Tag Archives: The Way Back

Hanna

2 May

Title: Hanna
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Joe Wright
Writers: Seth Lochhead and David Farr, based on a story by Seth Lochhead
Starring: 
Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language
Runtime: 
111 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 
71%

I had some pretty supreme expectations going into Hanna. First of all, it was directed by Joe Wright, the man who has given us both Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, two pretty much perfect films that had two stellar performances from Keira Knightley, and this time around even though Ms. Knightley wasn’t around he recruited seventeen-year-old Saoirse Ronan, whom he directed to an Oscar nomination in Atonement, to play the leading role of a teenage assassin. And, secondly, the cast was truly awesome, not only was Saoirse Ronan involved, who I think is one of the probably three best young actresses out there, but so were Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett and Olivia Williams, who are all sorts of amazing themselves.

The story’s pretty great really, a terrific screenplay crafted by first-timers Seth Lochhead and David Farr from a story by Mr. Lochhead that had attracted the likes of Danny Boyle and Alfonso Cuarón before Mr. Wright was given the reigns of the project. And that’s really why I loved Hanna so much, because this was a pretty unique and refreshing take on the revenge thriller genre, and because it showed that Mr. Wright, who was known mostly for the performances he directed in thoughtfully-paced period films, was also quite adept at crafting some pretty damn thrilling action sequences, while losing none of his touch with the performances he gets from his whole cast in this one.

Honestly, it was a surprise to see that Mr. Wright did so incredibly well at crafting such a high-octane action thriller, his movies are generally much more meditative and slow-burning, while also unequivocally beautiful, and to see him stretch himself here was a pure joy, the guy has an eye for making killing look gorgeous, and along with his usual production designer, Sarah Greenwood, the man makes a colorful statement in this genre that I’ll no doubt have a hard time forgetting, this is a true piece of art and I can’t wait to own it on blu-ray.

I honestly loved this film, I loved how a director so masterfully avoided pigeon-holing himself as a guy who only did period dramas and how he elegantly crafted a hyperactive thriller that deals with espionage and a teen girl assassin to the beat of a sublime score by The Chemical Brothers that punctuates this film’s kickass attitude. From the very get-go this film establishes how savage its titular character is, she’s seen hunting a deer in a snowy forest with a bow and later on fighting hand-to-hand with her own father. This is all part of this training her father has been given her since she was born, she’s been raised in this remote location, never seen anything else or no one else that isn’t her father, who’s been teaching her how to fight, hunt and generally survive, while imparting upon her a wide range of knowledge straight from an encyclopedia.

But even though Hanna is a very ass-kicking sort of film, it also is, at its very core, a coming-of-age story, one that may have all this beautifully stylized action and that amazing and gorgeous long tracking shot we’ve come to expect from Mr. Wright by now, but one that is all about the characters, because really the talent of the actors behind them makes us care a whole lot about their predicament.

And even though Ms. Ronan here is acting alongside Mr. Bana and Ms. Blanchett (who I consider to be one of the five best living actresses) she’s the real reason to praise the acting of this film. We knew she was immensely talented from her work in Atonement, of course, and she proved that she wasn’t a one-hit-wonder by being the best thing (along with Stanley Tucci) in The Lovely Bones, and was great in this year’s very good The Way Back. She is honestly stunning here, this is a very different role for her, and would be a truly challenging one for any actor, and yet she completely owns it, and more than stands her ground in her scenes along these acting greats, this is a young woman who will have us talking about her talent for years to come, and I’m beyond myself with how much joy that gives me.

But anyways, back to the story at hand, Hanna’s father was training her to become this perfect little assassin. And so it happens that he used to work for the CIA, and that the two of them have been living in isolation all this time for a good reason, and that’s that they are both wanted by the government. So when Hanna herself decides that her training is over and a life in isolation is no longer the right call we see what happens when she lets herself be found, and as soon as she comes on the grid of Marissa Wiegler, the CIA agent who wants her and her father captured and who’s played by Ms. Blanchett, the hunt for her begins, and we see just what happens when the first to come after her approach her as though she was this little girl who had been shut away from society for her whole life. That first scene in which we get to see what Hanna is capable of is beautifully done, choreographed to perfection and rhythmically punctuated by beats from the aforementioned score by The Chemical Brothers which really gives this film a great feel.

And so Hanna, alone, is thrusted into the real world, that which she hand’t known except from what her father read to her. And it’s awesome to see her experience this world for the first time, the film at times turning into a road movie in which we get to see her in Morocco, Spain and with her father in Berlin, as well as meeting this sort of new-age English family on vacation in Morocco who help her out a bit, and who’s teenage daughter becomes the first friend of Hanna’s life.

And even though a lot of Hanna is kind of predictable and formulaic, and even takes some of its cues and feel from fairy tales, it’s never not fun, and Mr. Wright really does have a knack for crafting an enthralling film and getting superb performances from his whole cast. And I’ll take this final moment to once again praise the talents of Ms. Ronan, she’s on-screen for pretty much the whole film and it’s her intensity, as well as how she seems to wear her heart on her sleeve quite a lot, that make her more than capable of carrying this film to greatness. With Hanna Mr. Wright demonstrates that no matter the genre he’s more than capable himself of delivering a truly sensational film, full of his stylized visuals that are so often breathtaking and that show us why he’s one of the most interesting filmmakers working today, just a job really well done here.

Grade: A-

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Oscar Predictions: Makeup, Costume Design, Art Direction, Visual Effects

23 Feb

Now, in my third Oscar Predictions post I will tackle the four more artistic categories the Academy Awards offer, those for Best Makeup, Costume Design, Art Direction and, in the technological artistry field, Visual Effects.

BEST MAKEUP

Nominees

  • Barney’s Version (Adrien Morot)
  • The Way Back (Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng)
  • The Wolfman (Rick Baker and Dave Elsey)

I’m still baffled by the fact that Alice in Wonderland, which I considered pretty much as the guaranteed winner of this category, didn’t even earn a nomination. So, with that film not even in the running, I would think this would be an easy win for The Wolfman, considering it’s the strongest of the bunch and it has Rick Baker as part of its two-man team, and that man is a legend in the field, already having 6 Oscars to his name.

Should Win: The Wolfman
Will Win: The Wolfman

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Nominees

  • Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)
  • Io Sono l’Amore (Antonella Cannarozzi)
  • The King’s Speech (Jenny Beavan)
  • The Tempest (Sandy Powell)
  • True Grit (Mary Zophres)

This is a really solid bunch of nominees we got here, but it will most likely become a two-film race between Alice in Wonderland and The King’s Speech. If Sunday becomes a sweep by the latter then Jenny Beavan will most likely get her second Oscar here (she got her first for A Room With a View).

But I would think Alice in Wonderland, which got shut-out of the Makeup category above, will eventually get this one, with Colleen Atwood, a past winner for Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago, getting her third Oscar. The work she did here was awesome, having to work with a lot of body ratios from Alice shrinking and growing and the Red Queen’s gigantic head. She’s the most deserving, and even though a big part of me thinks the Academy will want to go back to their love affair with prestige pics this year, I will still pick her as my winner.

Should Win: Alice in Wonderland
Will Win: Alice in Wonderland

BEST ART DIRECTION

Nominees

  • Alice in Wonderland (Robert Stromberg (Production Design); Karen O’Hara (Set Decoration))
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (Stuart Craig (Production Design); Stephenie McMillan (Set Decoration))
  • Inception (Guy Hendrix Dyas (Production Design); Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (Set Decoration))
  • The King’s Speech (Eve Stewart (Production Design); Judy Farr (Set Decoration))
  • True Grit (Jess  Gonchor (Production Design); Nancy Haigh (Set Decoration))

I love this category, and this year I think it’s a pretty tough one to call. Common sense would have one think The King’s Speech will sweep and will get one of their trophies for this category, for creating such a wonderful set and achieving amazing production values on such a tight schedule and even tighter budget.

But, if the night does not turn into a sweep by the monarch’s biopic, then I think Alice in Wonderland may prevail here. The marvelous sets decorated by Karen O’Hara were a big part of what gave the film it’s unique feel that resonated with audiences worldwide and got the film to gross over a billion dollars, and the production design headed by Robert Stromberg, who actually won this award last year for his work on another huge-grosser, Avatar, was seriously sublime.

However, my personal pick would actually be the three-man team behind the art direction of Inception, just the scale of the stuff they worked with, not to mention the very specific capacities they had to achieve for one of the world’s most inventive and detail-oriented directors was just mind-blowing.

Should Win: Inception
Will Win: The King’s Speech

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Nominees

  • Alice in Wonderland (Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi)
  • Hereafter (Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojansky and Joe Farrell)
  • Inception(Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)
  • Iron Man 2 (Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick)

Do we expect any other film not named Inception to have the tiniest bit of a chance of winning this award? The effects in Inception were just top of their class, and this is one of the surest awards of the night.

The four-man team who were in charge of flipping a city on its sides, and which includes two of guys who were nominated for this award for their previous collaboration with Christopher Nolan on The Dark Knight, gave us a seriously stunning amount of detail and raised the bar of their craft.

Should Win: Inception
Will Win: Inception

The Way Back

16 Feb

Title: The Way Back
Year:
2011
Director:
Peter Weir
Writers:
Peter Weir and Keith R. Clarke, based on the novel by Slavomir Rawicz
Starring:
Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, violent content, depiction of physical hardships, a nude image and brief strong language
Runtime:
133 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.5
Rotten Tomatoes:
76%

 

Peter Weir is a master at filmmaking, the Australian director has maneuvered his way smoothly through many genres and styles, his Dead Poets Society is amazing, The Truman Show is a thing of beauty and he got a seriously stellar performance from Jim Carrey in it, and then came 2003’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, an awesome film that also happened to have been the last one he made until this one, seven years later. And much like his last effort, The Way Back has an appropriately epic feel to it to go along with some very fine performances from really capable actors. My problem with it was that, though grand in scale, the emotional complexities were too underdeveloped for me to really feel for the characters here, and when you’re in such a huge two-hour-plus ride you really need that involvement to get through it without having it feel tiresome.

And that’s really the problem with The Way Back, that it’s very long and that, even though it’s incredibly well made and acted, it, at times, feels as though it drags on because there isn’t as much emotional weight to keep you fully involved. The visuals may be really amazing, and they are thanks to cinematographer Russell Boyd, a frequent collaborator of Mr. Weir and an Oscar winner for his work in Master and Commander, but that’s just it, the movie many times feels far more invested in its gorgeous views than in its dramatic substance.

And I’m really not dissing The Way Back, it’s really a very very good film, I just wanted it to be a huge epic and get Peter Weir back to the Oscars (he’s been nominated six previous times), while the only nomination it got was for Makeup (it qualified for the 2010 Oscar crop, but it got its release in 2011 so I’m counting it as an ’11 film). But yeah, even though it feels too long at times, and not as invested in the emotional subtleties of it all, this is still one very solid film, done exquisitely well by a guy who knows his craft, and who loves observing people against some very intense and special situations.

I wanted to grade The Way Back somewhere in the A-range, maybe a strong A-minus, but it will definitely fall a bit short from that, because, a year from now, I doubt I’ll remember this one all that much. And considering this is supposed to be this very epic look at survival and enormous issues within, that’s quite a letdown. I want to congratulate Mr. Weir and his crew for actually making this film, because the production values are simply superb, and the fact that a film this huge and ambitious found a home and financing is really fantastic, but the overall product, though great to look at, isn’t all that great to ponder at once you’re done with it.

If you can put aside that considering the amazing story it told the film itself should have been far more epic itself, you’ll find yourself watching a pretty amazing film. One in which the story is of escapees of a Siberian prison, making their way 4’000 miles through, to freedom in India. Yes, that’s how huge the scope is in The Way Back. A helluva journey with endless possibilities of death in many ways, but, really, that’s kind of it. And yes, that huge journey with countless chances of starvation and injury is compelling stuff, no doubt about that, but there’s way too few character development here for it to propel itself to sheer greatness.

The four main cast members are all excellent. We have Jim Sturgess as the one I guess we’d call the leader of the pack, Janusz. Then we have Ed Harris, who’s seriously amazing, as an American who goes by the name of Mr. Smith. And finally we have Colin Farrell, a Russian guy named Valka. These are the three main escapees we meet in the journey, but along said journey we also get to meet Irena, a young woman who has escaped from a collective farm near Warsaw and joins them. Irena’s played by Saoirse Ronan, who turned heads in her breakthrough Oscar-nominated role in Atonement, and who continued to be great in the otherwise so-so The Lovely Bones, and who continues to be incredible here, a streak that she probably won’t break once she reunites with her Atonement director, Joe Wright, for this April’s awesome-looking Hanna, alongside Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett.

I’ve heard claims that the story on which this is based isn’t actually true, as the film says it is, and if it really isn’t it wouldn’t matter much to me. I mean, if it were true it would probably actually be a bit too unbelievable, and no matter the case Mr. Weir and his cast and crew were still crazy committed into translating the true (or maybe not) tale to the screen, which is what counts. I don’t really care that much in the case of The Way Back if the story is true or not, I just care that it’s well done, and this one really is. Yes, there could have been a lot more dramatic and emotional complexities, but this is still a pretty darn good film and you should definitely go watch it.

Grade: B+

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.