Tag Archives: Jeremy Renner

[Review] – The Bourne Legacy

11 Sep

Title: The Bourne Legacy
Year: 2012
Director: Tony Gilroy
Writers: Tony Gilroy and Dan Gilroy, with a story by Tony Gilroy, based on the series of novels by Robert Ludlum
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Oscar Isaac, Stacy Keach, Zeljko Ivanek, Corey Stoll
MPAA Rating: PG-13, violence and action sequences
Runtime: 135 min
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Metacritic: 61

I’m a big fan of the Bourne series. I saw Doug Liman‘s first film, The Bourne Identity, and absolutely loved it, it pretty much reinvented in a way what the spy action genre could be because of how damn smart it was, how much it catered to thinking adults and not to people who just wanted stuff to blow up. It also, of course, cemented the status of Matt Damon as a bankable Hollywood leading man. From that point I went back and read Robert Ludlum‘s book trilogy, since it was evident that the film franchise would be a trilogy as well after the success of the first entry in it and because my dad was always telling me I should read those books (he read them when he was younger and also loved that first film).

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[Trailer] – The Bourne Legacy

31 May

Jeremy Renner is about to have three action franchises under his belt. He was in last year’s incredible Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, starred in this year’s massive The Avengers (which, to date, is the only A+ I’ve given in 2012), and now he’ll be the lead in The Bourne Legacy, taking over duties from Matt Damon. And you can watch the new trailer for that film after the cut.

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[Review] – The Avengers

27 Apr

Title: The Avengers
Year: 2012
Director: Joss Whedon
Writer: Joss Whedon, based on a story by himself and Zak Penn, based on the comic books by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference
Runtime: 142 min
IMDb Rating: 8.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Metacritic: 71

Since Marvel started to produce their own films, the ultimate goal had always been assembling all of their superheroes into one huge omnibus-style movie with The Avengers, to maximize fandom and thus maximize commercial potential. That idea, of course, entirely depended on the success of the superheroes’ stand-alone outings, and on how successful the studio would be at creating a universe in which all of these characters co-exist, which was dubbed the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

24 Dec

Title: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Year: 2011
Director: Brad Bird
Writers: André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum, based on the television series by Bruce Geller
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Samuli Edelmann, Anil Kapoor, Josh Holloway, Léa Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sequences of intense action and violence
Runtime: 133 min
IMDb Rating: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Metacritic: 74

 

The first two Mission: Impossible films, released in 1996 and 2001, helped solidify Tom Cruise as a true movie star more than capable of carrying an action franchise full of really awesome effects-driven setpieces. Another five years passed and in 2006 J.J. Abrams stepped up to direct a third installment, which up until now had actually been my favorite of the entire series, with an awesome pacing and spectacular stunts that proved that Tom Cruise still very much had it. Now, another five years have gone by, and we get Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the fourth installment in the franchise; but in this interim between films Mr. Cruise’s stock in Hollywood had decreased quite a bit, with only his cameo in the hilarious Tropic Thunder salvaging something from the disappointments that were Lions for Lambs, Valkyrie and last year’s Knight & Day (which I gave a B- to), the latter of which was considered by many a commercial disappointment and put doubts as to whether Mr. Cruise could still carry an action film by himself.

Which is maybe why it seemed to make some sense when word was heard that the new Mission: Impossible film was courting actors like Tom Hardy, Chris Pine and Anthony Mackie for the role of a new spy that would act alongside Mr. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in this one, to then maybe transition into a starring role and take over if the franchise moved forward. Jeremy Renner eventually landed that role (getting himself his first of three franchises, what with the upcoming Avengers movie and his leading role in the Bourne reboot), and he’s incredibly good in this film. But, what I’m getting at is that having someone take over from Tom Cruise won’t be necessary, this film has the man back in top form, delivering one of my twenty favorite films of the entire year, and certainly the best one yet in the whole franchise.

Seriously, this is the definition of what a good action blockbuster should be; really fast-paced, full of huge setpieces that are stunning to behold and really grab you by the throat, and an impeccable overall style courtesy of director Brad Bird, who with this film made a seriously incredible foray into live-action features, having previously dabbled only in animation, winning two Oscar’s in the process for Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille. And Tom Cruise is just awesome in this one, making us forget about any recent missteps and just remember him as the pure action star he was, his added years actually add something to him, making Ethan Hunt feel like a more weathered and experienced guy, and the fact that Mr. Cruise himself performed the stunt in which he scales the outside of the Burj Khalifa Tower without any help from a stuntman is really mind-boggling. He’s just the real deal, a true movie star of which we don’t have many left, with the looks, charm and actual chops it takes to carry a huge film like this.

As much as this is Mr. Cruise’s show, however, kudos have to be given to whoever made the decision of making this new Mission: Impossible transition from its tried-and-true method of just making it about Ethan Hunt saving the day, into more of a team adventure, with Mr. Renner’s Brandt, as well as Simon Pegg’s Benji and Paula Patton’s Jane, taking off some of the weight from him and adding quite a bit of their own charisma and talents to make the film really stand out. This is a classic action film, we’re whirled around the world to exotic locales, we have really gorgeous women (Léa Seydoux is stunning), nifty gadgets that you want to exist really badly, and a movie star doing some seriously jaw-dropping stunts for over two hours which go by like a breeze.

The fact that this comes from a man who usually works at Pixar is only further proof that that’s the best company to work at in the world. Not to mention that it was only a matter of time before animation directors made a jump to live-action films (Wall-E‘s Andrew Stanton is spearheading John Carter for Disney which is due in March), after all, special-effects are mostly done on computers now, and animation is looking incredibly real and is known for a lot of action, not to mention that Mr. Bird’s animated films have a lot of character development and The Incredibles was the first Pixar film about humans. So Brad Bird was actually a genius choice to take the reigns of this film, and how masterfully this whole endeavor is constructed: shot really gracefully, impeccably choreographed and with a great sense of humor, only validates that decision like crazy, and Paramount would have to be dumb not to beg him to return for another go-round in the already-announced fifth film in the franchise.

This is a pure action film, that’s done in the best way possible; that shot I mentioned atop of the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai is one of the best minutes of film I’ve seen all year, the way it’s choreographed and shot and edited taking your breath away. And even though that’s certainly the scene everyone will be talking about, and with good reason, that assessment applies to every other set piece we see in this film, the bit inside the Kremlin with the super high-tech screen, the opening prison break that’s really well done, and of course that climatic battle in a super modern car park in which metal platforms go up and down to retrieve cars; every last minute of this damn film is supremely cool.

The plot involves a villain, that’s played by Michael Nyqvist (the guy who played Mikael Blomkvist in the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels), an evil genius who has Russian launch codes and plans to use them in order to start a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, working under the theory that he believes such a chaos would bring forward natural selection and more highly evolved humankind. Ethan Hunt and his team, of course, are the ones that are to prevent such a war from taking place. The catch, however, and where the film’s subtitle comes from, is that the government has initiated ghost protocol after his team was involved in a really messy international incident, which means that now their government won’t acknowledge their existence, hanging them out to dry without any sort of assistance and with many people under the impression that they’re potential terrorists when in reality they’re the ones chasing the terrorists.

The fact that the team has to fend for itself without being able to call for assistance and relying just on each other and their own wits is damn awesome, Mr. Cruise being the team leader, the guy who calls the shots and takes the risks; Mr. Renner playing an “analyst” with more than a few surprises up his sleeve, a great counterpart to Ethan Hunt and a worthy successor if Mr. Cruise should ever decide his team as the guy dangling from the world’s tallest building is up; Mr. Pegg’s minor role from the last movie as a comic relief is upgraded to a fully-fleshed character now, and he’s awesome as always, providing some of the aforementioned humor that Mr. Bird relies on to keep this film from taking itself too seriously; and Ms. Patton is good as Jane, combining a sexyness with the ability to really kick some ass.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is by far the best of the franchise, and it’s one of the year’s best films, one that manages to make 133 minutes seem like a really short time, expertly knowing how to blow your mind and keep you at the edge of your seat. Front and center is Tom Cruise, showing that he still has the goods, being a true movie star, carrying a film with a little help from some truly talented friends. And chief amongst those friends is the man behind the camera, Brad Bird, a guy who deserves a lot of credit for this film being as amazing as it is, making a jump from animation to live-action that Andrew Stanton can only hope he can come close to emulating and, strangely enough considering his background, showing that live-action stunts done with wires and actual guys that do their physics-defyings jobs, Mr. Cruise included, can be just as exhilarating as the best CGI out there.

Grade: A

Thor

14 May

Title: Thor
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne, based on a story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich, in turned based on the comic book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby
Starring: 
Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Joshua Dallas, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo, Clark Gregg
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence
Runtime: 
114 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 
78%

And so we get to Thor, the movie that officially kicked off the summer season and one that came with huge expectations on my behalf. You might know I’m a huge comic book geek, and while Thor is far from being my favorite comic book character, and I don’t even own that many comics of him, I  was still deeply intrigued not only by how the film would choose to represent Asgard, the supernatural world where Thor inhabits, but also by how Thor, a lesser known Marvel character than the ones that have been portrayed in films previously, would be able to carry a film all by himself. Not to mention that I wanted to see how it would start shaping things up, with the help of this July’s Captain America, in preparation for next summer’s The Avengers film, which is being directed right now by Joss Whedon, geek genius extraordinaire.

So I was intrigued by Thor, and I very much needed it to be great. And it was, probably not as amazing as that first Iron Man movie but, for my money, better than the sequel to that one, and a tremendous addition to the Marvel repertoire. And I think a lot of this has to be attributed to the very bold choice Marvel made when it picked its director. As Kenneth Branagh, he who spends much more time dealing with Shakespeare than with superheroes, brought his sensibilities to the project, and instead of this one being an all-out special effects action film, we also get quite a lot of seriously solid family drama, paired up with a very witty sense of humor that’s sure to appreciated by everyone.

Which is not to say that Mr. Branagh paid no mind to special effects and the regular components of Marvel’s blockbusters, not at all, this film has splendid action sequences, and the special effects are pretty tremendous themselves, especially those used to create the world of Asgard, which looks extremely cool. Thor was, I thought, prime entertainment, a supreme way to kick off the summer season, and not just one full of superficial set pieces, but one that under Mr. Branagh’s direction makes do with some really solid performances that help this one become as good as it is.

Chris Hemsworth, the Aussie actor in charge of playing the norse god, does a really spectacular job at it. And I had my doubts about him going in, because I didn’t know this guy outside of a small role in 2009’s awesome Star Trek reboot in which he played George Kirk, and I was skeptic about how he would handle this role of a supernatural being on Earth, and if he would be able to go toe-to-toe with Robert Downey Jr. when The Avengers came along. And I honestly think he will, he not only looks the part, but he also sounds the part with his big voice, and just absolutely owns the role.

And the rest of the cast is equally impressive. You have Natalie Portman, of course, in the third film I’ve seen her in this year after No Strings Attached and Your Highness, and she’s awesome here. She plays an astrophysicist who’s the first one to encounter Thor as he lands on Earth, exiled from Asgard by his father Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins doing his usual Anthony Hopkins magic. Along with Ms. Portman’s character, Jane Foster, we have our other two main human characters, Darcy Lewis, played by Kat Dennings who’s always a favorite of mine, a student who signed up to help on the investigation Jane was conducting, and Dr. Erik Selvig, played by Stellan Skarsgard, as Jane’s superior and the one supervising the whole experiment.

They find Thor and we must see him on Earth without his powers, desperately trying to get back to Asgard. And our story has two sides here, then, one is on Earth, with Thor eventually getting Jane to believe him about his identity, and falling in love with him in the process, and them doing everything they can to get him home. This part obviously includes a visit from Clark Gregg’s character who we’ve seen in both Iron Man‘s, Agent Coulson from S.H.I.E.L.D., who’s sent to investigate what’s going on and deal with Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer which has landed on Earth and can’t seem to be moved by anyone.

The other part of our story takes place back in Asgard, with Loki, Thor’s brother played extremely well by Tom Hiddleston, being the story’s villain. He’s the one that betrays Thor and does everything he can to keep him from coming home. He has to deal with the Warrior’s Three, Thor’s allies and friends over at Asgard who quickly come to realize that Loki’s the one that did wrong to their home. And there’s also Heimdall, who’s played real nicely by the terrific Idris Elba, the guard of the Rainbow Bridge, where one of the movie’s climatic scenes happens and which, by the way, looks infinitely cool.

Honestly though, if you had any doubts about Thor, trust me when I tell you they’ll be vanquished as soon as you get to see what Mr. Branagh and his cast and crew did here. He really was the perfect choice by Marvel to direct this movie, his Shakespearean background really enabling him to get to the story behind it all, and getting him to shine a light on the family issues that lie so deep within Thor’s mythology. And as a film to kick-off things for next year’s The Avengers it works wonders, not only does it introduce Thor as a great character played by a very promising actor, but it keeps tying together the Marvel universe in a way that feels extremely rad and not one bit overstuffed. We get a little reference to Tony Stark made by Agent Coulson, a mention of Bruce Banner by Dr. Selvig, an actual look at Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye who’ll obviously be in The Avengers, and of course we also get our easter egg scene after the credits with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, which I won’t spoil for you here but suffice it to say it was terrific and set things up real nicely for what we’ll get this July and next summer.

Grade: A-

Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor and Actress

24 Feb

In my recent Oscar Predictions entry we will discuss two of the most interesting categories at this years Academy Awards, the Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress awards.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Nominees

  • Christian Bale (for The Fighter)
  • John Hawkes (for Winter’s Bone)
  • Jeremy Renner (for The Town)
  • Mark Ruffalo (for The Kids Are All Right)
  • Geoffrey Rush (for The King’s Speech)

Yeah, Christian Bale has this one all sewn up, in my mind. And rightfully so, the fact that the guy doesn’t have a single prior nomination to his name is a crime, but at least he’ll cash in the gold with his first one, his performance is truly riveting.

However, if The King’s Speech turns the night into a massive sweep then maybe an upset may occur here at the hands of Geoffrey Rush who’s participating with his fourth nomination (he won Lead Actor in 1996), and as amazing a performance as he gives, it’s not as great as Bale’s.

Should Win: Christian Bale
Will Win: Christian Bale

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Nominees

  • Amy Adams (The Fighter)
  • Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)
  • Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
  • Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
  • Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Now this, ladies and gents, is my favorite category of this year’s Oscars. I could potentially see any of these ladies pick up the award. Jacki Weaver I guess is the long-shot among this group, but her performance was electric. Amy Adams, on her third nomination overall and in this category, is my personal pick and was absolutely unbelievable. Helena Bonham Carter may ride the gold wave if The King’s Speech turns the night into a sweep. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, in what was really a leading role, may actually provide the upset. And then there’s the frontrunner, Melissa Leo, who has won this award at most of the precursors. So yeah, five nominees and five worthy winners.

Should Win: Amy Adams
Will Win: Melissa Leo

Oscar Nominations: My Reactions

25 Jan

The Oscar nominations were announced bright and early this morning. And while most of the nominees were predictable, there were still quite a bit of storylines to take out of the morning’s announcements.

Firstly, of course, the outrageous snub of Christopher Nolan in the Best Director category, Inception might have made the Best Picture ballot and Mr. Nolan himself got his second career Screenplay nod, but the Academy yet again failed to mention him for Best Director to make room for the Coen brothers. Another snub was The Town, which ended up with a sole Oscar nomination and got snubbed in the Best Picture as well as Director and Screenplay races, the films nominated instead were still quite deserving, but still, too little love bestowed on such a great film.

Then, on a far more positive note, this was also the year in which films that came out of Sundance came out strong at the Oscars, which is terrific news for the independent film business, The Kids Are All Right and Winter’s Bone both got 4 nominations in major races, Animal Kingdom got a Best Supporting Actress bid, and four out of the five Best Documentary nominees were shown in Park City a year ago.

As for what the nominations will mean come the big night on February 27th, well, The King’s Speech certainly got a huge boost today, scoring an even dozen nominations, the most out of any film this year. That has some people jumping from The Social Network‘s bandwagon into the one driven by Harvey Weinstein, since for the last several decades the movie with the most nominations has won the Best Picture race 75% of the time. Now, let’s play statistics for a while here, I actually still think The Social Network will still win this for now, but the stock on The King’s Speech has certainly risen in the last few weeks. First, of course, was Saturday’s PGA win, and considering that association has bestowed its award to the eventual Best Picture winner 13 out of the last 20 years it means it has the odds going for it.

But then again, lets not forget just how much The Social Network has going for itself, it pretty much swooped the Critic’s groups awards, including big wins at the Globes and the National Board of Review. Not to mention that David Fincher is the clear front-runner to win not only the Best Director Oscar, but the DGA honors that will be announced on Saturday. And really, the Best Director winner is always considered the likely victor of the big race and, in fact, the winner of the DGA award has actually went on to have their film win the Best Picture Oscar 33 times in the last 40 years.

So, who really has the advantage? I honestly don’t know, this really is one seriously tough race to call, and I won’t call it until all the remained precursors are done with. Yes, the DGA will most likely go to The Social Network, but then the BAFTAs will presumably be all over The King’s Speech considering it’s a home-grown film. The PGA win by Tom Hooper’s film was big, yes, but so were the many Critic’s Associations and Globes wins by David Fincher’s movie. So, if I may interject, I think that the one awards show that may be a big indicator as to what will happen on Oscar night will be the SAGs, taking place this coming Sunday.

Hear me out for a while, the SAG obviously doesn’t have a Best Picture award, but rather a Best Ensemble one, meaning it will honor the combined acting performances of the cast in a film. And while I still think that the front-runner for that one is The Fighter (which has four seriously spectacular performances), I can see an upset happening courtesy of The King’s Speech. The Social Network won’t win that one, it has some great performances but it can’t compete acting-wise with those two other films, so that race will be the one to prove just how much support The King’s Speech has. And if it wins that one, then I probably will update my predictions and consider it the front-runner for the Oscar, because, remember, the SAGs have many times served as indicators of Oscar upsets, I’m obviously referring to 1998, when the SAG went to Shakespeare in Love, the same film that went on to win the Best Picture Oscar over the clear favorite, Saving Private Ryan, and most recently in 2005, when Crash ended up with the SAG win and ended up upsetting Brokeback Mountain for the Academy’s top honor.

So yes, this will be a Best Picture race for the ages, one I’m really excited for and one that will come down to the very end. Will The King’s Speech end up with the win? Consolidating itself as the biggest Oscar bait there ever was in 2010, a biopic about British monarchy counting with excellent performances all around and a spectacular director working form a brilliant script. Or, will The Social Network prevail? The film with very young up-and-coming actors, directed by a director that started out working on music videos and then went on to create some of the most masterful and popular films of the last decade and a half, one about a modern phenomenon and full of quick-witted, very fast and talkative scenes. It will be a New School vs. Old School battle to the very end, the historical dramas have fared very well in the past, I’m thinking Gandhi or The English Patient, but as of late, with winners like The Hurt Locker and No Country for Old Men, it feels as though the Academy is skewing more towards films oriented to younger audiences with a more gritty sort of feel. We’re in for one very entertaining race to the finish line.

But enough about the big race, I’m sure we’ll talk much more about that in the near future, but for now let us revise all the nominations announced by the Academy today.

BEST PICTURE

  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter’s Bone

All the usual suspects here. I went 9 for 10 as far as my predictions go, considering Winter’s Bone felt the love from the Academy big time today and crept into the big party, throwing out my original prediction for the tenth slot: The Town. Again, as for who will actually win it, I have no idea, it’s a big split between The Social Network and The King’s Speech, and we’ll have a clearer idea of the state of the race once the remaining precursors are all said and done.

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Darren Aronofsky (for Black Swan)
  • Ethan Coen and Joel Coen (for True Grit)
  • David Fincher (for The Social Network)
  • Tom Hooper (for The King’s Speech)
  • David O. Russell (for The Fighter)

I went 4 for 5 in this one, considering I predicted the horribly snubbed Christopher Nolan to be invited to the party instead of the Coen brothers. However, True Grit got a massive ten nominations and the love went to the genius brothers instead. Which was well deserved, but it’s ridiculous that Nolan doesn’t have a Best Director nomination to his name yet. However, massive kudos to Darren Aronofsky for finally getting his first career nomination for helming what to me was the best film of 2010.

BEST LEAD ACTOR

  • Javier Bardem (for Biutiful)
  • Jeff Bridges (for True Grit)
  • Jesse Eisenberg (for The Social Network)
  • Colin Firth (for The King’s Speech)
  • James Franco (for 127 Hours)

Went a perfect 5-for-5 in this race, correctly predicting Javier Bardem’s nomination over Get Low‘s Robert Duvall. Still, Bardem’s nomination was much deserved, and it was awesome to see a foreign language performance getting a nod here. However, this has never been a race, the golden man probably has Colin Firth’s name engraved from this very moment.

BEST LEAD ACTRESS

  • Annette Bening (for The Kids Are All Right)
  • Nicole Kidman (for Rabbit Hole)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (for Winter’s Bone)
  • Natalie Portman (for Black Swan)
  • Michelle Williams (for Blue Valentine)

Another category in which I went 5-for-5 in my predictions. And it really is a lovely bunch of ladies getting nominated here, Michelle Williams got her extremely deserved nomination for her beautiful work in Blue Valentine and Jennifer Lawrence capped off her breakthrough year with an invite to Hollywood’s biggest party. This is, though, still a Portman vs. Bening battle, and even though I think Portman has the edge because hers was the better performance in the better film, I’ll wait until the SAGs are done on Sunday to call her a lock.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Christian Bale (for The Fighter)
  • John Hawkes (for Winter’s Bone)
  • Jeremy Renner (for The Town)
  • Mark Ruffalo (for The Kids Are All Right)
  • Geoffrey Rush (for The King’s Speech)

I predicted four out of the five here, the one I got wrong was Andrew Garfield who I thought would firmly land a nod but was bumped off by John Hawkes who was riding on the huge love given to Winter’s Bone here. Still, this is no contest, it’s Bale’s to lose, and he just won’t.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Amy Adams (for The Fighter)
  • Helena Bonham Carter (for The King’s Speech)
  • Melissa Leo (for The Fighter)
  • Hailee Steinfeld (for True Grit)
  • Jacki Weaver (for Animal Kingdom)

I’ve always said this was my favorite race of the year, and even though my personal #2 pick, Mila Kunis, was left out, it really still is. I said that if Hailee Steinfeld remained here and wasn’t voted as Lead, then either Ms. Kunis or Jacki Weaver would get the boot, I picked Kunis in my predictions but apparently the Academy really loved the Australian crime saga and wanted to give it a nod, as they should have, really. Still, this is the best race there can be this year, considering I could see any of these ladies potentially winning. Amy Adams was my personal favorite of the year, and she gives her best performance yet, and considering it’s her third nomination they may (and hopefully will!) give it to her. Helena Bonham Carter may find herself winning if The King’s Speech sweeps. Melissa Leo is the current favorite, and if she wins the SAG on Sunday then this will be hers. Hailee Steinfeld carries True Grit and the voters may like to reward a young one. And Jacki Weaver created one seriously compelling character here, though considering she missed out at the SAG I think she’s the less likely to end up winning.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Another Year (written by Mike Leigh)
  • The Fighter (written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson)
  • Inception (written by Christopher Nolan)
  • The Kids Are All Right (written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg)
  • The King’s Speech (written by David Seidler)

I went 4 for 5 in this one, and the one I missed was the one that pains me the most not to see here which was the beautiful Black Swan screenplay, which I had in favor of Another Year, but I guess you can never count Mike Leigh out of this race, he’s just that good. As for who will win it, I would very much like to see The Kids Are All Right pick this one up, or if not then Christopher Nolan as a sort of apology from the Academy for not even nominating him for Best Director. But, most likely, this one will end up firmly in the hands of David Seidler.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • 127 Hours (written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, based on the book by Aron Ralston)
  • The Social Network (written by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Ben Mezrich)
  • Toy Story 3 (written by Michael Arndt, based on the story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich)
  • True Grit (written by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, based on the novel by Charles Portis)
  • Winter’s Bone (written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell)

As I said in my predictions, Winter’s Bone was going to put up a fight to be honored in this category. In my predictions I had The Town listed instead of Debra Granik’s film, but, as I’ve already said, the Academy shout-out the Ben Affleck film outside of Jeremy Renner’s nod, so no love here either. I like Debra Granik’s script better though (had it 6th in my Best Screenplays of 2010 list, while The Town was 15th), so I’m happy about it. Still, there’s no way Aaron Sorkin is losing this one, but then again I said the same thing about Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner’s script for Up in the Air last year.

BEST ART DIRECTION

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
  • Inception
  • True Grit
  • The King’s Speech

Very very good bunch of nominees here, the only film I could have seen making the cut and still be happy about it would have been Shutter Island, but nevertheless, this will be a very cool race. I’m hoping Inception will prevail here, though Alice in Wonderland may have something to say about that and, if it turns out to be a sweep, so may The King’s Speech.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Black Swan
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit

If I would have to guess, I’d say True Grit will win this one. However, it was amazing to see Black Swan get listed here, though I would have liked to see The King’s Speech miss out on this race in favor of the wonderful job by the 127 Hours guys.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Io Sono l’Amore
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Tempest
  • True Grit

As I said in my review for The Tempest, you can never count any Julie Taymor film out of the Best Costume Design race (all four of her films have now been nominated), but still, this one will most likely go to Alice in Wonderland. Cool to see Io Sono l’Amore get a nod here, too.

BEST EDITING

  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network

Out of the technical categories, Best Editing is the one that foretells the Best Picture winner the most, so this one is one we should pay close attention to. Since the award was introduced nearly eight decades ago, only nine films have won Best Picture without being nominated here. Which I guess also goes to explain why Crash trumped over Brokeback Mountain. But still, the two Best Picture front-runners are here, so seeing who wins may be decisive as to who takes Best Picture. My vote goes to The Social Network here, and I still can’t fathom why Inception wasn’t named.

BEST MAKEUP

  • Barney’s Version
  • The Way Back
  • The Wolfman

They failed to recognize Alice in Wonderland in this one somehow, so I’m guessing this one’s definitely The Wolfman‘s.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • 127 Hours (composed by A.R. Rahman)
  • Inception (composed by Hans Zimmer)
  • The Social Network (composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
  • The King’s Speech (composed by Alexandre Desplat)
  • How to Train Your Dragon (composed by John Powell)

Usual suspects in this one. Awesome to see Reznor and Ross up for this one, and they’re definitely my favorites to end up picking the award. However, Alexandre Desplat gets his fourth nomination with this one and still hasn’t won, so if The King’s Speech ends up owning the show he could win. However, Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception, which is all sorts of mind-blowing, may end up getting the win if the Academy feels it didn’t bestow enough nominations love towards the film, he hasn’t won an Oscar since The Lion King in 1995, despite being nominated 6 additional times since.

BEST SONG

  • If I Rise (from 127 Hours)
  • Coming Home (from Country Strong)
  • I See the Light (from Tangled)
  • We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3)

I honestly don’t know who will end up with the win here. All I know is that I’m happy no songs from Burlesque were named here.

BEST SOUND

  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • Salt
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit

This is the one category that had most prediction experts baffled. Everyone predicted a maximum of 11 nominations for The King’s Speech, and this is the one nobody imagined, and the one that showed us just how much the Academy loved the film. As strange as it may sound, a Sound nomination is what really let us know that it was the front-runner.

BEST SOUND EDITING

  • Inception
  • Toy Story 3
  • TRON: Legacy
  • True Grit
  • Unstoppable

I really liked seeing TRON: Legacy here, and I was sure that The Social Network would get a nod here, but out of nowhere came Unstoppable and made the cut. Still, a cool and eclectic bunch.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2

I expected TRON: Legacy to make the cut here, but at least it got a Sound Editing nod so it didn’t go unmentioned. Still, if Inception loses this race the Oscars will have lost all credibility to me.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Biutiful (from Mexico)
  • Dogtooth (from Greece)
  • In a Better World (from Denmark)
  • Incendies (from Canada)
  • Outside the Law (from Algeria)

This one’s always very tough to predict. But hopefully Biutiful will end up with the trophy.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • L’Illusionniste
  • Toy Story 3

This one isn’t a race at all, Toy Story 3 will win this one hands down.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • Inside Job
  • Gasland
  • Waste Land
  • Restrepo

No Waiting for Superman? Yeah, very very weird. Same with the lack of Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer. Still Inside Job would be a very cool winner, as would be Exit Through the Gift Shop, especially if we somehow get a Banksy appearance.