After a few days to take in all the Oscar madness and find our bearings, this pundit is ready to face the music on his 82nd Academy Award predictions.
To be honest, this wasn't a great year. 16 out of 24 isn't horrible, but it's this Oscar watcher's worse record in sometime. However, among the more prominent categories only Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay (a shocker for almost every Academy Award expert out there) provided unexpected results. Why? Quite frankly, it was the shorts and sound that did me in.
Predicting the short-form contenders is never easy, but usually foreshadowing two out of the three has been something I pride myself in. Not this year. And sound? Well, if you went with the theory that "Avatar" was going to be justly rewarded by the Academy in the technical categories it just made sense. Instead, the industry showed just how much it respected and loved Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" instead.
Let's take a blow by blow look at this prognosticator's excuses, er, explanations for what went wrong.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Prediction: Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”
Actress in a Supporting Role
Prediction: Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Animated Feature Film
Prediction: “Up” Pete Docter
Prediction: “Avatar” Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
Prediction: “Avatar” Mauro Fiore
Prediction: “The Young Victoria” Sandy Powell
“The Cove” Nominees to be determined
Documentary (Short Subject)
“China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province” Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
Winner: “Music by Prudence” Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett
What Happened: This was the first short stunner. The moving "China" doc or the timely "Closing of A GM Plant" were clearly the frontrunners. Either they split the vote or there was something about the fine, but unexceptional "Prudence" doc that spoke to the small number of voters who are qualified to vote for this category. Trust me, the director and his crazy co-producer didn't think they were gonna win either.
Prediction: “The Hurt Locker” Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
Foreign Language Film
Prediction: “The White Ribbon” Germany
Winner: "The Secret in their Eyes"
What Happened: Sigh. I'd seen all the candidates and recognized that "Secret" could appeal to some viewers, but never dreamed enough voters would pick it over the more impressive "Ribbon" or "A Prophet." How could the Academy make that mistake a second year in a row after 2009's inane choice of "Departures"? Let's hope they get it right in 2011.
Prediction: “Star Trek” Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
Music (Original Score)
Prediction: “Up” Michael Giacchino
Music (Original Song)
Prediction: “The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart” Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Short Film (Animated)
Prediction: “A Matter of Loaf and Death” Nick Park
Winner: “Logorama” Nicolas Schmerkin
What Happened: Before this year, Nick Park and his Wallace and Grommit characters had never lost at the Oscars. Moreover, the claymation "Loaf" was the longest and (seemingly) most complex of all the nominees. However, the Academy went for the more original "Logorama" which in all honesty was the better choice even though some criticized it not really living up to the hype. As HitFix's own Daniel Fienberg noted, its "full of sound and consumerist fury, signifying nothing intelligent." But boy, it looked pretty. Sometimes the Academy actually bucks its own trends and picks a more worthy winner. This was one of those instances.
Short Film (Live Action)
Prediction: “Kavi” Gregg Helvey
Winner: The New Tenants” Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson
What Happened: This was a big surprise. "Tenants" was the most violent, quirky and, arguably, darkest of all the nominees. But, it was also the only true American entry in the bunch and that may have made all the difference.
Prediction: “Avatar” Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
Winner: "The Hurt Locker"
What Happened: Simply put, this was the first sign the Academy really liked "Hurt Locker" more than James Cameron's Sci-Fi opus.
Prediction: “Avatar” Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
Winner: "The Hurt Locker"
What Happened: Simply put, this was the second sign the Academy really liked "Hurt Locker" more than James Cameron's Sci-Fi opus.
Prediction: “Avatar” Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Prediction: “Up in the Air” Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
Winner: "Precious," Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher.
What Happened: In the biggest upset of the night, the membership (or enough voters to matter) decided to have Mr. Reitman eat a big slice of humble pie. This after Reitman arrogance was too much to bear after he won the USC Scripter, Golden Globe and WGA Awards. Also, the Academy seemed to just like "Precious" a lot more.
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Prediction: “The Hurt Locker” Written by Mark Boal
Actress in a Leading Role
Prediction: Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
Actor in a Leading Role
Prediction: Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
Prediction: “The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow
Winner: "The Hurt Locker"
What Happened: Knowing that a majority of voters submit their ballots at the tail end of the process, the extremely negative publicity of "Lockergate" and what appeared to be a ground swell of support for "Avatar," I changed my vote at the last minute (the Friday before the show). All through February I had "Hurt Locker" in the top slot and should have gone with my initial instincts. Needless to say, I wasn't the only prognosticator who made this mistake.
How did you do in your own Oscar pools? Were there enough surprises to keep the slow-going show exciting for you? Share your thoughts below.
For the latest Entertainment News and Analysis, follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.