Awards Season Thoughts

Oscar Special Mentions

As the awards season comes to a close, let’s forget about the campaigning and debate about what would or should win and reserve a special mention for some of tonight’s nominees.

In what has been a strong year these are various people I think deserve special mention, regardless of whether they win tonight.


Javier Bardem in Biutiful: The most powerful performance of the year was Bardem’s searing portrait of a decent man on the edges of modern Barcelona.

Don’t Forget Me
Biutiful at

Although the film’s relentless focus on death turned off dweeby critics, Bardem’s acting will be remembered for years to come.

Christopher Nolan for Writing and Directing Inception: The enormous commercial success of Nolan’s career has strangely obscured his very real creative accomplishments. Fashionable contrarians and elederly members of the Academy were turned off by the gorgeous labyrinth that was Inception, mainly because it was ‘too loud’ or ‘too clever for its own good’.

The fact that Nolan (as director) and his veteran editor Lee Smith were snubbed still hints that some Academy members don’t get his films. But for a generation of filmmakers it will be discussed, analysed and appreciated for years to come.

Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter for editing The Social Network: One of the crucial aspects of Fincher’s drama that makes it work is the phenomenal edit job by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter.

It might take a couple of viewings to fully appreciate, but the criss-crossing timelines and overall construction of sequences is masterful. Some Academy voters might not have got the film on first viewing but repeated viewings highlight the dazzling, but often understated, work that went into it.

Roger Deakins’ cinematography for True Grit: Although already something of a legend for his amazing body of work, Deakins managed capture the haunting beauty of the west in True Grit whilst providing some indelible images.

Many people think it is his time to be awarded an Oscar and who would begrudge him a statuette this year?

The Visual Effects in Inception: The team at British SFX house Double Negative who worked on Nolan’s film (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, and Peter Bebb) deserve a lot of credit for helping build convincing dreamscapes through live action and CGI.

The inventive blend of real locations, stuntwork and CGI were stunning and in the hotel fight sequence, limbo city and the overturning of Paris have set a new standard for effects work at this level.

The score for The Social Network by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: One of the most startling and arresting scores in recent memory was this wonderfully discordant electronic score. The way in which the dialogue driven opening scene gives way to the unsettling title sequence is one of the most memorable film transitions of the year.

Just a few minutes later the urgency of the Face Smash sequence is powered by an unforgettable frenzy of beats and noise. In some ways the score to the film is what gives the film it’s unique flavour, with no cliched strings or cliched tracks from the time, it gives the story a distinct and original feel.

The Sounds of Inception: People always get confused between sound mixing and sound editing. To simplify, editing involves how the parts are assembled, whilst mixing is about the whole soundscape is put together.

It is a crucial and often undervalued aspect of movies and in the case of Inception, Richard King did an incredible job of recreating the sounds of all the different dream levels, which involve trains, guns, explosions, punches, car chases. The construction of the audio landscape in Inception was one of the great unsung reasons as to why it worked so well.

Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job: The documentary category this year is incredibly strong but Charles Ferguson’s documentary about the financial crisis deserves special mention.

Brilliantly dissecting the way Wall Street has essentially captured a generation of politicians and held society hostage for their own ends, it is a chilling reminder of how the political orthordoxies of the last 30 years have wreaked havoc but largely gone unpunished.

Full list of Oscar nominations for 2010-11
Official Oscars site
83rd Academy Awards at Wikipedia
> Analysis at Awards Daily and In Contention

Awards Season

Oscar Predictions

Here are my predictions for the 83rd Academy Awards which will take place this Sunday.

This year there appear to be less certainties and the only major category I would bank on would be Best Actor.

The big debate for most of the awards season has been the battle between The King’s Speech and The Social Network: whilst David Fincher’s drama about the creation of Facebook is the superior film, the moving qualities of Tom Hooper’s period piece will probably give it the edge.

However, I would be surprised if the Academy didn’t award David Fincher Best Director over Tom Hooper, even though the latter surprisingly won the DGA Award, which is usually an indicator for the Oscars.

In the major acting categories Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) is a near-certainty and although Natalie Portman (Black Swan) is still the favourite, look out for Annette Benning (The Kids Are Alright) to cause a possible upset.

The supporting acting slots are fiendishly hard to call this year, so I’m going with the obvious front-runners in Christian Bale (The Fighter) and Melissa Leo (The Fighter). However, Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech), Haileee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Helena Bonham-Carter (The King’s Speech) are strong contenders.

In other categories, Inception to seems favourite to nab a few technical awards in visual effects and sound, which will make up for it being criminally overlooked in Direction and Editing.

The Best Documentary category could see Banksy appear on stage if Exit Through The Gift Shop wins. In truth I thing Inside Job will win, but Waste Land and Restrepo are also strong contenders in a very good year for documentaries.

Make sure to check back on Monday, to see how right (or wrong) I was.


  • BEST PICTURE: The King’s Speech
  • BEST DIRECTOR: David Fincher (The Social Network) *
  • BEST ACTOR: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
  • BEST ACTRESS: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: David Seidler (The King’s Speech)
  • BEST ART DIRECTION: The King’s Speech (Eve Stewart; Judy Farr)
  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: True Grit (Roger Deakins)
  • BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)
  • BEST FILM EDITING: The Social Network (Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter)
  • BEST MAKEUP: The Wolfman (Rick Baker and Dave Elsey)
  • BEST SOUND EDITING: Inception (Richard King)
  • BEST SOUND MIXING: Inception (Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick)
  • BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: The King’s Speech (Alxandre Desplat)
  • BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “We Belong Together” by Randy Newman (Toy Story 3)

> Full list of Oscar nominations for 2010-11
Official Oscars site
83rd Academy Awards at Wikipedia
> Analysis at Awards Daily and In Contention

Interesting Random

Location Map of Best Picture Winners

From Wings (1929) to Slumdog Millionaire (2008), the map below shows the location of each film that won Best Picture at the Oscars.

I’m not sure if it says anything concrete about what an Oscar winning movie is, but it can be interesting to note certain trends.

For example, note that lack of winners from California, the home of Hollywood, and the abundance of those set in New York and London.

[Click here or on the image for a full size version]

> Best Picture winners at Wikipedia
> Oscars Infographic

Awards Season News

Oscar Winners

Here is the full list of winners for the 82nd Academy Awards, which saw The Hurt Locker win Best Picture, Kathryn Bigelow become the first woman to win Best Director, whilst Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock won in the major acting categories.

  • BEST PICTURE: The Hurt Locker
  • BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
  • BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
  • BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo’Nique (Precious)
  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: El Secreto de Sus Ojos – The Secret of Their Eyes (Argentina)
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)
  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire)
  • BEST SOUND MIXING: The Hurt Locker
  • BEST SOUND EDITING: The Hurt Locker
  • BEST ORIGINAL SONG: The Weary Kind (theme from Crazy Heart) from Crazy Heart by Ryan Bingham, T Bone Burnett
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Up (Michael Giacchino)
  • BEST COSTUMES: The Young Victoria
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Music by Prudence
  • BEST FILM EDITING: The Hurt Locker
  • BEST MAKE-UP: Star Trek
Awards Season Thoughts

Why The Hurt Locker will win (even if it loses)

Tonight could see the Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker win the Oscar for Best Picture, but even if it goes to Avatar, the real winner is a film which has gradually found widespread acclaim and recognition.

After it first premiered at the Venice film festival back in September 2008, the idea that it would have ended up as a heavyweight Oscar contender in 2010 would have seemed highly unlikely.

The climate for Iraq themed films back then was not a good one. Films such as Redacted, In the Valley of Elah and Body of Lies had underperformed at the box office.

An independently-financed drama about a bomb squad in Baghdad during 2004 might have seemed to many observers as one that would struggle to find an audience. The fact that several studios had turned down the script suggested what they thought of its potential.

Despite that it was acquired at the Toronto film festival soon after its Venice premiere by the newly formed mini-studio Summit and by this point was attracting some serious critical acclaim from those who had seen it on the festival circuit.

Summit made the decision to release it the following summer – effectively taking it out of the 2008-09 Oscar race which was dominated by Slumdog Millionaire – and to some this looked like they were effectively dumping the film.

After all, when you actually see it, this isn’t some hand-wringing polemic about US troops in the Middle East, but a visceral drama which takes you inside the tension of what certain troops have to go through.

Seeing last summer I felt strongly that it had genuine mainstream potential and was disappointed that Summit went for an unusual platform release.

After opening in major cities like New York and LA, where it achieved terrific per-screen grosses, the studio went for a curious ‘rolling’ distribution where it went around the country gradually.

Perhaps as a smaller outfit, without the marketing dollars of a major like Warner Bros or Paramount, they felt this was a way of building on the huge critical acclaim and igniting word of mouth.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work (in the short term at least) and a talking point amongst film sites last summer was why something as good as The Hurt Locker could perform so badly whilst something as bad as Transformers 2 could be such a hit.

At this point, it also seemed odd that Summit’s release strategy wasn’t more attuned to delaying  it closer for the awards season.

Most of the films contending for the Oscars open in the final three months of the year, before the late December deadline, so that they are fresh in voters minds although there have been exceptions like The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Gladiator (2000).

When I walked in to a studio to interview director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal about The Hurt Locker on its UK release last August, the Oscars seemed far away.

At the time, it seemed like a genuinely important film was going to be painted as an acclaimed box office failure.

But in the autumn something remarkable happened. The Hurt Locker started to pick up a slew of critics and guild awards and when the Academy announced that it was expanding the Best Picture slots to 10 films it seemed a given that it would find a place.

What surprised me was how it slowly began to become the front runner as early contenders like Up in the Air began to fizzle slightly.

By the time Avatar arrived at Christmas and quickly smashed box office records, it quickly established itself as the rival for Best Picture whilst Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) and Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) became the frontrunners in the acting categories.

The battle tonight between Kathryn Bigelow’s war drama and James Cameron’s sci-fi epic is interesting.

One is gritty, contemporary and earned just over $21 million dollars worldwide; the other is a futuristic fantasy that has grossed over $2.5 billion worldwide to become the most successful film of all time.

Despite their differences, thematically they both speak in different ways to the present conflicts in the world. Intriguingly, Cameron and Bigelow – who were once married – remain friends and even solicited opinions from each other on their respective films.

Personally, I think The Hurt Locker will win Best Picture tonight as it has the momentum of winning so many awards this season (the Golden Globes can be discounted as the votes of 90 celebrity-obsessed journalists based in LA).

Strangely, Summit’s release strategy – criticised by some – will ultimately be vindicated if it wins one of the major categories tonight.

Even if Avatar scoops Best Picture, it is The Hurt Locker which has benefited most from this awards season.

As a film that finally found wider acknowledgement in the awards season, it is a potent sign of how the Oscars can remind Hollywood and audiences around the world that quality still matters.