Stumbling across the finish line: Oscar picks part 1

I have failed. I have fallen one movie short in the Best Picture category and four short of my overall goal. Thirteen films in three weeks can be tricky business for a married fellow with obligations. Damn you 127 Hours for not being as easily accessible as your fellow nominees! Damn you weather for thwarting my attempts to see Michelle Williams’ performance in Blue Valentine! Damn you Rabbit Hole for slipping so far under the radar that even I, a die-hard cinephile, completely forgot that you exist! And lastly, damn me for not making time to see The Illusionist. As a huge Jacques Tati fan I have no excuse. Perhaps I can make up for it?

Until then, I soldier on with my picks, spending more time in categories I feel the most versed in and deferring to rumor and pure vibe in the others.

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Javier Bardem in Biutiful, Jeff Bridges in True Grit, Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network, Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, James Franco in 127 Hours

My pick: Jeff Bridges

Probable Winner: Colin Firth

This one’s a no-brainer. Firth has so much buzz at this point that you can’t even hear the other actors’ names. It is deserved, of course. His performance in The King’s Speech is subtle and endearing. Eisenberg is good, but David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin are really the guys carrying The Social Network. Javier Bardem’s role is a little overly sentimental and James Franco is the bleeding host of the show! His odds plummeted the minute they made the announcement.

So why Jeff Bridges? I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that some of it is because I’m a huge Jeff Bridges fan, but I’m always impressed when an actor manages to vanish into a role and I feel like he accomplishes that in his performance as Rooster Cogburn. Sure, he’s a funny, drunken, dirty cowboy. But the real elegance in his performance comes from the more subtle moments, like the slight shift in his demeanor when he watches young Mattie Ross basically will her horse across a river in order to exchange words with him. Unfortunately, Bridges won last year for his equally phenomenal performance in a less phenomenal movie (Crazy Heart) and the Academy isn’t terribly fond of repeats.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Christian Bale in The Fighter, John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone, Jeremy Renner in The Town, Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right, Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech

My pick: John Hawkes

Probable Winner: Christian Bale

Mark Ruffalo is charming as the über-cool Paul and Geoffrey Rush is as reliable as ever as the future King’s speech therapist. I haven’t seen The Town, but based on his performance in The Hurt Locker last year I have to imagine that Jeremy Renner is solid. But again I find myself leaning towards the more subtle performance, the one that doesn’t feel like a performance at all, and that’s John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone. This is not as to say that I don’t think Christian Bale deserves recognition for his work in The Fighter as it really is his movie, as far as I’m concerned, and his physical transformations are always impressive. It’s just that I liked Winter’s Bone so much more and John Hawkes is just so damned good as the hard edged, distrustful drug addict, Uncle Teardrop. The main character’s journey may lead her to some sort of catharsis but Teardrop’s is one of near-Shakespearian tragedy, and his final line is a heavy one.

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right, Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine

My pick: Jennifer Lawrence

Probable Winner: Natalie Portman

This was a tough one for me. Having not seen both Rabbit Hole and Blue Valentine I can only guess as to whether or not they deserve to win it. Meanwhile, I loved Black Swan which contained a daring all-in performance from Natalie Portman, and Jennifer Lawrence’s more subtle portrayal of determined young woman in Winter’s Bone, as well. My heart tells me that I got more satisfaction from the later, but my head tells me that the former is nearly unbeatable.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Amy Adams in The Fighter, Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech, Melissa Leo in The Fighter, Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom

My pick: Hailee Steinfeld

Probable winner: Hailee Steinfeld

Amy Adams is solid as the outspoken girlfriend of “Irish” Mickey Ward in The Fighter, but she’s done even better work in far better films. Melissa Leo is excellent, but her character isn’t strong enough to leap out and Leo may have shot herself in the foot with her odd decision to fund her own “For your consideration” ads. Helena Bonham Carter’s part isn’t showy enough no matter how well she played it and I’m not certain that Animal Kingdom got enough attention for Jacki Weaver to snag it.

This is another no brainer for me: Hailee Steinfeld. It’s a shame she was nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar when True Grit was clearly her film, but I’d imagine that injustice will not weigh on her much as she’s giving her acceptance speech.

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