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2011 Oscar Picks
DVD Talk's 2011 Oscar Predictions

It's almost that time of year. In less than a week the stars both in front of and behind the cameras will dress in their finest and head to the Kodak Theater in Hollywood for the 83rd Academy Awards. Who will win? More importantly; who should win? We polled the DVDTalk review panel, a group of people who spend WAY too much time watching, talking, and writing about movies, to give us their thoughts. There's a lot of agreement in some categories, and a few surprises too (there's no consensus on Best Animated Feature?!?) Be sure to tune into the Oscars on Sunday February 27th to see which reviewer was most in tune with the voting members of the Academy.


The Nominees: "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "Inception," "The Kids Are All Right," "The King's Speech," "127 Hours," "The Social Network," "Toy Story 3," "True Grit," "Winter's Bone"

The Social Network

Brain Orndorf's Prediction: The King's Speech - In a field of exceptional nominees (the 10 are a first-rate summation of the 2010 film year), I suppose the momentum sides with The King's Speech. While the theatrics of "The Social Network" supplied a superb edge, "The King's Speech" executed something quite rare: An endearing, confident male friendship based on mutual respect. Haven't had one of those pictures in a very long time. Clearly, something about the film is resonating with audiences, paving the way to an Oscar win.

Thomas Spurlin's Prediction: Black Swan - Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan depicts a ballerina, Nina (Natalie Portman), determined to shape her self-inflicted innocence into one of sultriness and obscurity, all for the key part in Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake". Those turned off by the ballet, however, will not be turned off by this psychologically-abrasive thriller, an aggressive metaphor of the transformation artists go through for their craft - and of a woman's break from her shell. Mixing influence from Polanski, Argento, Cronenberg, and even a faint flutter of Powell and Pressburger, the path down which she descends for the role finds a vigorous rhythm between over-the-top symbolic gestures and tried-and-true horror, all supported by a dramatic, sex-centered backbone. And with meticulous craftsmanship from the director of Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain at its back, it transforms into an unremitting mental challenge that uses the gradients of sanity and dedication to propel Nina towards her goal: faultless artistic execution.

Nick Hartel's Prediction: The Social Network - The clear favorite, "The Social Network" is arguably the stronger of the two Golden Globe winners this year. Fincher's masterful direction in his "smartest" most commercially accessible film bring Aaron Sorkin's razor sharp, timely script to life.

Will Harrison's Prediction: The Social Network. My vote would go to either Black Swan or the Fighter, neither of which will win. Recent buzz has centered on the King's Speech, but the combination of David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin and Facebook should allow the Social Network to walk away victorious as a rare best picture winner at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.

Rohit Rao's Prediction: Inception

Jamie S. Rich's Prediction: The Social Network - Becasue I believe in the power of good and right and creatively stimulating films will rule out over sub-Merchant Ivory throwback pabulum...oh, who am I kidding. The Academy is going to pick "The King's Speech."

Casey Burchby's Prediction: The King's Speech - A safe choice amid a pack of black sheep nominees.

Neil Lumbard's Prediction: The Social Network - It's between The Social Network or The King's Speech. While I think it's quite probable that The King's Speech will take home the top prize I also feel as though The Social Network still has a fighting chance at actually winning the award -- and as David Fincher's latest masterpiece is my favorite film of 2010 it has my full support.


The Nominees: "Black Swan" Darren Aronofsky, "The Fighter" David O. Russell, "The King's Speech" Tom Hooper, "The Social Network" David Fincher, "True Grit" Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Darren Aronofsky Brain Orndorf: Tom Hooper - David Fincher is perhaps one of the finest living directors today, and his day of Oscar glory will arrive. But Hooper seized an exceptional tone of drama in The King's Speech, guiding the cast to captivating stages of discovery.

Thomas Spurlin: Darren Aronofsky - Darren Aronofsky's work with Black Swan achieves a tremendous amount on a minimal budget, and within a very short time with its audience. Within 110 minutes, he creates a mix of graspable psychological shakiness, supernatural horror, and an almost sports-movie determination behind Nina's strive for perfection, which interweaves into a dramatically-capable allegory focused on the strain that artists endure for their passion. He makes a film about ballet a thrilling, eerie, thought-provoking affair, with dialed-up context that shapes it all into an elegantly aggressive parable. It sounds like a contradiction of terms, "elegantly aggressive", but it fits once you see how Aronofsky has orchestrated the mix of dainty innocence and robust brood within Nina. Along with that, he pulls exceptional performances from his central and supporting leads, and holds onto his sharp eye for visual gris-gris in the process. It's all superb.

Nick Hartel: David Fincher - "The Social Network" could have been a dull experience in the hands of a lesser director; Fincher's trademark style make it stand out and he'll be rewarded for his efforts.

Will Harrison: Darren Aronofsky - "Black Swan" would have been a lesser film without Darren Aronofsky at the reins. He is no doubt responsible for the amazing theatricality of the film, and the Academy likely will award him his due.

Rohit Rao: Darren Aronofsky

Jamie S. Rich: David Fincher - It's time one of Hollywood's finest and most consistent directors gets his nod.

Casey Burchby: Tom Hooper

Neil Lumbard: David Fincher - David Fincher will win and I will have an enormously dorky smile spread across my face. I may even jump out of my seat applauding at my television screen as he accepts the award, and then trip over my shoe-laces only to fall flat on my face. Should I wish to avoid any bodily damage due to overwhelming excitement someone else should win.


The Nominees: Javier Bardem in "Biutiful", Jeff Bridges in "True Grit", Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network", Colin Firth in "The King's Speech", James Franco in "127 Hours"

Colin Firth

Brain Orndorf: Colin Firth - It's a shame Jeff Bridges already collected a trophy last year. Still, Colin Firth communicated outstanding vulnerability in "The King's Speech," making it both a technical triumph and a deeply human performance.

Thomas Spurlin: Jesse Eisenberg - What Jesse Eisenberg’s created with his Mark Zuckerberg can’t really be labeled as an accurate portrayal, but that’s what makes it such a compelling one. The Zombieland and Adventureland actor, whose sensibility usually gears towards comedy, has instead discovered his own unique interpretation of the creator of Facebook. He carries the same rapid-fire dialogue that he’s become famous for, yet there’s not a shred of humor to be found purely in his bumbling words (if there is any, it’s rooted solely in the script), never lets the audience become very comfortable in his presence. He doesn’t evoke sympathy, or villainy; he’s a brash, driven guy with an eye only for his creation, and his nebulous drivers are juggled by an astute turn from Eisenberg.

Nick Hartel: Colin Firth - Along with Geoffrey Rush, Firth was largely responsible for making a pedestrian sounding film a wonderful treat. Add to that, this is Firth's second consecutive leading nomination and he's already taken home most of the early awards, his win here is a pretty solid lock.

Will Harrison: James Franco - James Franco carried 127 Hours with his performance, but Academy voters likely will award the King's Speech by giving the Oscar to a deserving Colin Firth.

Rohit Rao: Jeff Bridges

Jamie S. Rich: Colin Firth - Though I'd personally vote for Jeff Bridges, I think since he had his win last year, the Academy will swing in this direction. Colin Firth is due. The upset could go to Franco, though, who has had a tremendous body of work in the last couple of years.

Casey Burchby: Colin Firth

Neil Lumbard: Colin Firth - Colin Firth will win the award. Personally, I feel voters will choose him because of the double-whammy of "The King's Speech" and "A Single Man." Firth is certainly deserving of the recognition but if the winner of the award was determined by myself I would have gone with either Jesse Eisenberg or James Franco.


The Nominees: Christian Bale in "The Fighter", John Hawkes in "Winter's Bone", Jeremy Renner in "The Town", Mark Ruffalo in "The Kids Are All Right", Geoffrey Rush in "The King's Speech"

Christian Bale Brain Orndorf: Christian Bale - Christian Bale once again plunged into method-mode, and once again came up with a specialized intensity and transformation that shook "The Fighter" violently.

Thomas Spurlin: Mark Ruffalo - Some might look at Mark Ruffalo's performance as Paul in "The Kids Are All Right" and dismiss it as merely oafish, a not-so-sharp owner of an organic restaurant who once donated sperm for a few bucks in his youth. But in the midst of a modern family involving two lesbian mothers, both of whom anonymously used said sperm to conceive a child, he navigates through their bickering - and their children's curiosity over their father - with an intriguing raw earthiness that's both quite humorous and nimble in context. And it's not just reliant on director/writer Lisa Cholodenko's script; his blissfully unabashed attitude is actually a muted-then-reinvigorated performance from Ruffalo, a nifty mix of insight into letting go of stress and acting on gut emotional intuition.

Nick Hartel: Christian Bale - Another amazing physical character performance, Bale's competition is incredibly talented but not in the same league this year and his already full trophy shelf has a nice space waiting for the big one.

Will Harrison: Christian Bale - John Hawkes finally gained some notoriety for his excellent performance in "Winter's Bone," but I doubt the Academy will recognize that. The Oscar will ultimately go to Christian Bale, who gives an equally method performance as disgraced boxer and addict Dicky Eklund in "The Fighter."

Rohit Rao: Christian Bale

Jamie S. Rich: Christian Bale - This is a no brainer. Bale disappeared into the character, and the footage of the real guy that ran over the closing credits only reinforced how amazing he really was.

Casey Burchby: A toss-up between Bale and Rush, although Hawkes is more deserving.

Neil Lumbard: Christian Bale - Christian Bale will win and he absolutely has my devoted support. His performance was the work of a mad genius delving directly into the psyche of the real-life character being portrayed. Bale was barely recognizable. The performance he brought to the screen was absolutely tremendous and worthy of all the high praise it has continued to receive.


The Nominees: Annette Bening in "The Kids Are All Right", Nicole Kidman in "Rabbit Hole", Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone", Natalie Portman in "Black Swan", Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine"

Natalie Portman

Brain Orndorf: Natalie Portman - In a perfect world, Nicole Kidman would've collected every acting award available. Instead, the heat's on Portman, who delivered a finely tuned freak-out performance that elevated "Black Swan" away from some potentially goofball developments.

Thomas Spurlin: Nicole Kidman - There's no denying Natalie Portman's physical and psychologically-demanding prowess in Black Swan, but the rawness stirring in Nicole Kidman's performance as a grieving mother in Rabbit Hole could easily become one of the decade's most potent, gut-churning dramatic displays. Kidman plays Becca Corbett, a woman coping with the death of her son after unavoidable happenstance, which causes her to question the kindness and validity of the universe's design. Kidman takes what could've been a Lifetime Channel-level character and gives her a level of depth that feels fresh and involving, dictated by her complex handling of her inability to return to a sense of normalcy with her husband - both in an emotional sense, and a physical one. Watching the way she frets over tilling her garden, how she does the laundry, and how she copes with the presence of the family dog transforms menial moments into ones with tempered drama, with Kidman's adept shaping of Becca thoroughly responsible.

Nick Hartel: Natalie Portman - Portman's performance is her third award's worthy role in a very young, sixteen-year career. Without her skill and talents, "Black Swan" would not have been the critical favorite it was; had the Academy properly nominated Haliee Steinfeld for lead actress, this might be a closer race, but barring Annette Benning picking up a "career" win, Portman's the favorite.

Will Harrison: Natalie Portman - Annette Bening and Natalie Portman are poised to duel for the win, which likely will go to Portman for her raw performance in "Black Swan."

Rohit Rao: Natalie Portman

Jamie S. Rich: Natalie Portman - The movie splits opinions, but Portman's lead performance is undeniably powerful.

Casey Burchby: Natalie Portman - Portman, I suppose, although I hope it's Bening.

Neil Lumbard: Natalie Portman - Natalie Portman will win. What do I think of that? It's about time. Seriously, folks... we watched her grow up a fine actress with amazing films and performances in Leon: The Professional and Beautiful Girls, and then witnessed some creative milestones from her with the performances in V for Vendetta and Closer. She carried Black Swan's success on her shoulders. No matter what you thought of the film (love it or hate it) she delivered what is almost assuredly her most accomplished performance to date and for one of the most memorable roles in cinema.


The Nominees: Amy Adams in "The Fighter", Helena Bonham Carter in "The King's Speech", Melissa Leo in "The Fighter", Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit", Jacki Weaver in "Animal Kingdom"

Hailee Steinfeld Brain Orndorf: Hailee Steinfeld - The momentum is carrying Melissa Leo along, but I'm pulling for an upset here, if only to reward the young Steinfeld for her ability to adapt to the Coen Brother way of film acting and handle herself like a champ against the likes of Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.

Thomas Spurlin: Jacki Weaver - Those watching "Animal Kingdom" with knowledge of [Jacki Weaver's] award nominations might be puzzled early on. She starts out affectionate, a seemingly-blind omnipresent mother figure who lets her kisses loiter longer than our comfort zone deems proper, existing as an unassuming and weepy dingbat that doubles as an anchor. Again, there's a desire to talk about why this becomes an untrue statement, but suffice it to say that Weaver's Smurf somehow overshadows the poignancy of "Pope" as a menacing presence -- and a tormented mother/grandmother. Some of what she does late in Animal Kingdom showcases a deft perception of the script's gray-area grip on ethos, which then cascades onto her boys and their nervous scramble for survival. Weaver's fierce delivery in one essential scene late in the game, where she solicits the help of an "insider" by way of persuasion, thoroughly changes our perception of Smurf at the drop of a hat.

Nick Hartel: Melissa Leo - Although Hailee Steinfeld is the strongest performance of the bunch and should have been nominated as a lead, Leo will take home the trophy, having already secured a sizable number of prior awards.

Will Harrison: Melissa Leo - Melissa Leo's take on the tough-as-nails mother of Micky Ward in "The Fighter" deserves this award. Amy Adams is also good, but Leo has the meatier role.

Rohit Rao: Hailee Steinfeld

Jamie S. Rich: Hailee Steinfeld - The Academy loves giving this award to young first-timers, and Steinfeld really deserves it. She was really the lead of the movie, so "support" is an understatement: she carries "True Grit."

Casey Burchby: Hailee Steinfeld - If it's not Steinfeld, there's no justice.

Neil Lumbard: Hailee Steinfeld - Hailee Steinfeld will win this 'Supporting Actress' award despite the fact that her character was the lead in "True Grit." If it were up to me the actual winner would be Amy Adams or Melissa Leo.


The Nominees: "How to Train Your Dragon", "The Illusionist", "Toy Story 3"

Brain Orndorf: How to Train Your Dragon - Ah, who am I kidding, "Toy Story 3" will dominate here. However, my hope lies with "How to Train Your Dragon," the superior animated film, in my opinion.

Thomas Spurlin: How to Train Your Dragon - How to Train Your Dragon probably stands out as animation's biggest surprise of the year. DreamWorks Animation, the guys responsible for Shrek and Kung-Fu Panda, have been making a move to take at least a healthy slice of the pie from the Pixar-dominated animation world. Kung-fu Panda came close in quality, but How to Train Your Dragon captures something novel in a superior light when compared to the company's previous work. Based off of Cressida Cowell's books, the story depicts a young Viking who goes against his people's perception of dragons by raising/rehabilitating one of his own, a charming "Night Fury" he names Toothless. What transpires, from the training to the relationship-building, takes a fresh outlook on a tired formula, telling a very funny, affective story of friendship in an invigorated way. The vibrant animation's aces, while Toothless is the epitome of delightful - a mix of cat and dog in a dragon's body that'll get grins out of just about anyone.

Nick Hartel: Toy Story 3 - The Academy loves Disney and Pixar; this coupled with "Toy Story 3" heavily resonating with audiences of all ages, either of the other films winning would be a huge upset.

Will Harrison: Toy Story 3 - Expect a win for Pixar and "Toy Story 3."

Rohit Rao: The Illusionist - The Academy loves Disney and Pixar; this coupled with "Toy Story 3" heavily resonating with audiences of all ages, either of the other films winning would be a huge upset.

Jamie S. Rich: The Illusionist - This is the one that brought tears to my eyes. I like the other choices, but animation need not just be kid's stuff.

Casey Burchby: Toy Story 3

Neil Lumbard: Toy Story 3 - "Toy Story 3" will win. It totally deserves that shiny award. Although, who won't see the win coming this year? It was also nominated for Best Picture.


The Nominees: "Alice in Wonderland" Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan, "Inception" Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat, "The King's Speech" Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr, "True Grit" Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Thomas Spurlin: Inception

Nick Hartel: Inception - "Inception" was a slick, stylish film that bended reality in a highly believable way, and the Academy will make up for Nolan walking home largely empty handed with the "artsy" award.

Will Harrison: Alice in Wonderland - "Alice in Wonderland" has quite a few flaws, but art direction isn't one of them.

Rohit Rao: Inception

Jamie S. Rich: Alice in Wonderland - It's the showiest of the nominees, and I'm guessing that will lead a lot of votes in its direction.

Casey Burchby: Inception - All nominees are worthy with the notable exception of Alice, which was offensively ugly.

Neil Lumbard: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - If it were up to me the latest (perhaps greatest) Harry Potter film would be nominated for Best Picture. Sadly, it was not to be. The good news is that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 had some of the best art direction in any film I saw in 2010. I sincerely hope it wins.


The Nominees: "Black Swan" Matthew Libatique, "Inception" Wally Pfister, "The King's Speech" Danny Cohen, "The Social Network" Jeff Cronenweth, "True Grit" Roger Deakins

Brain Orndorf: Black Swan - Merging classic horror convention with dazzling digital trickery, "Black Swan" made a profound visual impression.

Thomas Spurlin: Black Swan - This category's a tough one, as all the candidates achieve varying degrees of excellence in highly different ways - and I'm a huge fan of all the contenders. However, the precision in Matthew Libatique's mix of neo-verite movement and grandiose composition in Black Swan transforms this artful horror-drama into something dazzling. It often focuses on peering over Nina's shoulder as she navigates through the New York ballet locations, catching glimpses of small details - a scratch on the back here, a reflection there - and tying them into the silvery, shrewd aesthetic. Libatique, in connection with Aronofsky's eye for construction, brilliantly capture Natalie Portman's dancing abilities (both her exquisite strengths and her limits), while emphasizing the ticks and flippant flirts that develop in the rapport building between Nina and Lily (Mila Kunis). And the nightmarish moments on-stage, both in the opening dream-sequence and the actual performance at the end of the film, are all stunningly realized.

Nick Hartel: True Grit - Deakins has been deserving of this award for well over a decade. Wally Pfister's work on "Inception" is the big competition, but I think the Academy will go for purely reality based visuals of "True Grit" instead of Nolan and Pfister's dream worlds.

Will Harrison: The Social Network - Wally Pfister's work on "Inception" is quite good, but Jeff Cronenweth deserves the award for giving "The Social Network" its slick, cold look.

Rohit Rao: Black Swan - Merging classic horror convention with dazzling digital trickery, "Black Swan" made a profound visual impression.

Jamie S. Rich: Black Swan - This fever dream of a movie has real heat thanks to Libatique getting right down in the thick of the action.

Casey Burchby: Inception - "True Grit" is equally deserving

Neil Lumbard: The Social Network - "The Social Network" had the best cinematography of the nominations. I believe it will win the award. However, Roger Deakins is perhaps my favorite working cinematographer and he still hasn't received an Academy Award for his work. I think "True Grit" might surprise some people and take home the award for Cinematography. Maybe. Oh, and for the record... I wish Andrew Lesnie had been nominated for "The Last Airbender." BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

The Nominees: "Alice in Wonderland" Colleen Atwood, "I Am Love" Antonella Cannarozzi, "The King's Speech" Jenny Beavan, "The Tempest" Sandy Powell, "True Grit" Mary Zophres

Nick Hartel: Alice in Wonderland - Unless the Academy decides to pull the classic trick of rewarding a period film, there's no denying "Alice in Wonderland" had some truly original wardrobe creations.

Will Harrison: True Grit - The costumes lend authenticity to True Grit, but they may be too simple to outshine those in the King's Speech.

Rohit Rao: Alice in Wonderland - Unless the Academy decides to pull the classic trick of rewarding a period film, there's no denying "Alice in Wonderland" had some truly original wardrobe creations.

Jamie S. Rich: Alice in Wonderland - Again, the creation of a whole other world will probably push this one over the edge.

Casey Burchby: The Tempest

Neil Lumbard: Alice in Wonderland - ... and the winner is: Black Swan! Um... no? Wait... it wasn't even nominated? Seriously?! OK then... FINE! Alice in Wonderland it is.


The Nominees: "Exit through the Gift Shop", "Gasland", "Inside Job", "Restrepo", "Waste Land" Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Brain Orndorf: Restrepo - Being one of the three people on the planet who found "Exit Through the Gift Shop" tiresome and insignificant, my vote goes to "Restrepo," which raised the bar for Iraq War documentaries with its first-hand footage of life on the front lines.

Thomas Spurlin: Exit through the Gift Shop

Nick Hartel: Exit through the Gift Shop - One would have thought the controversy surrounding the film's non-fictional veracity would have kept it from being nominated, but now that it is, 2010's most talked about documentary is the safe bet.

Will Harrison: Exit through the Gift Shop - I hope Exit Through the Gift shops wins. Whether the film is fact or fiction, it is hilarious, and maybe Banksy will do something outrageous if he wins.

Rohit Rao: Exit through the Gift Shop

Jamie S. Rich: Restrepo - One of the tougher categories of the year. I am choosing "Restrepo" because of its lasting impact and its incredible footage of dangerous work.

Casey Burchby: Exit through the Gift Shop - It deserves it, and the Academy likes to pick a category or two to display the fact that they have the finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist.


The Nominees: "Killing in the Name", "Poster Girl", "Strangers No More", "Sun Come Up", "The Warriors of Qiugang"

Rohit Rao: The Warriors of Qiugang


The Nominees: "Black Swan" Andrew Weisblum, "The Fighter" Pamela Martin, "The King's Speech" Tariq Anwar, "127 Hours" Jon Harris, "The Social Network" Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Thomas Spurlin: Black Swan

Nick Hartel: Black Swan - Since the best edited film of the year, "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," wasn't nominated, the award will have to go to the second best edited film of the year.

Will Harrison: 127 Hours - Jon Harris may beat "The Social Network" with his slick editing on "127 Hours," which kept the movie tight and intense.

Rohit Rao: Black Swan

Jamie S. Rich: The Social Network - The construction of this movie is immaculate. The way it jumps around from line to line shows marvelous technique.

Casey Burchby: 127 Hours - Don't understand "Inception" missing from this category.

Casey Burchby: The Social Network - "The Social Network" displayed some of the finest editing I have ever seen. How can you top that? You simply cannot. "127 Hours" would be my second pick though -- and it is certainly deserving of some more recognition.


The Nominees: "Biutiful" Mexico, "Dogtooth" Greece, "In a Better World" Denmark, "Incendies" Canada, "Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)" Algeria

Thomas Spurlin: Dogtooth

Will Harrison: In a Better World.

Rohit Rao: Dogtooth

Jamie S. Rich: In a Better World - Not a very good movie, but it's got a feel-good anti-violence message that voters will eat up. "Incendies" has a chance for the same reason, though it's more ponderous and pretentious.

Casey Burchby: Dogtooth - My fingers are crossed.


The Nominees: "Barney's Version" Adrien Morot, "The Way Back" Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng, "The Wolfman" Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Nick Hartel: "The Wolfman - A truly dreadful film had one thing going for it: classic practical makeup from industry legend Rick Baker. It will be a crime if Baker doesn't the trophy.

Will Harrison: The Way Back - The makeup in the Wolfman was good, but nothing we haven't seen before. The Way Back may win the Oscar here.

Rohit Rao: The Wolfman

Jamie S. Rich: The Wolfman - You will believe Benicio Del Toro is a hairy beast!

Casey Burchby: The Wolfman


The Nominees: "How to Train Your Dragon" John Powell, "Inception" Hans Zimmer, "The King's Speech" Alexandre Desplat, "127 Hours" A.R. Rahman, "The Social Network" Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Thomas Spurlin: The Social Network - As much as I enjoyed Hans Zimmer's broad-scoped music powering Inception and the modern zip of 127 Hours, the Reznor-Ross team has placed themselves in the position of becoming powerhouse film-score virtuosos with The Social Network. The film itself depends on a marriage of cinematic elements, from graceful cinematography to performances and dialogue work, but the pulsating score might be the key ingredient that kept this story of creating a website an energetic one. Every moment carries the right mix of uncanny, empathetic, and propulsion-heavy rhythms, especially the brilliantly-executed opening montage involving Zuckerberg's vengeance-fueled programming as it's juxtaposed against scenes with his partying peers. The score's exceptional ability to create its own movement gives that particular scene a cerebral tonality, while other sequences have varying effects that also tie back to the picture's focused momentum.

Nick Hartel: The Social Network - After securing the Golden Globe, Reznor and Ross are locks for one. With Daft Punk snubbed by the Academy, "The Social Network's" innovative score will be take home first prize.

Will Harrison: The Social Network - I expect Trent Reznor's high profile work for "The Social Network" to be awarded.

Rohit Rao: Inception

Jamie S. Rich: The Social Network - It's the most innovative and different work of the year, and the one soundtrack I keep returning to. Plus, how cool would it be to see Reznor on that stage?

Casey Burchby: How to Train Your Dragon - Zimmer's work for "Inception" is much lauded, undeservedly. He just ripped off Scorsese's appropriation of Penderecki in Shutter Island.

Neil Lumbard: The Social Network - If there was any justice in this category James Newton Howard would at least be nominated for his score to "The Last Airbender." And on that note -- what about Daft Punk's score to "Tron: Legacy?" As it stands, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross created one of the most beautiful scores of the year. It is deserving of the award and will be voted the winner by the Academy. A.R. Rahman would also be a commendable choice though.


The Nominees: "Coming Home" from "Country Strong" Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey, "I See the Light" from "Tangled" Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater, "If I Rise" from "127 Hours" Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong, "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3" Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Thomas Spurlin: "If I Rise"

Will Harrison: "Coming Home"

Rohit Rao: "If I Rise"

Jamie S. Rich: I think this year they should open a blank envelope and just declare 2010 to be a wash. Where is the Jonsi track from "How to Train Your Dragon"?

Casey Burchby: "If I Rise"

Neil Lumbard: "If I Rise" - A.R. Rahman may not take home the Best Score award, but I suspect the award for best song will go to the majestic "If I Rise".


The Nominees: "Day & Night" Teddy Newton, "The Gruffalo" Jakob Schuh and Max Lang, "Let's Pollute" Geefwee Boedoe, "The Lost Thing" Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann, "Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)" Bastien Dubois

Rohit Rao: The Lost Thing

Jamie S. Rich: Day & Night - Not just the one we've all seen, but also a truly innovative work that creatively delivers a strong message without being mawkish about it.

Neil Lumbard: Day & Night - "Day & Night" created a sense of momentum for "Toy Story 3." It was one of the most pleasurable shorts from Pixar yet and my personal favorite of the nominees.


The Nominees: "The Confession", "The Crush", "God of Love", "Na Wewe", "Wish 143"

Rohit Rao: God of Love

Casey Burchby: Toyland


The Nominees: "Inception" Richard King, "Toy Story 3" Tom Myers and Michael Silvers, "Tron: Legacy" Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague, "True Grit" Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey, "Unstoppable" Mark P. Stoeckinger

Thomas Spurlin: Inception

Will Harrison: Tron: Legacy

Rohit Rao: Tron: Legacy

Jamie S. Rich: Inception - BRAAAAAAAM! BRAAAAAAM!

Neil Lumbard: Tron: Legacy - "Tron: Legacy" should win some technical awards. Plural! This was it's only nomination though. I hope it at least wins Sound Editing. Even if you were let down by "Tron: Legacy's" narrative, there is no denying it was a visually and aurally amazing experience.


The Nominees: "Inception" Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick, "The King's Speech" Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley, "Salt" Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin, "The Social Network" Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten, "True Grit" Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Thomas Spurlin: Inception

Nick Hartel: Inception - The way "Inception" integrated the score with the on-screen action was impressive on its own.

Will Harrison: Inception

Rohit Rao: True Grit

Jamie S. Rich: Inception - DITTTOOOOO! DITTTOOOOO!

Neil Lumbard: Inception - "Inception" was an aural experience to remember and the sound mixing played a huge role in that. I believe that the Academy will award "Inception."


The Nominees: "Alice in Wonderland" Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" 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

Brain Orndorf: Inception - No "TRON: Legacy" or "Scott Pilgrim" on the list of nominees is a true Oscar travesty, leaving the selections lacking real ingenuity. "Inception" dazzled eyes with its maze of effects and invention, making it, as far as I can tell, the obvious bet to make.

Thomas Spurlin: Inception

Nick Hartel: Inception - An amazing blend of CGI with Nolan's faithful reliance on practical effects. In a perfect world, this would be a too close to call three-way race with "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" and "TRON: Legacy" filling the other two contenders slots. The Academy's excuses for competition against "Inception" are laughable.

Will Harrison: Inception

Rohit Rao: Inception

Jamie S. Rich: Inception - These guys made a city bend. 'Nuff said.

Neil Lumbard: Alice in Wonderland - Love or hate the film one cannot deny the unique visuals to Tim Burton's latest. I thought it was a visual delight -- and apparently I am not alone in that way of thinking.


The Nominees: "127 Hours" Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy, "The Social Network" Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, "Toy Story 3" Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, "True Grit" Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, "Winter's Bone" Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Brain Orndorf: The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin - Aaron Sorkin took the creation of a website and turned it into a riveting fireworks display of language and quirk. He's known for his scripted magic, but Social Network was a special event, even by Sorkin standards.

Thomas Spurlin: The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin

Nick Hartel: The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin - A razor sharp screenplay from one of the sharpest writers working.

Will Harrison: The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin - This is definitely going to Aaron Sorkin for the Social Network.

Rohit Rao: The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin

Jamie S. Rich: The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin - The crackling dialogue, the distillation of information, the fact that a story about Facebook was interesting--that's real writing.

Casey Burchby: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen; True Grit

Neil Lumbard: The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin - You almost feel sorry for the other writers. Aaron Sorkin will win this and no one else stands a realistic chance. The script was that unbelievably good.


The Nominees: "Another Year" Written by Mike Leigh, "The Fighter" Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson; Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, "Inception" Written by Christopher Nolan, "The Kids Are All Right" Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg, "The King's Speech" Screenplay by David Seidler

Brain Orndorf: The King's Speech, David Seidler - Taking period film monotony and filling it with verve, doubt, and frustration, David Seidler captured an unusual personality to The King's Speech, putting a satisfying spin on history.

Thomas Spurlin: Inception, Christopher Nolan - When you see exactly how Inception snaps together into a reality-bending, brilliantly airtight union of dreams, physics, self-assuring totems, and the principles behind planting ideas, all encapsulated within an exhilarating heist, the sheer potency behind Nolan's orchestration will hit you like a sledgehammer. It transforms into a huge, gyrating puzzle that's both mentally-challenging and easy to follow, orchestrated with layer upon layer (upon layer) of the science-fiction design interconnecting before our eyes, ratcheting up the tension incrementally as more details cascade over the situation.

Nick Hartel: Inception, Christopher Nolan - The most original idea to come out of Hollywood in quite some time, Nolan's screenplay deserves to take the award home for a bare bones approach to characterization tied to a world-bending "heist" film. The little nuances that make Nolan one of Hollywood's most original thinkers come out on repeat viewings.

Will Harrison: Inception, Christopher Nolan - Christopher Nolan weaved a fantastic tale in Inception and deserves recognition.

Rohit Rao: Inception, Christopher Nolan

Jamie S. Rich: Inception, Christopher Nolan - I am not sure this will actually win, but it should. "Inception" had a lot of story to keep straight, and the rigorous planning really shows.

Casey Burchby: The King's Speech, David Seidler

Neil Lumbard: The Fighter, Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson - I was more than a little surprised by how much I loved the script for The Fighter. I went into a darkened movie theater expecting something a bit on the ordinary side. Instead, I found realistic portrayals of real people and quirky humor that was finely tuned to make the wild (yet true) ride all the more entertaining. I loved it, and can honestly see it winning.


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