Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet

By Eric Henderson, CBS Minnesota

Still haven’t knocked down all 10 of Oscar’s best picture nominees? Never fear. There’s still plenty of time to get them all in before the the Oscars are handed out on Sunday evening. But it will take some stamina. Especially now that there are, in case you need reminding, 10 best picture nominees now, not just five.

AMC Rosedale is hosting a no-holds-barred 24-hour marathon of Oscar’s decalog, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday with a screening of every kid’s favorite contender, Toy Story 3, and plowing through all the way until roughly 9 a.m. Sunday, at which point the end credits to The King’s Speech will start rolling. (If you ask me, it’s pretty appropriate they end with the snooziest movie in the line-up, but I digress.)

If you can manage to pull an all-nighter, the price is right — $50 for the entire marathon, and you get a $20 gift card back to use for concessions. (I’m told that covers at least two food groups. Three, if artificial butter topping counts.) Click here for the full details, including the schedule for all 10 movies.

If you’ve seen all or at least most of the movies, you ought to have a leg up on whatever Oscar pools you may be entering. “Ought to,” not “do,” because anyone who has followed the Oscars in the past knows that one’s personal opinions on what nominees are the best in any given year has little to do with what actually wins.

So, having spent the last month going through these categories one-by-one, here’s my handy cheat sheet for this year’s Oscars. Take my advice with a grain of salt, but I’ll happily accept a kickback if you should find my picks the ticket to a pool win.

Best Picture

black swan Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Black Swan
Nominated for 5 awards overall.
the fighter Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet The Fighter
Nominated for 7 awards overall.
inception Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Inception
Nominated for 8 awards overall.
the kids are all right Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet The Kids Are All Right
Nominated for 4 awards overall.
the kings speech1 Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet The King’s Speech
Nominated for 12 awards overall.
127 hours Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet 127 Hours
Nominated for 6 awards overall.
the social network1 Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet The Social Network
Nominated for 8 awards overall.
toy story 3 Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Toy Story 3
Nominated for 5 awards overall.
true grit Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet True Grit
Nominated for 10 awards overall.
winters bone Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Winter’s Bone
Nominated for 4 awards overall.

Will Win: The Social Network was once the incontestable Oscar steamroller of the year … until those nominations rolled in and The King’s Speech was cited in no less than a dozen categories. After a few years of being guided by critical acclaim rather than popular affection, this year, Oscar’s embracing the latter. Expect The King’s Speech to take the top prize.
Deserves To Win: The King’s Speech is the dullest winner-elect since A Beautiful Mind. I much prefer the eager to offend Black Swan. But if a crowd-pleaser it must be, let it be True Grit.

Best Actress

annette bening Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Annette Bening
As Nic in The Kids Are All Right
nicole kidman Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Nicole Kidman
As Becca Corbett in Rabbit Hole
jennifer lawrence Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Jennifer Lawrence
As Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone
natalie portman Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Natalie Portman
As Nina Sayers in Black Swan
michelle williams Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Michelle Williams
As Ciney Periera in Blue Valentine

Will Win: No matter how many people insist it’s Annette Bening’s year, don’t forget that this is now the third time it’s been “Annette Bening’s year.” Natalie Portman spends the entire running time of her film pitched at 11. She’ll win on effort alone, if not merit.
Deserves To Win: Portman’s exhausting (in the best sense), and Bening makes it look effortless. But out of one of the strongest line-ups this category has seen in years if not decades, I found Williams’ weary, waning battle to save her marriage the most affecting.

Best Actor

javier bardem Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Javier Bardem
As Uxbal in Biutiful
jeff bridges Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Jeff Bridges
As Rooster Cogburn in True Grit
jesse eisenberg Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Jesse Eisenberg
As Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network
colin firth Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Colin Firth
As King George VI in The King’s Speech
james franco Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet James Franco
As Aron Ralston in 127 Hours

Will Win: If you don’t know who’s winning this one, you don’t deserve to win the Oscar pool. For the record, Colin Firth has had this in the bag for months.
Deserves To Win: It’s a pity they couldn’t find room for Ryan Gosling as Michelle Williams’ ne’er do well husband in Blue Valentine. Of the five they did select, the two that have already won Oscars (Bardem and Bridges) outclass the competition.

Best Supporting Actress

amy adams Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Amy Adams
As Charlene Fleming in The Fighter
helena bonham carter Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Helena Bonham Carter
As Queen Elizabeth in The King’s Speech
melissa leo Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Melissa Leo
As Alice Eklund Ward in The Fighter
hailee steinfeld Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Haliee Steinfeld
As Mattie Ross in True Grit
jacki weaver Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Jacki Weaver
As Janine “Smurf” Cody in Animal Kingdom

Will Win: Hailee Steinfeld has momentum going into Sunday’s festivities, but Melissa Leo has the truckload of critics’ awards. Despite some bad PR on her part lately, she’ll probably still win, but it’s the closest contest of the big categories this year.
Deserves To Win: Leo’s co-star Amy Adams had, up to now, seemed way too vanilla to pull off a role like Charlene. Maybe it was a case of lowered expectations, but she won my MVP award from The Fighter‘s much-heralded cast.

Best Supporting Actor

christian bale Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Christian Bale
As Dicky Eklund in The Fighter
john hawkes Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet John Hawkes
As Teardrop in Winter’s Bone
jeremy renner Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Jeremy Renner
As James “Jem” Coughlin in The Town
mark ruffalo Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Mark Ruffalo
As Paul in The Kids Are All Right
geoffrey rush Movie Blog: Oscar Pool Cheat Sheet Geoffrey Rush
As Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech

Will Win: Christian Bale isn’t quite the lock Firth is in Best Actor, but he’s close enough. Only a total King’s Speech sweep could ruin his chances.
Deserves To Win: The scene-chewing Bale hogged all the critics’ awards that should’ve gone to John Hawkes.

Other Categories

Best Director

The Nominees:
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Ethan & Joel Coen, True Grit
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter

Will Win: Usually this goes to the director whose film wins Best Picture. Splits have occurred more frequently in the last decade, and many think this year will be another, with Fincher upsetting. But smart money never bets on a split, so go with Tom Hooper, even though he’s the only director in the whole line-up without about 200 fansites set up on his behalf.
Deserves To Win: God, anyone but Hooper, but Darren Aronofsky‘s vision seems the most committed … or maybe he should just be committed.

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees:
Another Year
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech

Will Win: This is one of the few categories tipped to The King’s Speech that could conceivably go to another candidate in an upset. Both Inception and The Kids Are All Right seem ripe to steal. But still, bet on the house favorite.
Deserves To Win: The Kids Are All Right‘s characters don’t talk like real people, but neither did Network‘s, and that’s basically the best screenplay ever written, so …

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees:
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Will Win: The Social Network‘s rabid fans can take comfort in the fact that it’s a lock for at least one award on Sunday. Aaron Sorkin is a shoo-in.
Deserves To Win: Any of these nominees would make a worthy winner. Except 127 Hours. What the heck is that script doing in contention here?!

Best Foreign Language Film

The Nominees:
Biutiful (Mexico)
Dogtooth (Greece)
In a Better World (Denmark)
Incendies (Canada)
Outside the Law (Algeria)

Will Win: It’s never easy to tell what the committee who decides this award’s winner is thinking. In what world are Dogtooth and In a Better World ever up for the same award? Most think the latter is taking the prize, but I trust my colleague at Slant who called this one for Incendies.
Deserves To Win: Dogtooth is maybe the strangest movie ever nominated for an Oscar. I mean, ever.

Best Documentary Feature

The Nominees:
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Inside Job
Waste Land

Will Win: Exit Through the Gift Shop is the doc with the highest profile, but most recognize it to be an elaborate sham, which means some voters aren’t likely to allow it a win in a category explicitly meant for “documentaries.” Gasland seems the most overtly issue-oriented movie in the lineup, but Inside Job should give Oscar the chance to, once again, align its political compass.
Deserves To Win: Exit Through the Gift Shop is more cool than great, but that’s sort of the point, right?

Best Animated Feature

The Nominees:
How To Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Will Win: Toy Story 3 is a lock.
Deserves To Win: As solid as Toy Story 3 is, I think How To Train Your Dragon was just that much better. Absolutely charming.

Best Art Direction

The Nominees:
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
The King’s Speech
True Grit

Will Win: Again, The King’s Speech is highly likely, but maybe this is another year in which the “most” candidate wins. In which case, Alice in Wonderland.
Deserves To Win: Much as I love the idea of an Oscar-winning set having been previously used for movie shoots of, um, a more unsavory nature, I can’t vote for King’s Speech even here. (Google search “King’s Speech gay” to see for yourself, bearing in mind the results will be NSFW.) I favor True Grit.

Best Cinematography

The Nominees:
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Will Win: Roger Deakins has been nominated nine times now. It’s about time for him to finally win. Thus, True Grit earns probably it’s only award of the evening here.
Deserves To Win: Both Black Swan and The Social Network make digital manipulation look good.

Best Costume Design

The Nominees:
Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King’s Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

Will Win: Last year’s winner tsk-tsk’d the Academy for always awarding costumes fit for dead monarchs. From your lips to the Academy’s ears, lady. The King’s Speech edges Alice in Wonderland.
Deserves To Win: I Am Love‘s duds were endlessly sumptuous.

Best Film Editing

The Nominees:
Black Swan
The Fighter
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network

Will Win: Though the category is often cited as a barometer for Best Picture, most agree that The Social Network‘s twisty flashback structure is the favorite here.
Deserves To Win: Who am I to disagree? The Social Network.

Best Original Score

The Nominees:
How To Train Your Dragon
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network

Will Win: Alexandre Desplat is almost as overdue as cinematographer Roger Deakins. Lucky for Desplat, he’s hitched up to the The King’s Speech gravy train.
Deserves To Win: How cool would it be for Trent Reznor to get an Oscar to go with his Golden Globe for The Social Network ?

Best Original Song

The Nominees:
“Coming Home,” Country Strong
“I See the Light,” Tangled
“If I Rise,” 127 Hours
“We Belong Together,” Toy Story 3

Will Win: None of these songs seem like winners, but either of the two ‘toon nominees seem safer bets than the live-acton ones. I give “I See the Light” the edge. No matter who wins, expect them to crack a joke about how relieved they are there wasn’t a song in The King’s Speech.
Deserves To Win: None of the above, to be honest.

Best Sound Mixing

The Nominees:
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Will Win: Inception seems pretty safe here.
Deserves To Win: True Grit had some lovely sonic textures … or at least wasn’t a total headache like Salt and Inception.

Best Sound Editing

The Nominees:
Toy Story 3
Tron: Legacy
True Grit

Will Win: Inception seems more than just pretty safe here. It seems a lock.
Deserves To Win: The former raver wanna-be in me would love to see (or hear) Tron: Legacy take this one.

Best Visual Effects

The Nominees:
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Iron Man 2

Will Win: Inception. Notice a pattern? It’s the same one that The Matrix followed.
Deserves To Win: No F/X sequence caught me more off guard this year than Hereafter‘s opening scene tsunami. If quality > quantity, it’s the clear winner.

Best Short Films

I covered these categories a week or two ago. Click here to see my predictions and preferences in the documentary, live-action and animated short film categories.

More from Eric Henderson
  • February 25, 2011 « CBS Minnesota

    […] Oscar Cheat Sheet It’s not too late to get the scoop on the Oscars. Check out movie blogger Eric Henderson’s Oscar Cheat Sheet. […]

  • Don

    Great detailed summary of the different categories – sure to spark debate. I disagree with almost every one of the “deserves to win”, but that is the fun of the Oscars. I liked all of the nominees I saw – think Toy Story 3 was the best picture, followed closely by Social Network, King’s Speech and then 127 Hours and Black Swan.
    James Franco was absolutely amazing and should win in my mind, but Colin Firth was great as well and seems to already have the statue.
    I did not see The Fighter or True Grit as neither of those movies appeal to me at all so can’t judge them, but heard there were great performances as well.
    The biggest snubs in my mind were Waiting for Superman in documentary and Despicable Me in Animation Feature. I think I was the only one who did not like How to Train Your Dragon – I thought Despicable Me was the second best animated feature this year, still upset it wasn’t nominated.
    No matter what, its all fun.

  • February 27, 2011 « CBS Minnesota

    […] blogger Eric Henderson has a handy cheat sheet for scoping out all the Oscar nominees. Check it out here. Print Share […]

  • Movie Blog: Your Oscar Ballot Cheat Sheet « CBS Minnesota

    […] get a leg up in your Oscar pool, take my advice below … and then add a grain of salt. I ended up getting almost as many wrong last year as I got right. (Note: I already did predictions in two short film categories. Click here […]

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