ReelThoughts: February 21, 2010

"Beat Berardinelli"

Commentary by James Berardinelli


The time has come for me to provide my annual Oscar picks, although this time they are arriving accompanied by a "Beat Berardinelli" contest (to be run through the forums) which will provide an opportunity for one lucky contestant to win something. More on that at the end of this post...

First allow me a little self-promotion. For those readers who are curious to hear what I sound like, starting on February 22 and continuing on a monthly basis thereafter, I will be a contributor to the Fictional Frontiers radio program, held at 5:00 pm ET on Philadelphia-based WNJC 1360 AM. (Here's the on-line link to listen live.) My segment should be about 15 minutes long, which is what it was when I did a weekly spot on WCTC's The Bernard Spigner show back in the early '00s. As for what I'll talk about... the current game plan is Avatar, the future of 3D, and (of course) The Oscars. But since it's a free-flowing conversation, we'll see where things actually go. I'll be on at the top of the hour, so if you don't tune in around 5:00, you'll probably miss me and have to wait until March.

Now, with that out of the way, on to the predictions.

I wrote the following words last year, and I still believe them: "Predicting Oscar winners is as much a skill as an art, and it has little to do with who deserves to win. Anyone who predicts on the basis of quality is doomed to score low. The first lesson to learn when predicting Oscars (especially if you're involved in a pool - purely for entertainment, of course) is that it's sometimes a coincidence when the best man or woman takes home the prize."

Or to put it another way, winning an Oscar is a mix of politics, ego, and quality. The difficulty is figuring out what any given year's recipe is. In 2010, there are a surprisingly high number of "slam dunks" but also some areas of bafflement.

Picture: Avatar. This could be an "epic fail," so to speak. The choice comes down to Avatar or The Hurt Locker. My current thinking is that they'll split the Picture/Director awards. It's hard to imagine Avatar, which is the runaway unadjusted Box Office Champion, not being recognized in one of the top categories, and this is the only one that fits. Cameron is not all that well-liked in Hollywood but he is respected and the industry loves the money he's bringing in. His ego pretty much ensures that he won't win the Best Director award this year, which makes Best Picture Avatar's only legitimate shot at a non-technical Oscar. I won't claim to be confident in this pick, but I like a little suspense.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker. Regardless of whether Avatar wins Best Picture or not, I don't think Cameron will come out on top here. That leaves Bigelow as the easy front-runner. I won't be surprised if The Hurt Locker wins Best Picture; I will be surprised if Bigelow doesn't win Director.

Lead Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart. Dude, is there any doubt?

Lead Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side. At one point, Bullock was considered a dark horse. Meryl Streep had the reputation and Carey Mulligan was the up-and-comer. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the podium - Bullock started winning awards. And winning. And winning. Now, it's almost impossible to believe she won't come out on top here. She is also, by the way, the front-runner to win the Razzie (although not for the same movie). I'm more interested to hear her speech for that one than for the Oscar.

Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds. He has won pretty much every award he is eligible for, so why would this be any different? Maybe he should ask Tarantino to write his acceptance speech, since it's the way in which he uttered Tarantino's dialogue that will secure his victory.

Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious. As with Waltz and Bridges, there's not much doubt here. Anyone else would be a real shocker.

The rest (except the shorts, which I never predict), without commentary, follow. Regardless of whether or not it wins Best Picture, Avatar should have fun sweeping through the technical categories. Maybe.

Animated Feature: Up
Art Direction: Avatar
Cinematography: Avatar
Costume Design: The Young Victoria
Documentary: The Cove
Editing: Avatar
Foreign Language Film: The White Ribbon
Makeup: Star Trek
Musical Score: Up
Music (Song): "The Weary Heart," Crazy Heart
Sound Editing: Avatar
Sound Mixing: Avatar
Visual Effects: Avatar
Writing (Adapted): Up in the Air
Writing (Original): The Hurt Locker

It is worth noting that if there is an avalanche of support for The Hurt Locker, I could end up with a very low score, because Avatar is matched against it in many of the technical categories. If Bigelow trumps Cameron across-the-board, I'll end up with a score around 50%. For reference, here's how I have done over the past six years:
2009: 17/21 (81%)
2008: 13/21 (62%)
2007: 12/21 (57%)
2006: 13/21 (62%)
2005: 17/21 (81%)
2004: 18/21 (86%)

Now, the contest. This will be run through the forums so, to participate, you have to register and go to the "Competitions" thread, where "Beat Berardinelli - Oscars 2010" will be prominently displayed. Your entry should consist of projections for all 21 of the categories in which I'm picking. (The introductory post of the contest forum will indicate what the categories are.) Optionally, you can also provide a dollar total for the amount Avatar will have accrued at the domestic box office up to and including March 7, 2010. This will be used as the third tie-breaker, if necessary. The contest will open/start at noon EST on Tuesday, February 23, 2010 (when the contest thread goes up) and will close at 11:59 pm EST on Friday, March 5, 2010. Any entries after that will be declared null and void.

How to win? To begin with, only those who exceed my total will be considered. If no one beats me, no one wins. (Ties are not wins.) From the pool of participants whose total exceeds mine, those with the top score (out of 21) will be considered finalists. If there's only one, (s)he is the winner. If there are more than one, we move to the first tie-breaker: Best Picture. If there's still more than one finalist, the second tie-breaker is the Big Six (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress). The third tie-breaker is the March 7 Avatar United States box office gross (per Box Office Mojo as released on Monday, March 8 - not the estimate from March 7). If there are still multiple potential winners after all this, I'll resort to a random number generator (with my wife as a witness).

What do you win? Your choice of any one DVD or Blu-Ray available directly (not through secondary sellers) on Amazon.com with the total Amazon price not to exceed $US 35, including international shipping costs, if applicable (this is primarily to avoid someone ordering an expensive box set). Once the winner is determined, I'll contact you via a PM or e-mail and you can make your choice. You'll get it directly from Amazon.com within 2-3 days. There are no limitations regarding the prize as long as it fits three rules: (1) currently available directly from Amazon.com, (2) is a DVD or Blu-Ray disc, (3) does not exceed $35.

Okay, with that out of the way, let's have some fun with this. The prize is only a little tangible bonus. This is all about bragging rights.


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