The Academy Awards, Hollywood's annual self-congratulatory wankfest, take place Sunday night. Yet, in the Academy's defense, this year's batch of nominees is actually pretty discerning. Here are my predictions in the major categories...—-
Should/will win: The Social Network
Comment: While the effective yet thoroughly conventional The King's Speech is the big favorite, I'm still holding out hope that the better film will pull a mild upset.
Should/will win: David Fincher, The Social Network
Comment: This shouldn't even be in question: Who else but Fincher could make a legal proceeding about a computer nerd sexy and compelling?
Should win: Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Will win: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Comment: Firth is fine — as is everyone in this category (though Jeff Bridges probably should have been left out) — but Bardem digs the deepest in a film that would be unbearable without him.
Should/will win: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Comment: Portman is the clear choice due to her role's degree of difficulty (both physically and emotionally) and for putting up with Black Swan's notoriously tough ringleader, Darren Aronfosky.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Should win: John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Will win: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Comment: Speaking of degree of difficulty, Bale takes the cake as an emaciated, crack-addicted fast talker. But Hawkes is less flashy and more affecting in a movie few have seen.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Should/will win: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Comment: Time will tell if this young, out-of-nowhere newcomer is the real deal, but I can't imagine anyone else in the role — a mark of her skills, as well as the Coen brothers' deft casting. But don't be surprised if one the two ladies from The Fighter (Amy Adams or Melissa Leo) actually wins.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Should/will win: Toy Story 3
Comment: It was good to see one the year's best films also get a Best Picture nod.
Should win: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Will win: Inside Job
Comment: In another strong year for docs, Banksy's playful subversion of the genre barely edges out Inside Job as my choice.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Should win/will win: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Comment: The Social Network's long, deftly constructed (and performed) opening scene is a tour-de-force table-setter for a movie propelled by its pungent use of language.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Should win: Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right
Will win: David Seidler, The King's Speech
Comment: This might be the only category where I don't have a strong fondness for any particular option. Greenberg, anyone?
And don't forget: To take part in our Oscars live chat, moderated by CityBeat's Jac Kern, head here Sunday night. I'm sure I'll pop in to offer up a lame excuse when most of my predictions fail to come true and to comment on whether or not first-time hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway make the notoriously long show less of a slog.
As for this week's new releases, you're better off visiting (or revisiting) the various Oscar nominees, almost all of which are playing at a local movie house or are available on DVD.
DRIVE ANGRY 3D — Nicolas Cage continues his run of wallet-fattening action roles with this tale of a vengeful father named John Milton (Cage) who somehow escapes hell to track down the men who murdered his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter. Patrick Lussier, director of the recent trashy, cult-ratified 3-D flick My Bloody Valentine, guides a cast that also includes Amber Heard, Billy Burke, William Fichtner, David Morse and Charlotte Ross. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Review coming soon.
THE GRACE CARD — Ophthalmologist-turned-filmmaker David G. Evans dives into (via Howard A. Klausner's screenplay) the The Grace Card's big, universal themes of life, death, race, reconciliation, redemption, forgiveness and family with straightforward earnestness, which synchs well with the material. But Howard A. Klausner's screenplay gets bogged down in too many talky theological monologues and plot twists that stretch believability. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at AMC, Showcase Springdale.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Grade: C-
HALL PASS — The Farrelly brothers try to reclaim their place atop the comedy mountain with this story about a guy (Owen Wilson) who is given permission by his wife (Jenna Fischer) to hook up with another woman. The brothers' gross-out aesthetic has been usurped by everyone from the Jackass boys to any number of filmmakers post-American Pie, so it remains to be seen whether Hall Pass will be any better/funnier than their last two underwhelming offerings: The Heartbreak Kid and Fever Pitch. The supporting cast includes Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate and Richard Jenkins. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon.