Nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards officially came out today, with few surprises (except, perhaps, for The Blind Side's Best Picture nomination — what's with that?). Come Oscar night, these are the films to bet on.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Will win: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Should win: Wes Anderson, Fantastic Mr. Fox
I realize it wasn't nominated, but dammit, it should have been. The best of George Clooney's three movies this year, Fantastic Mr. Fox impressed me far more than I expected it to. Wes Anderson adapted the Roald Dahl book into a funny, intelligent film with exceptionally smart dialogue and strange, memorable characters. Even so, the Oscar will go to Up in the Air, Jason Reitman's good-but-not-great film that owes its success more to its performances than its screenplay. The real-life testimonies from men and women who have actually lost their jobs, for one thing, go on for too long, and they make Air's message obvious. That won't stop it from winning, though. Unfortunately, Fox also has zero chance of winning for Best Animated Feature, which will go to Up. Better luck next year, Wes.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will win: Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds
Should win: Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds
It's proven easy for the major awards to overlook Tarantino in the past. Even Jason Reitman, while accepting his Golden Globe for Best Screenplay last month, said he was “still waiting for them to say your name, Quentin.” And yes, Tarantino is self-indulgent and a little obnoxious, but he's also so fucking good—no one is more of a cinephile than he, and nobody's work reflects a pure joy to be making films the way his does. (In his world, the power of film is such that it can defeat the Nazis. How can you not love that?) The Best Original Screenplay award can almost be seen as a consolation prize for films that, while good or even great, don't have a chance at winning either of the top awards. (Past winners The Usual Suspects and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are great examples.) It's also the one Academy Award Tarantino has already won—or shared, actually, with the now-incarcerated Roger Avary, for writing Pulp Fiction—and it's his best, if only, shot this year.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will win: Mo'Nique, Precious
Should win: Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Though it's already a sure thing that Mo'Nique will win an Oscar for her performance in Precious, I can’t help but be drawn to Vera Farmiga’s turn as Alex Goran, the woman who somehow makes the hardened Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) want to change his plane-hopping, dream-crushing ways. The arc is not especially well-executed, but Farmiga's performance is. One gets the sense, watching Up in the Air, that there's more to Farmiga's character than she's letting on. She seems too good to be true and, it turns out, is — but that's all I'll say.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will win: Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
Should win: Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
A certainty. For the third year in a row, the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor will go to a first-time winner for portraying an unforgettable villain. (The previous two went to Heath Ledger for his turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight and Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.) And, also for the third year in a row, the win will be completely deserved. Waltz's performance in Basterds is brilliant; without it, the film simply would not work as well as it does, and Waltz's work is getting the credit it deserves.