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I realize we’re just starting with the 2010 Oscar season, with the ceremonies in February of 2011, but having just came out of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part I, I can say with near certainty that Part II will be nominated for Best Picture and will be the early favorite for the win.

Part I was pretty good, and was one of the best of the series — perhaps the 3rd movie was better. David Yates is the right director for the job, he did a bang-up job with a lightly plotted film. Part II will give him a lot to work with. Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Daniel Radcliffe have came into their own as actors and they too have a lot of scenery to chew through in the next film. The corollary to the Lord of the Rings series isn’t perfect, as those films were all very strong and it could be argued that Return of the King was deserving as the best of the series. But…I’m calling it now — there will be a lot of pressure to reward the series in next year’s Oscars.

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Brian: So faster than Adam could insult John’s movie taste, the news of Anne Hathaway and James Franco being the hosts of this year’s Oscars has spread quickly around the interwebs. Consider me thrilled and excited. I was probably more bullish on last year’s telecast than most, and that was in spite of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin’s lame performance as hosts. As Dave Karger points out over on Inside Movies, “But [the Academy] clearly seems to be courting a different generation: Franco and Hathaway’s combined age (61) is less than Steve Martin’s.”

I love this pairing. Franco can pretty much do whatever he pleases and I’m sure he’ll amuse. He was the best part of Pineapple Express and I’m more than wiling to forgive him for Spiderman 3. He’s exceeded expectations on SNL. And Hathaway did the best she could with the weak material when she hosted SNL recently. They are both easy on the eyes, young up-and-comers who will likely be A-listers in due time. It’s clear that this is a cagey attempt at attracting younger audiences to the telecast — and while I think it will succeed, and hope it will — I’m more convinced that the age of the big television event is gone. This is now two years in a row that the Academy has shocked the grouches with a move to create buzz around the Oscars. Maybe we should stop giving them such a hard time for being fuddyduddies?

I’m intrigued to see how this affects Franco’s campaign for Best Actor. Help him or hurt him? Would sentimental votes of giving it to the young guy now dissipate because he’s getting such a huge platform with emcee duties? Does this help Hathaway’s dark horse campaign for Best Actress?

John? What do you think?

Jared: My first reaction to hearing Hathaway and Franco were named hosts was something along the lines of Sasha Stone at Awards Daily: disbelief.  Everyone has to start somewhere, but you are talking about people who are a decade removed from playing Disney princesses and the a-hole in high school romantic comedies.

There’s little doubt in my mind that they have the tools to be successful hosts.  They’ve both clearly demonstrated comedic chops and also had searingly successful dramatic turns.  But perhaps most importantly, they both have shown that they (or, their public personas, at least) can laugh at themselves.  I only wonder how the Oscar audience will feel getting razzed by the two.  Because when, say, Steve Martin heaps on you, that’s undeniably an honor.  But even with the same writers (crosses fingers for Bruce Vilanch to be involved again), I think the same joke comes out a little differently when it is the stoned drug dealer from Pineapple Express.

The Academy has a well-deserved reputation for being stodgy.  It is nice to see them moving another step away from that.  Also nice to see their taste in hosts is still strong.

John: What a strange choice. Both of them have the potential to be very good and both have done a good job hosting SNL. Hathaway was funny during a part of Hugh Jackman’s opening number in 2009. I just don’t understand why they’re hosting together. Do producers think neither has the chops to host solo? Or could they not make up their mind between the two? Is there any evidence they’d have chemistry?

It’s especially puzzling since last year’s hosting duo seemed like a great idea but were terrible. If Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin don’t work well together, why would Hathaway and Franco? Also Franco is likely to be a nominee for 127 Hours, which could be an interesting dynamic.

But the bigger factor is that Adam Shankman isn’t producing this year so the show has to be better than last year’s, no matter who is hosting.

Brian: Notice how John failed to answer my one question. I think this hurts Franco’s campaign and the smart money is on Colin Firth, even more than it ways before.

In case you missed the news, The Independent Spirit award nominations come out Tuesday morning (streaming at spiritawards.com, announced by Eva Mendes and Jeremy Renner).  Which is of special importance this year, because your humble bloggers ponied up for a membership to Film Independent this year and so actually have a vote to this shindig.  Scary, right?  Anyway, we’ll have lots more coverage coming up, but I figured I’d put together my predictions for the nominations.  You might remember we did this for the Oscars last year and actually didn’t do too badly.  Well, with Oscar, no one knows anything, but at least there’s a lot of people trying to guess, so you can employ a little wisdom of the crowds.  For the Independent Spirit awards, I’ve only seen one attempt.  One tricky thing is that it isn’t exactly clear which films are eligible.  The rules state the production must be American, with a budget of $20 million or less, have played this year and not have been submitted for eligibility in prior years.  Below I have my list of possible contenders, I’m sure I’m missing some and have a few ineligibles on there.

Here goes nothing:

BEST PICTURE
Black Swan
Blue Valentine
The Kids Are All Right
Please Give
Winter’s Bone
(Next five: City Island; Cyrus; Greenberg; Rabbit Hole; Tiny Furniture)

BEST DIRECTOR
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
Derek Cianfrance, Blue Valentine
Sofia Coppola, Somewhere
Debra Granik, Winter’s Bone
(Next Five: John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole; Nicole Holofcener, Please Give; Jay and Mark Duplass, Cyrus; Lena Dunham, Tiny Furniture; Noah Baumbach, Greenberg)

BEST LEAD MALE
Michael Douglas, Solitary Man
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Ed Norton, Leaves of Grass
Ben Stiller, Greenberg
(Next Five: Ryan Reynolds, Buried; Andy Garcia, City Island; Jesse Eisenberg, Holy Rollers; James Franco, Howl; Casey Affleck, The Killer Inside Me)

BEST LEAD FEMALE
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
(Next Five: Catherine Keener, Please Give; Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right; Amanda Seyfried, Chloe; Zoe Kazan, The Exploding Girl; Halle Berry, Frankie and Alice)

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Bill Murray, Get Low
Sam Rockwell, Conviction
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Michael Shannon, The Runaways
(Next Five: Bill Murray, Get Low; Paul Reubens, Life During Wartime; John Ortiz, Jack Goes Boating; Jonah Hill, Cyrus; Chris Cooper, Remember Me)

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Dale Dickey, Winter’s Bone
Barbara Hershey, Black Swan
Julianne Moore, Chloe
Sissy Spacek, Get Low
Dianne Wiest, Rabbit Hole
(Next Five: Mila Kunis, Black Swan; Julianna Margulies, City Island; Amy Ryan, Jack Goes Boating; Rebecca Hall, Please Give; Mia Wasikowska, The Kids Are All Right)

BEST FIRST FEATURE
Get Low
Happythankyoumoreplease
Jack Goes Boating
Sympathy for Delicious
Tiny Furniture
(Next Five: The Company Men; Solitary Man; I Love You Philip Morris; Buried; Welcome to the Rileys)

BEST SCREENPLAY
Black Swan
Get Low
The Kids Are All Right
Please Give
Winter’s Bone
(Next Five: City Island; Rabbit Hole; Somewhere; Blue Valentine; Howl)

LIST OF POTENTIALLY MAYBE POSSIBLY ELIGIBLE FILMS:
Black Swan
Blue Valentine
Buried
City Island
Chloe
The Company Men
Conviction
Country Strong
Cyrus
The Dry Land
The Exploding Girl
The Extra Man
Frankie and Alice
Frozen
Daddy Long Legs
Easy A (OK, I don’t really buy it, but it fits the criteria!)
Flipped
Get Low
Greenberg
The Good Guy
Happythankyoumoreplease
Holy Rollers
Howl
I Love You Phillip Morris
It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Jack Goes Boating
The Joneses
The Kids are All Right
The Killer Inside Me
Leaves of Grass
Let Me In
Life During Wartime
Lovely, Still
Middle Men
Mother and Child
Night Catches Us
Please Give
Rabbit Hole
Remember Me
The Runaways
Solitary Man
Somewhere
Sympathy for Delicious
Tiny Furniture
Welcome to the Riley’s
Winter’s Bone
The Yellow Handkerchief
Youth in Revolt

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