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Oscar derby update: Surprise wins for best picture and actress?

March 4, 2010 |  3:48 pm

Don't believe Oscar pundits who are over-smug about their predictions. Some suspense still surrounds who'll win the Academy Awards in a few top races, including best picture, actress and original screenplay.

Oscars Academy Awards news The Hurt Locker

Yes, virtually all pundits say "The Hurt Locker" will prevail for the top Oscar, but it's really been hurting lately, being under attack from three fronts: 1.) for not being accurate; 2.) for being too accurate (an army sergeant claims the movie rips off his own story); 3.) for its producer being banned from the ceremony for breaking campaign rules.

Most of this hubbub has occurred at the tail end of the voting period, but many academy members were late submitting their choices, confused over how to fill out the preferential ballot for best picture. According to one report, more than 1,500 out of 5,800 ballots were still out late last week and more than 500 were submitted on the final deadline day (Tuesday).

Late submission probably helps "Inglourious Basterds," which got a post-noms push from Quentin Tarantino's pals, who threw him bashes on both coasts to rally support that might've come earlier if Weinstein Co. had given up on "Nine" when its kudos prospects started to fade. Most Oscar voters I've dished with say that they ranked "Basterds" in one of their top three slots. That's not true of "Avatar," which has lots of No. 1 ranked votes -- probably more than "Basterds" -- but also lots of lower rankings, which pulls down its over-all prospects.

"The Hurt Locker" seems to have the most No. 1 votes, but it's also ranked low by many voters. Some are irked by the blitz of recent bad news. Others think the film is overrated. Bottom line: It doesn't fit the typical Oscar profile of a best-picture winner, so it's vulnerable. It doesn't feature A-list stars. It was a box-office flop. It's about the Iraqi war, a subject that's usually cursed at the Oscars. Nonetheless, "The Hurt Locker's" support among Oscar voters is immense and wide. If I was betting a ranch, I'd put it on "The Hurt Locker" to win best picture, but since I'm merely wagering my professional reputation, I'll stick with "Basterds" as my official prediction, thank you.

As for best actress: Yes, Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") seems to be ahead, according to pundits. But they're not academy members. When you talk with actual Oscar voters, you hear many of them say that the film and Bullock's performance are too lightweight. You hear lots of votes for Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia"), Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and -- surprise -- Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious"). Still, smart money is on Bullock considering she won both the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards and seems to have the most buzz across Hollywood.

If "The Hurt Locker" pulls off a sweep, as many pundits believe, then it may take the Oscar for original screenplay with it. Right now that category seems like the property of "Basterds," but sweeps are powerful things. If this one is strong enough, it could mean victories for screenplay, cinematography and both sound categories too  -- all races that are currently up in the air.

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Illustration by Tom O'Neil

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Comments

@ Cisco

Your right in regards to a serious man and the "Being Jewish" factor, it is the more Jewish film. However a serious man doesn't have much support behind it unlike IB, so the lower preferences of the people who voted for a serious man will be distributed to other films.

Films are very subjective in their quality, but I found IB to be extremely fun the whole way through with a couple of scenes pure genious (the intro) + the scene with the creme in the restaurant.

I think Hurt Locker is actually the more likely to win because it caters to patriotism, and it is technically well made, though it is an inferior film.

I give Hurt Locker a 70% chance to win, IB a 30% chance. Avatar a 0% chance.

If being Jewish is a factor in voting IB for Best Picture, then why not vote for A Serious Man instead...It was critically acclaimed and just downright Jewish of a film I've ever seen since Fiddler on the Roof. The trouble with IB, besides Harvey Weinstein, was there were several scenes of sheer dullness--they dragged on unnecessarily--found myself dozing off from time to time. I believe the Academy will just gladly give Quentin his due with the Best Original Screenplay award and Christoph Waltz already has a lock in Best Supporting Actor. That'll be enough for IB because overall the movie is okay...not really great. I'm still rooting for District 9 or Up win...As for Ms. Bullock, if she can give good performances worthy of an Oscar nomination in the future, then some day she will win one. TBS was a very hokey, after-school special kind of film and Ms. Bullock's performance is just not worthy for the win over Ms. Streep's or Carey's or Gabbie's. As for Carey and Gabbie, if they hone in their acting chops then they may end up with a long, steady career in acting. Here's hoping for a night of upset just sheets&giggles...

@ Michael,

there is a huge difference!
MO'NIQUE WAS AMAZING IN HER PERFORMANCE. SANDRA BULLOCK WAS MEDIOCRE AT BEST!
This is the huge difference there!
Meryl should win this, hands down and the Academy will regret this crime!

Tom I think you are absolutely on the money with your prediction of IB for best pic, and when it does win, people will look to you as some kind of prophet because the media has largely billed this as a two horse race. I am not usually a gambler, however I have analysed this market extremely carefully and have put significant cash on IB to win. In extremely brief terms here is why.

1. It is the ultimate Jewish revenge fantasy movie (large percentage of oscar voters would have some Jewish heritage)
2 It is incredibly rewatchable, even on the small screen.
3 Academy may feel they owe Tarantino an Oscar (pulp fiction was robbed).
4 Its had heavy investment in it's Oscar campaign.
5 Heres the big one. The media has billed this as a two horse race, avatar vs hurt locker. With the new preferential ballot elimination system, voters who favour avatar or hurt locker will be unlikely to put their main rival above IB. Who is going to vote 1. Hurt Locker 2. Avatar? I doubt many, because Hurt locker voters assume that if Hurt Locker doesn't win, that Avatar will and I don't think that many hurt locker or avatar voters will put their main rival high on the ballot. Infact they are likely to put their main rival lower on the ballot than IB.

As it was a great movie and has huge support, I think IB will make the last 3 piles of votes in the film elimination process.

If either avatar, or hurt locker then gets eliminated from the process, most of their preferences will then be awarded to IB, not the main rival for reasons explained.

Of Hurt Locker and Avatar, I think Avatar may be eliminated before IB due to the huge backlash against it of recent, and the fact it may be perceived as a threat to actors (heavy on CGI), and the fact that it was not critically acclaimed. Titanic dominated with an average storey line yes, but that was in a relatively poor year for film and this one has been extremely strong. If Avatar gets eliminated before IB, then IB will likely win the Oscar because of Avatar voters putting IB above Hurt Locker.

I hope Academy voters are agreeing with the pundits, particularly regarding Sandra Bullock. I'm tired of people beating her up...and ONLY HER in the best actress category. People say she can't act and her body of work is not great, but nobody is claiming the same for (best supporting actress)Monique...hello..."Phat Girls." Monique's choices make Sandra's movies look like Hamlet. Nobody mentions that Carey Mulligan is only 24 or that "An Education" is her first film. LIkewise for Gabby Sidibe. Does anyone really think we will see another film role for Gabby? Helen Mirren is great, and won Oscar in 2007. Finally we come to Meryl Streep. Arguably our finest actress ever. She was great as Julia Child, but she was only in half the film and this was not her finest role. If she does not win this year, she will no doubt win for another future performance. The woman has two Oscars (why people feel she needs MORE recognition I have no idea) and although she has 106 other Oscar nominations, lets not forget ALL the Golden Globe, SAG, Critics Choice and other awards she has won since 1982 to go along with her two Oscars. Let this be Sandra Bullock's year. She was great in "The Blindside" and award worthy in "Crash." I hope we can make peace with this. If not lets remember ALL the truly undeserving Oscar winners from past years. Sometimes even Movie Stars like Sandra deserve to win.

You say Sandra Bullock could lose because 2 or 3 other nominees are getting a lot of votes. For her to lose, one of them had to concentrate all the "votes against Bullock". If that's not the case, I don't see how she loses.

I thought Meryl won the golden globes, not Sandra. But Sandra did win the SAGS and they both tied at the Critics Choice Awards, so they're pretty equal for the most part. But we'll see Sunday night! Go Meryl!

Why are their ten best pictures? So Sofia Coppolla can win next year with some other piece of crap she is producting? Best, THE MONSTER OF WALT DISNEY COMPANY aka Sarah Jean Margolis aka Katrin Elizabet Wilhelm Friedrich Himmler VII

I think the surprises will be even bigger: I think we may see a surprise for Best Actor. Oscar pundits regularly overestimate the Academy's sentimentalism; that's the ONLY reason everyone else thinks Jeff Bridges will win. If sentimentalism were as a big a factor as everyone thinks it is, Mickey Rourke would have won last year, Gloria Stuart in 1997, and Lauren Bacall in 1996--just to name a few. (Oh, and Katharine Hepburn would have won her second Oscar long before "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"--not to mention Spencer Tracy would have won along with her.) I think either George Clooney or Jeremy Renner will win; they're both more deserving than Bridges.

In addition, I've already predicted in the forum that "Precious" will pull off an upset for Best Picture; it doesn't have an email scandal (THL), it's not being snubbed by actors ("Avatar") or Harvey-haters (IB), and it's the only other BP nominee with acting, directing, writing AND editing noms as well. I'm also pulling for Gabby for Best Actress, but the ONLY sure thing in that category is Helen Mirren won't win again.

Sandra Bullock?!?! The female version of Keanu Reeves? Uhhh hey dude... like...are you kidding me?! She can't act her way out of a wet paper bag! Gabourey Sidibe's performance was phenomenal! If Sandra Bullock wins over Sidibe, Hollywood much worse than I had thought!

So what you're saying is the front runners will probably win and if they don't, the winners will be a surprise? Hope you didn't stop the presses for that pearl of wisdom.

writing an article for writing sake?

"Don't believe Oscar pundits who are over-smug about their predictions."

"As for best actress: Yes, Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") seems to be ahead, according to pundits"

"Still, smart money is on Bullock..."

wtf.. my english may be bad... not as bad as your logic.

"The Hurt Locker" is totally inaccurate, and depicts a war that doesn't exist. There are dozens of scenes in that film that never could happen in real life.

Still pulling for Ms. Streep to win...and and upset win by either District 9 or Up for Best Picture...so there!

I'm not sure how you can consider The Hurt Locker a box-office flop. The most screens it ever played on at one time was 535 screens, yet it still made more than its $11 million budget. It's the distributor's fault that it was not given a wider release, but it still cannot be considered a "flop" by any definition of the word. A flop is a movie like The Island or Stealth that costs a boatload and fails to make its money back, often by a large margin.

For whatever reason, there is a backlash against The Hurt Locker right now and writers are using half-truths or downright inaccuracies to support their arguments.


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