by Caren Crane
I love movies. I adore films of all genres, from slapstick comedies to experimental indies to reality-baring documentaries. I also love the Oscars. The hoopla, the mad campaigns, the red carpet preening and the acceptance speech snafus.
This year, the Academy expanded the Best Picture category from 5 films to 10. This has made this year's Oscar race a bit more...interesting, let's say. Some big box office hits have been nominated, but few Hollywood insiders believe a wildly popular film like Avatar will win Uncle Oscar, no matter how many billions it makes at the box office.
I have another passion, however. I love underdogs. I like to root wholeheartedly for those fortune frowns upon, who have more guts and willpower than credibility. Those with more luck than skill, who come from behind to surprise the crowd. Those who fight the good fight, even if they are ultimately defeated. (Yes, Firefly fans, I was thinking of our beloved Brown Coats, thus the picture of Nathan Fillion as Capt. Mal Reynolds!)
Here, for your consideration, are my underdog Oscar picks for tonight:
Best Picture - Up. It was romantic, heartbreaking, funny, uplifting and just plain fun for all ages. An animated picture has never won Best Picture, so its chances are slim to none. I loved Inglourious Basterds (and yes, that IS how it's spelled) but even a Quentin Tarantino movie has a better chance of winning than an animated one.
Best Actor - Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker. I didn't see this movie, but this kid obviously came out of nowhere and has almost no chance of winning against the likes of Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Colin Firth and Morgan Freeman. So, Jeremy Renner it is!
Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds. Now, Christoph Waltz is an exceptional actor and he was such a sadistic rapscallion in this movie that he won me over forever. The Academy, however, prefers weightier roles such as those carried by nominees Matt Damon, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Plummer and Stanley Tucci. I fear Christoph will be snubbed by Oscar, so he has my vote!
Best Actress - Forget Meryl, Sandra, Helen and Gabourey. My vote goes to Carey Mulligan for her role in An Education. Even though it's one of those movies only movie snobs and fans of art house films saw, the Academy will not give Carey the love. That's okay, she'll get it from me!
Best Supporting Actress - This is a tough category because all the nominees were so fabulous, but I think Vera Farmiga of Up In the Air will be snubbed. I expect Mo'Nique to win, actually, even with two nominees from Up In the Air on the ballot. Anna Kendrick was wonderful, as were Penelope Cruz and Maggie Gyllenhaal, but I expect Vera to get the least love of all these talented ladies.
Best Director - Jason Reitman, Up In the Air. James Cameron worked years and invented technology in directing Avatar. Kathryn Bigelow practically invented a whole new way to tell a war story with The Hurt Locker. With Precious, Lee Daniels brought a story to the screen that no one thought could be told with sincerity, passion and dignity - but he did that and made it look easy. Quentin Tarantino climbed right out on his usual loony limb with Inglourious Basterds and had the unmitigated gall to kill Hitler in the middle of WWII - hilarious work of genius! So, I think poor Jason will get totally overlooked in the shadow of all this filmmaking greatness and slink home without a statue. (Plus, he looks like one of those guys I knew in engineering school who liked me but would never ask me out because dating would have wrecked his grade in thermodynamics. Pffft!)
I won't even bother with all the other categories because really, who even saw any of the Live Action Short Films? I do think my beloved Coraline is an underdog in Animated Feature, especially since Up was nominated, but I couldn't even hazard a guess about Sound Mixing or Sound Editing. They never choose who I would for Cinematography, either, so pfffft on the Academy.
Who is your favorite front runner - or underdog - for the Oscars? Which of your favorite movies/actors/actresses was totally dissed by the Academy this year (hello, Robert Downey Jr.!)? And will you be watching the Academy Awards at all - maybe just the red carpet coverage? Do tell!