acting, cinematography, editing and writing are all just incredibly perfect, and it takes someone as absolutely insane and brilliant as Tarantino to get 8 Oscar nominations for a film about WWII that makes no attempt at accuracy, yet somehow still captures the essence of that era of films.
Best Actor – Morgan Freeman
This year’s Best Actor nominees are split into two categories: timeless veterans and newcomers. In a perfect world either Colin Firth (“A Single Man”) or Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) would take this award for their vivid, astounding performances simply because they were so surprising.
Neither Renner nor Firth have had Oscar-caliber performances before; in fact, Firth is known for minor roles in romantic comedies, while Renner is best known for exploding in flames during “28 Weeks Later.”
That being said, the Academy is fairly predictable: they nominate young performers, but rarely do they ever actually give them the award.
What the academy does like, however, is when veteran actors play famous historical figures: four of the last five Best Actor performances were for biographical roles, as were three of the last five Best Actress performances.
Given that, Morgan Freeman is about as sure of a lock for Best Actor as you can get. There is nothing even remotely surprising about Freeman’s nomination for his performance as Nelson Mandela in “Invictus.”
In fact, chances are most people predicted it would happen the day he was cast in the film. And though it certainly seems unfair to say that Firth or Renner won’t get the award because they are younger actors, in the end it really is Freeman’s experience and unparalleled talent, not any fault of the younger actors, that will win him his second Oscar.
Best Actress – Meryl Streep
Considering the fact that the Academy clearly favors veteran performers in biographical roles, almost no one will be surprised if Meryl Streep – who with 16 nominations is the most-nominated actor or actress ever – receives Best Actress for her performance as the larger-than-life French chef Julia Child in “Julie & Julia.” But, if that happens, it will be a damn shame.
I’m going to be frank for a moment: when you watch the Oscars every single year, you get to know how the Academy thinks. And if you’re serious about making predictions, then you’re going to take that into account. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it or agree with it—it’s just the nature of the beast.
That being said, Meryl Streep will win the award. She’s been nominated 12 times in the 27 years since her past win (“Sophie’s Choice,” 1983), and her performance in this year’s “Julie & Julia” is the stuff of Oscar gold. She took a well known public figure and not only portrayed her with heartwarming familiarity, but brought those who had never seen her show or read her books into the life of this fascinating woman without simply mimicking her.
Streep, as she’s done with so many of her roles, fully embodied Child and made her more then just an amazing chef, but an accessible human being as well.
But as great as Streep’s role is, Mulligan’s performance in “An Education” is just short of perfection, and the Academy would really be labeling themselves as stubborn traditionalists if they snub such a stunning performance.
The film’s central conflict is definitely conventional, but that’s why Mulligan’s performance is so refreshing: in all of the moments where you might expect her character to be self-defeating, weak or lacking in confidence,
Mulligan’s Jenny is radiant, decisive and bold. Mulligan portrays Jenny teetering on the thin line between being a naïve girl and a jaded woman, and the strength and audacity she shows is just incredible to watch. Unfortunately, it’s the kind of role that always gets nominated, but rarely wins.
Best Supporting Actor – Christoph Waltz
Of all the categories in this year’s Academy Awards, this is the only one that is an absolute synch. Supporting roles in films have a variety of purposes, but for the most part they are the key roles that make everything else in the film shine, as is the case with Christoph Waltz’s performance as Nazi Col. Hans Landa in “Inglorious Basterds.”
He dominates every scene he’s in, and Tarantino is smart enough to realize this. In an interview with Canwest News Service published last August, Tarantino says “I think that Landa is one of the best characters I’ve ever written and ever will write and Christoph played it to a tee. It’s true that if I couldn’t have found someone as good as Christoph I might not have made ‘Inglourious Basterds.’ “
Despite the fact that “Inglourious Basterds” is Waltz’s first major English-language film (though he’s famous in Germany), he’s given the kind of role that only a seasoned veteran like Tom Wilkinson could pull off: he’s the epitome of evil, and for whatever reason the audience loves him.
Landa is the film’s central villain, and the subtle cruelty and sadistic enjoyment he displays fit perfectly with the exaggerated world Tarantino has created. Waltz will walk away an Oscar winner, and considering he has already been cast as the villain in this year’s “Green Hornet” remake, hopefully we’ll see plenty of him in the future.
Best Supporting Actress – Mo’Nique
When you hear the name Mo’Nique, you generally don’t think of an Oscar powerhouse. But, when she takes on the role of Mary, the mother of the title character in “Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire,” you forget about her past as a comedienne and see only a mother who the entire audience loves to hate.
In this role, you can see the broad spectrum of Mo’Nique’s range, as she is able to throw her infant grandchild to the ground in one scene, and sob for the return of her family in another.
She takes on a role which is nearly impossible to comprehend and even harder for the audience to identify with, yet she still manages to bring out the waterworks and make you sympathize with a monster. It’s a performance that earns a golden statuette.
The 82nd Academy Awards will air on Sunday, March 7 on ABC with hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.