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The Oscars. The most prestigious show that honors the esteemed works of an intimate community? Or meaningless, arbitrary titles that are granted to the elitists of Hollywood? Either way you look at it, here are my opinions on some of their nominations.

Full List of Nominations

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and The Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up

2009 was an excellent year for animation, and the Academy thankfully decided to recognize that by extending the number of nominations to five. It is, however, pointless because Up is destined to win; its transcendence to Best Picture nominee is enough to seal the victory in its own specific category.

Unashamed to admit this, I think Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is more deserving of the award . The hands-on approach that went into developing the minutiae of his world is such an astonishing feat in today’s world of cinema, and it shouldn’t be overlooked. His meticulous vision served as both a nostalgic nod to old-school filmmaking and as a reminder which demonstrated what the stop-motion medium can surprisingly achieve.

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ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Mark Boal – The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino – Inglourious Basterds
Oren Moverman – The Messenger
Joel and Ethan Coen – A Serious Man
Pete Docter and Bob Peterson – Up

Seeing Quarantino Tarantino and the Coen Brothers up for a writing award makes sense. The screenplays to Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man could only spring out of the minds of geniuses who’ve been penning wonderfully creative stories for over a decade. Both of these films were personal and audacious, and they were exactly in touch with what the authors love-Tarantino and his love for film, the Coens and their love for absurdity.

The Coens have won twice for screenplay (Fargo and No Country for Old Men). Tarantino won for Pulp Fiction, and I think he’ll be taking home his second Oscar this year.

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell – District 9
Nick Hornby – An Education
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche – In the Loop
Geoffrey Fletcher – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner – Up in the Air

Of all the great nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay,  District 9s inclusion makes me the most content. It fits more in the realm of original screenplay (it’s an “adaptation” of the short film District 9), but it still surprisingly rests as a science-fiction screenplay among three dramas and a British satire. Cynics who disregard the Academy for its pretension can be appeased by its decision to honor a Summer popcorn flick. How much of a chance does it have? Not too much. Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air should be walking away with the victory.


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ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Penelope Cruz – Nine
Vera Farmiga – Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal – Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick – Up in the Air
Mo’Nique – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Matt Damon – Invictus
Woody Harrelson – The Messenger
Christopher Plummer – The Last Station
Stanley Tucci – The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds

Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique have sauntered through this year’s awards circuit. They’ve nabbed just about every award that precedes an Oscar, and the humility with which they have accepted all of their prestigious and critical praise shows how much all of this means to them. The two gave memorable and terrifying performances, and it will be touching to see them give one more great acceptance speech this Sunday.

Two more nominees that deserve attention are Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air and Woody Harrelson in The Messenger. One, a young budding star; the other, an experienced veteran. Both performances were surprisingly wholesome and unforgettable. However, it’s not their time to win.

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ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Sandra Bullock – The Blind Side
Helen Mirren – The Last Station
Carey Mulligan – An Education
Gabourey Sidibe – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart
George Clooney – Up in the Air
Colin Firth – A Single Man
Morgan Freeman – Invictus
Jeremy Renner – The Hurt Locker

Having only seen the performances of Carey Mulligan, George Clooney, Gabourey Sidibe, and Jeremy Renner, I can’t really say anything substantial about these two prominent categories. It is apparent, though, that this awards season has been very kind to Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock, and with only a week left until the big show, they seem more like solidified locks than assumed frontrunners.

How does that make me feel? Well, I’d love to see Carey Mulligan take home the statue for her charming performance in An Education. But it’s not her time, and such is life. As for Jeff Bridges…he is a truly amazing actor who’s gone far too long without touching gold.

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DIRECTING
Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker
James Cameron – Avatar
Lee Daniels – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Jason Reitman – Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino – Inglourious Basterds

Kathryn Bigelow is the fourth woman ever to be nominated for Best Director, and she has a damn good chance of actually grasping the title. Seeing her join the pantheon of directors, amongst the ranks of Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, and Clint Eastwood (all winners in the 2000’s), would be an incredible moment for cinephiles. Here’s hoping she gets it. I’ve extensively professed my affection for The Hurt Locker, and Ms. Bigelow is absolutely deserving of the acclaim.


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BEST PICTURE
Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

This year’s race for Best Picture has truly been exciting. During the Summer, Precious and Up in the Air received unanimous praise from indie festivals while The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds were slowly gaining buzz from their theatrical releases. Then came Winter and James Cameron’s tour de force that swept the entire globe. His revolutionary Avatar became a phenomenon among the common man, and while it was mixed amongst critics, it’s been too large to ignore. Precious and Up in the Air eventually made their ways into theaters, but their status as frontrunners diminished with Cameron’s international campaign. The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds have maintained their energy due to the inherent quality of the two films.

So who will win? My bet is Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. But the Academy has been known to surprise us.


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