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Who'll win the Oscars and WHY -- category per category (even those pesky shorts)

March 7, 2010 | 10:55 am

"The Hurt Locker" seems to have the most No. 1 votes in this Oscars derby, followed by "Avatar," but, remember, a preferential ballot is being used that requires voters to rank Academy Award choices. Just as both films have strong advocates, they both have many detractors who gave those pix low ranking on their ballots. Most voters have "Inglourious Basterds" ranked in the top three. Upset? If I were betting a ranch, I'd put it on "Hurt Locker," but since I'm merely wagering my professional reputation, I'm sticking with "Basterds."

Oscars 2 Academy Awards news

Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") can't lose because he's got everything going for him. He is an overdue veteran (four past losses) and plays drunk. Oscar voters are suckers for that. Think Nicolas Cage ("Leaving Las Vegas") or, in terms of recent upset, James Coburn ("Affliction").

Most pundits say Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") will win easily, but that's not what you hear when dishing with academy members. Their votes are split all over the place. Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia"), Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious") are really in this race. Many voters don't believe that Bullock's performance is really Oscar-worthy in the film, so that makes her vulnerable, but I still think she'll prevail. Heck, no one really thought Reese Witherspoon gave the best performance of the year in "Walk the Line" (she was really a supporting player giving a rather passive performance), but she won anyway. Bullock's already won the Golden Globe and SAG Award. With rare exceptions like Julie Christie ("Away From Her") and Lauren Bacall ("The Mirror Has Two Faces"), that almost always equals Oscar victory.

Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds") and Mo'Nique ("Precious") have won everything and are thus unstoppable. Only once in modern history has a star won every major precursor award, then failed to nab the Oscar: Michelle Pfeiffer ("Fabulous Baker Boys") was stopped by Jessica Tandy ("Driving Miss Daisy").

Even if "Avatar" or "Inglourious Basterds" wins best picture, Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") will still prevail here because Oscar is ashamed that he's never given this prize to a woman.

"Up" looms above all rivals because it's the only nominee here also in the running for best picture, a rare accomplishment.

Close race between "The White Ribbon" (Germany), "The Secret in Their Eyes" (Argentina) and "A Prophet" (France). "Ribbon" won Cannes' Palme d'Or, which is usually the kiss of death in this race, but it has the snooty art-house appeal that the other nominees don't. We hear that "Secret" played best among academy members who attended the screenings in L.A. and New York -- it generated the most buzz in the lobby afterward -- but it's a crime thriller that may seem too much like a TV episode of "C.S.I." "Prophet" is a violent mafia flick a lot like "Gomorrah," which many pundits thought would win last year, but it didn't even get nominated. So I'm picking recent Golden Globe champ "White Ribbon" because of its pretentiousness and snob appeal.

Quentin Tarantino won this for "Pulp Fiction" and should claim this again, but not if there's a "Hurt Locker" juggernaut. My prediction is that Tarantino will prevail, but sweeps can be powerful things at the Oscars.

"Up in the Air" has this in the bag.

"Up" has this in the bag.

"The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" from "Crazy Heart" is a slam-dunk shoo-in.

Technically, this award goes to the production and set designers, so voters associate this category with the set. The set of "Avatar" is largely digital, so voters may pooh-pooh it in favor of "The Young Victoria," "Nine" or "Sherlock Holmes," but I'm betting they'll give "Avatar" its due here.

"Avatar" is my official prediction, but I'm queasy. The movie that wins usually has the most obvious cinematography -- big, sprawling, epic sweep. Those big, sprawling desert scenes in "Hurt Locker" could result in victory here. There's an off chance that "White Ribbon" could win because it has the most pretentious lensing -- that is, all black and white footage.

Remember, voters don't like anything subtle in these crafts categories, so the most frilly, ornate costumes usually win, especially if they're draped over royals. Consider the last three winners: "The Duchess," "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," "Marie Antoinette." That means "The Young Victoria" will reign supreme this year.

"The Cove" has the right mix of critical appeal and box-office ka-ching that usually results in victory. There's an off chance that "Food, Inc." or "Pentagon Papers" could upset.

I haven't seen these contenders, but I hear that "China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province" is the most gripping weepie and that usually pays off. Entertainment Weekly is betting on "Music by Prudence" because it's a heart-tugger about a disabled African singer. Lots of other pundits are betting on "The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant" because it's relevant to America's economy mess, but it's about trailer trash folks whom snooty Oscar voters usually scorn. If there's a surprise here, it's "The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner," which documents the struggle of the former Washington governor to legalize assisted suicide while he suffers from Parkinson's disease. My prediction is "Disaster," but I have little confidence in it.

The most obviously edited movie wins -- the one with the most zigzagging, chop-chop camera work. That's "The Hurt Locker."

"Star Trek" wins thanks to pointed ears and weird aliens.

"A Matter of Loaf and Death" has this easily because Wallace and Gromit films almost always prevail. A few have won this category in the past ("The Wrong Trousers," "A Close Shave") and another ("Curse of the Were-Rabbit") won best animated feature.

I'm betting on "Kavi" because it's a gut-wrenching tale of modern-day slavery in India -- kind of "Slumdog Millionaire" (best pic champ last year), but real. Some pundits are betting on "The Door" because of its quirkiness, enhanced production values and message (about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster). Others say "The New Tenants," which is about an annoying gay couple spooked by what occurs when they move into a new apartment, but I think the chaps are way too annoying.

The sound awards usually go to the loudest movies, which mean "Avatar" or "The Hurt Locker" this year. "Avatar" may have the edge because this category favors blockbusters like past winners "The Dark Knight" and "King Kong." But I'm betting on "Hurt Locker" here for two reasons. There's a lot of love for this film and voters will want to spread it around. Secondly, it probably strikes voters as the loudest film because it's about bombs going off (or not going off). Recent winner in this category was another war movie up for best picture, "Letters From Iwo Jima."

Let's explain the difference between these sound categories. Editing refers to how the individual sounds were chosen and edited into the film. Mixing is, literally, how they all mix together. Sometimes the same movie wins both awards ("The Bourne Ultimatum," "King Kong") and that's what I'm counting on this year. However, the two races usually split. Because of that, some Oscarologists are betting that "Avatar" will win editing and "Hurt Locker" will claim mixing. They each won those equivalent guild awards recently, so that does make sense. But when do the Oscars make sense?

"Avatar" can't possibly lose, of course.

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times


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The comments to this entry are closed.


I can not believe your comment about the people in the documenthry "The last truck" being "trailer trash"! Shame on you...even if the Academy thinks that, it sounds like you do too. I lost my job there, and it was full of awesome, outstanding, hard working people, with big hearts and the insight to know that you don't belittle people. We all took care of each other and that plant supported the neighborhood surrounding it as well as the middle class, but who cares about a bunch of trailer trash, I am going to Nursing School right now as are a lot of my fellow workers, we have all gone back to college. Oh, wait trailer trash surely can not be smart enough to do that. Some have even graduated! It is a sad state of affairs when people have power and money and the ability to effect other people and their perspectives and use it in a negative fasion....

I am just curious as to whether you are referring to General Motors employees or Ohioans as "trailer trash?" I happen to fall under both categories. I am a proud employee of GM Lordstown Assembly UAW Local 1112 and I will tell you right now that NOBODY I work with or ever have worked with could be defined as "trailer trash." You have the mentality of common trailer trash by stereotyping people you do not know nor understand. I am a proud third generation General Motors employee. My grandmother retired from Packard Electric when it was still owned by GM and my mother works in Lordstown Assembly as I do. Since this area once relied heavily on the steel industry, which is a dying industry in this country thanks to outsourcing, our GM plant is the backbone of our community. Last year when they downsized to a single shift, the commercial industry in this area took a hard hit. Many businesses closed and the ones that did not downsized greatly. Our plant is now operating on 2 shifts with a third returning this summer. When I was laid off and watching "The Last Truck," I cried throughout the entire program. The people of the Moraine plant reminded me of people I work next to everyday. We all shared the same worries and concerns that the Moraine people had. If you were referring to Ohioans as "trailer trash," I must ask one question. Have you ever visited Ohio? Despite what you may believe, the state is not full of trailer parks, cows nor cornfields. Yes we have all three here, but it is not the only thing you see here. Have you forgotten the Rock and Roll and Pro Football Halls of Fame? How about the metroplis cities of Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinatti? You are indeed a person ignorant of the world outside your Venti Latte's (which actually means "twenty" when translated, but I am sure you did not know that either) and comfortable office. Instead of using a term such as blue collar, factory workers or the working class, you called us TRAILER TRASH! You have deeply insulted my family, my friends, my coworkers and myself! I will NOT let this go nor will any other of the hard-working UAW and IUE people out there until a public apology is made for this defamatory use of language has been made.

Mr. O'Neill just wanted to inform you that these hard working men and women from Dayton, Ohio that were focused in the film "The Last Truck" by all means are not "trailer trash". These are folks that work many time more than 8 hours a day at a job that many people do not want. Kudos to this film to allow the world to see what it is really like in America.

The press was in a frenzy over the Oscar winner “The Hurt Locker” and some journalists such as The UK Sun’s Nadia Mendoza have even gone so far as to suggest the results were rigged! Ok I think that’s a bit silly, I mean this isn’t Iran it’s the Oscars and yea we all loved Avatar, the effects, the 3D and the cute blue alien goddess …wake up people it made over 2 billion Dollars but The Hurt Locker has a way better story…That’s why it won. Problem is though, that “The Hurt Locker” was made in 2008 so it should have been up against last year’s Movies and Avatar should have won this year.

I can't believe that you would call GM workers "Trailer Trash." That is absolutely BOGUS. No wonder nobody likes the LA Times! They're ungreatful, MORONIC "writers" who feel the need to stereotype Midwesterners!!! All the while driving your GM automobiles that REAL Americans put together for you, so you can drive to your "job" (if you can call it that) where you can sit around, stuff your face with Twinkies and McDonalds coffee, "writing" articles about whether a "Trailer Trash" documentary can win an award based on your SNOBBISH principals of something considered worthy of viewing! I'm so offended by this, and I don't even LIVE in Ohio, nor have I ever spent an HOUR in a factory putting together cars. I think that the "writers" for the LA Times are just a bunch of snobbish, bully PIGDOGS!

You have offended all the IUE workers at the Moraine, OHIO,General Motors. Not to MENTION the other hard working assembly men and women in America. If it weren't for the common workers there would NOT be a Hollywood. We are the ones who go to the movie theaters, we are the ones who buy the DVD's etc. Tom Hanks was for our documentary and that man wanted ours to win! Remember not everyone in Hollywood was born a star..Most of them came from HARDworking families.

I read your assessment of the Oscar voters feelings toward "trailer trash". I wanted to make sure that it was not taken out of context. I continued reading the article expecting to have a punchline that referenced back to the "trailer trash" comment. Sadly, I was disappointed.
What bothers me is not your interpretation of the voters feelings toward the laid off GM workers.
It was that you lacked the proper tact in doing so. A veteran writer would have handled this far better. Most of these people I call friends, more importantly they represent the majority of us in "fly over" country.
Your entitled to your opinion, your entitled to your principles.
So are we.
Starting today, my principles include ignoring yours and those at the Las Angles Times.
Your Ignorance is Bliss....

The LAST TRUCK CLOSING OF A GM PLANT: Calling us “TRAILER PARK TRASH”.. Is like calling everyone in L.A...... FOREIGN CAR DRIVING COKE HEADS…... My guess is the author never has owned an American Made Car or cares about the Real American Workers. Those "Trailer Park Trash" you have called my co-workers and me have at least produced something for the country and the USA economy. We were not born with silver spoons in our mouths but worked hard to make a life for our families. Unlike so many FOREIGN CAR DRIVING COKE HEADS that turned their back on anything Made In America including GM cars. If you can't find a job, feed your family or pay your bills Thank the next Import driver you see. I challenge the Author to come to Dayton Ohio and talk to the Real American Workers who are losing everything thanks to Non Made In American Drivers and the Greedy Management of G.M. and the U.A.W.

How dare you call us "Trailer park trash." I put 10 years of blood, sweat and tears into making great SUV's for G.M. The idiot that wrote this article has probably never worked so hard in a day that you didn't think you where going to have enough energy to drive home. I drove home several times and had to sit in my car in the driveway to get enough energy to walk inside my home(not trailer). I would work anywhere from 40- 56 hours a week, then turn around and go home and raise my kids. I earned every dime I made. We had temp workers in the plant towards the end, that could not handle the work. Big strong men would leave at lunch time and NEVER come back because the work was to much for them. You work a day on the line at any auto plant and see if you are not singing a different song.

Hey Tom O'neil,
The only "trash in my trailer", is a copy of this article. You admittedly are ignorant of the content of this documentary, stating that you "haven't seen the contenders" but like any Monday morning, armchair, basement blogger, you feel the need comment on autoworkers and characterize them as "trailer trash".
Its time to take the trash out, and your article is top of the heap!

I feel the writer of this article owes the people of General Motora an apology for his comment being "trailer trash". It is one thing to have a disrespectful comment about someone or something but to reply to the hardworking men and women of this country, General Motors, and the great state of Ohio is not necessary and deserves an apology immediately. I am a proud General Motors employee of local 549 in Mansfield, Ohio who has lost their job as well as these workers in Moraine, Ohio and feel by this persons comments that he has insulted all of the good people of the UAW. Thank You

How dare you say the people in the Last Truck:Closing of a GM plant is TRAILER PARK TRASH... YOU have NO idea what we went trough. You NEVER experienced the pain, tears, fear, that I seen my father and his friends from GM went through. Those "trailer park trash" you so kindly have called my father and my extended family, have gone to school, and college. But after some person like yourself turned their back on anything made in AMERICA INCLUDING GM cars, they lost a lot not you GM workers! I can't believe someone in America would say such a thing about a real story. Look at the people in Hollywood, several came from OHIO.You should be smacked!

After reading the reviews I must say I am quite upset and offended that in the review of "The Last Truck" you refer to the GM workers as trailer trash. Just because you have put yourself up on some pedestal and have never done any real work in your life doesn't give you the right to stereotype people and demean people. Contrary to what you may think Ohio is not full of hillbillies and backwoods folk. I know it's hard to believe but we actually live in houses and and drive nice cars and have shoes and everything. You're welcome to have your own opinion but you should really keep your ignorance to yourself.

Avatar is still best picture for a number of reason but will not win the Oscar for Best Picture because its message of the deception of corporate paramilitary goes against the big business that profit from war.
Oscars's arms are not free of political arm bending nor free from complicity in subtle war / invasion propoganda.
Hurt Locker is a much "safer" movie to win because it creates the normal USA military heros and feeds war mongering multinationistic tendancies.
Avatar is way better because it actually challenges the military mentality. Avatars' "heroes" love and protect the natural world, where as Hurt Locker gloriies in the technoligy, brotherhood and deceit of war.
Folks, there still is no way to peace, peace is the way.

I find it very offensive that you say the GM workers from Ohio in "The Last Truck..." are trailer trash. Many of your hollywood peers are from Ohio - I doubt you would call them trailer trash. Despite what you might believe about Ohio, it is not full or trailer parks and farms. Please keep your negative opinions to yourself.

Why is The White Ribbon "pretentious" just because it has arthouse appeal? It's a well-made film with lots of intelligence, sterling performances and poignant symbolism. I enjoyed it, and that's funny because I also liked Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, Julie & Julia and Inglourious Basterds, so am I a snob or what? Isn't it possible that others could find The Hurt Locker's "zigzagging, chop-chop camera work" and Avatar's 3D extravaganza pretentious? One could argue that Slumdog Millionaire was a lot more pretentious than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Milk, and that Pulp Fiction (which won the "kiss of death" Cannes Palme d'Or as you say) is one of the most pretentious films ever made. But does it stop Slumdog Millionaire and Pulp Fiction from being embraced by critics and mainstream audiences alike? Here we go again in the usual Hollywood mainstream vs European cinema baiting constantly perpetrated by film critics. Can we not just talk about how good or bad a film is without attacking its audience? Why should viewers be made to feel guilty for liking something that ten million other people didn't like (or didn't watch, because they listened to some prejudiced film critic spewing forth such venom as to make them avoid it totally)?

It is no question Nicolas Cage should win oscar. The film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is one of his best with fantastic sound and professional filming, good job there

It has already been commented on in other posts, but it bears emphasis -- the L.A. Times should be ashamed that they allow a critic to dismiss foreign films as "pretentious" merely because they do not conform to American, Hollywood conventions of storytelling and cinematography. I suspect Mr. O'Neil regards it as pretentious primarily because the characters in the movie speak in a non-English language. Pitiful.

An even bigger shame is that superior films made in places like Korea, Taiwan, throughout Europe, etc., are routinely ignored by the American public and critics like Mr. O'Neil. It isn't pretentious to entertain the idea that others in the world have some compelling stories to tell as well (maybe better) than Hollywood.

Your comment on the "pretentiousness" of some european films is spot on. This is the reason for having such quantity of boring movies that people ignore. And this is specially true in spanish cinema, and in those countries where "cultural" activities are hardly subventioned.
When you create something aimed to win an award and place you in the golden intellectual circles, and when the resources come from your political links, you can afford making those snobby pieces of sh*t.

Good cinema is not opposite to fun, interesting movies. It's like any other art expression. If it doesn't cause a reaction amongst common people, it's useless and only good for the intellectual onanism of oursubventioned progressive "artists".

Who cares , hollywood has gone down the drain ... Its all about the $$$ nowadays , its not about how to be the best actor or learn how but rather if the public like me or not . If you have a brain ? You can tell what will happen next before it happens , so hollywood has taken out all the joy of not knowing whats will happen next in a movie .... Here a hit movie >>> Sex , War ( fight ) scene , swearing , parting , now just at the clowns to play it ...

Here's a suggestion: how about not arguing that The White Ribbon's primary strength lies in its 'pretentiousness'? It only makes you sound unfairly biased against the methods of European filmmaking.

I still can't believe that Invictus did not win a nomination for Best Picture. I think this is a sorry commentary on our collective mindset, that a movie on war (Hurt Locker), is moving into position to win in this category, and a film focused on forging peace that has historic accuracy and relates to our current political times, (Invictus), gets no nomination at all, even with the expanded listing in this category this year. Even Up, an animation film, gets nominated in this category! I hope Avatar wins it, because in actuality, the environment really needs to be the winner on this front. Morgan Freeman brought us a remarkable film, in Invictus. Please don't forget that, folks! I hope reviewers in years ahead, will highlight this oversight.

Really, And WHO Cares? And what effect or benefit does this 'thing' have on or for all the people known as "John Q Public"? NONE that I can think of or even care about! Seriously I just hope that the winner is a real active, hard-working performer worthy of the award and not just some wimp or wasp that has corralled too many votes into their 'play-pen'.

In any case, good luck and may GOD bless a real winner.

"So I'm picking recent Golden Globe champ "White Ribbon" because of its pretentiousness and snob appeal."

It's also an intricately layered film that appears lost on those who persist in referring to it as "pretentious."

I hope Jeremy Renner wins best actor.




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