Preferred Oscar Nominations- Duncan

What happened to Oscar Week? I warned you my enthusiasm was low this year. We'll get to the rest of the predictions over the weekend. For now, enjoy my favorite part of Oscar coverage, Preferred Oscar balloting- the things I would vote for if I had a vote. Posting later tonight, Dave's ballot!

Best Animated Feature:

The Illusionist
How To Train Your Dragon
Toy Story 3

Just now saw The Illusionist, a sleepy but beautiful film that has one of the most bittersweet endings for any animated film, ever. Tangled I might have enjoyed because it relied on the slapstick energy of early Disney cartoons more than the familiar Alan Mencken songs, but it was thoroughly entertaining either way.

Toy Story 3 managed to be moving, beautiful, and memorable despite not needing to exist in the first place, so I don't begrudge it winning this category. But I've got a huge soft spot for How To Train Your Dragon, which shouldn't have worked for so many reasons, but did. It's from Dreamworks Animation, known primarily for the unsubtle, diminishing returns of the Shrek series. It has historically innacurrate Vikings with inconsistent accents. But a good story, well-told, an adorable dragon, and the first 3D effects to actually sell me on the medium made me want to see it again the very next day (and later on that week).


Best Art Direction:

The Ghost Writer
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
I Am Love
Tron: Legacy

Had a lot of trouble narrowing this one down, but I ended up with five of the most visually striking or memorable films. TRON may have been mostly digital, but if Avatar can win this category I don't feel bad about including it- I'm going to the gym mostly so I can pull of a light-suit when they become available. Scott Pilgrim matched everything to Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel, down to some crazy minute details.

The Ghost Writer practically made another character out of an austere, modernist beach retreat location. Inception took a similar cue for its dreamworld, with just a dash of Escher. I Am Love, meanwhile, was as pristine as a Criterion Collection cover.

Best Cinematography:

Wally Pfister, Inception
Russell Boyd, The Way Back
Martin Ruhe, The American
Jeff Cronenweth, The Social Network
Roger F*CKING Deakins, True Grit

Nearly gave Deakins a second nomination for consulting on the look of How To Train Your Dragon, but his work in True Grit is of course beautiful, especially during a sequence at the end. I like Wally Pfister's clean, stately work every time he works with Nolan, but I get the feeling he's destined to be the Randy Newman of this category over the years- always there, never winning. Cronenweth's did fun things with windows and glass doors in The Social Network, plus he had to work digital and make it look like film, and put up with David Fincher.

In non-actual-nominee territory, epic natural vistas in The Way Back and Criterion-level austerity in The American were the most memorable films for me, visually.

Best Costume Design:

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Tron: Legacy
I Am Love
True Grit
Shutter Island

I know, Scott Pilgrim mostly just matched t-shirts to the graphic novel. But also there were crazy stage outfits, and stuff... Kudos to the academy for recognizing the chic character on display in I Am Love, but shame on them for ignoring the classic 50s duds in Shutter Island. Let that be a lesson, Marty- February is not your month.

Best Makeup:

The Way Back
Black Swan
Tron: Legacy

Can't say I ever notice makeup work that much, so I'm glad this is a three-movie kind of deal. TRON had a bunch of people with white faces, right? Hats off to the makeup at the end of Black Swan which does most of the "bad girl" phase of Portman's role for her. But hands down the most impressive work to me was the blistering heatstroke in The Way Back, which had part of me fearing that Saoirse Ronan was actually about to die of thirst.

Best Original Score:

John Powell, How To Train Your Dragon
Hans Zimmer, Inception
Carter Burwell, True Grit
Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Daft Punk, Tron: Legacy

I've totally become a film score nerd over the last couple of years- I blame mostly Dave. So that makes this category hard to narrow down: near misses include Desplat's The Ghost Writer and Harry Potter 7.1, Nigel Godrich's bleep-blooping Scott Pilgrim score, Rachel Portman's Never Let Me Go, and James "LCD Soundsystem" Murphy's Greenberg.

But the best of the best include three actual nominees in Powell, Zimmer, and Reznor/Ross, whose work ran the gamut from traditional orchestral bombast (Dragon) to avant garde noise making (Network) to a potent mixture of the two (Inception).

I really enjoyed Carter Burwell's score for True Grit as well, with a small selection of traditional hymns broken apart and repeated as character themes over and over. Too bad the Academy doesn't like borrowing Public Domain material, disqualifying it just like There Will Be Blood a few years back. Finally, I don't think there was any Oscar snub that was easier to predict than Daft Punk, but the awesomeness of that score makes it still hard to take.

Best Original Song:

"Sticks and Stones," Jonsi, How To Train Your Dragon
"We Are Sex Bob-Omb," Beck, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
"Garbage Truck," Beck, SPVTW
"Threshold," Beck, SPVTW
"Black Sheep," Metric, SPVTW

Beyond the wonderful (albeit hard to decipher) song at the end of Dragon from Sigur Ros' frontman, the only songs I can even think of are all from Scott Pilgrim. But I feel pretty confident that I'd like them more than the rest, anyway.

Best Sound Editing/Sound Mixing/Visual Effects:

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Tron: Legacy
The Social Network
How To Train Your Dragon

I just realized I nominated the same five films for all three of these categories, so this saves space. Four of them are filled with enough action and innovative imagery to justify inclusion (as for Dragon in VFX, insert joke about Avatar here), and I might be biased in favor of The Social Network because I watched all of the special features. But the Winklevoss effect was better than anything in Hereafter, come on. My mom thought they were real twins!

Best Film Editing:

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
The Social Network
True Grit
Please Give

Inception and Scott Pilgrim earn a place on technical mastery- The Social Network team also had to navigate through hundreds of different takes, which must have been fun. But that movie was expertly paced as well, taking essentially a courtroom drama and making it a propusively narrative with an intricate structure.

True Grit is more of a study in langorous pauses, and catching your breath after instense showdowns. And the way-better-than-The-Kids-Are-All-Right Please Give is a perfect 90 minute film, intellectual comedy done right.

Best Writing - Adapted Screenplay:

Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Coen bros, True Grit
Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, Winter's Bone
Edgar Wright, Michael Bacall, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
4 people, How To Train Your Dragon

Dragon was mostly written by directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, though the concept and structure existed before they were brought in. But it's a great, heartfelt script that survived the Dreamworks studio's normal "How many McDonald's toys can we get out of this?" mentality.

Wright and Bacall wisely decided to stick with Bryan Lee O'Malley's original words for nearly all of Scott Pilgrim, which worked out nicely when only fans of the graphic novels went to see it, anyway. The three Oscar nominees are pretty obvious choices.

Best Writing - Original Screenplay:

Nicole Holocefner, Please Give
Dan Fogelman, Tangled
Joon-ho Bong, Eun-kyo Park, Mother
Christopher Nolan, Inception
Brian Koppelman, Solitary Man

Before you ask, Disney themselves were pushing Tangled for original, and I'm gonna roll with it since this category had far less that appealed to me than adapted. Besides, do we have the credit the Grimm brothers with every story that has a girl with super-long hair trapped in a tower? Rapunzel itself was adapted anyway. The script itself is clever, fast, and winning.

In one of those Capote/Infamous parralells, there were two films this year that self-referentially commented on Michael Douglas and the characters he usually plays. I didn't see Wall Street 2, but I hear it was a giant mess- Solitary Man I found to be a smart, biting look at the used car salesman persona aura Douglas carries, even if I wasn't over the moon about his performance in it.

Inception in inconceivably going to lose to The King's Speech in this category on Sunday, because apparently juggling five different levels of reality at once is less impressive than "there was a handsome king who had a problem and then it got slightly better." Boo.

Mother was an interesting, involving modern noir, that manages to get you so invested that you don't think about any obvious twists that might be right around the corner.

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Leonardo DiCaprio, Shutter Island
George Clooney, The American
Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter
Colin Firth, The King's Speech

Okay fine, Colin Firth is pretty great in The King's Speech. That's one out of 12 that makes sense to me. I'm usually not that into DiCaprio's usual stick, which boils down to "THIS IS SERIOUS. LOOK HOW SERIOUS MY FACE IS RIGHT NOW," but it worked in the very dramatic Shutter Island (and made Inception a little less fun than it could've been).

Eisenberg is a revelation in a very non-traditonal leading role, and Mark Wahlberg has been unjustly forgotten as the straight man to Bale and Leo's scenery chewing. And I wish I had seen the artful The American in theaters, for the cinematography yes, but also Clooney's angsty, more vulnerable than normal work.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

Matt Damon, True Grit
Andrew Garfield, Never Let Me Go
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Ed Harris, The Way Back
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone

That's right, two for upcoming Spider-Man Garfield, for being quiet at the right moments in Network and one profound howl of rage near the end of Never Let Me Go. Harris and Hawkes play badasses just getting by in harsh conditions of various kinds, and Matt Damon is the MVP of True Grit for me since he has to keep a delicate balance between buffoonish antagonist and hero.

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Catherine Keener, Please Give
Rebecca Hall, Please Give
Tilda Swinton, I Am Love
Hallee Steinfeld, True Grit

Lawrence and Steinfeld have been everywhere this awards season- it's all richly deserved. I don't know how many people saw I Am Love, exactly, but it clearly wasn't enough- can anyone tell me if Swinton's Italian is as good as her performance, though?

And can you tell I really loved Please Give? What does Catherine Keener have to do to get an Oscar people? Be in something other than a comedy? Rebecca Hall, my Frost/Nixon era marriage proposal still stands. Think about it.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

Olivia Williams, The Ghost Writer
Amanda Peet, Please Give
Ellen Wong, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Blake Lively, The Town
Keira Knightley, Never Let Me Go

I'm not sure if Blake Lively was that good in The Town or if she just wowwed me nby being so much more dynamic than in her affectless "Gossip Girl" role- but either way, impressive (though she's clearly mailing it in during The Green Lantern trailer).

Peet is aces in Please Give, a caustic, brutally honest character that defys any artificially loud performance tropes. Knightley makes a late run in Never Let Me Go for sympathy after playing a self-involved poser for the entire film that nearly works. Wong is a bundle of energy that stands out in an already hyper film, and Williams makes The Ghost Writer warrant an immediately re-watch to see just how quietly masterful she was.

Best Director:

David Fincher, The Social Network
Christopher Nolan, Inception
Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
Debra Granik, Winter's Bone

I think these are all pretty clear cut, from the nominations above. Winter's Bone impressed me in mood and atmosphere, breaking a tie with Holocefner and Please Give for the last spot.

Best Picture:

The Ghost Writer
How To Train Your Dragon
Please Give
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
The Social Network
TRON: Legacy
True Grit
The Way Back
Winter's Bone

Sorry, The Town. Too bad, Shutter Island. If only you had laser-disc battles too, Never Let Me Go. Seriously, it was tough to get down to ten, despite everyone else on the internet claiming this was a week year. They can't all be 2007, folks, don't get greedy.

In a vaccuum, would I have been nicer to The King's Speech? Ehh, maybe. If I wasn't an Oscar fanatic, I probably wouldn't have bothered with it in the first place. I also just sort of enjoyed The Fighter and Black Swan, which ended up with one nomination apiece. I've got a big treatise on Best Picture in the works to explain all this.


Scott Pilgrim- 14 (in 11 categories)
The Social Network- 11
Inception- 10
True Grit- 9
How To Train Your Dragon- 8
TRON: Legacy- 8
Please Give- 6 (in 5 categories)
Winter's Bone- 5
The Way Back- 4
Ghost Writer- 3
I Am Love- 3
Never Let Me Go- 2
Shutter Island- 2
Tangled- 2
The American- 2
Black Swan- 1
The Fighter- 1
Toy Story 3- 1
The Town- 1
The King's Speech- 1
The Town- 1
Solitary Man- 1
Mother- 1
The Illusionist- 1

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