Photo: Bob D'Amico for ABC

Alexandra MacAaron has been covering the movie and television awards season since it kicked off in January, and she’ll be joining us this Sunday evening for the WVFC Live Oscar Blog (start time: 7 p.m.). Here, MacAaron fearlessly sticks her neck out with some canny predictions for the evening’s big winners. You’re welcome to add your predictions to the list, and we’ll tally up the score on Sunday night.

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards are just days away, and I’ve narrowed down my red carpet look to three options: blue jeans (the loose ones with the high waist that embarrass my daughter), yoga pants (beloved but recently bleach stained, unfortunately) or pajamas (silky black and white, only slightly faded).

It’s a good thing I won’t be at the Kodak Theater in real life, because Joan and Melissa Rivers would be appalled.

But, please don’t let my casual dress code fool you. I love watching the Academy Awards. And so, apparently, do a lot of other people. Last year’s telecast pulled an estimated 55.2 million viewers, 41 million of them in the United States. According to Reuters, the Oscars broadcast is typically the second-most watched U.S. television broadcast after the Super Bowl. Despite climate change, the economy, or the situation in the Middle East, we love us some Hollywood glamour.

This year’s Oscars ceremony promises to be interesting. The Academy has selected two young actors, Anne Hathaway and James Franco (right),  as the show’s hosts. They are not comedians or multi-talented musical theater stars. While they are both respected actors (Franco is nominated for an Oscar this year for 127 Hours, and Hathaway was nominated two years ago for Rachel Getting Married), their youth — as well as their endearing, goofy smiles — lend them less gravitas than we might expect from such an important emcee gig.

 It may be that the Academy is hoping to attract a younger audience. Or by choosing a couple of their own, they’ll avoid the unexpected, off-color and often embarrassing outbursts we witnessed from this year’s Golden Globes’ host Ricky Gervais. At any rate, the likability quotient of the Hathaway-Franco team is pretty much through the roof. As long as the writers don’t give them too many musical numbers (do any of you remember Rob Lowe and Snow White?), the evening should be very pleasant.

As always, some excellent work will be recognized. It’s exciting to see the diversity of film genres represented in the top categories, as well as some fine performances by older actresses, such as Annette Bening (52), Melissa Leo (50), Jacki Weaver (63), Helena Bonham Carter (45), and Nicole Kidman (43). Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for some other categories. As I wrote earlier for WVFC, no women directors are in the running — despite “Best Picture” nods for both Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right. 

Academy Award voting can be a subjective and fickle business. In theory, it should be an impartial review of skill and talent by a jury of peers. In reality, it is often colored by Hollywood’s attempts to seem intellectual (comedies, for example, rarely win over more serious subjects regardless of how well they are crafted). Honorees can be awarded for lifetime achievement or a body of work. Or, when a performer is passed over for a deserved prize, she or he may be recognized for a lesser effort (Jessica Lange’s 1983 statuette for Tootsie is almost certainly her consolation prize for the far more impressive work she did in the same year’s Frances).

So with the caveat that predicting the Oscars is an inexact science, and no, I don’t have someone on the inside at PriceWaterhouseCooper, here’s what I expect to see Sunday night.

Best Picture – The King’s Speech
This category has been hotly debated by conventional critics and bloggers alike. Personally, I was underwhelmed by The Social Network.  I would challenge anyone who champions it to think about why. Is it the artistic value of the film? Or the extraordinary true story of the rise of social media and the phenomenon of geek as billionaire rock star? The King’s Speech has swept the season’s other awards shows, typically looked at as predictors of Oscar performance. And according to the Hollywood Reporter, the average age of Academy Award voters is 57. This may make them less likely to vote for newer, cyber-centric subject matter.

Best Director – Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech
The hand of the director is more subtle, less obvious in The King’s Speech than in some of its competitors, such as True Grit or Black Swan. Even The Social Network was more interesting to me when I thought about the choices David Fincher made. However, The King’s Speech seems to be riding an awards-season wave, including the Directors Guild Award for Hooper. It is unusual that Best Director and Best Picture don’t correlate.

Best Actress – Natalie Portman for Black Swan
Portman is the odds-on favorite going into her category. She has won virtually every other award this season. And her performance includes the kind of real-life mythmaking that Hollywood loves. She dramatically altered her appearance; she worked many months and countless hours to transform herself into a believable ballet dancer; she fell in love with her costar and choreographer; and when she accepts her award Sunday night, she’ll do so with a couture-covered baby bump. But I am not a fan of Black Swan (see my WVFC review), and I found Portman’s performance monotonous. If I were an Academy member, my vote would go to Annette Bening for her intelligent and finely textured work in The Kids Are All Right.

Best Actor – Colin Firth for The King’s Speech
Again, we’ve already seen Firth pick up a number of prestigious awards leading to an expected win at the Academy Awards: from BAFTA (Britain’s Oscar equivalent), the Golden Globes, and the Screen Actors Guild. Last year marked Firth’s first Oscar nomination for A Single Man, and if (when?) he wins Sunday night, it will be in part because of that performance as well as his recent moving portrayal of King George VI.

Best Supporting Actress – Melissa Leo for The Fighter … I think.
A few weeks ago, I would have put money on Leo for the Supporting Actress honors. She’s favored by critics and has been recognized at the season’s earlier award shows. However, Hollywood insiders are like a popular clique at school — if you do something they deem “uncool,” it’s hard to recover. Leo funded her own ads urging the Academy to “consider” her. The ads, featuring the actress in glitzy gowns, faux fur, and staged movie star poses, seem forced and self-serving. They may backfire, and the Oscar may go to newcomer Hailee Steinfeld (the young heroine of True Grit) or Helena Bonham Carter (Firth’s gracious queen). Although I’d still give my vote to Leo, I do think Julianne Moore deserved a nomination as Bening’s partner in The Kids Are All Right.

Best Supporting Actor – Christian Bale for The Fighter
Bale was nothing less than astounding as Mark Walhberg’s washed-up, crack-smoking brother in The Fighter. He is favored to win the Oscar and he should win it. Already respected for his abilities, if not his off camera behavior, this performance will put him in an enviable but potentially difficult position going forward. It will be nearly impossible for him to top it.

Animated Feature – Toy Story 3
Okay, I admit it. When Andy’s mother walks into his bedroom, stark and empty so he can leave for college, her animated breath catches. Yours truly burst into tears right there in the Danvers, Massachusetts AMC multiplex. The Toy Story franchise hasn’t missed a beat, and this final installment is very near perfection. It will and should be honored as Best Animated Feature, and I could easily be convinced that it deserves Best Picture this year as well.

I’ll hold off on any other predictions until after the big night. Right now, I have to call Harry Winston back to discuss what color diamonds to wear with my ensemble.

See you on the red carpet. I’ll be the one in pajamas.

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  • Deb Rox February 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Excellent thinking process. I totally agree about Melissa Leo. I love her in general, but those ads feel desperate and are a turnoff. I’m not a Christian Bale fan, but you are right, he was awesome in The Fighter and will probably win. I’m rooting for an upset by Geoffrey Rush!