A night at the Oscars

    Looking at this year’s Academy Awards, there seems to be a common theme of change. The most obvious transition this year is the extended list of nominees for Best Picture, and there has been much controversy over whether or not to increase from five to 10 nominations for this prestigious award in each category. Many argue this will allow films of poorer quality (“The Blind Side” and “District 9”) to take votes away from those more deserving. Others contend this will provide more opportunities for blockbuster films previously overlooked (ahem, “The Dark Knight”).

    We are all familiar with the tremendous success of Pixar’s animated movies, and it seems every year they walk away with a golden Oscar raised high in the air. And this year should be no different. Nevertheless, “Up,” in addition to being nominated for Best Animated Film, has been nominated for Best Picture. The nod marks the first time an animated movie has been placed in this category since “Beauty and the Beast” in 1994.

    And what about the emcees? For the first time since 1986, there will be co-hosts at the Academy Awards — Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, co-stars of the recent romantic comedy “It’s Complicated.”

    Every year on Oscar night, I find myself either waving my arms in triumph or shaking my head in disapproval. As much as I enjoy the Academy Awards, I expect this year I will go to bed frustrated. For this reason, I’ve provided some of my predictions for the major categories, complete with angry rants and exuberant praise.

    *Best Picture*

    __Who will win: “Avatar”__
    __Who should win: “The Hurt Locker”__

    Has anyone not seen “Avatar?” Everyone agrees the special effects are incredible, and the 3-D effects don’t hurt that appeal. Regardless, the screenplay more befits a video game than an acclaimed blockbuster. In contrast, “The Hurt Locker” is arguably the best cinematic depiction of the Iraq War to date. Director Kathryn Bigelow leaves the viewer tense, yet satisfied and constantly guessing throughout the entire movie — whereas you can figure out the plot of “Avatar” within five minutes.

    *Best Director*

    __Will win: Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”__
    __Should win: Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”__

    Throughout “The Hurt Locker,” I kept forgetting I was watching an action movie. Bombs explode, guns fire, but not without Bigelow diving deep and asking the question: Why would anyone volunteer to such a hell-on-Earth? Unlike most preceding war films, we watch these scenes of horror unfold from the perspectives of both the soldiers and the terrorists they’re fighting. With the trembling of the earth, the death of innocent victims and the feeling of complete isolation, Bigelow represents the awful, explosive power of war.

    *Best Actor*

    __Will win: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”__
    __Should win: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart”__

    At age 60, Jeff Bridges has finally gotten his greatest role. As desperate, gravel-voiced country singer Bad Blake, Bridges portrays a man trying to crawl out of chronic darkness, perhaps too late in life. A lonely alcoholic, Blake rises from rock bottom to demonstrate how some people are just crazy enough to prove people can change. Critics agree Bridges’s heartfelt performance makes the movie.

    *Best Actress*

    __Will win: Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”__
    __Should win: Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”__
    The idea behind the “The Blind Side” was used years ago in another film entitled, “Finding Forrester.” An impoverished, overlooked youth possesses some talent, which can only be unleashed and brought to the public eye through a special mentor relationship. In all honesty, Bullock’s role calls for little more than a “go get ’em tiger” mentality. But Sidebe’s performance is painful to watch due to the extreme suffering her character, Precious, endures. Precious is incredibly inspiring in her ability to survive every nightmarish situation Director Lee Daniels throws her way.

    *Writing (adapted screenplay)*

    __Will win: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, “Up in the Air”__
    __Should win: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, “Up in the Air”__

    “Up in the Air” is a comedy that can surprise you with tough, emotional moments. Of course, George Clooney plays an attractive, charming man in his ’50s. Nevertheless, Reitman and Turner’s script offers biting and witty dialogue that brings out a different side of Clooney. The story discusses the rising anonymity in our culture due to technological advances. But Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham, reminds us that, despite the changing times, people are still fragile, emotional, and more than just a voice on a cell phone.

    If nothing else, 2009 has given us several outstanding films. I encourage you to watch the Academy Awards Sunday and see the winners for yourself.


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