With every vote up in the air, a blind side is in order. Will Avatar be banished to the losers’ hurt locker? It takes a serious man and resident film buff like Ronald Wan to offer UrbanWire his precious annual predictions and an education on the Oscars

The Oscars race this year feels rather lacklustre, perhaps a telling reflection of the movie calendar for the past year, thanks to the writers’ strike in 2008 that seriously affected the industry, creating a ripple effect and dearth of quality screenplays. A look at the 8 major categories and I can lock in at least 6 dead certain winners. Where’s the fun then?

We know you have to win the office pool and impress the female receptionist.Well, try upping the stakes in the dramatic showdown between David and Goliath, ex-wife versus ex-husband, bomb squad versus blue creatures, $1.5 million versus $237 million, you versus the impressionable female receptionist, or simply The Hurt Locker and Avatar. Despite upsizing to include 10 nominations, the playing field narrows into a lockdown between the low-budget suspenseful war drama The Hurt Locker (picture below) and the spectacular 3D fantasy epic Avatar (picture above) in the Best Picture category.

Both films have been sweeping wins at awards’ dinners and critics’ circles, but in my opinion, the year’s best belongs to Up in the Air, the all-American movie about retrenchment, unemployment, ambitions, traditions and coping with the new world order, clearly a true reflection of our times. The Zeitgeist would agree (in fact, read about his top 10 movies of 2009). Doesn’t the Academy just love to award movies that are of the zeitgeist, of the moment (read: Chicago’s win in 2003)? How UITA lost its frontrunner momentum still befuddles me. But I digress from the AvatarHurt Locker love fest.

Maybe the Academy couldn’t resist some drama. After all, they are in the business of moviemaking. The recent controversy surrounding THL producer Nicolas Chartier’s ban from attending the Oscars after his email urging voters to not vote presumably for Avatar is an example of raising alarm over smoke. Plus all eyes will be on THL director Kathryn Bigelow and Avatar director, a.k.a. king of the world, James Cameron, once-married couple and present rivals in the Best Director category.

And who can resist a triumph of the underdog story? We want THL to win, not just Best Picture, but also Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. We want indie pictures to put in a good fight. Slumdog Millionaire, Little Miss Sunshine, Brokeback Mountain – these are some of the movies we were rooting for in recent times. We hear some folks still can’t quit griping over Brokeback’s loss to Crash.

Categories from Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress to Best Adapted Screenplay are locked in and those Up in the air include Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and just maybe, and I meant maybe in the strictest sense, Best Actress. And that’s because I’m in love with Carey Mulligan, whom Variety hails as the next Audrey Hepburn. Again, I digress with this crush. And so here are my humble and serious predictions for your consideration. You can paint me Na’vi blue if I don’t score at least 6 out of 8 correct predictions this time round. Eltu ayoe eywa hapxi kewong!

Best Actor

Colin Firth, A Single Man

George Clooney, Up in the Air

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Morgan Freeman, Invictus

Alcoholic, estranged father, triple divorcee and a has-been country singer relegated to singing in the saloons. Jeff Bridges inhabits the multiple challenging roles as Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, which is what voters love. During an early scene where Bridges reclined in a chair with his beer belly exposed and a glass of whiskey in his hand, you knew that sense of grittiness would send him on the highway to Oscar glory. Bridges is one of the most underrated – 5 nominations so far – actors who deserves to win.


Best Actress

Carey Mulligan, An Education

Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

Helen Mirren, The Last Station

Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

My heart says Carey Mulligan, but my head knows Sandra Bullock will be the sentimental favourite to win as the fearless and feisty Leigh Ann Tuohy, mother to an African-American teenager who life coached and pushed him to succeed in football. Bullock is a spitfire and the Academy loves a comeback win (after a series of flops before The Blind Side) for one of their own darlings. Brit Mulligan ranks as an outsider with her classy turn in An Education. Fingers crossed she wins, which would be a wonderful blind side.


Best Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer, The Last Station

Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Matt Damon, Invictus

Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones

Woody Harrelson, The Messenger

Evil reigns in 2 outstanding roles here – Stanley Tucci as a serial killer and Christoph Waltz as the delicious and devilish Nazi officer Colonel Hans, who strikes fear with his cold and calculated gaze. Don’t bet against the latter evil incarnate.


Best Supporting Actress

Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart

Mo’Nique, Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

Penelope Cruz, Nine

Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air

We know Mo’Nique is a sure-win as the abusive and deranged mother of a teenage daughter. She was a monster who made us hate her despite playing a character that was supposed to win our hearts. Mothers are supposed to be nice. I wanna do a shout out to the sensational Penelope Cruz as the mistress who seduces the audience with a sexy and titillating dance number. Damn, those legs are hot! Who knew ropes could be so fun?


Best Director

Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

James Cameron, Avatar

Jason Reitman, Up in the Air

Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

We’re about to witness history here. Kathryn Bigelow will be the first female director to win the award for steering The Hurt Locker. Bigelow worked magic not in the explosion but in the sequence leading up to it, the minutes, the seconds and suspense that is killing the audience. It’s a masterful and realistic work of Hitchcockian suspense – way better than rendering 3D effects on a computer.


Best Picture

An Education

A Serious Man


The Blind Side

District 9

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire


Up in the Air

Stranger things can happen when it comes to a Best Picture. Gatecrashers (Crash), surprised winners (Shakespeare in Love) and those with momentum that never made it. Up in the Air is an example of a piece of work with great buzz as early as last autumn, but somehow the pendulum has swung in The Hurt Locker’s favour after it won several awards, including its esteemed win at the Directors Guild of America awards.

The category takes another strange or complex turn with a new voting style: voters vote in order of preference, which means every film gets a vote, so it boils down to the second, third or even fourth choices. This translates into a tight race hence many are throwing Avatar into the mix for a two-horse race thanks to its populist wave.

I’ll go with The Hurt Locker simply because it has momentum.

More insights on the 10 nominees here.


Best Original Screenplay

A Serious Man

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

The Messenger


It’s a tale of 2 brilliant screenplays so vastly different in their treatment – one doesn’t say much except to build on what is unseen and the other talks way too much, smacking of wit, pomposity and fun. We’re referring to The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds, the 2 films locked in a tight race. Quentin Tarantino is such a fave with actors and actresses in the Academy so the lobbying might help. We’ll go with The Hurt Locker considering its potential in Best Picture. Usually, a Best Picture and Original Screenplay go well together, like entrée and dessert.


Best Adapted Screenplay

District 9

An Education

In the Loop

Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

Up in the Air

It’s my favourite film of the year so I will be partial and generous in my plaudits here: The writing is sharp, clever and lucid, possessing a playful wit. Jason Reitman proves he can write and direct and after 3 successful features (Thank You For Smoking, Juno and Up in the Air). It hurts to know UITA might not win Best Picture, but at least, it lands and wins something.

And the rest of the categories:

Best Animated Film – Up, up and away!

Best Art Direction – Lush forest, forest fairies and those darn mountains hanging in mid-air! Somebody bring me to Pandora. Avatar by a mile.

Best Costume – It’s a fine, fine line between fashion and costume and the pieces in Coco Before Chanel serve the film well.

Best Cinematography – Again, bring me to Pandora. In 3D. Avatar, no contest.

Best Documentary – The Cove. Inspiring, moving and this is how a documentary is supposed to be made: with bravery and passion.

Best Film Editing – How do you create suspense? Cut scenes according to precision (wires, facial expression, cutting wires, facial…boom!). Kudos to The Hurt Locker.

Best Makeup – I’ve no idea and it’s the strangest category with 3 nominations only. Say, Star Trek?

Best Music (Original Score) – Avatar. Hello? It’s James Horner, the Titanic man.

Best Music (Original Song) – ‘The Weary Kind’ in Crazy Heart. That song has so much gravitas especially after you’ve watched the film.

Best Sound Editing – The Hurt Locker.

Best Sound Mixing – See above.

Best Visual Effects – No brainer. Give it up for Avatar.

Do you agree with Ronald’s predictions? Take the challenge! Let’s see who shall paint who blue! Comment away.