I watch the Oscars almost every year. Usually I haven't seen many of the films, so I watch it partly for celebrity spotting, partly to laugh at the crazy dresses, and partly to see what Jack Nicholson will do this year.
This past film year, I have already seen a large proportion of the films (6/10 nominated for best picture) and so I actually care more about who will win. Since there are a number of categories that I either know nothing about (Art Direction) or have seen none of the nominated films (Best Documentary, Short Subjects), I have left those out. I include only the categories I have an opinion on.
A quick note on my picks: they are exactly that. They have nothing to do with what will win, or even what I think will win (I hope The Social Network gets beaten in all categories, but I fear it will not) - they are simply what I thought were the best, given what I saw.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
The King's Speech - 12 nominations total
True Grit - 10 nominations total
Inception - 8 nominations total
The Social Network - 8 nominations total
The Fighter - 7 nominations total
127 Hours - 6 nominations total
Black Swan - 5 nominations total
Toy Story 3 - 5 nominations total
The Kids Are All Right - 4 nominations total
Winter's Bone - 4 nominations total
My pick: Black Swan
Now, I really loved a lot of these movies. True Grit, Toy Story 3 and Inception were all very good, and a lot of fun. The King's Speech and Winter's Bone were both very powerful and had great dialogue and characters. But none made me feel the way Black Swan did. It was so repellent and attractive, so horrifying and funny, that it is simply a work of art.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
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
My pick: Colin Firth
Firth is always endearing, fumbling, and unconsciously sexy - but he has never before been so captivating. Playing a would-be king desperately trying to find his voice (literally), he made me want to laugh and weep, often at the same time. He and the other actors make this the one movie on the best picture list I want to see again right now.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
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
My pick: Natalie Portman
I thought Jennifer Lawrence was absolutely amazing in Winter's Bone, and up until last week, was my top choice in this category. Then I finally saw Black Swan. I can't even describe how good Portman was in that movie, you just need to see it for yourself.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
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
My pick: Christian Bale
I haven't even seen The Fighter. I thought John Hawkes, Jeremy Renner and Geoffrey Rush were all superb, but from everything I have heard - and everything I know about Bale - he blows them all out of the water. And, I'd so love to see him win.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams for The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter for The King's Speech
Melissa Leo for The Fighter
Haliee Steinfeld for True Grit
Jackie Weaver for Animal Kingdom
My pick: Haliee Steinfeld
I loved Carter in The King's Speech - she is such a loving wife and commanding queen, and she mixed the two roles perfectly - but Steinfeld was fantastic. Not only is she only 14 (!), she played foil to both Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, and made them both look like fools. The characters, anyway. I may also be unfairly comparing her to the woman who originated the role, who was just appalling, but I do think Steinfeld was great.
Best Achievement in Directing
Darren Arnofsy for Black Swan
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for True Grit
David Fincher for The Social Network
Tom Hooper for The King's Speech
David O. Russell for The Fighter
My pick: Darren Arnofsy
Anyone who can create that story and get those performances out of those actors deserves any number of awards. I seriously cannot say enough good things about Black Swan.
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Another Year: Mike Leigh
The Fighter: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington
Inception: Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right: Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
The King's Speech: David Seidler
My pick: Inception
Hands down. I wasn't really expecting Nolan to get a nomination for best director, but this screenplay is genius. The others are very good, don't get me wrong - the dialogue is great and the characters well rounded - but just the concept for Inception is so mind-boggling that Nolan should get an Oscar with an over-sized cranium.
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
127 Hours: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network: Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3: Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
True Grit: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Winter's Bone: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini
My pick: Winter's Bone
I thought the writing in this movie was truly spectacular - Ree is a tough, uncompromising and at times, very funny character. Her interactions with her siblings were perfect, and she was the most real character in any of these movies. Also, I'd love to see a couple of women beat all those men.
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
How to Train Your Dragon
Toy Story 3
My pick: Toy Story 3
Without question - this would be the biggest shocker for me if it doesn't win. Not only was it an excellent movie (the best of the series, I'd say), it is a Pixar movie, and Pixar doesn't lose. How to Train Your Dragon was awesome, but not as awesome as Toy Story 3.
I know that 99.9% of the people reading this care not a jot for any of the technical awards, so I will only mention one. The fact that Black Swan did not get a nomination for best sound mixing or editing is a travesty. It is rare for me to actually notice anything like that, and I left the theater and actually said that it should get one of those awards. Seriously, go see the movie and just listen to it. The music plus dialogue plus ambient noise plus the sound of the dancers' toes cracking and the sound of birds' wings is unearthly. I have never even though about this category before, and this year I am angry that a movie didn't get a nomination.