OSCAR: Closest Races Down To The Wire

Get those ballots in, stragglers. Forget that many professional pundits and even casual observers of this year’s Oscar race have already called it. (…The King’s Speech wins Best Picture… Best Actor for Colin Firth… Natalie Portman gets Best Actress… The Fighter‘s Christian Bale and Melissa Leo win supporting… The Social Network‘s David Fincher picks up Director… and Aaron Sorkin snags Adapted Screenplay…) But if these are such sure shots, then why are people seemingly  getting so nervous? Ballots are due Tuesday at 5 PM at the offices of PriceWaterhouseCoopers  in downtown Los Angeles. With Monday a postal holiday due to President’s Day, the only way a vote will count now is if it is walked into the accountants before the deadline. Usually a few hundred are. By my informal surveys, a surprising number of  voters waited until the last minute to mail in their ballots. Those who didn’t perhaps thought their vote wouldn’t matter in a race that looks like it’s going to be a King’s ransom. But consultants working with The King’s Speech say they are taking nothing for granted. Which is why director and DGA winner Tom Hooper is across town tonight at the Cinema Audio Society Awards to present a special honor to DGA president Taylor Hackford.

The fact is, based on ever-shifting momentum and my own voter conversations this week, some of those last-minute votes could make a difference in several close races. The campaigns seem to realize this: that’s why the usually slow final days of balloting have been busy for hopefuls who want to burst the King’s bubble. Some Academy members I talked to at Thursday’s Spago lunch honoring The Fighter’s David O. Russell (hosted by Irwin Winkler and Eva Mendes) had done the same hobnobbing a couple of days earlier at a Mondrian Hotel party for The Social Network.

On the late end-of-voting schedule, The Fighter talent presented at the American Cinema Editors awards Saturday night and a Vanity Fair/Chrysler–sponsored benefit “celebrating” the pic Monday night in Hollywood. Russell and Supporting Actress nominee Amy Adams (who was also at the luncheon) were still on the Q&A circuit as late as Friday night when they appeared before a packed house at American Cinematheque’s Aero in Santa Monica. One person connected with The Fighter told me: “We aren’t stopping  until the last votes are in.” Appropiate for a film that fashions itself as an underdog. Russell uses as an analogy the 1968 Super Bowl where Joe Namath boasted that the longest-of-shots Jets  were gonna win against Baltimore – and shockingly, actually did. The power of positive thinking.

Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight was among the last to buy ads emphasizing Golden Globe, Critics Choice, SAG, and BAFTA wins for their seemingly sure-shot Best Actress nominee Natalie Portman. Maybe it’s insurance.  Or could it be nervousness over a suddenly aggressive bid by Annette (“this is her year”) Bening that has gained traction, at least among some of the voters I have talked to and other surveys published recently.

So if you are one of those still mulling your ballot, and still planning to get it in before that Tuesday deadline, here are the tightest races outside of the Best Picture category (which uses preferential voting) where one little vote might make a difference.

BEST ACTRESS
This is said to be Natalie Portman’s to lose with all of those precursor awards she’s been winning. But voters are not thinking landslide. In fact, in my informal surveys with Academy voters, every one of the five nominees including Nicole Kidman, Michelle Williams, and Jennifer Lawrence, have been mentioned quite a few times. This indicates no runaway by frontrunner Portman or her closest rival Annette Bening. So those last minute ads for Portman may not be such a bad idea.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
This category has a deserved reputation for upsetting the apple cart and could again. Melissa Leo won at Critics Choice, the Globes, and SAG but has lost a little steam, maybe due to her personal  ‘For Your Consideration’ ads. Co-star Amy Adams is getting some votes, perhaps even enough to cause a split and let another contender like True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld or The King’s Speech’s BAFTA winner Helena Bonham Carter sneak in.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
This was once thought to be a slam dunk for The Fighter’s Christian Bale and evidence says it still is. BUT last week’s BAFTA win against Bale  by The King’s Speech‘s Geoffrey Rush has cast at least a little doubt. A big TKS sweep could make the difference here.

BEST DIRECTING
With his DGA win and presumed dominance of his film, The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper should be in like flint here. But most surveys have him as the underdog to The Social Network’s David Fincher. Voters I talked to this week backed this up. Right now, too close to call.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Because voters have to prove they have seen all five films in a theate, this can be tricky. The past two years, longshots have bested the better known favorites. I have talked to several voters and only Greece’s  Dogtooth appears to be completely out of it. Mexico’s Biutiful has emerged a slight favorite. (Javier Bardem’s Best Actor nod doesn’t hurt.) But there is doubt it can beat Denmark’s In A Better World. I also have detected lots of admirers for Canada’s Incendies and Algeria’s Outside The Law. This is a real horse race.

BEST SONG
With two Disney songs from Toy Story 3 and Tangled competing against a country tune (the kind that won this race last year), and an ethereal piece written about a guy who cut off his arm, what mood will voters be in this year? Lately I am hearing a lot of support for Dido and AR Rahman’s If I Rise from 127 Hours. Searchlight has been aggressively pushing it,  but will passion for Toy Story 3 sweep Randy Newman to his second victory in 20 tries? Or can Gwyneth Paltrow make Coming Home from Country Strong a real contender despite the fact that the studio didn’t even bother to send that DVD screener to voters. (But they did send the CD cut of the song). Or maybe Alan Menken with the most traditional sounding  I See The Light from Tangled gets his 9th Oscar tying the all-time record for musicians. This one is anybody’s guess right.

FILM EDITING
With Inception surprisingly not nominated even though it was once considered the favorite, this category (which often presages Best Picture) is a free-for-all. At last week’s BAFTAs, it was here that The Social Network was able to slow down The King’s Speech’s big sweep. That could happen  at the Oscars as the two go head-to-head again. Of course, voters could go in a completely different direction and favor the editing styles of Black Swan or 127 Hours , two films that wore their editing on their sleeves. Or follow Oscar tradition and give it to The Fighter just as they did Champion (1949), Rocky (1976) and Raging Bull (1980). This looks like a five-way race right to the end.

  1. There is no Kings Speech sweep happening. There are only Oscar pundits who are drunk with the fact that they called TKS to win over TSN and it looks to be happening. Now you’re convincing yourselves of some non-existant sweep.

    TKS will win 3 to 5 awards. It’ll win Best Picture, but it’ll lose Best Director which will go to Fincher. BAFTA killed Hooper. TSN will win 3 Oscars. It may also win 4 if it wins Score.

    Score is the only true toss up right now between TSN and TKS.

    Picture – TKS
    Director – TSN
    Actor – TKS
    Editing – TSN
    Both films will win their respective writing honors. Neither will win any other acting awards.

    That’s three a piece.

    Sound mixing will go to Inception, as will the other techs. TKS may win a costume design, but more likely it’ll go to Alice in Wonderland.

    That leaves score…

  2. How bizarre that INCEPTION, the year’s most original and engrossing movie, doesn’t even seem to be a real contender. (It should have won the editing award easily had it been nominated; what is going on inside voters’ heads?)
    Loved King’s Speech, and think it’s Firth’s award all the way. As for Best Actress, not sure where that will go – Bening in “Kids” is like watching a master class on acting. Michelle Williams is heartbreakingly real in BV, but not many have seen it.
    Agree that Leo might have brought some controversy her way but she deserves the win.
    Will be thrilled if Rush pulls an upset and wins over Bale.

  3. “The King’s Speech” is the type of good English film which has won plently of Bets Picture Oscars, However, it is not unique. “The Social Network” shows how dumb smart people can be, and is a good, but not great, movie. A truly creative and unique movie going experience is “Inception,” a film of ideas. I hope it wins as a dark horse. In all, 2010 was a good year for big movies, and the fans benefit. Wait ’til you see “The Conspirator” by Bob Redford, April 15.

  4. Portman should not get the oscar! I, along with most people, had absolutely no emotional connection with her character. No one in the audience was moved. No emotional resonance.

    1. “Most people”? So you have surveyed audiences who have seen Black Swan and most of them indicated they felt the same as you? Moreover, “no one in the audience was moved”? Really? Your aboslutism tells me you are a jack ass.

    2. How exactly do you know this? Most people I have spoken to who have seen the film loved it and loved Portman’s performance. A film not resonating with you does not automatically mean it resonated with no one.

    3. “along with most people”………………who are you trying to kid? Every award this year, heading for $200 million boxoffice, most popular and highest grossing film overseas……….. what a sanctimonious jerk you are. Get a clue.

  5. I think that foreign film is down to Biutiful and In a Better World. Dogtooth is out – it is really a surprise that it is nominated. I have seen some of the submissions from other countries that are much better. I am also surprised that Outside the Law was nominated. Well made and well acted but just not an Oscar film. I have not seen Incedies but I thought it had a good shot. However, from what I have read lately I don’t think it will win. That leaves us with the two frontrunners. Why do people think that In a Better World will win? It won the Golden Globe (that was a surprise) but that does not mean it will win the Oscar (as the last few years have shown). I haven’t seen the film yet and it does sound very good. I have liked all of Suzanne Bier’s work. But Biutiful is fantastic and has that amazing Javier Bardem performance. Also, Inarritu has been nominated a number of times and this is Mexico’s 8th nomination. So why can’t Biutiful be the winner this year? It may be divisive but it must have Academy support if it got two nominations.

    By the way, Carancho, When We Leave and Even the Rain are all much better films than Dogtooth and each one was more worthy of a nomination.

  6. I would love nothing more than an upset, especially the so deserving Annette bening and Amy Adams but I feel like all of you are just trying to create suspense in a year where there is none. All the winners who have one everything will get an Oscar too unless voters want to show they can deliver a surprise but im not falling for there being any shockers. If the Oscars were held later like in March I might see it but sorry not buying into it.

  7. I am hoping for an eclectic sets of wins that are sprinkled throughout the eligible candidates. I do agree that leaving out Inception was a huge error!

    Thom

  8. Portman should not win. “King’s Speech” is a good flick (and Firth was great and deserving), but it’s NOT a best picture. Weinstein is really putting on the full-court press again, so it’ll prob win. Ugh.

      1. Vehemently, vehemently disagree on Portman.

        The most vastly overhyped, overpraised performance I’ve seen in years. If going to extremes automatically gets one an Oscar, perhaps we can give a belated one to Chloe Sevigny for fellating Vincent Gallo. I had a similar reaction when I walked out of Black Swan feeling – all flash and absolutely no emotional reverb.

        As Peggy Lee would say, “Is that all there IS?”

        1. Too bad for you that most people don’t share your criticism for this wonderful film. You need to get out more.

          1. I get out plenty and i’ll agree with Sparky on this one. I simply don’t see what all the hype is about for Portman’s performance. Was it good? Yes. The best performance of the year? Not so much. Michelle Williams and Jennifer Lawrence were head and shoulders above. But this is the Oscars, and sadly the Best Actress race seems to read more like a popularity contest rather than an award for actual achievement in acting.

  9. How many voters did you talk to Mr. Hammond?? I mean really, you think all 5 Best Actress nominees MAY win? C’mon.

  10. I find it interesting that the one name that didn’t pop up in your best supporting actress section was Jacki Weaver. She could well be the Marciano Gay Harden of 2011…

    1. Marciano Gay Harden! Dave wins by knockout. Thank God there’s at least one person on this board this isn’t a tired, bitter wannabe insider hack.

  11. I’m so glad that there are a lot of you are out there are not portman fans for her to win — i love portman but she gave her best performance in the professional and v for vendetta and for her to win for this psychotic movie is just unsettling to me — she has many chances to win — i just don’t want one of her whins to be for this. BTW, shouldn’t winning an award be an emotional experience — none of the actors seemed that moved. Nicole kidman gives the performance of the year, but i’ve lost hope she will win because lionsgate refuses to support a wide release for one of the best films of the year. Annette Bening has loooonnggggg deserved it and she gives a great performance and i hope that oscar does upset. But i just dont see any upsets happening this year. it’s just gonna be the most boring oscar show in recent memory except for the fact that i’m so excited to see james franco and anne hathaway host.

    1. What does “psychotic” film mean? And what has that to do with whether or not she gave the best performance? (And was she really better in V for Vendetta than in Black Swan?)

  12. Why has everyone given Christian Bale the nod. Clearly Geoffrey Rush should be the winner. His is not as showy but is much more nuanced than Bale’s. People who know anything about acting will clearly see Rush is the winnerband will have voted for him.

  13. THE SOCIAL NETWORK IS BEST PICTURE!

    I am tired of all this King’s Speech buzz. Sure it’s a good movie, but TSN was the movie of the year! I hope Academy voters will realize this and crown the deserving winner!

  14. Sam, Lionsgate doesn’t want to support a wide release of Rabbit Hole because the movie underperformed in its limited release. Essentially, it was a bomb.

    And Natalie Portman had the best performance of the year and she carried her movie, which cost 15 million dollars to make and is going to make over 200 million worldwide, the first big box office success of Aronofsky’s career.

    Nothing is going to stop her.

    1. I’ve read the script over and over.

      I’ve seen the movie over and over.

      Once you read the words can truly see the original concept of Inception.

      While the Matrix came before, to be correct you could say Inception was based on the Wizard of Oz (reality, dream, family)

      After seeing the Black Swan ( how unoriginal) I hope N. Portman wins and Rachel W’s ex wins for director.

  15. Jackie Weaver was outstanding. Are these voters watching the Animal Kingdom screeners? I would give it to her in a heartbeat over the others. Loved that film.

  16. “The Fighter” would not have been as successful without the outstanding supporting performances of Melissa Leo and Christian Bale. Both Melissa and Chistian gave outstanding performances and should both win Oscars in their respective categopries.

    By the way, why can’t the gallup poll give us an indication as to who might win? If they can take polls on who thinks our President is really a Christian, why can’t they do something useful with their talents?

  17. Doesn’t Harvey Weinstein have some undefinable magic mojo with the Best Supporting Actress category? Hasn’t he won MORE Best Supp. Actress Awards for his actresses than any other producer in recent years? I mean, Juliette Binoche, in a total shockeroo upset against Lauren Bacall, in “The English Patient.” Renee Zellweger for “Cold Mountain” and Catherine Zeta Jones for “Chicago.”

    So in a wide open, too-close-to-call race this year, he’s got a slam dunk with his favorite category and a very much loved actress Helena Bonham Carter, playing the most beloved Royal of the 20th century?

    Harvey will prevail.

    1. None of the movies you mentioned had a guaranteed win for Best Actor. Sure, Helena Bonham-Carter would have a chance if she wasn’t completely and utterly overshadowed by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Anyway, it’s hardly a great performance and certainly doesn’t merit an Oscar. Servicable, yes. Deserving of an Oscar, no.

  18. Oh those shenanigans at the intersection of art and commerce…

    Lewis Rothschild: Look George, listen to me… it’s crunch time. It’s personal. This is one of those moments. It’s just you and the President. Now what’s it gonna be? Yeah.
    [listens]
    Lewis Rothschild: All right George, can I tell you something? We’re gonna win this thing. We’re gonna get the votes we need and we’re gonna win this thing. And you know what I’m gonna do after that, I mean that very night, I’m gonna go to Sam & Harry’s, I’m gonna order a big steak, and I’m gonna make a list of everybody who tried to *fuck* us this week!
    Robin McCall: Lewis!
    Lewis Rothschild: [into phone] Well just Vote your conscience, you chicken-shit, lame-ass…
    [slams the phone down]
    Lewis Rothschild: [continuing to Robin and Leon] We lost Jarrett.
    Leon Kodak: [beat] I hope so. ‘Cause, you know, if that was an “undecided,” then we need to work on our people skills.

    The American President, Aaron Sorkin

  19. I liked TSN but I just can’t understand what all this crazy buzz is about … a good movie yes, but no competition to Black Swan, Inception or Kings’ speech, even True Grit …

    How can inception not be a serious contender for best pic or screenplay? In a time when we all complain about being bombarded with big budget visually overloading films with no plot, story, or emotional impact, Chris Nolan has for the first time since the Matrix set a new bar. The academy never gave the Matrix what it deserved and it looks like they will do the same thing with Inception.

    I have read all the nominated scripts and inception is by far the most innovative, followed by the King’s Speech and black swan. There is absolutely nothing original about Sorkin’s work in this case .. although Fincher I think carried the picture.

    1. I don’t know how you could say The King’s Speech is original or innovative and then decry The Social Network.

  20. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you does not mean you need to insult them. Not everyone liked portman’s performance.

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