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Oscar nominations arrive Tuesday, January 25. To prepare, we’re giving you our sharpest insight and predictions. Our last topic: what are you most hoping will happen tomorrow? If you’re reading this Tuesday, give your favorite Grouch a high five or a supportive pat on the back, depending on what happens.

Brian: Reznor needs to score

Only in the fantastical world of the Oscars would it be possible for a nominee to be just on the edge of being recognized yet should it get nominated, be a favorite for win. That’s the general consensus around Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for The Social Network. Having already won the Golden Globe for Best Score, you’d think this is a shoo-in. But you’d be wrong. It’s rather astonishing and remarkable that such a simple series of 6 notes could be so evocative. Listening to it while writing this post, I could visualize so much of the film in my head. Like Sorkin and Fincher’s portrayal of Zuckerberg, the score is isolating and contemplative, not to mention brilliant.

Honorable mention: Please Give for Best Original Screenplay. My hobby horse for the year — great storytelling with subtle character development. More to come from me on this one.

John: A Duvall-less Oscars would make me Low

I didn’t have a pet cause this season until right at the last minute. That cause is Get Low, a delightful and touching drama with a nice comedic streak. Robert Duvall gives a wonderful, subtle performance. He’s on the bubble for a Best Actor nomination and I’m rooting hard for him. (I also hold out very small hope for Bill Murray.)

On some smaller notes, I’m rooting for Eddie Vedder to finally land a Best Song nod, this time for “Better Days” from Eat, Pray, Love. It’s actually not a very good song, but… Eddie Vedder! Cmon!

Finally, I just want an out of left field surprise (provided it doesn’t push out a favorite of mine) and/or some better-than-expected love for some smaller films like Another Year.

Jared: Snub Hawkes and I’ll have a Bone to pick with the Academy

I think the other Grouches will agree that this year it is difficult to find too much to root for, nomination-wise.  Films and performances I loved are either safely in the club or so far off the radar that there’s really no chance at all to pick up a nomination.

Still, what fun is this if you can’t root for something?  When I first heard a few months ago someone suggesting that John Hawkes could nab an Oscar nomination, I laughed it off, thinking the person was probably just a huge Winter’s Bone fan forgetting the crush of performances that would enter the fray come Oscar season.  And Hawkes almost didn’t factor into awards season.  Except for getting a SAG nomination.  Which has to establish him as a viable contender, given the frequent overlap between the SAGs and the Oscars.  Hawkes’s role may not be as showy as Bale’s, on the nose as Renner’s, or have the screen time of Rush’s, but his performance is incredibly memorable nonetheless.  Yeah, it would be nice to give someone his first nomination and share some indie love.  But more than that, it’d be nice to recognize a performance that I believe really is one of the best of the year, name recognition be damned.

(As a side note, I’m not hoping for Hawkes as the expense of Ruffalo.  And the thing that would conceivably make me the happiest is a screenplay nom for How to Train Your Dragon, but that seems a little more remote.)

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Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Picture

VIRTUAL LOCKS

  • The Social Network
  • The King’s Speech
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • True Grit

Before the PGAs, The Social Network had won everything.  Now it is has just won almost everything.  It could mean we are seeing the start of the inevitable front-runner backlash, but that’s a discussion for after nominations.  When word of The King’s Speech first arrived, you could hear lots of collective groaning about Oscar bait and how the Academy is a complete sucker for anything to do with British royalty.  Two funny things, though: pretty much everyone actually likes the film, and it really isn’t Oscar baity at all.  Speaking of unlikely Oscar movies, how about a ballerina horror film likely to pull down $100 million at the box office?  Black Swan pulled off the trick.  The Fighter, led by a strong cast, seemed to peak at the right time, nomination-wise, and should continue the Academy’s love affair with boxing movies.  One of the few movies released prior to Oscar season likely to get an Oscar love in major categories, Inception pretty much speaks for itself.  A vast, cold, scifi/psychological epic, it is completely unlike traditional Oscar movies and yet so obviously one.  Perhaps the easiest prediction, before any of these movies had been seen, was that Joel and Ethan Coen remaking a classic western would be a best picture nominee.  But hey, they still had to follow through on the thing, and by all accounts, True Grit does so.

LIKELY IN

  • Toy Story 3
  • The Kids Are All Right

Metacritic has Toy Story 3 has the second-best reviewed wide release of 2010, as does imdb (to different movies, interestingly enough).  So clearly lots and lots of people really like this film.  Up‘s nomination last year showed that the move to ten best picture nominees allowed the Academy to be OK with nominating an animated film for the big prize, so there’s no real reason it should miss.  I’ve heard a couple people theorize that The Kids Are All Right‘s spot is in danger.  I certainly don’t know enough to dispute that, I’m just a little hard-pressed to see how it could miss when its rivals appear to be indier and/or not having the support from at least one acting nomination, like this one.

LAST TWO IN

  • Winter’s Bone
  • The Town

I have this (completely unfounded, I’m sure) feeling that a lot of the love for Winter’s Bone comes from Hollywood patting itself on the back for supporting indie movies and wanting to show they are totally OK with films taking place in America’s backwoods.  I’m not sure if anyone really loved The Town, but undoubtedly many people liked it, so I’m wondering if its broad appeal could lead it to nab the final slot for the big prize.

FIRST ALTERNATE

  • 127 Hours

Most predictions you’ll read have the prior two films and 127 Hours in a battle for the final two spots.  This one was directed by recent Oscar winner Danny Boyle and features a likely Oscar-nominated performance by Oscar co-host James Franco.  So it certainly has a legit chance.  I just happen to think it peaked a little too early and that it wasn’t quite compelling enough to hold up.

DARK HORSES

  • Blue Valentine
  • The Ghost Writer
  • Shutter Island
  • Another Year
  • The Way Back
  • Biutiful
  • How to Train Your Dragon

If voters want to get indie and perhaps prove a point, they may turn to Blue Valentine.  The Ghost Writer connected with a good number of people, and the Academy wasn’t afraid with The Pianist to give awards to Polanski.  I’m still confused at why Shutter Island, a Martin Scorsese film that grossed over $100 million domestically isn’t making a bigger play here.  I’ve prattled on a number of times about the Academy’s love for Mike Leigh, the logic certainly applies to Another Year.  I’m not sure if The Way  Back isn’t good or is a victim of a poor release strategy, but it was supposed to be a contender and then it wasn’t, for reasons still unclear.  John says Biutiful and How to Train Your Dragon are dark horses, and he is smarter than I am.

SHOULDA BEEN A CONTENDER

  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Please Give

Oscar nominations arrive Tuesday, January 25. To prepare, we’re giving you our sharpest insight and predictions. Today’s topic: Call your longshot nominations. No guts, no glory! We actually have nailed a couple of these over the years.

John:

Everyone has 11 films vying for the 10 Best Picture slots. Something outside of that list of 11 will slip in instead. The top contenders are, in order of likelihood: Another Year, Blue Valentine, Biutiful, and How to Train Your Dragon.

Four Lions for Original Screenplay.

A big studio picture won’t take the third Animated Feature slot, instead falling to My Dog Tulip or The Illusionist.

Brian:

The academy satisfies Jared and me muchly by giving Nicole Holofcener a nod for her sweet and endearing script for Please Give in the Best Original Screenplay.

In its attempt to give the HFPA strong competition for their starf*cker reputation, the voters pull a Timberlake out of their hat, recognizing him for his role as Sean Parker in The Social Network.

Jared:

Shutter Island for Best Picture

Noomi Rapace for Actress

Rooney Mara for Supporting Actress

Vincent Cassel for Black Swan for Supporting Actor

Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Director.

VIRTUAL LOCKS

  • David Fincher, The Social Network
  • Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
  • Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech

Confession time: I don’t really have any clue how to discern exactly what the director’s contributions to a film are.  And I don’t think many other people know either, other than a general assumption that good movie=good directing.  People are saying that David Fincher was exactly the director to make Aaron Sorkin’s script shine.  Maybe that’s true, I just hope the evidence is stronger than that regatta scene.  This’ll be Aronofsky‘s first Oscar nomination, an honor for which he’s probably overdue.  I don’t really see what others do in the movie, but given the script’s weakness, sure, I’m happy to pass some credit to the director for elevating the film into something better.  I really liked The Damned United, and the film was different enough from the book that I’ll begrudgingly pass some credit to screenwriter Peter Morgan and director Tom Hooper.  His follow-up, of course, has been a bit more successful.  I look forward to seeing his work in the future and I imagine that’ll only increase once I get around to watching Prime Suspect.

LIKELY IN

  • Christopher Nolan, Inception

Like everyone else, I do believe there’s a spot for Nolan, I’d just feel a little more comfortable if the buzz for the film was a little more palpable.  Still, it’d be shocking if he gets snubbing after creating such a visionary, successful film.

LAST ONE IN

  • David O. Russell, The Fighter

I’ve always heard that if you can’t say something nice, you should shut your big fat mouth.

FIRST ALTERNATES

  • Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, True Grit
  • Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
  • Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right

I was really tempted to put the brother Coen in that last spot, but since I haven’t seen that anywhere else, I figured it is just my bias against that film in the fifth spot.  The Academy loves them some Coen Bros, but they do only have the one directing nomination (for No Country for Old Men, which they won).  I dunno, I won’t be surprised at all if they get the nomination.  The claustrophobia of 127 Hours sure is different from the vastness of Slumdog Millionaire, huh?  Maybe Boyle‘s film was released just a little too early to hit at the Oscars, or maybe it wasn’t quite as good as originally expected.  I hope to see Lisa Cholodenko get a directing nomination someday, but this year is just so tough, with so many well-respected auteurs in line to get their due.

DARK HORSES

  • Ben Affleck, The Town
  • Debra Granik, Winter’s Bone
  • Mike Leigh, Another Year
  • Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island

Affleck‘s two for two in critically acclaimed directing successes and this one even made a nice chunk of a change.  This kid may just have a career in the industry.  After what Down to the Bone did for Vera Farmiga and this film did for Jennifer Lawrence, if I were an agent with a starlet on my hands, I’d be busting my balls to get her an audition for whatever Granik has next on her plate.  As I mentioned elsewhere, it is always dangerous to count Mike Leigh out with the Academy.  But maybe next time he should make sure his film’s trailer doesn’t make it seem like the most boring film ever.  Shutter Island just edged out The Departed as Scorsese‘s highest-grossing film (in worldwide dollars).  What, now that’s he mainstream the Academy has no use for him?

SHOULDA BEEN A CONTENDER

  • Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
January 2011
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