We have arrived at the final days before the 83rd Academy Awards. In the four weeks since the nominations, all the Oscar bloggers and experts have tried to analyze and pick apart what every award victory and loss means. There is the usual drama over what is accurate in the biopics, actual drama in front-runners taking out their own "for your consideration" ads and invented drama over who may be the new race leaders, usually planted by journalists with close ties to studios or in desperate need of a story to draw attention to themselves. You will get none of that here. Nothing but pure guesstimates and hunches from the heart as it is time to offer a few last minute stats and analyses on who may have a new eight-pound golden friend to make room for.
To help string you along, we'll mix things up just like the Oscarcast is bound to do. And we'll take a cue for the order with last year's ceremony.
Best Supporting Actor
BAFTA giving the sweep to the three stars of 'The King's Speech' has created some pause in Oscarwatchers out there who all believed Christian Bale to be one of the biggest locks of the night. Don't sweat it too much. Everyone is already in agreement that the evening's one true bet-the-house pick is on Colin Firth. Assuming that holds true, it may surprise you to know that since the existence of the Supporting Actor category, only four times has the winner been from the same film as Best Actor. Bing Crosby & Barry Fitzgerald (1944 - Going My Way), Fredric March & Harold Russell (1946 - The Best Years of Our Lives), Charlton Heston & Hugh Griffith (1959 - Ben-Hur), and Sean Penn & Tim Robbins (2003 - Mystic River). That is four times out of 105 films that received nominations for its male actors in both categories. Does that dampen Geoffrey Rush's chances? Meanwhile, as reported before, the Screen Actors Guild, Chicago Film Critics Association, Golden Globes and Broadcast Film Critics Association all agreed on Christian Bale, just as they did on Christoph Waltz ('Inglourious Basterds'), Heath Ledger ('The Dark Knight), Javier Bardem ('No Country For Old Men') and Tim Robbins ('Mystic River').
WINNER: Christian Bale, 'The Fighter'
Best Animated Feature
It has been said before (by yours truly) and I'll say it again. If you nominate a single animated film for Best Picture and then do not award that film the Best Animated Feature prize, it is absolutely stupid. To tip the scale even further, the category did not exist when the first two Toy Story films were released. It is time.
WINNER: 'Toy Story 3'
Best Original Song
This may be one of the biggest toss-ups of the night. If the 'Country Strong' song wins, just flick off your television. A.R. Rahman just won two years ago for his last Danny Boyle anthem. 2001 was the last time that both Randy Newman and/or a Disney film won this category after its near domination of the '90s. Does 'Tangled' have a shot or is Newman due again with his 12th nomination here, especially after his first two 'Toy Story' songs lost out to either Disney films?
WINNER: We Belong Together 'Toy Story 3'
Best Original Screenplay
Christopher Nolan won ten awards over the season compared to David Seidler's four. 'The King's Speech' grabbed prizes from BAFTA and the BFCA while 'Inception' grabbed Chicago and the Writer's Guild. In 26 years, the WGA prize has only lost the Oscar nine times. The wrinkle here is that Seidler's script did not qualify and therefore did not compete directly with Nolan's brilliantly original mindbender. There is certainly a recent history of writer/directors being tapped with the former part of their film's credit - Sofia Coppola, Pedro Almodovar. Cameron Crowe, Quentin Tarantino, and even the Coens were awarded here before being deemed worthy for the helmer crown. 'The King's Speech' folks though love telling the tale of Seidler's own struggles with stuttering and how long it took him to get the screenplay made. This is one of those head trumping the heart decisions though. If 'Speech' wasn't the late favorite to take it all, this would probably be Nolan's in a walk. Here is one prediction I will not mind getting wrong.
WINNER: David Seidler 'The King's Speech'
Fantasy vs. Old Age. Pretty much what it always comes down to here and, unless it is up against itself and old age sneaks in, fantasy usually wins. This year it's one fantasy (The Wolfman) vs. two old age/hardship flicks (Barney's Version, The Way Back). Rick Baker has 11 nominations and won six, but not since 2000's How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Can you think of a more perfect tribute than giving him the Oscar on the 30th anniversary of the category's inaugural win for 'An American Werewolf In London'? I can't.
WINNERS: Rick Baker and Dave Elsey 'The Wolfman'
Best Adapted Screenplay
There has been no other adaptation throughout this award season that was chosen in place of the one credited with Ben Mezrich's 'The Accidental Billionaires.' Not a single one.
WINNER: Aaron Sorkin 'The Social Network'
Best Supporting Actress
While she had the aura of a runaway frontrunner, Melissa Leo only won three more awards than 'True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld. This is the category that tends to spring an upset now and again (i.e. Marcia Gay Harden, Juliette Binoche, Tilda Swinton) so just by definition no perceived lock is stable. Since we did it for Supporting Actor, it is only fair we do it here too. Only seven times in Oscar history has the winner of both supporting categories been from the same film. The last time was Michael Caine & Dianne Wiest for 'Hannah & Her Sisters' back in 1986. On the other hand, Leo won New York at the beginning of the season and more recently SAG, the Globes and the BFCA. Chicago passed her over for Steinfeld. But the Windy City, as previously reported, disagreed with those latter three just as they did with Angelina Jolie ('Girl, Interrupted'), Renee Zellweger ('Cold Mountain'), and Jennifer Hudson ('Dreamgirls'). That trend is likely to continue.
WINNER: Melissa Leo 'The Fighter'
Best Art Direction
'Black Swan' (Contemporary), 'Inception' (Fantasy), and 'The King's Speech' (Period) won the Art Directors' Guild Awards for their respective categories. In 14 years of ADG prizes, only four times was the Oscar winner NOT preceded by the Guild's honor. That puts 'Alice In Wonderland', 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I', and 'True Grit' a bit behind. Though each has a better shot than 'Black Swan,' which was not even nominated. Fantasy and Period films tend to dominate here anyway and since the ADG split each off into their own award, the Oscar has split the results. Two going to Fantasy ('Pan's Labyrinth' & 'Avatar') and two to Period ('Sweeney Todd' & 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.') 'Sweeney' lost ADG's Period award to 'There Will Be Blood' but still won the Oscar. The Academy certainly does love royalty sets, but between the Asian architecture, the paradox staircases, elevator shafts and basically an entire film built on building things, it would be a shame to see true creation lose out.
WINNERS: Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, and Doug Mowat 'Inception'
Best Sound Mixing & Best Sound Editing
There have been 67 films in Oscar history that have been nominated for both of these categories. 12 times that film has won both awards. 15 times it has won just the Sound Editing trophy. 38 times it has won neither. We have two films this year nominated for each - 'Inception' and 'True Grit.'. The latter won the Cinema Audio Society Award for Mixing, but only twice have films nominated in both categories went on to evenly split the awards between them - (1967) 'In the Heat of the Night' & 'The Dirty Dozen" and (2008) 'Slumdog Millionaire' & 'The Dark Knight.' The CAS is batting just over .500 at 9-8 in their precursor though (3 of their last 4 won the Oscar, but also 3 of their last 9.) Only one film seems to fit in with the technical achievements of 'Grand Prix', 'E.T.', 'The Right Stuff', 'Terminator 2', 'Jurassic Park', 'Speed', 'Titanic', 'Saving Private Ryan', 'The Matrix', 'King Kong' (2005), 'The Bourne Ultimatum', and 'The Hurt Locker'.
WINNER (both categories): 'Inception'
In 24 years of choices by the American Society of Cinematographers, only nine times have they matched up with Oscar. Nine times. This year's recipient was Chicago's Wally Pfister for 'Inception.' It was his third nomination from the ASC and his Oscar nod is his fourth straight for working with Christopher Nolan dating back to 'Batman Begins.' You could say he is due, especially for his outstanding work on Nolan's latest. But not as due as Mr. Roger Deakins. 'True Grit' marked his 10th collaboration with the Coen Bros. of which he received his fifth Oscar nomination for. Deakins has nine overall from 1995-to-present. He has never won. Until now.
WINNER: Roger Deakins 'True Grit'
Best Costume Design
The Costume Designers' Guild liked 'Alice In Wonderland' (Fantasy) and 'The King's Speech' (Period). Their "Contemporary" choice of 'Black Swan' was not even nominated. In its place, Oscar went with first-time nominee Antonella Cannarozzi for 'I Am Love.' The last time Oscar awarded a non-CDG nominee was in 2001. Though Oscar has only awarded a CDG winner 5 out of 12 years. They are on a two-year win streak, however. Even a bigger streak is Oscar's seeming obsession with awarding period films over fantasy. The last five years the Oscar winners were either a CDG victor or nominee from their Period category. In fact you can go back even further to 1999 when Period was mixed with Fantasy and the only one of the latter to come out ahead was 'The Return of the King.' Colleen 'Alice' Atwood, Jenny 'Speech' Beavan and Sandy 'The Tempest' Powell all received their ninth Oscar nomination this year. Powell won just last year. Atwood won in 2002 & 2005. Beavan has not won since 1986. 'Memoirs of a Geisha', 'Marie Antoinette', 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age', 'The Duchess', and 'The Young Victoria' are your last five Oscar winners. What does that tell you?
WINNER: Jenny Beavan 'The King's Speech'
Best Original Score
There is no hard and fast rule to picking this winner. Only ten times since 1975 has the year's Best Picture won this prize. With his masterful score for 'Inception', this is Hans Zimmer's eighth nomination. He has not won since 1994's The Lion King. John Powell received his first nomination this year for 'How To Train Your Dragon.' Alexandre Desplat has been nominated four of the last five years and has not won. A.R. Rahman won the prize in 2008 for 'Slumdog Millionaire.' Consensus amongst the precursors was that Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross' score for 'The Social Network' was the best. (6 trophies to 'Inception's 4.) The Golden Globes are 50/50 here since 1990, but have correctly foreshadowed the victor three years running. When they agreed with the BFCA in 2003, 2008 & 2009, their winner also won the Oscar. Nothing would get my juices flowing than seeing Zimmer win this and watch out for Desplat to steal this with a more low-key (and very forgettable) classical score. When in doubt, play the numbers. When still in doubt, play the hunch.
WINNER: Alexandre Desplat 'The King's Speech'
Best Visual Effects
You are hereby dared to mark 'Alice in Wonderland', 'Harry Potter', 'Hereafter', or 'Iron Man 2' on your Oscar ballot.
WINNERS: Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, and Peter Bebb 'Inception'
Best Documentary Feature
We seem to be on Banksy overload here. Is he coming to the Oscars? Is he allowed? Will he send up a Native-American to collect his award or will he streak across the stage? None of those questions matter if voters decide to go with the most socially-conscious topic of the lot and probably the best of any to fully explain our most recent economic crisis.
WINNER: 'Inside Job'
Films that win the American Cinema Editors EDDIE Award do not "usually" go on to win Best Picture. Not unless "usually" means less than 50% of the time since 1961. 24-of-49 films that won the ACE prize won the Best Picture Oscar. But 34-of-50 films that won DID go on to win the Oscar for editing. (These figures includes ties in 1988 & 2006 and factor in the recent "dramatic" category as the alpha male. Chicago won "comedy" and won the Oscar in 2002.) The Eddie/Oscar has then matched up 18 of the last 20 years, including the last nine.
WINNER: Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter 'The Social Network'
Best Foreign Language Film
You think it's going to be 'Amelie', but then it's 'No Man's Land'. You bet on 'Pan's Labyrinth' and you get The Lives of Others. You can't decide between 'A Prophet' and 'The White Ribbon' and you're wrong twice as The Secrets In Their Eyes comes through. Hence the nature of the category sometimes. So while Biutiful may be the most well-known and 'In A Better World' won the Golden Globe, I'll stick with the film that has been garnering praise from festival-to-festival.
Throughout the season, both Jesse Eisenberg and James Franco won six awards apiece. Not too bad considering Colin Firth pretty much dominated with 21 trophies including L.A., N.Y., Chicago, SAG, BAFTA, BFCA and the Globes. Do we really need to examine the stats with that support?
WINNER: Colin Firth 'The King's Speech'
Natalie Portman did not get the support from the coasts, but she did snag those other groups. And even two trophies short, she still came up a bigger winner than Firth this season with 24 awards. So why is he considered a bigger lock? Because some folks want to create some phony drama that Annette Bening still has a chance. Look, it's really nice to think that the great Miss Bening is due, but let's be realistic here. She is 20 awards behind Portman in the precursors, which ties her with Jennifer Lawrence for acclaim, despite trailing even her for pure nominations. Besides, don't we want to see one more match-up between Bening and Hilary Swank again? Portman has the same acclaim going into the evening that Charlize Theron ('Monster') and Helen Mirren ('The Queen') had before winning their Oscars.
WINNER: Natalie Portman 'Black Swan'
As previously reported, the last three times that N.Y. & L.A. agreed on the best director of the year, as they have with David Fincher for 2010, that person won the Oscar. Only six times since 1951 has the winner of the Director's Guild Award (which Tom Hooper got) has their choice not won the Oscar. Two of those years (1995 & 2002) the DGA stood alone, as they have with Hooper this year, and the Academy did not concur. Of course, two of those six years, the DGA choice wasn't even nominated for an Oscar. So their track record looks even stronger. The closest link we can draw to calling a winner here is that between Fincher and Hooper, only one of them managed to win the coastal awards plus Chicago, the BFCA and the National Board of Review. Just like Steven Soderbergh did in 2000 when he lost the DGA prize to Ang Lee and then went on to win the Oscar. And he didn't even have the support of BAFTA and the Globes which one of these directors does.
WINNER: David Fincher 'The Social Network'
The case for 'The Social Network' is as follows: 30 of the last 36 Oscars for Best Director also went on to win Best Picture. Six of the last eight years, a victory for Best Editing has meant a Best Picture win. (One of those two years the Editing victor was not nominated for Best Picture.) 'A Place In The Sun' and 'Traffic' (which the aforementioned Soderbergh won his DGA-defying Oscar for) are the only two films to win Director, Screenplay and Editing and not win Best Picture. Only 4 of the 11 times that N.Y. & L.A. agreed here did Oscar also agree. (One of those times was last year's 'The Hurt Locker'.) Only 10 times since 1975 has the NBR called the Oscar-winner.
The Case for 'The King's Speech' is as follows: When PGA & DGA match, they are 13-for-16 with the Academy. The PGA alone is 13-for-20 in predicting Oscar. Since 1975, BAFTA is only 13-for-36 in matching their Best Picture up with Oscar. Is there any significance to the number 13 here? Even if 'Social' is ahead in trophies going up to the final award of the night it is, by far, not a lock in this close of a race. 'A Beautiful Mind', 'Crash' and 'Million Dollar Baby' were all trailing in the overall tally when their names were called for Best Picture. As were such underdog stories as 'Chariots of Fire' and 'Rocky." Does that sound like Zuckerberg or the guy with the stammer?
'Speech' still has legit chances to grab at least more of the tech awards so that last fact may be a moot point. They could be your pool busters along with the short films - which I'm not going to give you. Call it the tiebreaker so your party can still be fun. The prizes may already be spoken for before the final award is announced - since it is likely to be what we have all figured for weeks. Some of us even longer.
WINNER: 'The King's Speech'