Friday, March 5, 2010

A Thousand Words for Every Inch of Oscar (and One to Grow On): 2009 Ruminations

We know that you only just now finished last year's Oscar article, but we're afraid that a year has passed and it's time for another red carpet gala, another ceremony that disappoints in the ratings, and another installment of The Only Oscar Preview Longer Than The Oscars (TM).

So what can you expect this year? The ceremony's producer and esteemed auteur Adam Shankman has promised to shake things up and get through the evening at a lightning pace, cutting out the Original Song nominees, not letting hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin speak and replacing "In Memoriam" with a rousing rendition of the greatest song from the greatest film of the year, "Nine's" "Be Italian." Most importantly, watch out for "Up in the Air" co-writer and director Jason Reitman to look pissed off if he doesn't win. Or whenever "Avatar" is mentioned.

Anyhow, let's get rolling…

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Penelope Cruz, “Nine”
Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Crazy Heart”
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique, “Precious”

Wow, there's not even a contest for who screams the loudest or cries the hardest this year.

Jeremy says: Well, we're starting off with a real toughie here, if "toughie" means as dick-slappingly obvious as the plot of "Avatar." Yes, the winner will be the clear favorite, Mo'Nique.

The problem with Mo'Nique's performance isn't Mo'Nique, or her inter-capped, contracted name (which I believe means "more nique"). No sirs, it's the screenplay, which reduces her character to a one-note, cranked-up-to-11 belligerent nut for the bulk of the movie. Have a comment? Well in response she has some shit to throw at you, and abusive things to shout at you. Then at the end she gets one really powerful scene and nails the hell out of it. And that scene, my friends, will win her this Oscar.

None of her fellow nominees really have any momentum—nor could they jump high enough—to leap-frog her. Farmiga and Kendrick are both quite good in "Up in the Air," giving the film the personal touches it needed to shine through its contrivances.

Penelope Cruz, uh, looked sexy and seductive in "Nine." Did she do anything else? If you listened to our Oscar podcast, you know that I actually forgot she was in it—and I was doing her a favor.

Gyllenhaal helped Jeff Bridges elevate "Crazy Heart," but we'll have more to say about that in the Best Actor predictions. She offers the most complete performance of the nominees, creating a woman who is full of fears and doubts, but is won over by the charm and affection of a country music legend.

Prediction: Mo'Nique
Preference: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Chris says: Yeah, the thing about the inevitable Mo’Nique win is that it’s just another in a long line of performances that win for their bombast more than for anything else. And that’s nothing against bombast—we all love a bombastic performance, do we not? But great bombastic performances (and the written roles themselves) require finesse, and too often “Precious” leaves Mo’Nique twisting in the wind.

I will defend its cranked-up-to-11-ness to a small extent; Jeremy has complained (with some merit) that the character (and the movie) are unintentionally funny in their ridiculousness, when in fact some of that humor is definitely intentional. So at times I thought she was hilarious and was intending to be so.

Jeremy says: Oh, I get some of the humor is intentional. But when the screenplay inflicts another horrible tragedy on its characters simply because it's time for a dramatic beat, that's unintentionally funny. What? You're not done yet, and this isn't the screenplay category? Fine…

Chris says: Anyway, that doesn’t mean the role deserves to recognized with an Oscar, but what can I do about it?

Oh, I can complain?

Fine, then I’ll complain. I’ll complain that—aside from the fact that no one at any award show gave this movie any attention whatsoever—Rachel Weisz was passed over for her fantastic performance in “The Brothers Bloom.” Her character was a mass of neuroses and Weisz was able to not only balance them, but give the character an enigmatic quality that I can’t imagine the movie without. Her performance was a joy to watch. Then there’s the snub of Melanie Laurent, who provided the soul of “Inglourious Basterds” with a wicked combination of frailty and tenacity.

And I’d also like to throw in Ok-bin Kim in “Thirst” and Olivia Williams in “An Education.” But no matter who was nominated, seeing Gyllenhaal take home the prize would be a pleasure. Going into “Crazy Heart,” I’d heard almost exclusively about Bridges – but Gyllenhaal provides the perfect other half to the film’s character study in ways Jeremy has already described.

Prediction: Mo’Nique
Preference: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon, “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”

We'd like personal explanations from every member of the Academy as to why Matt Damon's work in "The Informant!" wasn't nominated, but his work in "Invictus" was.

Academy Member No. 1: I haven’t even heard of “The Informant!”

Academy Member No. 2: Did he do an accent in that one? Because we fucking love accents.

Academy Member No. 3: ’Ello, guv’nah! Blimey! Hey guys, hey guys, did you see how I just did a British accent?

Academy Member No. 2: Hilarious!

Academy Member No. 4: Oh, be Italian, why don’t ya!

Academy Member No. 3: Eh! Bada-bing! I like-a to make-a the spaghetti sauce-a, eh? Hey, va fangul, eh?! Bada-boom.

Chris says: What is that English expression – if the shoe fits, you must wear it? Well, admittedly, the Oscar statuette isn’t something you can technically “wear” (Lady Gaga notwithstanding), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit Christoph Waltz like a glove. In fact, I’ll take a cue from my old pal Kirk Cameron’s banana demonstration and prove intelligent design beyond a shadow of a doubt. See how the grooves and curves of the Oscar statuette fit perfectly into the indentations and creases in Waltz’s hand? That’s because the Oscar statue and Waltz’s exalted human body were created to fit together! It was divine providence! Gosh, this is fun. You can try it at home with any number of objects. Also works with: penis + hand, finger + ear, Dr. Pepper bottle + mouth, cucumber slice + eyes—and, of course, the old natural way, Cameron’s favorite, the banana!

Which he grasped just before beating Andrew Koenig to death with it.

Oh, but I kid. Such cruelty can only be reserved for Waltz’s Hans Landa, who is at least on par with Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in the battle for greatest villain of the decade. (The entire cast of “Mamma Mia!” is running close behind.) But instead of a ridiculous shotgun, this baddie killed ’em with charm, with kindness, and, yes, with a little Joie de vivre. He is calculating, devilishly charming and absolutely black-hearted, and Waltz finesses every inflection with absolute precision. This category is a runaway. And hey, since the Academy refused to nominate Tarantino’s last great villains – David Carradine’s title character in “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike in “Death Proof” – the recognition is long overdue.

Of course, to respond to our omniscient introductory narrator’s beef with the Academy’s Damon selection, let me just point out that Damon and Morgan Freeman singlehandedly ended racism in “Invictus.” What, one little nomination is too much? You try singlehandedly ending racism sometime!

I mean, since Waltz has the Oscar completely locked up, the Academy had no choice but to nominate four throw-ins. I mean, what else could explain the bone they threw to Christopher Plummer, who’d never before been nominated, for a movie that everyone who saw (which was almost no one) was lukewarm about? Logically, a far more deserving nominee would have been Plummer’s co-star from his other movie this year – the great Tom Waits in his delectable turn as the Devil in Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.” But don’t worry, he doesn’t mind – he’s got Being the World’s Greatest Musical Artist and Total Fucking Badass to fall back on.

What about the sinister, passive-aggressive brilliance of Fred Melamed in “A Serious Man”? And we at The Same Dame have been asking the Academy since June to consider Zach Galifianakis for “The Hangover,” and I’d throw in an even more unconventional suggestion – Timothy Olyphant in “A Perfect Getaway.” I mean, that dude was hard to kill. Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”? Kind of a pussy when it came right down to it.

And quite a silly performance, to boot.

Prediction: Christoph Waltz
Preference: Christoph Waltz

Jeremy says: Stanley Tucci? A silly pussy? Come on! I've never been so convinced that a man who's in a hurry to dump a big, heavy object somewhere would park his car as far as possible from where he needs to dump it. That takes ACTING, my man. ACTING!

In addition to the actors Chris mentioned, I would have also liked to see Malcolm Tucker smile when Waltz's name was announced. His bravado, foul-mouthed performance in "In the Loop" is a wildly funny journey into abusive authority.

If I needed to pick a second favorite out of the nominees, I'd have to go with Woody Harrelson, who kind of played the talkative Steve Buscemi to Ben Foster's tacit Peter Stormare. Except Foster's character isn't big, intimidating and insistent on eating pancakes. And "The Messenger" is about soldiers who inform people that their loved ones died at war, not kidnappers. And it's not as funny as "Fargo" either. What? Oh yeah, Steve Buscemi was in "The Messenger," wasn't he? Well, he certainly wasn't its Steve Buscemi. He was more like…I dunno…let's say Mike Yanagita. But anyway…Harrelson: nice work, lots of emotional undertones and psychological scars.

But Waltz gave the performance of the year in any category. The scheming, slimy, charming, deliberate, sadistic brute came out of nowhere and wowed everyone who saw "Basterds." Tarantino wrote him a great part, and he brought it to life in all its glory.

Prediction: Christoph Waltz
Preference: Christoph Waltz

Chris says: You know what that is, Jeremy?

Jeremy says: Tell me.

Chris says: That’s a bingo!

Best Achievement in Makeup
“Il divo” – Aldo Signoretti, Vittorio Sodano
“Star Trek” – Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow
“The Young Victoria” – John Henry Gordon, Jenny Shircore

You, dear reader, are probably having the same reactions most Academy voters had while filling out their ballots: “What the fuck’s ‘Il divo?’” Well, we’ve actually seen it, and can confirm that it does have impressive makeup.

Jeremy says: I think this has to go to "Star Trek," no? I mean, the Romulans don't have weird, scaly things on their face in this version, but they do have badass tattoos. Both Spocks have pointy ears. What I'm getting at is that the film has the most noticeable makeup, and that generally counts in this category. Period makeup doesn't have the same pull as period art direction and period costumes, so "The Young Victoria" is out of luck.

Personally, I'm going to have to favor Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano, who earned their third and second nominations, respectively, for Paolo Sorrentino's "Il divo," a stylish biopic of Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. The film's makeup isn't just about portraying the characters at different ages—the skin tones enhance the atmosphere. The main thing working against the film: Nobody knows what it is.

Prediction: "Star Trek"
Preference: "Il divo"

Chris says: Come on, you’re gonna vote against the badass tattoos? Even after you went and got your own face tattooed just like Eric Bana’s after you saw “Star Trek”? OK, OK, I know—it was just magic marker. But still. You were still pretty obsessed. Me, I just had my girlfriend dress up like Uhura so I could pretend she was Zoe Saldana.

Hahahahaha, I’m just kidding, I don’t have a girlfriend.

(Netflix is my girlfriend.)

Moving on…

Prediction: “Star Trek”
Preference: “Star Trek”

Best Achievement in Costume Design
“Bright Star” – Janet Patterson
“Coco Before Chanel” – Catherine Leterrier
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” – Monique Prudhomme
“Nine” – Colleen Atwood
“The Young Victoria” – Sandy Powell

There'll be smooth sailin' 'cause I'm trimmin' my sails
In my top hat and my white tie and my tails

Now there was an easy movie to design costumes for—they just copied off the lyrics. But the sailing wasn't so smooth for these nominees, who had to rely on hard work and a bunch of books with pictures of old clothes in them.

Chris says: It seems like every year, when we get to Costume Design, we sit here and just whine about how yet another dainty costume drama is going to take home the gold just because the Academy reserves this award exclusively for dainty costume dramas. It’s gotten to be a stale act, to be honest, but what else can we say? Look at that list of nominees. Four fucking period pieces, two fucking costume dramas – both of which were forgotten almost immediately upon release. One of which (“The Young Victoria”) I didn’t even bother to see – if only because of the stab-me-in-the-face-until-it’s-over chess metaphor that I kept seeing in the trailers.

The other two nominees? Another stunningly realized visual dreamscape from Terry Gilliam and a glitzy, dressed-up postcard of a movie that uses Fellini as an affectation and opens up an entirely new dimension of Missing The Point. The Academy thought it was being Italian by nominating “Nine,” but it was wrong. This was a decidedly un-Italian nomination.

But what to choose? I’d like to see both “Bright Star” and “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” get recognized, and I’m going to have to go with the latter – if only because, if the former were to win, it would only be because it’s a period piece, not because any voter took the time to think it through. But I think the statuette will go to “Coco Before Chanel,” since thousands of voters no doubt wear Chanel – in one form or another—on a regular basis. Worldwide brand recognition, folks. That’s what you get for imposing on a rich aristocratic asshole and getting treated like shit for years. Keep that in mind.

Prediction: “Coco Before Chanel”
Preference: “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”

Jeremy says: This one is a bit tricky to predict because, hey, "The Young Victoria" is the ultimate period costume drama (set in the Victorian period, if I recall correctly). In 2007, when faced with a World War II period piece with much more impressive costume design, the voters still couldn't stop from getting semen stains all over the boring shit from "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (that one was Elizabethan, my period experts tell me). So it would be foolish to bet against any story of English royalty.

But—and this is where Chris may be on to something—it would also be foolish to bet against a nominee whose subject matter directly relates to the craft at hand. You don't bet against a film about a blind guy winning Best Sound Mixing, and you don't bet against a film about a clothing designer (with high-end brand recognition, no less!) in Costume Design. But that leaves us with two nominees we shouldn't bet against. Whaaaaa??!!!?!?

OK, Jeremy, breath deep. Pull yourself together. Be Italian. You can do this.

Alright. The clothing styles are integral to "Coco Avant Chanel" (that means "Coco Before Chanel" in some obscure language), making it a lock. EXCEPT the film is about the designer who took away corsets and frills—the Academy's favorite thing in the world!!! It's gonna have to go to "The Young Victoria."

Prediction: "The Young Victoria"
Preference: "Bright Star"

Best Documentary, Short Subjects
“China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province” – Jon Alpert, Richard O’Neill
“The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner” – Daniel Junge, Henry Ansbacher
“The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant” – Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert
“Królik po berlinsku” – Bartosz Konopka, Anna Wydra
“Music by Prudence” – Roger Ross Williams, Elinor Burkett

Best Short Film, Animated
“French Roast” – Fabrice Joubert
“Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” – Nicky Phelan, Darragh O’Connell
“La dama y la muerte” – Javier Recio Garcia
“Logorama” – Nicolas Schmerkin
“Wallace and Gromit in ‘A Matter of Loaf and Death’” – Nick Park

Best Short Film, Live Action
“The Door” – Juanita Wilson, James Flynn
“Istället för abrakadabra” – Patrik Eklund, Mathias Fjällström
“Kavi” – Gregg Helvey
“Miracle Fish” – Luke Doolan, Drew Bailey
“The New Tenants” – Joachim Back, Tivi Magnusson

Whoa! We're doing all the shorts in one go. Take a deep breath, this might be a long 'un.

Which is ironic. You know, since this is the “short” category and all. God, we’re good at irony.

Jeremy says: This year's documentary short nominees didn't really take the whole "short" thing to heart, did they? The films average around 40 minutes a piece, the shortest being 33 minutes and the longest 51 minutes. 51! "Sherlock, Jr." is a feature and it's shorter than that. Also, I hate this category because it contains the only nominee I haven't seen, "Królik po berlinsku," whose English title is "Rabbit à la Berlin." That's not even English. What the hell? It's supposed to be good—it's about the rabbits that used to live in the Berlin wall, but it's a metaphor for life after communism or something. Sounds like it'd go over voters' heads, even if it's supposed to be good.

Anyway, this is a collection of sad stories, but I think the film that will touch the Academy voters most will be “China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province.” Props also go to “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant,” which chronicles the personal stories of proud GM workers as their award-winning factory closes.

In the animated lineup, we have a Nick Park film. The only time Nick Park has lost in this category was the year he had two nominees and only one of them could win (although a tie would have been really impressive). Admittedly "A Matter of Loaf and Death" isn't the best Wallace and Gromit short, and the formula has grown familiar over the years. But unless voters are completely sick of that lovable dimwit inventor and his ever-loyal dog, I don't see any of the other nominees overtaking it.

Of the three clever dark comedies involving old ladies, “Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty," about a bitter, lonely old lady telling her granddaughter a skewed bedtime story, is the funniest, but “La dama y la muerte” and "French Roast" are also amusing. "Logorama" creates an impressive vision of the world in logotypes, but its tone-deaf attempts at edgy dialogue and trite disaster movie metaphor are less impressive (not that Academy voters would go for it either way).

The Live Action category is tougher to predict. You've basically got three very depressing films, one obnoxious hipster film that thinks its way more clever than it is, and one quirky deadpan comedy. The comedy, “Istället för abrakadabra” ("Instead of Abracadabra") from Sweden, could win for its goofy, sweet romance simply because it's a break from the dreariness. I mean, it's better than past winner "The Mozart of Pickpockets." "The Door," however, is clearly the most artfully made film, examining one family's experience of the Chernoble disaster quickly but potently, and I'm going to have to predict it.

"Miracle Fish," about an alienated lower-class boy's unforgettable school day, has a strong understanding of childhood and tragedy. "Kavi," about modern-day slaves in India, is an utterly average production with no inspired filmmaking. Last, "The New Tenants" isn't Oscar material and also happens to be terrible.

Predictions: “China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province,” “Wallace and Gromit in ‘A Matter of Loaf and Death,’” "The Door"
Preferences: “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant,” “Wallace and Gromit in ‘A Matter of Loaf and Death,’” "The Door"

Chris says: Yeah, I was shocked at how tone-deaf "The New Tenants" was. How did they rope Vincent D'Onofrio into this? Was he just thrilled by the challenge to put on a shitload of weight again? Anyway, I agree about the artistry of "The Door," however its terrible, "I'm-spelling-everything-out-that-I-should-be-able-to-communicate-visually" writing should preclude it from winning the award. For a filmmaker with such obvious skill, it's odd that she doesn't allow her filmmaking to speak for itself. To borrow a phrase from Mr. Mathews here, I'd say the writing was dick-slappingly obvious.

Two better choices would be "Miracle Fish" - with the way it adjusts our sense of equilibrium, for the way an early shot tells us so much without us right away knowing quite why, for one sublime transition in particular - and the very funny "Instead of Abracadabra." I'm not sure if I like that one quite as much as the director's recent Sundance short, "Seeds of the Fall," but he once again shows deft comic timing and a fine sense of composition.

I can't disagree with Jeremy's take on the animated shorts. "French Roast," "The Lady and the Reaper," "Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty" and "Logorama" were all funny and clever enough - some more than others - but a B effort from "Wallace and Gromit" still bests them all.

Also, I haven't seen the doc shorts. But just to piss Jeremy off, I hope the one he hasn't seen wins.

Predictions: "Wallace and Gromit in 'A Matter of Loaf and Death,'" "The Door," "The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant"
Preferenes: "Wallace and Gromit in 'A Matter of Loaf and Death,'" "Miracle Fish" or "Instead of Abracadabra"

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
“Avatar” – Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andy Jones
“District 9” – Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros, Matt Aitken
“Star Trek” – Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, Burt Dalton

Doesn't pretty much every movie made nowadays have special effects? And yet they can only come up with three nominees? Pull it together, Academy!

Chris says: Alright, look. If you spend $400 million to make a movie and you spend virtually every cent of that on your special effects, dammit, you should win the Oscar. It’s your duty. If some puny little movie that cost just $140 million to make – J.J. Abrams probably had to cobble together his budget with a bunch of independent financiers – were to surpass your effects and/or steal the award, that’s not just an upset. It’s an embarrassment, love! (That’s what I call James Cameron.) I mean, it’s bad enough you’re forced to share space on the ballot with a movie that only cost a lousy $30 million.

James Cameron says: Hahahahahahaha! Your budget is tiny, just like your penis, Neill Blomkamp. Mine’s huge.

Chris says: Anyway…you really never had an excuse, “Avatar.” You pay that much for effects, they damn well better be Oscar-worthy, if not groundbreaking. And as it happens, the money definitely shows up on screen. While the melding of CGI and motion-capture into a fully realized universe may not be nearly as groundbreaking as people seem to be blindly assuming it is—really, it’s nothing more than another step in the tracks recently left by (for better and/or worse) Peter Jackson, David Fincher and Robert Zemeckis—it’s certainly a polished and accomplished piece of technical wizardry. However, that says nothing of the artistry – or, in some instances, the lack thereof. As impressive as some sequences are, it’s hard not to get annoyed by the monotony that sets in after a sequence or two on Pandora. (And please, with the fucking blacklight – we’re not 13 anymore, and we weren’t into that shit anyway.) There’s also some obvious digital jerkiness with some of the human characters (particularly in wide shots) and Sigourney Weaver’s Na’vi avatar curiously looks much more animatronic than some of her counterparts.

Cameron also loses a few points for deciding to cover up Zoe Saldana’s infinite hotness with bright blue computer effects – a mistake my favorite of this category, “Star Trek,” did not make. Not only does J.J. Abrams’ fantastic sci-fi actioner (which boasts more impressive action scenes and production design than does “Avatar”) feature more Saldana, but uses its special effects more seamlessly and to greater effect. If we’re grading on a curve, “District 9” should win – since with its $30 mil it easily bested countless effects-heavy movies with five or six times the budget. However, no one has a chance to topple “Avatar” on this one – and with the obvious level of skill on so many of the effects, that’s a fair enough result.

Prediction: “Avatar”
Preference: “Star Trek”

James Cameron says: JAMES CAMERON!

Jeremy says: I would make a joke about "Avatar," but according to those articles about why Sacha Baron Cohen won't be at the Oscars, that would be a HUGE mistake. What the fuck? I mean, the man just made all the money in the world, he should be able to laugh at anything, with the possible exception of "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo."

James Cameron says: Hey! I don't produce the Oscars. I even told Christina Gibson, "If they want to poke fun at 'Avatar' Sunday, that's OK by me. I'm sure we'll laugh." Of course, I was making a throat-slashing gesture, shaking my head and looking as stern as Peter Stormare in "Fargo" at the time, but come on!

GOB Bluth says: Come on!

James Cameron says: SHUT UP! As I was saying, I love a good laugh. Go ahead. Make me laugh, poor boy. Show me what you can do with this podunk article that won't get as many hits as a blurry picture of my giant dick, let alone make .000001 percent of what "Avatar" and "Titanic" made on their worst days. Go ahead. Let's hear your little jokes. I'm sure we'll all laugh.

I'm waiting.

Jeremy says: Uh…Na'vi are blue and they speak in Papyrus subtitles?

James Cameron says: I've made a huge mistake.

Jeremy says: So, anyhow…"Avatar" had mountains that weren't connected to land. What's up with that? Floating mountains and waterfalls. That's what I call a triumph in visual effects. Where'd the bottom of the mountain go? They didn't just stick a mirror in front of it, that's for sure. They'd need a really big mirror if they were gonna do that, and then the cameras might end up in the shot. (Remember that fake mirror shot in "Terminator 2?" Linda Hamilton had a twin!) So yeah, it seems like a pretty obvious choice for the win.

None of the three of the nominees had perfect effects, but there were certain moments in "Avatar," especially in its opening sequence, that really took me out of the film, which is a big no-no. Of course, I was chastised for not wanting to award "Benjamin Button" for the same reason, but the past is the past, let's not dwell on it. I prefer "Star Trek," too.

Prediction: "Avatar"
Preference: "Star Trek"

Chris says: Yeah, and there are imperfect effects moments that I’m sure “took you out of” “Star Wars,” “E.T.,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” etc., so back in the old days – when you and I were banging out this Oscar preview on our old Hansen Writing Ball typewriters (Gosh, our hair was long back then! What were we thinking?!) – you were probably against those movies winning visual effects Oscars, too. Hell, 1988 Jeremy probably criticized “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” for its groundbreaking effects. Ya know, there were moments when I could tell I was seeing an effect. What an undeserved Oscar!

But look what you’ve done by hashing out the past, Jeremy. Just look at what you’ve done!

Robin Williams from Good Will Hunting says: It’s not your fault, Jeremy. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

Jeremy says: Wait, Chris, so—

Robin Williams from Good Will Hunting says: It’s not your fault!

Jeremy says: …so now are you arguing in favor of "Avatar?" Then why'd you pick "Star Trek" as your preference, you ol' nut? And I'm specifically referring to dead-eyed, creepy looking characters and stiff-walking digital extras and the like. I don't remember a cut to a creepy Harrison Ford dummy in the middle of an emotional moment during "Raiders" or a waxy-skinned Elliott to make Henry Thomas look younger. Those sins are much worse than flaws in scenery effects (although those bug me, too, of course—I'm not hard to bug).

Chris says:: What I'm saying is, groundbreaking effects are always never going to be perfect (well, "2001" comes close), and usually have significant flaws. But the Academy should honor groundbreaking visual-effects work. If you do comparatively easy special effects really, really well, that's not all that impressive -- it's expected.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
James Horner, “Avatar”
Alexandre Desplat, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”
Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders, “The Hurt Locker”
Hans Zimmer, “Sherlock Holmes”
Michael Giacchino, “Up”

Listen to that orchestra swell. No, we won't get off stage, we're not done yet. We haven't even gotten to screenplay yet! Give us a break!

Chris says: I don’t know whether it’s voter apathy or, well, the exact opposite, but the Original Score category has had its share of interesting, surprising and under-the-radar winners over the years. I mean, a Robert Redford movie you’ve never heard of called “The Milagro Beanfield War” won it back in 1988. “The Red Violin” won. “Emma” won. And yet, some of the very best composers in the business are still Oscar-less. James Newton Howard? Eight nominations, no wins. Thomas Newman? 0-for-10. And this year’s two most deserving nominees, Alexandre Desplat and Michael Giacchino, are a combined 0-for-5, and have been overlooked for nominations on plenty of other occasions.

But most baffling of all is the fact that – ahem – Carter Burwell has never been nominated for a fucking Oscar. I mean, come on!

Oh, hold on a sec, someone wants to say something.

GOB Bluth says: Come on!

Jeremy says: Hey, we used that joke last year. Come on!

GOB Bluth says: Come on!

Chris says: Hey, I’m talking here. Come on!

So when Burwell outdoes himself with the most haunting score of his career in “A Serious Man,” the Academy casually looks the other way. And what about the vintage work of Marvin Hamlisch on "The Informant!?" Can that movie get a little recognition, please? Unfortunately, either of those had gotten nominated, they would have knocked off one of the worthy nominees instead of the utterly boring, disposable work of James Horner. But when you get a juggernaut like “Avatar” – especially one that calls itself an epic – the score nomination is an automatic. After all, with the stale romance, how else would you know what to feel but for Horner’s strings?

Personally, much as I loved Hans Zimmer’s delightfully playful, modern score for “Sherlock Holmes,” I’ll give the slight edge to the two animated films of the bunch – which just so happen to be two of the seven best films of the year. Alexandre Desplat has kind of become the composer du jour in Hollywood lately, with seven credits listed for 2009 alone. His work on “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is part of arguably the best soundtrack of the year, and every variation of the “Boggis, Bunce and Bean” theme seems to improve upon the last. The music—as you might expect from any Wes Anderson film—strikes the perfect tone, and like the film itself, is just too much damn fun not to love. Desplat’s equal is Michael Giacchino, who ——

Hold on, a quick aside:


Alright, sorry about that. Anyway, Desplat’s equal is Michael Giacchino (of “LOST” fame), whose brilliant blend of old-fashioned jazz and ragtime, classical and modern styles exquisitely captured the film’s emotions and stylistic proclivities (Woody Allen much? Silent cinema much?), particularly during the “Married Life” montage that I just now creamed myself thinking about. But alas, it seems doomed to lose to “Avatar.”

Prediction: “Avatar”
Preference: “Up” or “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

And that’s only fitting, really, since the movie “Avatar” was based on – Disney’s “Pocahontas” – won this same award back in 1995.

James Cameron says: Yeah, that’s funny. Hilarious. You know what else would be hilarious? Me and you comparing dick sizes. I have a huge one. Want me to prove it? Dude, my movie just made seven-hundred million cunting dollars.

Jeremy: Well, I think—

James Cameron says: Two point five-fucking-nine billion fucking dollars worldwide. It basically made all of the money that’s out there. Yeah that’s right, whip ’em out.

Jeremy says: I guess the problem with "Avatar" is that it's a possible juggernaut. It could very well go on a sweeping rampage and eat up its competition, or it could fall just short in a lot of categories and go home with only a few statuettes. In any event other than a sweep, I don't think one of those statues will be the Original Score Oscar. As Chris pointed out, voters are often willing to be adventurous in this category and award underdogs. Why they don't do this in any other category is a mystery.

Despite its omissions like "The Informant!" and "A Serious Man," this category is filled with strong, interesting scores. "Sherlock Holmes" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" are both great fun, and Sander's work in "The Hurt Locker" brings out the film's underlying frustration and paranoia.

But that's all for naught, because Giacchino's fine, fine work is inherently tied to the year's most emotional bit of filmmaking, and that will put him over the top when voters are filling out their ballots. Plus, Giacchino deserves an Oscar for concluding the best TV show score of all time this year.


Prediction: "Up"
Preference: "Up"

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
“The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart” – T-Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham
“Loin de Paname” from “Faubourg 36” – Reinhardt Wagner, Frank Thomas
“Take it All” from “Nine” – Maury Yeston
“Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” – Randy Newman
“Down in New Orleans” from “The Princess and the Frog” – Randy Newman

They aren't going to perform these songs at the ceremony this year. What the fuck? Sure, most of the nominees usually suck, but it's called tradition, dude.

Jeremy says: The standout winner here is "The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart" (Chris told me the song was called "Crazy Heart"—what's he smoking?) The movie's about songwriting, the song is very good and everybody loves T-Bone Burnett. Check and mate.

The next-best song is the "Paris 36" cabaret number "Loin de Paname," which is French for "Far from Paname." "Take it All" may have only been written as Original Song Oscar bait, but it was one of the best moments from "Nine," although that says very, very little. Nevertheless, here's to Marion Cotillard for not making a complete fool of herself like every other cast member.

While I appreciate Disney's attempt to revive the animated musical, Newman's generic songs were the weakest part of "The Princess and the Frog." There ain't no "Under the Seas" here, folks. (And the film's best song, "Evangeline," wasn't even nominated.)

Prediction: "The Weary Kind"
Preference: "The Weary Kind"

Chris says: I take issue with Jeremy’s claim that I said the “Crazy Heart” song was called “Crazy Heart,” mainly because I don’t remember ever having a conversation with Jeremy about the song from “Crazy Heart.” Which is called—and I want you all to get this—“The Weary Kind.” Now, A) I could be wrong; B) Jeremy could be purposely defaming me; or C) perhaps Jeremy thought it was me who told him that dirty lie, only it was someone else—like, perhaps, the life-size cardboard cutout of me that he keeps in his recording studio. Either way, the song is fucking called “The Weary Kind” and it’s terrific.

Jeremy says: See Chris, and you wonder why I insist on recording all our conversations:

To be fair, it sounds like you call it "The Crazy Heart," which has one word right from "The Weary Kind." (And haha, I bet when you suckers saw an audio player in this section, you thought you'd get to hear some music!)

Chris says: That doesn't even sound like me.

Prediction: "The Weary Kind"
Preference: "The Weary Kind"

Best Achievement in Sound
“Avatar” – Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, Tony Johnson
“The Hurt Locker” – Paul N.J. Ottosson, Ray Beckett
“Inglourious Basterds” – Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Mark Ulano
“Star Trek” - Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson, Peter J. Devlin
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fal len” – Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Geoffrey Patterson

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
“Avatar” – Christopher Boyes, Gwendolyn Yates Little
“The Hurt Locker” – Paul N.J. Ottosson
“Inglourious Basterds” – Wylie Stateman
“Star Trek” – Mark P. Stoecklinger, Alan Rankin
“Up” – Michael Silvers, Tom Myers

Remember that year we transcribed the entire opening sequence of "The Bourne Ultimatum?" Man, that was awesome.

Jeremy says: Well, hrm…

"Avatar" is the big effects triumph of the year, which often translates to awards in the sound categories. Unless, however, the Academy faces another film whose sound design really stands out. "The Hurt Locker" could very well be that film, at least in the mixing category, for the dynamic, tense soundscapes that accompany its brilliant setpieces. I suspect that "Avatar" will still win Sound Editing for its other-worldly explosions, but "The Hurt Locker" will pull it out for Best Sound.

Tarantino's brilliant sound team will, of course, be ignored.

Prediction: "Avatar" for Sound Editing, "The Hurt Locker" for Sound Mixing
Preference: "The Hurt Locker" for Sound Editing, "Inglourious Basterds" or "The Hurt Locker" for Sound Mixing

Chris says: Well, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” sure was loud. So was “Avatar,” but that was just the visuals.

(Hey-oh! Zing! You better stay away from me folks, ’cause I’m on fire!)

James Cameron says: OK, you know my Oscars? Thirteen-and-a-half inches long. And let me just put it this way: My wife wasn’t even impressed.

Chris says: Anyway, I agree with everything Jeremy said. Or maybe not, but I can’t pin down sound editing with enough expertise for it to really matter. Plus, you’re all skipping this category anyway. See, watch:



Yeah, didn’t think so. No one’s paying attention, Jeremy.

Well, Jason is – but that’s only because he loves tits.

Best Achievement in Art Direction
“Avatar” – Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” – David Warren, Anastasia Masaro, Caroline Smith
“Nine” – John Myhre, Gordon Sim
“Sherlock Holmes” – Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
“The Young Victoria” – Patrice Vermette, Maggie Gray

Alright, this is where the producers of the year's period pictures take a deep breath. The dream they set out for when they green-lit their movies could all come true here: They could get to put "Academy Award Winner" on the DVD cover.

Chris says: OK, before we begin, just a quick clarification. I’d like to line up the art direction nominees for “Avatar,” m’kay? Rick, Robert, Kim ... alright, that’s all of ’em, thanks for being here. Quick question: Did any of you found the novelty store and shopping mall staple Spencer’s Gifts?


No? Mm-hmm. Alright, how about album covers? Before becoming production designers and all that, did any of you design album covers for a living? Perhaps in the 1970s?


No? Interesting. Interesting indeed. Alright, last one. Probably a lock. Were any of you three – or all, for that matter – responsible for the production design on “The Abyss?”

NO? Well gosh, I just don’t know what to say. At least give me this – at least tell me that, if you all had it your way, you wouldn’t possibly have come up with something so monotonous and childish as so much of the art direction in “Avatar” unfortunately is.

You would have? Phew! Now I can rest better when you guys pick up that Oscar that’s comin’ your way. I’ll just pretend I didn’t see all the tacky visuals and try to only remember the beautiful ones. Meanwhile, the deserving winners – the team behind “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” – will go home empty-handed. I’ve been trying to talk myself into a scenario in which they’d win, but I’m afraid it’s isn’t meant to be. Couldn’t we remind the Academy that Heath Ledger died and pull a little more sympathy from them?

Come on, voters, Heath Ledger died! Give “Parnassus” the Oscar, you heartless assholes!

Terry Gilliam says: Yeah, Heath Ledger died! Have a heart!

Jason Reitman says: Yeah, Heath Ledger died! Fuck “Avatar!” Yeah!

Nicolas Chartier says: Yeah, I’m on board with that! Fuck “Avatar!” Plus, Heath Ledger died! Come on!

George Lucas says: I made a digital Heath Ledger and he will never die!

James Cameron says: JAMES CAMERON!

Chris says: Anyway, not that this is a surprise, since the art direction category is always clueless – “Children of Men” and “Minority Report” got left out, for shit’s sake – but I’d like to point out the silly prejudice against animated films in this category. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” had some of the most detailed, creative and visually sumptuous production design I’ve seen in years. But hey, it’s a silly movie for kids – this category is for the real awards about people wearing lavish costumes! Anyway, watch how Italian I’m being with my prediction:

Prediction: “Nine”
Preference: “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”

Jeremy says: Art Direction is another category that the "Avatar" juggernaut will not win (fingers crossed).

Remember when Alex McDowell wasn't even nominated for "Minority Report?" And now they're gonna turn around and give an Oscar to a much less visionary—dare I saw somewhat derivative?—science-fiction design team instead?

OK, that does sound like something the Academy would do. BUT there are period pieces nominated. Fucking period pieces.

You'd think that "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," with its mind-bending environments, would have a chance here, but you'd be wrong. That isn't what Art Direction means, folks, it means fancy-looking, old-timey period sets! Why else wouldn't "A Serious Man" and "Inglourious Basterds" be nominated? (They're both period films, but not period enough.)

I'm a bit stuck here because "Sherlock Holmes" is full of fun, ornate details, but "The Young Victoria" has the most handsome, Oscar-friendly setting. They're both period pieces, though. Eh, fuck it, let's say "Sherlock Holmes." I don't have a reputation to ruin.

Prediction: "Sherlock Holmes"
Preference: "Sherlock Holmes" or "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"

Best Achievement in Editing
“Avatar” – Stephen A. Rivkin, John Refoua, James Cameron
“District 9” – Julian Clarke
“The Hurt Locker” – Bob Murawski, Chris Innis
“Inglourious Basterds” – Sally Menke
“Precious” – Joe Klotz

Remember when we had Brent Sallay with us, and he and Jeremy would argue about whether a film longer than two hours should be eligible for the Oscar? Good times. However, if you're looking for a more trimmed-down Editing rundown, this might do the trick.

Jeremy says: The editing of "The Hurt Locker" is so inherently locked to its success that I can't imagine a scenario in which Bob Murawski and Chris Innis don't have this baby locked up. The film's unforgettable depictions of chaotic bomb diffusions pulsate with energy, paranoia and perfectly understandable confusion. While I'm also a fan of Sally Menke's work in "Basterds," "The Hurt Locker" is pretty much a master class in editing.

Also, how the hell did "Precious" get nominated in this category? Unless the Academy is Awarding clumsiest editing, I don't see a prize for Joe Klutz—sorry, Klotz (see what I did there?).

Prediction: "The Hurt Locker"
Preference: "The Hurt Locker"

Chris says: Dammit, you stole my Klotz/Klutz joke!! I’ve been planning that all week. Then I was going to laugh hysterically. Well anyway, now that you’ve stolen my thunder, I don’t really have a follow-up. I can’t disagree with what Jeremy says about “The Hurt Locker’s” editing, but I’m still gonna give the slight edge to Sally Menke for “Inglourious Basterds.” Unlike “The Hurt Locker” and—let’s be honest—most editing nominees these days, the cuts are a bit more judicious in “Basterds,” which builds its tension through longer takes, slow camera movements and precision reaction and reveal shots. And even in the moments when it does get kinetic, it does so with incredible grace. I’m thinking in particular of the first climax of the tavern scene, when the suspense finally reaches a boiling point and erupts in a brief onslaught of chaotic violence—the clarity with which Menke and Tarantino utilize ultra-fast cuts is quite impressive indeed. But again, that’s nothing against “The Hurt Locker.”

But I’m still mad about that “klutz” joke.

Prediction: “The Hurt Locker”
Preference: “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Achievement in Cinematography
“Avatar” – Mauro Fiore
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” – Bruno Delbonnel
“The Hurt Locker” – Barry Ackroyd
“Inglourious Basterds” – Robert Richardson
“The White Ribbon” – Christian Berger

This year's slate of cinematographers features many different techniques—handheld, black-and-white, computer-generated, classical, Hufflepuff.

Chris says: The American Society of Cinematographers threw a bit of a kink into the cinematography race when they awarded the well-deserving Christian Berger for “The White Ribbon” this year—despite the fact that they almost rarely nominate foreign films, let alone let those non-American bastards walk away with our hardware on our fucking soil. So that’s the good news. The bad news—or rather, the bad omen—is that the last time the ASC awarded a black-and-white masterpiece its top honor (in 2001 for “The Man who Wasn’t There”), the film lost out come Oscar time and Roger Deakins went home sad.

Jeremy says: Look at that rolling hubcap, Academy. What's wrong with you?

Chris says: This year, Berger is hardly the favorite, but I wouldn’t totally rule out a win. (I mean, come on, the Academy gets cinematography right sometimes. Just look at three years ago, when in a landslide vote the Academy gave the award to “Children of M—” Ah, fuck, nevermind.)

Of this year’s nominees, “Avatar” has received the most attention for its visuals, “The Hurt Locker” is a Best Picture frontrunner and Inglourious Basterd Robert Richardson is a two-time winner and one of the best in the business. Only Bruno Delbonnel isn’t really a contender – but that certainly shouldn’t take away from his fantastic work on “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” It’s that, you know, that movie doesn’t have any momentum. But at least it got nominated instead of fucking “Nine.”

Judi Dench says: Did somebody say “Nine”? Because that reminds me, I’d like to sing you all a song. In French!

Chris says: Absolutely fucking not. Judi, sit the fuck down. Daniel Day-Lewis, don’t even think about it.

Fergie says: BEEEEEEEEEEEE Italian!

Chris says: You too!

Anyway, if we’re not going to be distracted again, I’d love to see Richardson take home another one – after all, any film with that deep an understanding of cinematic language has to have a brilliant cinematographer, no? But I’d love it even more if Berger got it. After all, with those sneaky Argentinians poised to steal the Best Foreign Film Oscar, “The White Ribbon” has to get some love, am I right?

Prediction: “Inglourious Basterds”
Preference: “The White Ribbon”

Jeremy says: I'm actually a huge fan of Bruno Delbonnel's work in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," so kudos to the Academy for that pleasant, unexpected surprise. Note the desaturated tones of the bathroom scene, punctuated by vivid reds, or the haunting images throughout. I'm also a huge fan of Richardson's stately work in "Inglourious Basterds" and Berger's game-changing black-and-white photography in "The White Ribbon." Each man is doing something different, and each masters what they're doing so precisely that it's impossible to rank one over the other.

I feel like "Avatar" is out of the running, fairly or not, due to the digital factor. I mean, I could be a great cinematographer, too, if I could reshoot everything over and over with my computer until it looked perfect.*

Then we have Barry Ackroyd's strong handheld work for "The Hurt Locker,” which, depending on the support behind the film, could surprise us here. "Slumdog Millionaire" showed last year that the Academy isn't afraid to go the gritty route if they really love the film. But what with the Harv behind him, you have to think Richardson will take it.

Prediction: "Inglourious Basterds"
Preference: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," "Inglourious Basterds" or "The White Ribbon"—I'm easy to please in this one!

*Or not.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
“An Education” – Nick Hornby
“District 9” – Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
“In the Loop” – Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Ianucci, Tony Roche
“Precious” – Geoffrey Fletcher
“Up in the Air” – Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner

Two of these "adapted" screenplays—"In the Loop" and "District 9"—were adapted from their creators' TV show and short, respectively, and don't really feel adapted at all. Will that hurt or help their chances? It won't matter at all, of course.

Jeremy says: "Up in the Air" doesn't deserve to win...

...but hopefully its inevitable victory will be made more tolerable by an amusingly contemptuous acceptance speech from Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, who hate each other. You see, Reitman is under the delusion that he read the source material and immediately hammered out the screenplay, without any care as to whether anyone already owned the rights to the book or an adaptation was already started. However, the WGA noted that Turner's screenplay introduced a lot of material in the movie that wasn't in the book, and gave Sheldon credit for his work, much to Reitman's chagrin. After one awards ceremony in which Reitman wouldn't let Turner speak, the two managed to play nice. But now that the votes are in, they don't have to. Fight!

After some of the tirades I've read, I've come to understand that "An Education" is not an adaptation of Lynn Barber's memoir, but of Mein Kampf. Apparently when Peter Sarsgaard talks about he and his friends and uses the word "we" because it's the plural first-person pronoun, he's actually talking about Jews. Nick Hornby hates Jews! Hates 'em. But, seriously, can you blame him? So, in closing, if you portray an imperfect Jewish character in a film that acknowledges the anti-Semitism of its era, you hate Jews. Glad we got that cleared up.

The best screenplay is the hilarious "In the Loop," which is loaded with 20 films worth of clever dialogue and nearly as much sharp political satire. And with its liberal use of the word "cunt," what are the odds it won't pull an upset?

Prediction: "Up in the Air"
Preference: "In the Loop"

Chris says: Allow me to explain my support for “In the Loop” thusly:

Example 1: “Allow me to pop a jaunty little bonnet on your purview and ram it up your shitter with a lubricated horse cock!”

Example 2: “Well, it is out there, it's out there now, lurking like a big hairy rapist at a coach station.”

Example 3: “Don't get sarcastic with me, son. We burned this tight-arsed city to the ground in 1814. And I'm all for doing it again, starting with you, you frat fuck. You get sarcastic with me again and I will stuff so much cotton wool down your fucking throat it'll come out your arse like the tail on a Playboy bunny.”

This movie has the kind of brilliantly creative swearing that swearing was made for. The aforementioned use of the word “cunt” is one of the highlights – though let’s not forget the inventive application of variations on “cock” and, naturally, “fuck.”

And I’m glad Jeremy brought up the virulent anti-Semitism in “An Education”—the kind of virulent anti-Semitism that nobody would ever notice because it only exists in the mind of someone who needs something to complain about. Get some fucking perspective, assholes.

Also, speaking of profanity, where the fuck is “Fantastic Mr. Fox” in this category? Wes Anderson’s unique and endlessly imaginative script doesn’t get a look, yet you nominate “Up in the Air” for its completely obvious observations and even more obvious insights? That’s bad screenwriting, Jason! You wrote a bad script!

OK, sorry Jason. I didn’t mean it. It’s actually a solid script, but nothing award worthy. But at least you wrote it all by yourself.

Sheldon Turner says: Actually, I—

Jason Reitman says (interrupting): Actually, I—

Sheldon Turner says: Jason, what are you—

Jason Reitman says: Jason, what are you

Sheldon Turner says: Stop interrupting me—

Jason Reitman says: Stop interrupting me

Sheldon Turner says: Stop repeating everything I—

Jason Reitman says: Stop repeating everything I—

Sheldon Turner says: Blah blah blah blah blah

Jason Reitman says: Blah blah blah blah blah!

Sheldon Turner says: You big baby.

Jason Reitman says: I know you are but what am I?

Prediction: “Up in the Air”
Preference: “In the Loop”

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
“The Hurt Locker” – Mark Boal
“Inglourious Basterds” – Quentin Tarantino
“The Messenger” – Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman
“A Serious Man” – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
“Up” – Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Thomas McCarthy

Three of these screenplays are great, but only one is…glourious.

Sorry—glorious. We're terrible at spelling.

Chris says: First of all, I’d just like to pass along an announcement from a friend of ours. Jason Reitman just sent us a press release, demanding to know why he isn’t nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category. I mean, he says he came up with the characters, the plot, the dialogue, the structure and the title all on his own. (What book?) Just because there’s a book with the same title, characters and plot doesn’t mean anything, right? It all came from his own genius brain, he says.

Reitman continues: “Even if I didn’t come up with any of those ideas, that’s a moot point because I feel like I could have."

Who are we to doubt him?

Anyway, without his primary Golden Globe competition standing in the way, Quentin Tarantino looks poised to claim his second screenplay Oscar for his masterful “Inglourious Basterds.” The Academy loves QT so much, they completely ignored his brilliant work on “Jackie Brown,” “Kill Bill” and even “Death Proof.” All you had to do was kill Nazis to gain the Jews’ Academy’s love, Quentin!

But a deserving Oscar it will be. Tarantino not only reinvented the World War II movie, but wrote arguably the best character of his career in Hans Landa and crafted sequences of interrogation (whether or not certain characters knew they were being interrogated) with wry wit and subtle insights. To listen to “Basterds” is to hear Tarantino’s joy of language and deep understanding of movie culture, within which this entire film exists. The one thing you can say unequivocally is he certainly knows his shit.

Running right alongside it would be the Coens’ stunning “A Serious Man,” their thrillingly absurdist take on the Book of Job and Suburban Jewish America circa the late 1960s. In fact, if I had my druthers, I wouldn’t mind seeing this one win Screenplay and Tarantino win Director.

Prediction: “Inglourious Basterds”
Preference: “Inglourious Basterds” or “A Serious Man”

Jeremy says: Yeah, I have to think that Tarantino will pick up his second Oscar. Who's gonna take it from him? "The Hurt Locker" isn't where it is because of Boal's screenplay, that's for sure, and unless the voters go insane, the award will go to the smartest, most assured screenplay of the year.

Just look at the dialogue—not simply Landa's, but every character's nuanced speech. It takes balls to write long scenes like the opening or, my favorite, the basement tavern, and it takes genius to pull it off.

I wouldn't be saddened by an "A Serious Man" surprise, but this year is all about QT.

Prediction: “Inglourious Basterds”
Preference: “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
“Coraline” – Henry Selick
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” – Wes Anderson
“The Princess and the Frog” – John Musker, Ron Clements
“The Secret of Kells” – Tomm Moore
“Up” – Pete Docter

Turns out you can make animated films without 3D computer animation. How does this bold technique work?

Jeremy says: This year's slate of animated features may be the best since the category's inception. There ain't a "Jimmy Neutron" in the bunch. The committee for this category must have been feeling old-school, as the only computer-animated 3D effort nominated is the overwhelming favorite, Pete Docter's "Up" from Pixar. More important than technique, however, all these films have style.

Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" doesn't simply rely on its studio's hand-drawn 2D trademark look, but goes on detours to expressionistic voodoo horror and art deco illustration. The even more adventurous "The Secret of Kells"—the category's pleasant surprise—wears its 2D badge proudly, and plays out some scenes in semi-abstract, flattened designs that relate to its story of medieval monks drawing a legendary book.

The stop-motion entries are also impressive. "Fantastic Mr. Fox" uses fun writing and design as a platform for a decidedly dated but very lovable jerky movement. "Coraline" colorfully sees dreams turn into nightmare with awesome visuals, and would be a strong contender if it didn't disappoint so thoroughly with its story structure and the ridiculous ease of the supposedly great challenges its character faces.

Ultimately, however, all these films are up against the Pixar giant, and this giant knows how to make movies. "Up" is one of the studio's very best efforts, funny, heartbreaking, action-packed, character-driven, visually splendid, etc. I suppose it's possible that with the film recognized elsewhere voters might elect to go for one of the films that were only nominated here…nevermind, no it isn't.

Prediction: "Up"
Preference: "Up"

Chris says: Yeah, I can’t imagine “Up” not running away with this thing – and since it’s yet another stunner from Pixar, the film will have earned it. A ballsier choice would be “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” which takes greater advantage of both the limitations and possibilities of its style than any animated film I’ve seen in quite some time. Wes Anderson doesn’t waste a single frame; this may even be his best film yet. How can voters continue to ignore this kind of imaginative work?

Prediction: “Up”
Preference: “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
“Ajami” (Israel)
“Das weisse Band - Eien deutsche Kindergeschichte” (Germany)
“El secreto de sus ojos” (Argentina)
“Un prophète” (France)
“La teta asustada” (Peru)

What's all this about? Speak English!

Chris says: I guess I just took it for granted that “The White Ribbon” would walk away with this category, what with the way Michael Haneke brilliantly challenged our expectations once again in his study of a small German village undone by a series of unexplained events on the eve of World War I. And when I saw (and was impressed by) “A Prophet” a few weeks later at Sundance, I figured, hey, at least there’s a solid fallback option.

And yet all I keep hearing lately is how Argentina’s “El secreto de sus ojos” (“The Secret in Their Eyes”) is not only a darkhorse, but is considered by some to be the movie to beat in this category. Hell if I know. If it turns out to be as good as “The Lives of Others” following its upset of “Pan’s Labyrinth,” my indignation will subside a bit. But it would have to be quite something to overtake “The White Ribbon.”

Prediction: “El secreto de sus ojos” (“The Secret in Their Eyes”)
Preference: “Das weisse Band” (“The White Ribbon”)

Jeremy says: Aw, Chris is so adorable, all naive and innocent like that. Before even seeing or hearing about any of the competition, I was certain that Haneke was not the Foreign Language Film voting block's cup of tea. There was a time when the award could go to real heavy-hitters like Bergman, Buñuel, De Sica, Kurosawa, Fellini, Tati, Malle and Truffaut (but none of that weird-ass Godard shit), but I fear that time has passed. Sure, Almodovar got one, an already-established-in-Hollywood Ang Lee won for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," Denys Arcand won, and to be fair, most of the winners aren't as bleh as "The Counterfeiters." But the voters generally don't seem poised to award the bold and visionary.

I don't have a problem with the Academy's requirement that voters see all five films in this category—it's only fair, and wouldn't be a horrible across-the-board policy. But there's something about the mandatory screenings that only attracts crotchety old folks with a very limited view of what qualifies as Oscar worthy. Go ahead, Mr. Oscar, surprise me, I won't complain.

Like Animated Feature, this year's lineup is the strongest set of nominees I can remember, despite the absence of Corneliu Porumboiu's "Police, Adjective." "The White Ribbon" is a smart, chilling, ever-haunting film and the best Oscar nominee in any category. Jacques Audiard's violent, intelligent crime drama "Un Prophète" isn't far behind. But given "The White Ribbon's" elliptical nature and the shocking violence in "A Prophet," I can't see either winning. The Peruvian entry, “La teta asustada” ("The Milk of Sorrow"), is a flawed but fascinating character study about a young woman who was born into war and still lives in fear of rape and murder. The film contains moments of great beauty, but isn't at all plot-driven, and the main character has a potato in her vagina, so that's out.

Geoffrey Fletcher says: A potato in her vagina? How did I not think of that while writing "Precious?"

Jeremy says: That leaves two films in actual contention (again, please prove me wrong): "Ajami" from Israel, an ensemble piece about racism—oooh baby!—and “El secreto de sus ojos,” from which some commentary about the death penalty can be gleaned—is that an Oscar in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Both films are a bit unruly. "Ajami" jumps around in time as it centers on different characters, but certain elements of the structure, particularly at the end, are based around manipulative cheats rather than strong storytelling. Of course, manipulative cheating doesn't disqualify you from an Oscar, but I can't help but think that "The Secrets in Their Eyes" has everything the voter wants: mystery, romance, politics, and a thrilling setpiece in a football (soccer) stadium.

Prediction: “El secreto de sus ojos” (“The Secret in Their Eyes”)
Preference: “Das weisse Band” (“The White Ribbon”)

Chris says: Alright, just for all that snark you just handed me, I’m changing my prediction, and when I’m proven correct about “The White Ribbon,” you can suck the potato right out of my big fat vagina.

Prediction: “The White Ribbon”
Preference: For Jeremy to suck the potato out of my big fat vagina. Also, “The White Ribbon.”

Jeremy says: I hope you're right, my man. And FYI: what I suck, I swallow. Also, what snark? I said you were adorable!

Chris says: You'd swallow whether you wanted to or not.

Best Documentary, Features
“Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country” – Anders Østergaard, Lise Lense-Møller
“The Cove” – Louie Psihoyos, Fisher Stevens
“Food, Inc.” – Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” – Judith Ehrlich, Rick Goldsmith
“Which Way Home” – Rebecca Cammisa

We'd like to see a documentary on this category's short-listing process, but whatever…

Jeremy says: This one is all ready to be handed to "The Cove," which works not only as a searing appeal for dolphin rights, but as a thrilling heist movie.

But it's a strong category (which is kind of surprising considering that great films like "We Live in Public" and "The Beaches of Agnes" were ignored), and an upset wouldn't exactly shock me. “Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country” is a heart-winning account of the bravery of citizen journalists in an oppressive state. And "Which Way Home" follows young boys from Guatemala and Mexico as they ride the tracks on their way to the US border, hoping for a bright future in a big city. That Rebecca Cammisa and her crew manage to follow the same boys through the entire, dangerous trail is remarkable. These films are about human struggles; could that quash dolphin struggles?

And holy shit, is Monsanto the most evil piece of shit corporation ever, or what? We ought to sue their asses for contaminating our seeds with their patented gene, instead of letting them push those poor farmers around. Fuckers.

Uh, what? Oh yeah, "Food, Inc." certainly gets you thinking about what happens before you put the food you put in your mouth. Fucking Monsanto.

The only film I'd count out entirely is "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers," not only because its name is so unbelievably long, but because its much more of a standard talking-head documentary than the other nominees. It's still a good movie, but I don't see it reaching voters.

Prediction: "The Cove"
Preference: "The Cove" or "Burma VJ"

Chris says: Though I admire “The Cove,” I soured on it in particular at the end, when it decided to make one of its subjects be a total dick with an intrusive and meaningless grandstanding gesture in the film’s big old emotional climax, played up with triumphant music and everything. Dude, if you want to pat yourself on the back for getting arrested for your cause, go right ahead, but don’t make the mistake of thinking your silly gesture is anything but empty. It was a dick move. If some pro-lifer pulled the same fucking stunt, charging in somewhere strapped with a videotape of “evidence” of his cause, we’d all be shaking our heads and nodding in agreement at what a tacky, classless asshole he was. Yet “The Cove’s” audience blindly broke into cheers. Hooray! We made a big fat statement that didn’t help anything! Wheeeee!

I also think “The Cove” held itself back substantively by playing more to our emotions than to our intellect – but that’s the easy way. None of us want to see dolphins get killed, but the filmmakers don’t really engage the issue, and so the movie comes across as just a bunch of activists promoting their activism more than anything else. It’s wonderfully shot, of course, and there are enlightening and interesting sequences, but I can’t get behind it winning. Even if it probably will.

“Food, Inc.” was a more multi-faceted film and shed more of a light on the intricacies of its subject matter. Despite some silly, generically ominous soundtrack choices and moments of unwarranted alarmism, the film does a fine job making its points and I came away mostly impressed.

Prediction: “The Cove”
Preference: “Food, Inc.”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”
Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”

This category comes down to youngsters, veterans and a comeback queen whose movie made a lot of money.

Chris says: How did we get here? How did we get from Sandra Bullock starring in a sentimental, your-grandparents-will-fucking-love-this, glorified TV movie to Sandra Bullock becoming an Oscar favorite? Award-season voters must really love a good story. “Awww, ‘The Blind Side’ was the little movie that could! And Sandra Bullock sure was spunky! And we fucking love accents!” And so we’ve come to this. Look, it’s nothing personal (Sandy - babe - it’s nothing personal. We’ll always have “While You Were Sleeping,” right?), but Bullock’s performance was in no way award-worthy. She’s just been riding one of the most curious and inexplicable waves of momentum I’ve ever seen.

It’s not enough that the Academy (and everyone else) overlooked Maya Rudolph’s revelatory performance in the otherwise maddeningly uneven “Away We Go,” or the complexities of Arta Dobroshi’s portrayal of a young woman in an impossible position in “Lorna’s Silence.” Now we have to watch Sandra Bullock steal an Oscar that Carey Mulligan so richly earned?

I suppose it would be blind wishful thinking on my part to call an upset for Mulligan, even though it should be a landslide with this slate of nominees (even though I did admire Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious,” and always admire Streep and Mirren). But no. If Mulligan’s going to lose to someone, it’s damn sure not going to be Sandra Bullock laying on a thick accent in an agonizingly simplistic movie designed to make rich white people feel better about themselves. ( It’s not that I don’t want rich white people to feel good about themselves – I really do! – I just want to see a film that undertakes social and political class, race relations, collegiate corruption, xenophobia and the American educational system do so with at least the slightest effort at complexity, of which this film had none. And Bullock’s performance was about as simplistic as anything else in the movie.)

Anyway, while everyone might now be expecting Bullock to take home her first (and last) Oscar, for whatever reason I’m just not feeling it. While Mulligan would be too much to ask, I say the Academy is going to ... wait for it ...

... wait for it ...

... no, no, you’re going to have to keep waiting for it, ‘’cause I’m only going to say it once ...

... wait ...

... blindside Sandy and give the Oscar to Meryl Streep.

Jeremy says: Jesus, Chris. If you're going to pick an upset, at least grow a pair and pick a real one. "Look at me, I think Streep's gonna win." Whatever.


GOB Bluth says: Come on!

Jeremy says: If you want to gauge the strength of Academy voters' inexplicable support for Bullock's good performance in a below-average film, just look at "The Blind Side's" Best Picture nomination. Oh, but maybe they nominated it because they loved the screenplay—huh, no nomination there—or direction—nope—or editing—I hope you dear readers aren't scrolling up and down to check all these. Hell, just use the "find" tool and you'll discover that this is "The Blind Side's" only other nomination. (I just did—wouldn't want to embarrass myself any more than usual.)

"So wait," you say. "Are you, the great Jeremy Mathews, really going to predict upon us another boring Oscars with no big surprises in any acting categories? No Adrien Brody storming on stage, bending Halle Berry over the podium and nailing her on national TV? Say it ain't so!" Oh dear reader, you should know me better than that.

You know what else is nominated for Best Picture? "A Fucking Education." And also "Precious: Based on Some Book or Something," but More Nique has been stealing a lot of the attention from Sidibe, so let's assume that "An Education" will be more on voters' minds as they finish their ballots and make a concerted effort to ignore Bullock.

You see, if someone upsets Bullock in her big comeback roll—and come on, why not?—it's not going to be old lady Streep, who already has a couple and doesn't need one for this cute trifle of a performance. "Oh wow—Meryl can talk in a funny voice and be charming, who would have fucking thought?"

And just look at Carey Mulligan. She's sweet and adorable. She didn't know that her film was secretly about rounding up the Jews and putting them in camps, so hopefully no one will hold it against her. Stare in those eyes and that amazing face that can communicate so much innocence, disappointment, happiness and fear, all with a few deceptively simple twitches of the muscle. Tell me that's not your Best Actress of 2009. You can't do it, because she wins your heart, breaks it and makes it look easy.

If the Academy wants to throw Bullock a bone instead, fine, but no way I'm predicting that shit. Here's to some excitement.

Prediction: Carey Mulligan
Preference: Carey Mulligan

Chris says: Yeah Jeremy, because Meryl Streep’s never gotten an award for doing a funny voice or accent. Plus, shouldn’t we take into account that it’s been 27 years since Streep won an Oscar? Do most Academy voters even know she’s won twice? Look, Carey Mulligan’s not gonna win an Oscar in her lifetime before Meryl Streep has won an Oscar in Carey Mulligan’s lifetime. (Did you follow that?) They tried that once with Anna Paquin, and look what happened to her – she’s forced to star on that terrible HBO vampire show.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”

We'd like personal explanations from every member of the Academy as to why Matt Damon's work in "The Informant!" wasn't nominated, but Morgan Freeman's work in "Invictus" was.

Jeremy says: None of my most favorite performances—Algenis Perez Soto in "Sugar," Damon in "The Informant!," Michael Stuhlbarg in "A Serious Man"—were nominated, but I've got to give it up for my man Bridges, who's finally going to win an Oscar after a career of great performances. His work in "Crazy Heart" lifts what could have been a standard, mediocre character study into a deeply felt portrayal of a country singer/songwriter who let much of his life pass him in a haze of sex and booze, and is trying to reclaim it, though it may be too late.

I would, however, disagree with my venerable colleague's declaration that Bridges is "a lock if ever there was one." Everyone but Freeman, who was nominated for playing a famous person in a Clint Eastwood film, has been recognized with reputable awards. Clooney works his expected charm in "Up in the Air" while managing to tap into his character's pathos. Firth's experience and nuance help curb Tom Ford's overenthusiastic fashion-designer-turned-first-time-director tendencies. And Renner, well he's a bad boy who doesn't play by the rules, but he also suffers inside folks, he suffers. But seriously, he's quite good. (And his character suffers!)

Of course, I don't know what good it does to say that Bridges isn't the biggest lock ever, since I still think he'll win. He has all momentum, he just hasn't had the same easy ride as, say, Waltz and Mo'Nique. So unless he loses, I'll have nothing to rub in Chris's face—a sad day indeed. Did I mention Chris thought that song was named "Crazy Heart?"

Prediction: Jeff Bridges
Preference: Jeff Bridges

Chris says: I don’t know what I’m going to do with my actor-centric righteous indignation now. First Philip Seymour Hoffman finally gets recognized after a decade of being ignored. Now Jeff Bridges—one of my favorite actors of all-time—is poised to finally net his first Oscar. Because, what, the beauty of his performance in “The Fabulous Baker Boys” was too pitch-perfect to recognize? His tour-de-force in “The Big Lebowski” was rejected because it was a comedy? “Starman” was too, you know, science fictiony? Whatever. No excuse this year, eh, Academy?

So I don’t know what I’m going to do—two of the great, underappreciated actors I’ve been complaining about are now officially going to be, gasp, appreciated. What’s next—is Nick Nolte gonna win Best Actor next year?

Jeremy thought he was a man by criticizing my Bridges “a lock if there ever was one” statement, but then he didn’t have the balls to actually predict anything else, thus reinforcing my correctness. You know what a man with no balls is? Not a man, Jeremy. You might as well be the “Pregnant Man,” for as many balls as you have.

Moving on: Nothing against Morgan Freeman, but “Invictus” gave him virtually nothing to work with. The movie was a two-and-a-half-hour platitude, and virtually every line of dialogue Freeman’s Mandela spoke was some inspirational, adorable little chestnut that would work just as well on a Hallmark card or an inspirational poster plastered on the wall of some addiction support group. It’s Nelson Mandela, for shit’s sake – give the man some dimension.

Anyway, as much as I loved Bridges’ work in “Crazy Heart”—really, he and Gyllenhaal completely made the movie, overcoming its completely standard-fare storyline—my favorite lead performance of the year was that of Souleymane Sy Savane in a warm, understated, intrinsically likeable performance in “Goodbye Solo.” He’s infectious from the first moment he appears on screen. I also would like to second Jeremy’s snubs – Matt Damon in arguably his best performance yet in “The Informant!” (rivaled only by “The Talented Mr. Ripley”), Algenis Perez Soto in “Sugar” and Michael Stuhlbarg in “A Serious Man.” I also have to mention – in fact, I’m surprised Jeremy hasn’t – that virtually everyone overlooked one of the most captivating and brilliant performances of the year, Sam Rockwell in “Moon.”

Jeremy says: Oops—thanks.

Chris says: Hey, there’s an underappreciated actor! Maybe I can start complaining about him!

Yeah, Academy, start appreciating Sam Rockwell! And, for that matter, Souleymane Sy Savane, too! Yeah!

Aw, what’s the use. They’re never going to nominate someone whose name they can’t even pronounce.

Pete Postlethwaite says: Hey, they nominated me!

Chris says: Fuckin' A, there’s a chance! Thanks, Pete!!

Best Achievement in Directing
Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
James Cameron, “Avatar”
Lee Daniels, “Precious”
Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”
Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”

Well, in past years, sometimes only four of the five Best Picture nominees were recognized, but this year, with 10 up for the top prize, these five films are being touted as the REAL nominees. Whatever. We'll take "Up" and "A Serious Man," please.

Chris says: So they’re finally going to give the Best Director Oscar to a lady, eh? How progressive. I mean, they certainly couldn’t have done that six years ago with Sofia Coppola for her masterpiece, “Lost in Translation,” now could they? They just tossed her a screenplay trophy and moved along.

But they haven’t been able to ignore Kathryn Bigelow’s work on “The Hurt Locker” this year, and with good reason—the anxiety and tension she brings to every scene, the precision of her timing in the action sequences, are indeed stunning directorial achievements. Having said that, the film suffers from some clunkiness at times—both with the introduction of the therapist character and the final 10 minutes or so, not to mention the unnecessary opening title card. As excellent as her work was, Tarantino deserves this one, as he once again proved that he has as fine a mastery on pure filmmaking craft and as wide a cinematic vocabulary as any director in the world. Just watch that scene in the tavern again. Watch it! Take in the image of the “Giant Face.” That is breathtaking filmmaking – it’s what the craft is all about.

It’s obviously a travesty that anybody thought Lee Daniels’ directorial work was better than that of the Coens – or, for that matter, Wes Anderson’s unique, endlessly inventive work on “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” or Michael Haneke for “The White Ribbon.” Though naturally, the Best Director prize should be given to Roy Andersson for “You, the Living,” but everyone knows that already, right?

Oh yeah, Jason Reitman was nominated, too.

Jeremy says: Looks like Chris and I are in agreement here. It's true that Bigelow deserves props for those riveting action scenes, and also true that Tarantino is the man who's in full control of his masterpiece the whole way through and should win it. James Cameron, the only other contender…

…(sorry Jason) has won before, doesn't have a vagina…

James Cameron says: But my penis is HUGE!

Jeremy says: …and frankly didn't do his best work, falling flat in much of the drama and failing to match Bigelow in the action scenes. If not for Tarantino, Bigelow would clearly be the most deserving nominee.

Also, Lee Daniels doesn't seem to have a clue what he's trying to do visually from scene to scene. "Hey lets do some quick zoom-reframes during this dramatic dialogue—like I did an hour ago before I forgot about it." "Let's blow-out these windows and have a halo effect that looks like heaven or something." "Let's just have a bunch of random scenes that do and say nothing. I know! A field trip!" But I digress. He's clearly a more sophisticated artist than those bozo brothers behind "A Serious Man." What was that ending all about?

Prediction: Kathryn Bigelow
Preference: Quentin Tarantino

Best Motion Picture of the Year
“The Blind Side”
“District 9”
“An Education”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“A Serious Man”
“Up in the Air”

Hrmmmmmmm. What's odd about this list is that it doesn't include the consensus choice for the year's best film, "Du Levande" ("You, the Living"). I mean, take a look at every single top 10 list on The Same Dame and it's number one!

Jeremy says: Ten nominees or not, this race boils down to "The Hurt Locker," "Avatar" and, if you believe Harvey Weinstein, "Inglourious Basterds."

It's a bit of a shame that Weinstein is using his powers for good instead of evil now, campaigning for the best nominee (although "A Serious Man" is mighty close) now that his influence has diminished.

Harvey Weinstein says: Diminished?!? I'll crush you! What the fuck are you talking about? I got Penelope Cruz nominated for "Guido Discovers the Meaning of Marriage: The Musical: Based on the Film '8 1/2' by Fellini," and you're trying to tell me I don't have my magic anymore?

Jeremy says: Well Harvey, you're certainly still a savvy campaigner, and an upset of this magnitude would indeed be glourious

Harvey Weinstein says: Seriously, wasn't that joke made already?

Jeremy says: But you've got to admit, you certainly don't have the same clout as you did back in Miramax's glory days. And back then, no one had campaigned like you before.

Harvey Weinstein says: You know what's never been done before? A ranked, 10-film ballot in the Best Picture race. If you're voting "The Hurt Locker," you're gonna put "Avatar" at number nine. If you're voting "Avatar," you're gonna put "The Hurt Locker" at number seven. And either way, you're putting Quentin Tarantino's sweet, sweet work of genius at number two. FACT.

Jeremy says: I'm not sure that it's a fact, but I'm glad you've got it figured out, Harv. I'd love to see "Inglourious Basterds" win, but it seems like the only thing standing in "The Hurt Locker's" way is that dubious Nicolas Chartier scandal.

Harvey Weinstein says: If that guy weren't a needy French pussy, he'd be fine. He's banned from the ceremony for making passing reference to a "$500 million" film that he didn't want to win? Hell, I called every member of the Academy and told them Steven Spielberg was molesting children in between each take on Omaha Beach and the Academy didn't do shit to me. I've got incriminating photos of every member of the Academy and own every employee of PriceWaterhouse Coopers. You don't vote the right way, Harvey knows. Harvey will crush you.

Jeremy says: Well I'm happy to hear that you have confidence, but I don't think Chartier's email is going to be a factor, and "The Hurt Locker" will come out on top. But that might only be because "Avatar" isn't all that good and I know better than to back "Basterds."

I am glad that "A Serious Man" was nominated, even if it has no chance of winning. It's nice to see that, if you double the nominees, at least one more great film will be nominated. And with "Up," two more made it. Maybe more would have if Harvey intervened.

Prediction: "The Hurt Locker"
Preference: "Inglourious Basterds"

Harvey Weinstein says:Know what would have been nominated? Here's a hint: "Beeeee a singer. Beeee a lover. BEEEEE ITALIAN!"

Chris says: Jeez, ten nominees? I’m going to have to do twice the work for this category! Dammit! Except you know what? I’m burned out. I’m gonna need to call for a pinch hitter. I need someone who can really crystallize what these nominees are all about. Someone who can put things in perspective. Someone who knows stories. About people! That’s right, I’d like you to give a warm welcome to “Wolverine” auteur Gavin Hood.

Gavin Hood says: Thank you, my good man. Speaking of men, do you know who has stories other than “men?" The Na’vi, that’s who. The Na’vi have stories – they have their own stories. Their stories may not be about people, but they are about people who kind of look like people, only taller and colored. Yes, “Avatar” is a fine film about colored people. Colored people have their stories, too. These colored people are blue. They are blue men. No, no, not the support group – the alien tribe. These are important alien stories.

You know who else has stories, Chris and Jeremy? Rich white ladies with a conscience, that’s who. They pick up poor, illiterate children from the projects, give them house and home, and turn them from terrible football players into great football players in just one scene! That football player, of course was very fat.

You know who has stories, Chris and Jeremy? Fat people. Fat people have stories. They have stories about being fat, and being shat upon by society. Abusive mother? STORY! Rapist father? STORY! Pregnant teenagers? STORY! Down syndrome baby? STORY! Illiteracy? STORY! Terminal illness? STORY! You see what all those elements have in common, boys? They’re all stories! People have stories! “Precious,” of course was a teenage girl. You know who else has stories? Teenage girls, that’s who. Especially if they’re getting charmed by a limey Jewish bastard! STORY!

You know who else has stories? Prawns, that’s who! Prawns who live in my own home country of South Africa. All they want is some cat food and a little respect. That’s a story, is it not? A story of creatures just trying to make it in this world. You know who else has stories? Soldiers have stories. I was a soldier once, and I had many stories. In fact, I’ve decided to tell these stories for a living! I tell stories! I’m a story - teller.

Jews have stories. Two of them, in fact! They just want two things: 1) somebody to love; and 2) to kill Nazis! What could be more of a story than that? Jews are people, too! And they have their stories! You know who else has stories? Old men. And balloons! Balloons have stories – stories about floating, stories about popping, stories about getting blown. (A story Jeremy would know nothing about.) Speaking of flying, frequent fliers have stories. About flying! Frequent flyers are people, too! They are not animals!

Chris says: Wow, thank you for that intricate analysis about storytelling. I think I understand these nominees just a little bit better. I think we all do. Looking up and down at all these stories, I see three masterpieces (“Inglourious Basterds,” “A Serious Man,” “Up”), three very strong films (“The Hurt Locker,” “An Education,” “District 9”), three mixed bags (“Up in the Air,” “Precious,” “Avatar”)

…and one movie that doesn’t belong anywhere near this list (that other one). When it comes down to it, I think “Avatar” is too polarizing and “Basterds,” as much as I love it, seems to have suffered from some Harvey backlash lately (including one anonymous voter who reportedly moved the film down to No. 10 after Harvey’s campaigning). Which leaves only one choice:

Prediction: “The Hurt Locker”
Preference: “Inglourious Basterds”

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