Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oscar Predictions: The Technical Awards

Has it really been a year since I last dusted off my (virtual) tux and sat down to ruminate on the year's Oscars in a vain - in both senses of the word - attempt to try to figure out who is going to win? It has? Oh, well, best get started then. I'm going to do things slightly differently this year by splitting the predictions into two posts: The Technical Awards and the Major Awards. This is mainly because the Technical Oscars are ones that I can write up very quickly, so I'll be able to write this one up sharpish and spend more time on the main ones, but also because, theoretically, two separate posts will be more easily digestible than one turgidly long one.

Let's begin.

Ed's Predictions:

Best Short Film, Live Action

The Door (2008): Juanita Wilson, James Flynn
Istället för abrakadabra (2008): Patrik Eklund, Mathias Fjällström
Kavi (2009): Gregg Helvey
Miracle Fish (2009): Luke Doolan, Drew Bailey
The New Tenants (2009): Joachim Back, Tivi Magnusson

As with the last two years, I haven't seen any of these so will have to use a completely arbitrary system of judgement. This year, I'm plumping for Kavi, because Gregg Helvey was interviewed on an episode of Battleship Pretension a few months ago and he sounded like a nice, interesting guy, and the other nominees could all murder kittens for pleasure, as far as I know.

Best Short Film, Animated

French Roast (2008): Fabrice Joubert
Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty (2008): Nicky Phelan, Darragh O'Connell
La dama y la muerte (2009): Javier Recio Gracia
Logorama (2009): Nicolas Schmerkin
Wallace and Gromit in 'A Matter of Loaf and Death' (2008) (TV): Nick Park

Easy; Nick Park. Just look at his Oscar track record: nominated five times before, won four of those times, and only lost the fifth because he was nominated twice in the same year; he only lost because he was competing against himself.

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province (2009) (TV): Jon Alpert, Matthew O'Neill
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner (2009): Daniel Junge, Henry Ansbacher
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant (2009) (TV): Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert
Królik po berlinsku (2009): Bartosz Konopka, Anna Wydra
Music by Prudence (2010): Roger Ross Williams, Elinor Burkett

The Documentary categories are one of the few sections of the Oscars that is, year in year out, allowed to be overtly political. Whilst the main awards will occasionally hand out awards to politically aware and progressive films, they tend to ignore them in favour of glitzier fare. With this in mind, I think The Last Truck will win, since it seems to have a timeliness to it that the others lack.

Best Documentary, Features

Burma VJ: Reporter i et lukket land (2008): Anders Østergaard, Lise Lense-Møller
The Cove (2009): Louie Psihoyos, Fisher Stevens
Food, Inc. (2008): Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (2009): Judith Ehrlich, Rick Goldsmith
Which Way Home (2009): Rebecca Cammisa

A decidedly strong bunch here, with much to recommend them; Burma VJ is one of the most vital and incendiary documentaries of the last few years; The Cove is one of the most acclaimed documentaries of the last few years; and Food Inc. has recently seen a surge of popularity after Oprah Winfrey profiled it, making the DVD the number one in America. I think that The Cove will ultimately win out, though, since, much like Man On Wire last year, it's built a strong swell of critical and popular support over the course of the year.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Ajami (2009)(Israel)
Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte (2009)(Germany)
El secreto de sus ojos (2009)(Argentina)
Un prophète (2009)(France)
La teta asustada (2009)(Peru)

Gah! Two of the best films I've seen in the last year going head to head in a repeat of last year's Cannes film festival ! Even though I think Un prophète is a better film, I think that Das weisse Band will win out because it's had longer to make an impact and because Michael Haneke is one of those directors who has long been a critical darling but whose work has never been recognised by the Academy.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Coraline (2009): Henry Selick
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009): Wes Anderson
The Princess and the Frog (2009): John Musker, Ron Clements
The Secret of Kells (2009): Tomm Moore
Up (2009): Pete Docter

I think that Up's nomination in the Best Picture category - which I am ecstatic about, by the way - could hurt its chances here, since people may ignore it if they think that it is in with a shot of winning a 'proper' award, even if it almost certainly won't. However, the fact that it is the most successful of the nominees - as well as the most universally praised, though it's a stellar bunch - will see it win out.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Avatar (2009): Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andy Jones
District 9 (2009): Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros, Matt Aitken
Star Trek (2009): Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, Burt Dalton

Even though District 9 and Star Trek are much, much better films that are more inventive and entertaining, Avatar will certainly win this because, as ambivalent as I am about the merits of the film in terms of storytelling, the effects are amazing.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Avatar (2009): Christopher Boyes, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
The Hurt Locker (2008): Paul N.J. Ottosson
Inglourious Basterds (2009): Wylie Stateman
Star Trek (2009): Mark P. Stoeckinger, Alan Rankin
Up (2009): Michael Silvers, Tom Myers

There's a chance that Avatar's visual splendour will bleed into the other categories, allowing it to pick up some of the audio awards along the way, but I think this could be the first win for The Hurt Locker, since the sound of the film is hugely important in creating its unbearably tense atmosphere.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Avatar (2009): Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, Tony Johnson
The Hurt Locker (2008): Paul N.J. Ottosson, Ray Beckett
Inglourious Basterds (2009): Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Mark Ulano
Star Trek (2009): Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson, Peter J. Devlin
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009): Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Geoffrey Patterson

Seriously? Transformers gets a nomination? Well, it's certainly the loudest of the nominees, which might count for something, but I think this will be another win for The Hurt Locker, since I've never really understood what the difference is between Sound 'Editing' and Sound 'Mixing', so they tend to go hand in hand.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Crazy Heart (2009): T-Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham("The Weary Kind")
Faubourg 36 (2008): Reinhardt Wagner, Frank Thomas("Loin de Paname")
Nine (2009): Maury Yeston("Take It All")
The Princess and the Frog (2009): Randy Newman("Almost There")
The Princess and the Frog (2009): Randy Newman("Down in New Orleans")

I was originally going to give this one to Crazy Heart based purely on the fact that having multiple nominations for songs, as The Princess and The Frog does here, tends to lead to a splitting of the vote, allowing for songs from smaller films to win. The best recent example of this being when 'Falling Slowly' from Once managed to win against three songs from Enchanted. For that reason, and because it's a lovely song, I'm plucking for 'The Weary Kind.'

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Avatar (2009): James Horner
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009): Alexandre Desplat
The Hurt Locker (2008): Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders
Sherlock Holmes (2009): Hans Zimmer
Up (2009): Michael Giacchino

I'm going to throw my support being Michael Giacchino's beautiful score for Up. Whilst James Horner's score for Avatar is effective, it just isn't as inventive or haunting as Giacchino's repeated motifs and subtle tones in Up.

Best Achievement in Makeup

Il divo (2008): Aldo Signoretti, Vittorio Sodano
Star Trek (2009): Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow
The Young Victoria (2009): John Henry Gordon, Jenny Shircore

I'm so surprised to see Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo nominated that I'm going to say it'll win. It seems like one of those La vie en rose nominations that winds up winning because, despite its showier competition, it's just so much better.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Bright Star (2009): Janet Patterson
Coco avant Chanel (2009): Catherine Leterrier
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009): Monique Prudhomme
Nine (2009): Colleen Atwood
The Young Victoria (2009): Sandy Powell

Coco avant Chanel will win for the chic factor, if nothing else.

Best Achievement in Art Direction

Avatar (2009): Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009): David Warren, Anastasia Masaro, Caroline Smith
Nine (2009): John Myhre, Gordon Sim
Sherlock Holmes (2009): Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
The Young Victoria (2009): Patrice Vermette, Maggie Gray

Wow, what a hodge-podge of nominees. This feels like an Avatar win, to me; creating an entire world just seems more impressive that getting period trappings just right.

Best Achievement in Editing

Avatar (2009): Stephen E. Rivkin, John Refoua, James Cameron
District 9 (2009): Julian Clarke
The Hurt Locker (2008): Bob Murawski, Chris Innis
Inglourious Basterds (2009): Sally Menke
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009): Joe Klotz

The battle between Avatar and The Hurt Locker for awards supremacy rages on and The Hurt Locker will win this bout for its visceral action sequences and palpable tension.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Avatar (2009): Mauro Fiore
Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte (2009): Christian Berger
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009): Bruno Delbonnel
The Hurt Locker (2008): Barry Ackroyd
Inglourious Basterds (2009): Robert Richardson

I'm quite delighted to see Harry Potter nominated here. I thought it was one of the most visually arresting films of last year and made for an uncommonly beautiful blockbuster, particularly one that is the sixth in a series. It won't win, but it was nice all the same. Neither will Das weisse Band or Inglourious Basterds, despite both being hugely accomplished pieces of work. It's Team Bigelow and Team Cameron again and, this time, it'll be Avatar that takes the glory.

Right, that's the end of Part One. I shall return tomorrow with my thoughts on the Major Awards.

Stay Tuned; Same Mighty Fine Time, Same Mighty Fine Channel.