Creating an account with gives you access to more features and services, like our weekly newsletter and other special features just for the film community.

Large article 116743374 marquee

Oscar's Three P's

With the big show on Sunday, we've got three final factors for your consideration: presenting, predicting, and, most importantly, partying.

Oscar Statuettes


Oscar producers have been experimenting with the big night’s show formula in the past few years, adding anachronistic homages and tributes (Oscar voters never cared much for horror or John Hughes, but both got tributes last year), jettisoning song performances, and switching up the acting presentations. They would do anything to add fresh drama and win better ratings, but the ratings haven’t budged all that much. The producers keep hoping they’ll return to the market share they enjoyed before people had hundreds of station options and weren’t bombarded with celebrity culture every day of the year in the 24 hours news cycle. To steal Nefertiti’s infamous camp line to Moses in 1956’s Best Picture Nominee The Ten Commandments:


“Oh Oscar, Oscar, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!”


Those people choosing to watch reruns of Law & Order on 26 random cable channels instead of Oscar’s institutional glamour? They can’t be saved from their bad choices!


Oscar needs to let the dream of All Viewers die and just be his own best self: people tune in for the tradition and for the movie stars themselves. Early vague pronouncements about the night’s content suggest that apart from the very surprising, potentially awesome choice in hosts (James Franco and Anne Hathaway), they’re going more traditional. The song performances are back. They’re abandoning that newly time-consuming-if-interesting five presenters for five nominees acting format.


This brings us to the three “Ps”: Presenters, Predictions and Parties.


anne hathaway and james franco


For all of the Academy’s nervous pandering trying to win viewers that aren’t watching anyway (why exactly has Miley Cyrus been a presenter so many times?), the one thing they’ve always understood is that people tune in for the movie stars. The following stars will be walking not just the red carpet, but the stage as well, to present awards: Annette Bening, Halle Berry, Cate Blanchett, Russell Brand, Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, Sandra Bullock, Robert Downey Jr, Tom Hanks, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Hilary Swank, Marisa Tomei, Oprah Winfrey, Javier Bardem, Helen Mirren, Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon.


There’s even a bit of awards show crossover: Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine and Gwyneth Paltrow, who both performed at the Grammys, will be singing for Oscar, too. Florence is doing “If I Rise” from 127 Hours, and Paltrow will sing “Coming Home” from her movie Country Strong. Sadly Cher, long expected to be performing before nominations were announced, found her power ballad snubbed. James Franco was even planning a “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” Burlesque skit for the show, which is now abandoned.




If you’re voting in a last-minute office pool, let’s take a quick run-through of the categories.


Best Picture
Safest Bet: The King’s Speech. It’s popular. It’s baity. It just cracked $100 million at the box office, which is miraculous for a British period piece. It’s proving even more popular than the far more topical, youth-friendly, former frontrunner The Social Network.


Best Director
Safest Bet: David Fincher, The Social Network.
Possible Spoiler: Since Director/Picture splits are not all that common, this may go to Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech, but Fincher’s reputation for strong filmmaking, combined with this arguable career peak, should shift this category into his favor.


Best Actor
Safest, Nay, the ONLY Bet: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech.
He’s as unbeatable as Helen Mirren was in The Queen. It must be the crown.




Best Actress
Safest Bet: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Possible Spoiler: Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right. The odds are against Bening, since Oscar loves the young princesses best. But an upset is possible. Bening is a popular industry veteran, and the Academy likes her film quite a lot.

Best Supporting Actor

Safest Bet: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Possible Spoiler: Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech. He would have a much better shot of stealing this one, given the popularity of his film, if he wasn’t already a winner.

Best Supporting Actress

Safest (But Just Barely) Bet: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Possible Spoiler: All of them. This category is the one where big upsets are most common. Leo, like Bening, is in her fifties, which is a terrible decade for actresses with Oscar (statistically speaking). Leo’s campaign has also been slightly controversial. More troubling still is that Oscar very rarely gives both Supporting awards to the same film, and even less often to fictional mothers and sons. But here’s what may help Leo maintain her lead: her competitors are all strong. They’re fighting not just her but also each other: Helena Bonham Carter will pull “honor the whole career” votes, plus Best Picture bleedover votes; Hailee Steinfeld will win the True Grit voting block, plus all the “we love cute young girls holding their own with adults” vote—and that is, strangely, a substantial constituency; Amy Adams will be winning “overdue” and “we like her, we really like her” style votes; and, finally, if voters watched their Animal Kingdom screeners, Jacki Weaver wins all the “Wow. This performance is amazing!” votes that got her the unlikely nomination in the first place.



Best Original Screenplay

Safest Bet: The King’s Speech
Possible Spoiler: Inception


Best Adapted Screenplay
Safest, Nay the ONLY Bet: The Social Network


Best Foreign Film
Safest Bet: There isn’t one.
Toss a, uh, three-sided coin. Canada’s Incendies is very popular with anyone who watches it, Denmark’s In a Better World has the Golden Globe win behind it, and Mexico’s Biutiful has the advantage of Javier Bardem’s high profile as its Best Actor nominee. This is one of those rare categories where you are required to see all five nominees to vote. If they did this with every category, surprise winners would become so much more common. I’m predicting Incendies, but I could see any of those three winning.




Best Cinematography
Safest Bet: True Grit
Possible Spoiler: Inception


Best Editing
Safest Bet: The Social Network
Possible Spoiler: The King’s Speech

Best Art Direction

Safest Bet: The King’s Speech
Possible Spoiler: Inception. This one is a tough call. I’m guessing that the garish-but-very-busy Alice in Wonderland siphons off enough of the “Most Art Direction” vote from Inception to allow the Best Picture frontrunner to take this one.


Best Costume Design
Safest Best: Alice in Wonderland
Possible Spoiler: The King’s Speech. This is also a tough call, but I’d go with Alice, since it has “Most Costume Design.”


alice in wonderland


Best Visual Effects
Safest, Nay the ONLY Bet: Inception


Best Makeup
Safest Bet: The Wolfman
Possible Spoiler: The Way Back. I’m actually predicting the latter—to take a big risk, and because it’s deserving. But chances are the voters will absentmindedly vote for the werewolf picture, even though we’ve seen those sort of effects hundred of times in other pictures. If it wins, Rick Baker adds a seventh Oscar to his total. Trivia: His first was also for a werewolf picture: An American Werewolf in London (1981).


Best Original Score
Safest Bet: The King’s Speech
Possible Spoiler: Inception or The Social Network. I’m guessing those two split the votes for those wanting something huge or hugely memorable, and we get Alexander Desplat’s King’s score, which steps aside for a Beethoven finale. Desplat is one of the greatest composers, so it’s a bit odd that this will be the score (not in his top achievements) will be the one he wins for.


alexandre desplat


Best Original Song
Safest Bet: “I See The Light” from Tangled
Possible Spoiler: “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3, if voters really want Toy Story 3 to have more than one trophy.


Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing
Safest Bet: Inception for both


Best Animated Feature
Safest, Nay the ONLY Bet: Toy Story 3

Best Documentary Feature

Safest Bet: There isn’t one.
Exit Through the Gift Shop has the buzz and a certain irreverent “what will anonymous art / graffiti superstar Banksy do if he wins?” appeal, but it has stiff low profile competition in Wasteland, which also features a contemporary art star (Vik Muniz) and is more uplifting: Oscar likes art to have transformative emotional power and not just cerebral humor. Then there’s Inside Job, which is about our criminal broken economic system. It’s very topical and sober (that helps), but is it too stone-faced for the win. It’s more informative and scary than emotionally potent. I’m guessing Exit on account of its deafening buzz, but I feel like it’s going to lose. I just can’t figure out which film it loses to.


exit through the gift shop


Best Animated Short
Safest Bet: There isn’t one.
Day & Night is a very popular Pixar short (it played before Toy Story 3), but The Gruffalo is much longer (and that can help in this category) and cute and based on a children’s book phenomenon. There’s also Madagascar, a Journey Diary, which could win, on visual splendor alone.


Best Documentary Short
Safest Bet: Strangers No More
Possible Spoiler: Killing in the Name
This field is a strong one, with serious topics ranging from post traumatic stress disorder in the military to government corruption and global warming. We suspect that Strangers No More, which has hefty emotional resonance as you watch refugee children from disparate countries grow together, leaving prejudices behind, will edge out the potent Killing in the Name, which looks at terrorism and Muslim on Muslim violence.

Best Live Action Short

Safest Bet: Na Wewe
Possible Spoiler: God of Love
Na Wewe from Belgium is about the ethnic civil war in Rwanda, and as the most dramatic and nerve wracking of the shorts, it could have true balloting power. But another stand out—if they're in a lighter mood—is God of Love, a comedy about unrequited love between members of the same band.


Now that the predictions are done with, there’s only the...


Have a celebratory drink when you guess a category correctly, and bury your feelings in liquor when you get one wrong. STOP! That’s 24 drinks. It’s best to choose one or the other, unless you enjoy blacking out and forgetting that the whole night occurred. (And if you hate The King’s Speech, maybe that is your best option.)


We’re only kidding. Drink responsibly. Watch attentively. Soak up the glamour. Most importantly, remember to celebrate the movies at your party, whether that’s through themed snacks, door prize gifts or just general "who should win?" conversation. Beyond the shameless campaigns, the desperate hand shaking, the insider back-patting, and even the parade of eye-catching gowns, it’s all about the movies. That’s the reason for the season.




See you next week!


Nathaniel Rogers blogs on The Film Experience. He is also a bit of an Oscar savant.


More in Tribeca's 2011 Oscar watch:
Oscar Nominees: Win Win

Oscar's Hit Parade

Oscar 2010: The Final Lap
Oscar Talking Points
The Winner's Speech
Wizards of Oscars
Ballots Are Out and the Heat Is On
Is Oscar Age-ist Re: Best Actress
12 Hungry Films; Only Room for 10
The Spirits vs. The Oscars
Too Many Screeners, Not Enough Turkey
Awards Season Begins

2010 Oscar Doc Shortlist: 15 Films


What you need to know today