Thomas McKenzie
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Oscar 2010

I love the Oscars for the way they remind me that we are Americans.  We aren’t content to create art and let it stand on its own.  We aren’t even happy to pass judgment on it for its individual merit.  We have to compare our works of art to one another and crown a single winner. 

All of those actors, directors, costume designers and the like, they were the kids who didn’t play sports in high school.  They didn’t spend one second in the locker room.  They hung out at the theater, the band hall, the art room.  But now, at the apex of their careers, they find themselves in this bow-tie and sequined Super Bowl. Competition, like death, comes for us all.

I watch the Oscars every year.  I root for my favorite teams, I boo my villains.  I’m always looking for that pure moment, those ten seconds in one of those acceptance speeches in which a man or woman, truly humbled, speaks from the heart and reveals their humanity.  Unfortunately, we’ll probably have to sit through James Cameron instead. 

In the spirit of true Oscar watching competitive excitement, I hear bestow my thoughts on the awards this year.  To be honest, I haven’t seen all of the films.  I’m just an amateur critic, after all.  I have seen eight of the ten nominated for best picture, as well dozens of other movies over the past year, so I’m not totally making stuff up.  My list is alphabetical by category, and I skip things I have no comment upon.

Best Picture
Someone is going to be upset by my saying it, but Inglourious Basterds was the best film of 2009.  And, frankly, it wasn’t even close.  Now, I did not see Precious or the Blind Side.  I do think that the eight I did see were all good films, some were great.  But Basterds was the film I still think about, wonder about, and worry about all these months later. 

Of the films I saw, Avatar is the least deserving to be on this list and the most likely to win.  Since my favorite has no real hope, I will be pulling for the Hurt Locker.  Here is my prediction.  Avatar will win, and ten years from now we will look back and say “seriously, did that really happen?”

Actor in a Leading Role
Since Sam Rockwell was not nominated for Moon, I choose Colin Firth from A Single Man.  A remarkable, subtle, and genuine piece of acting that should be studied for years to come.  I saw all five of these performances, and I can assure you that Morgan Freeman did not deserve to be nominated, and no one else compared with Colin Firth or Sam Rockwell this year.  But Jeff Bridges will win.  Good for him.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Christoph Waltz will win, and he should win.  In the past two years, this category has gone to men who play psychopaths incredibly well, and Waltz will prove that evil comes in threes. 

Actress in a Leading Role
Carey Mulligan is my favorite here.  If you haven’t seen “An Education,” you don’t know what you are missing.  She is truly splendid in this film.  I hope we see a great deal more from this actress.  As for who will actually win, I think this one is wide open.  Your guess is better than mine.

Actress in a Supporting Role
All the buzz is for Mo'Nique, but I didn’t see Precious so I have no comment on that at all.  Maggie Gyllenhaal, who I usually love as an actress, was medicore in Crazy Heart, so don’t ask me how she got nominated.  If I were choosing, I would give it to Anna Kendrick.  I completely believed her in Up in the Air.  For me, acting rises or falls on one thing: believability.  I didn’t doubt her for a second. 

Animated Film
Up should win, and Up will win.  One of my top five films of the year, and the only one that made me weep uncontrollably in front of my children. 

Art Direction
Avatar will win, and I only saw two of these films so I don’t know nuthin’ bout it.

Cinematography
I’m pulling for Basterds, though I’d be happy with the Hurt Locker.  Avatar will win.

Costume Design
Will go to Young Victoria or Nine, because those are the Periods that always win.

Directing
The real “Best Picture” decision this year, with the official category bloated with 10 nominations.  You know what I’m going to say: Tarantino would get my vote, but I’ll be rooting for Bigelow over her ex-husband. 

Music: Original Score
Many people didn’t like it, but I loved the score to Sherlock Holmes.  Whether it should win or not?  I’m not a musician, so you should probably ask someone else.

Music: Original Song
I’m pulling for Down in New Orleans from Disney.  Unfortunately, it is running against another song from the same film, and no one actually saw this jewel in the theaters.  So, I’m guessing Crazy Heart takes it.

Visual Effects
Seriously, I really didn’t hate Avatar.  The visuals really were amazing.  But District 9 blew me away.  They made it look like they took regular hand-held cameras to Africa and filmed aliens walking around.  Seamless and never cartoony, I’m pulling for the District. 

Writing: Adapted Screenplay
This is a tough one.  I’m going to pull for An Education, though I think all of them seem deserving.

Writing: Original Screenplay
Frankly, all of these were terrific screenplays (well, maybe not the Messenger which was almost all improvised from what I am told).  I’m going to give my Oscar vote to the Coen brothers for a truly original piece of writing. 



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