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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Global Glimpses: A Secret in their Eyes & The White Ribbon

Living in DC, I'm fortunate enough to take in the screenings of the foreign films at the National Geographic headquarters. This is the third year I've gone, and I caught two of the movies: The Secret in their Eyes (Argentina) and The White Ribbon (Germany).

The Secret in their Eyes

This Argentinian film is about Benjamin Esposito, a man writing a novel about a brutal rape and murder case that was closed 25 years earlier. Interspersed with the main story is the unrequited love between the man and his boss, Irene. The movie explores the meaning of justice and what it means in the corrupt Argentinian system of the time.

The movie was enjoyable to watch, but I expected a bit more from it. Rather than a complex story, it was basically a police procedural with a little added social commentary. Certain moments stretch the limits of plausibility, especially an interrogation scene. While the movie ends on a strong note, it gets there much too quickly, jumping around all kinds of plot points to get there. There is another reading of the film that makes it a bit more interesting, but I think the filmmakers could have done more with the ending. The lead actors in the film were all excellent, and there is an absolutely riveting tracking shot midway through the movie showing an exciting chase. Overall, an engaging and interesting movie, but not a great one.

Grade: B

The White Ribbon

Here's the great one. The White Ribbon is a story of a German town in 1913, told in stunning black-and-white, and telling a riveting and disturbing story. While the movie was fairly long, I wasn't bored the whole way through.

The movie concerns a set of violent acts that come upon this town. As the movie goes along, we get to know many of the citizens of the small town. Some, such as the young schoolteacher and the nanny to the baron, are full of youth and goodness. Others, particularly the doctor and pastor, are full of character flaws which infect the town.

Many of the main characters in this town are the children, and I've never seen a better group of child actors. Much of the point of the movie is how the behavior and values of the adults are transferred on to the children in this town. As I said, this movie takes place in 1913 in Germany, so travel 25 years into the future and imagine what place in history these children will take..... That said, I don't think director Michael Haneke is making a simplistic morality tale. He makes you think about what children take from their surroundings and when innocence ends. In typical Haneke fashion (he made the brilliant but ambiguous Cache in 2005), The White Ribbon does not end with easy resolution. As a great director and provocateur, he forces us to draw our own conclusions about many of the events of the film. In a traditional film, you get the answer and leave it at the movie theater door. In The White Ribbon, you are guaranteed to talk about it for long afterward. I'm a bit disappointed I already published my Top 10 list, because The White Ribbon would easily make the Top 5.

Grade: A

I'm really struggling with my thoughts on what will win the Foreign Language Oscar. In the past few years, many critically-acclaimed films that are slightly offbeat (Pan's Labyrinth, Waltz with Bashir) have been pushed aside for more traditional narratives. Will they recognize the filmmaking qualities of The White Ribbon despite its unconventional narrative? The enjoyable narrative of A Secret in their Eyes despite its somewhat lightweight familiarity? Or perhaps the widely acclaimed crime drama A Prophet despite its violence? I can see them going any way this year.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Best Performances of 2009: Actor and Actress

Following up with my own movie awards, here are my top 5 lead Actors and Actresses. Unlike the supporting categories, there is no overlap among the nominees, perhaps because almost all of these performances dominate their movie in a way that make other performances seem supporting.

Best Actor

Almost Made It:

Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man
Soulemayne Sy Svane, Goodbye Solo

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart: As you know (if you've seen it), Bridges gives an astonishingly good,
lived-in, from the soul performance as Bad Blake, a washed-up country singer you can't help but
like despite his many issues. I also give Bridges bonus points for doing a great job singing in the movie.

George Clooney, Up in the Air: A quintessential Clooney role, but in my mind this is the best he's
been. Ryan Bingham starts the movie full of confidence and swagger, but Clooney allows the
cracks to slowly show themselves throughout the film.

Joaquin Phoenix, Two Lovers: If Phoenix is really done with acting (which I hope isn't true), his performance as Leonard in this movie stands as the height of his acting talent. As an aimless and
suicidal young man still living with his Orthodox Jewish parents, he shows us the internal pull of being pulled between two women, one representing his parent's hopes for him (Vinessa Shaw), and another a glamorous but dangerous alternative (Gwyneth Paltrow). This movie came and went, but Phoenix's performance is one to savor.

Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker: For a good half of the movie, the audience does not know a lot
about Sergeant William James except for his recklessness. With more action than dialogue, Renner allows us to see into him until, in the final heartbreaking scenes of the movie, we feel we fully understand his psyche.

Sam Rockwell, Moon: Rockwell, as Sam Bell, is more or less the only actor in this film, and he carries the movie beautifully. Without giving away too much of the movie, I'll say that Rockwell
must play very different emotions, and he does so with great skill and emotion.

My favorite: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Runner-up: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Best Actress

Almost made it:

Amy Adams, Sunshine Cleaning
Penelope Cruz, Broken Embraces

Abbie Cornish, Bright Star: Cornish's quiet but forceful performance as Fanny Brawne, who falls
in love with poet John Keats, is the soul of this film. Rarely have I seen an actress portray the emotions of falling in love so perceptively.

Carey Mulligan, An Education: As Jenny, the young British girl eager to grow up, Mulligan absolutely carries this movie. While portraying a highly intelligent woman, Mulligan also allows
her character's girlish emotions and naivete come through at crucial points in the performance. She's been compared to Audrey Hepburn, and I think it's absolutely appropriate.

Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Sidibe's performance in the title role takes us through many
moments of hardship and a few moments of hard-fought triumph. Sidibe speaks as if it hurts, and she makes sure we know that Precious' words come from a deep place.

Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia: What could have been a caricature becomes a full-throated, human
performance in the hands of our greatest actress. Streep makes you smile with joy at every moment when Julia Child is on the screen.

Tilda Swinton, Julia: This Julia is 100 degrees removed from Julia Child. An alcoholic, amoral,
train wreck of a woman who kidnaps a young boy for the money. Swinton doesn't play this role with any nod towards audience sympathy, but by the end of the movie she has gained a little anyway, simply by showing us the humanity and reckless desperation of her character.

My favorite (in a very tough choice): Carey Mulligan, An Eduation
Runner-up: Tilda Swinton, Julia

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Best Performances of 2009: Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress

Now that I've done my Top 10 list for the year, here are my thoughts on the best performances of the year, or my ideal Oscar nominees.

I'll start with the supporting characters. While I can't argue with Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique hogging all the awards, there is a wealth of supporting talent. Three movies in particular (An Education, Inglorious Basterds, and Up in the Air) claim six of the ten supporting spots.

Best Supporting Actor

Almost Made It:
Peter Capaldi, In the Loop
Stanley Tucci, Julie & Julia

Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker: Jeremy Renner has been getting most of the acting
attention for The Hurt Locker, but Mackie is just as pivotal in his role as Sergeant Sanborn, the more stable, but no less conflicted, member of the bomb-disposal unit.

Fred Melamed, A Serious Man: His role as Cy Ableman is fairly small, but his scenes are probably the funniest of the movie. His smarmy performance perfectly captures the
indignity the main character feels when his wife leaves him for this man.

Peter Saarsgard, An Education: Saarsgard has probably the trickiest role in this film as David, the seducer of young Jenny. He has to walk a fine
line between charming and questionable, or the movie won't work. He does it perfectly, and makes a great counterpoint to Carey Mulligan's performance.

Paul Schneider, Bright Star: I've admired Schneider's supporting performances in Lars and the Real Girl, The Assasination of Jesse James..., and Away We Go. I hardly recognized him here
in his role as Charles Armitage Brown, the best friend of John Keats who attempts to keep Keats from his love Fanny Brawne. He creates a boorish character who nonetheless creates some audience sympathy with his obvious care for Keats.

Christoph Waltz, Inglorius Basterds: In his tri-lingual performance as Hans Landa, Waltz creates one of the most memorable villians of recent years. His interrogation
scene in the beginning of the movie is one of the most tense and gradually disturbing scenes I've see in a long while.

My favorite: Christoph Waltz, Inglorius Basterds
Runner-Up: Fred Melamed, A Serious Man

Best Supporting Actress

Almost Made It:
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Diane Kruger, Inglorius Basterds

Mo'Nique, Precious: Her performance as Mary, the abusive mother from hell, is astonishing.
Yes we hate her, but Mo'Nique also allows flashes of her character's warped thinking that allow us to understand what led her to her life.

Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air: I've already blogged about this
performance, so check out my thoughts. Impeccable.

Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air: As Natalie Keener, the counterpoint to George Clooney's Ryan Bingham, Kendrick is perfect at showing a young go-getter who comes to learn a
few new lessons about life, and becomes more human in the process.

Melanie Laurent, Inglorious Basterds: If Waltz's Hans Landa is the evil in the movie, Laurent's Shoshanna is the good. As a movie theater owner who plans a
comeuppance for the Nazis, Laurent is the pivotal ingredient in many of the best scenes in the movie. Running from the farmhouse, "waiting for the cream," and, of course, her gorgeous face on the movie screen. For all the love that Inglorious Basterds got from the Academy, I'm very surprised Laurent didn't get much recognition.

Rosamund Pike, An Education: As Helen, a friend of David, Pike is the portal to a new

world for Jenny. Easy to dismiss as vapid early in the movie, Pike adds complexity to her role as the movie continues.

My favorite: Mo'Nique (Precious)
Runner-Up: Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Reviews: Crazy Heart, The Hangover, Humpday, Summer Hours

I've spent DC's recent "snopocalypse" catching up on some 2009 films, some better than others....

Crazy Heart (2009)

Jeff Bridges is on his way to a Best Actor for this one, and it's easy to see why. He is in almost every frame of the movie, and his performance is perfect. He's Bad Blake, a washed-up (albeit talented) country music singer who has jettisoned human connection for one-night stands and alcohol. He begins to see a different path when he meets a young music reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

For anyone who saw The Wrestler, the outlines of this movie will be VERY familiar. While The Wrestler connected more viscerally with the viewer's emotions, this movie is much more pleasant to watch. Maybe I just like music a bit more than professional wrestling. While there is a good share of heartache, there are also some really sweet moments and the music is terrific. I had a bit of a plausability problem with the age difference in the central relationship, but Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal are good enough actors to make me believe.

Grade: B+

For your viewering pleasure, here's the central song from the movie:

The Hangover (2009)

After winning the Best Comedy award at the Golden Globes, I have to say that I was fairly disappointed in this movie. While it's buddy-comedy and guy-talk dialogue bring to mind the films of Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), this movie doesn't have the sweetness of the characters in this movie. There are some really funny moments (Mike Tyson's scenes being my favorites), but also some really weak scenes (tasers, Chinese gangsters). The cast is pretty good, and great in the case of Zach Galifianikis as the dim-witted brother-in-law. His lines were almost always hilarious. I wish the movie was just written with a bit more wit.

Grade: C+

Humpday (2009)

A prime example of the new "mumblecore" astehetic, low-budget, talky indie movies that focus on personal relationships. While I was a bit down on Medicine for Melancholy, I liked this one a lot. It's about two friends who decide to go ahead and perform in an explicit art project together. While the movie sounds titillating, it's a lot more "naked" about the emotions of the characters than about their actions. The three main actors are great, and the movie is simultaneously awkward and fascinating to watch. Definitely recommended.

Grade: B+

Summer Hours (2009)

This French movie is about three adult children arguing over their mother's estate, filled with artistic treasures. Do they keep the estate for their children to enjoy, or do they sell it for the money? That's pretty much the plot of this very French film. The movie is abou
t modernization, globalization, and what families lose in the process. It starts beautifully, giving the viewer 30 minutes where we understand both the beauty of the estate and the relationships of the mother and her children. The middle of the movie is a bit of a let-down, as the characters talk of their plans for the villa. The ending of this movie is both heartbreaking and beautiful, as the grandchildren have a last hurrah at the estate. Lots to think about, but I wish it had gone a little deeper in the relationships in the film.

Grade: B

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Top 10 of 2009

Introducing...... Ben's Talking Pictures "Best of 2009"

While I have not come close to seeing everything of note from the year, I think I've seen enough to make a good stab at a Top 10 list, followed by some of my own movie awards. To start, here is a list of the movies I've seen this year, grouped alphabetically by grade.

Yes, some of these grades have changed since I first saw the movie. I've been reflecting a lot on the elusive quality of "rewatchability." Do I want to watch the movie again?? If the answer is no, I can't really justify giving it a B+ (For example, Avatar, which has been downgraded). There are also a couple movies I've upgraded since I've first seen them. They have grown and expanded in my minds, and I've found it easy to upgrade their minor faults. Here's what I've seen from 2009 (41 films!).

A (Must-Sees)
Goodbye Solo, The Hurt Locker , A Serious Man, Up in the Air

A- (Highly Recomended)
Bright Star, Coraline, District 9, An Education, Moon, Precious

B+ (Recommended)
Broken Embraces, Crazy Heart, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Humpday, In the Loop, Sugar, Two Lovers, Up, Where the Wild Things Are

B (Recommended with Reservations)
Avatar, Drag Me to Hell, Duplicity, Every Little Step, I Love You Man, Inglorious Basterds, Julia, Star Trek, Summer Hours

B- (Probably Worth a View)
Adventureland, Away We Go, (500) Days of Summer, The Garden, Invictus, Julie & Julia, Lorna's Silence

C+ (Questionable)
The Hangover, Sin Nombre, Sunshine Cleaning

C (Don't Bother)
Medicine for Melancholy, Whip It

As you'll probably notice, I didn't give any grades lower than a C, and I have quite a large clump in the B/B+ range. I think this is for a couple of reasons. I love movies, but not all movies. If I did see Old Dogs or All About Steve or Transformers, you'd probably see some Ds and Fs in my list. They would have also taken many hours from my life. I tend to see movies that interest me, and I tend to, for the most part, enjoy these movies, even those that I find major faults with. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the Best of the Year:

The Best Movies of 2009

Runners-Up (I wish I had the room for....):

Broken Embraces: Pedro Almodvar's melodrama is full of the trademark beauty and style that we've come to expect from the master. Penelope Cruz remains a wonderful muse for the director. While this is not my favorite Almodvar, I really enjoyed the movie the whole way through.

In the Loop: This satire is the funniest comedy of the year. Profane, perceptive, and very quotable. I'd love to watch it again. You may not love the characters, but you'll definitely laugh.

Up: The first 10 minutes alone are a work of genius. If the rest of the movie doesn't quite live up to them (or, in my opinion, to Wall-E or Ratatouille), it's still another undeniable success from Pixar, and I salute it's animated place in the Best Picture race.

10. Bright Star: Avatar be damned. For my money, 19th century England as shown by director Jane Campion and her team was the most beautiful world of the year. Some might call the story slow, but it's filled with passion, beauty, and boasts a wonderful perfomance by Abbie Cornish at its center.

9. District 9: A movie I went into not knowing much about, and I'm glad. This South African sci-fi film is fast-paced, disturbing, and haunting. An allegory that doesn't hit you over the head.

8. Moon: Proof number 2 that a gripping sci-fi film does not need a $500 million dollar budget, it needs great ideas and a great story. This one stars (almost solely) Sam Rockwell as a man on a strange mission to (you guessed it) the Moon. Gripping the whole way through.

7. Coraline: 2009 was a great year for "kids" movies that played just as well (if not better) to adults, and this was my favorite. While I appreciate the uplift of Pixar, it was also nice to see a movie about childhood that plays with the subconscious fears of children. This is about a preteen thrust into an alternate universe. The visual world that Henry Selick creates is absolutely astonishing.

6. Precious: Precious has been controversial, and I think that's because it's hit a nerve. While I won't deny there are a few moments of excess in the film I wish would have been curbed, this is strong, visceral, in-your-face filmmaking that packs a serious punch. Mo'nique and Gabourey Sidibe deliver performances straight from the soul in this domestic drama about a young woman's struggle for survival.

5. An Education: Newcomer Carey Mulligan absolutely shines as a young British woman in the 1960s who learns lessons about life and love. Mulligan isn't the only draw, though. A Nick Hornby script, terrific supporting cast, and a brisk pace, and an almost perfect tone make this perhaps the most enjoyable of this year's films.

4. Goodbye Solo: Undoubtably the least-seen movie on my list. Director Ramin Bahrani made my last year's list with Chop Shop. This one is even better. It's about an unlikely friendship between a Senegalese cab driver and an elderly Southern man at the end of his life. See it now. If you have Netflix, it's even on Watch Now!

3. Up in the Air: The rare proof that, at times, Hollywood can still make grown-up movies full of smart dialogue, social commentary, and great acting. George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, and Anna Kendrick could not be better in this film, and they all create fully relatable (albeit flawed) human beings.

2. The Hurt Locker: What can I add to the most heralded movie of the year? A great action film, a great suspense film, and a great war movie. The direction (by Kathryn Bigelow) and the acting (particulalry by Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie) are brilliant. A movie for the ages.

1. A Serious Man: Has a movie ever laid out a vision so dark while being so hilariously funny? This movie is the Coen Brothers at their absolute finest. They've mined their own midwestern Jewish childhood to explore serious existential themes. Absolute brilliance.

I hope you enjoyed the list! Agree? Disagree? Have it in the comments!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Reviews: Bright Star, Lorna's Silence, Whip It

A Woman's World

Due to the critical success of Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), the awards/box office success of Sandra Bullock, and the prominence of films like Precious and An Education in the Oscar race, 2009 has been widely touted as a step forward for women.

I've recently caught up with three 2009 films that focus on women, 2 of which are my women directors. While these 3 films got almost no Oscar attention (despite one costume nod), what do they have to add to this conversation?

Bright Star (2009)

Director Jane Campion's Bright Star tells the story of the romance between Romantic poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, his neighbor who falls quickly in love with both this young artist and his poetry. This movie is nothing if not a poem of its own. It's filled with images that suggest poetry and metaphor. Some of my favorites include Fanny and John communicating through a wall, Fanny and her young sister creating a roomful of butterflies, and John Keats lying in the top of a tree. Along with these gorgeously photographed images is a beautiful score and the best costumes I've seen in a long time. The costumes aren't superfluous either. Designing clothes is young Fanny's artistic endeavor, and the movie takes it seriously as the way she contributes beauty to the world.

This movie belongs to Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne. In a movie with, it might be said, a rather slight plot, her emotional transformation takes center stage. She begins the movie young, sarcastic, and hostile to poetry. As she falls in love with John, we can see her entire being opening up. Ben Whishaw (one of the Bob Dylans in I'm Not There) is also very good as Keats, although his performance does not require as much transformation. I also loved Paul Schneider in his supporting role as Charles Brown, Keats' poet friend who is possessive of his friend's artistic integrity in the face of love.

As in her landmark film The Piano (1993), Campion has the courage to tell her tale firmly from the female perspective. She also uses every aspect of the film to suggest the emotional undercurrent. If you require a movie with a lot of plot or high drama, this is probably not one for you to see. It took me perhaps the first 20 minutes or so to really get into the mood and style of the story. Looking back, though, the emotional content of the movie comes through clearly, and I would love to watch its images and story again.

Grade: A-

Lorna's Silence (2009)

The Dardenne brothers, from Belgium, specialize in a hyper-realistic style of movie about those who live on the margins in modern-day Europe. Lorna's Silence follows this pattern. The movie details the life of Lorna, an Albanian woman living in Belgium who wants to open her own snack bar. With the help of local mobsters, she agrees to marry a Belgian drug addict to get citizenship. Then, in turn, she can marry a Russian who wants his own citizenship.

The first half of the movie follows Lorna's relationship with Claudy, the drug addict. What starts as a business transaction morphs into something else, a way for her to help someone in need. This section of the movie is quite good. I fully bought the developing relationship between the two and wanted to follow these two wherever they would go.

The film takes a turn towards another direction about halfway through. I found this turn to significantly decrease my engagement in the movie. That said, the movie does recover for a very powerful ending that is can be construed as both a triumph for Lorna and incredibly sad. The movie is worth seeing, but if you are looking for a good introduction to the Dardenne brothers, I recommend their movie La Promesse (1996). I saw it more than 10 years ago, and I can still remember its power.

Grade: B-

Whip It(2009)

The directorial debut of....wait for it.... Drew Barrymore is an exercise in girl power. And really, there's not better place for girl power than in the world of roller derby. Ellen Page plays Bliss, a Texas teenager whose mom (Marcia Gay Harden) wants her to win beauty pageants. On a trip to Austin, she discovers roller derby, fakes her age, and signs up.

The movie is very similar to other movies you've seen where young people follow their passions against the will of their parents (Bend it Like Beckham specifically comes to mind). From the first half hour, you could probably predict about 3/4 of what is to come in the movie. Nonetheless, the actors do their best to enliven the precedings. Page is good, and I especially liked Marcia Gay Harden as her mother. She is able to bring some sympathy to a role that would be easy to caricature. I also liked Kristen Wigg as a motherly figure on the roller derby team, and Juliette Lewis as a rival roller girl (put her in more movies please!). The movie is marred by one of the most inane love stories I've seen in a long time, complete with a terrible love scene set in a pool.

Should you see it? If you go in with low expectations, there are some fun moments and the cast gives it their best shot. But there are also a lot more movies that are more worth your time. Sorry Drew, but based on this film, a great director you are not.

Grade: C

Sunday, February 7, 2010

In honor of Super Bowl Sunday.....

Here is a great video from Slate. It imagines various filmmakers directing the Superbowl. My favorite? Tough choice but I'll go with Wes Anderson. Which is yours?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Nominations Announced!

Oscar Nominations Announced!

Oscar Nomination day is kind of like Christmas morning for me. I can hardly stand the anticipation. This year was even tougher. The nominations were announced at 8:38 EST, almost the exact time I am collecting my lovely 8- and 9-year-olds to begin my day teaching third grade. So unless I could find a way to turn the nominations into some kind of educational experience, I couldn't watch them live. Since I wasn't seeing them live, I decided to wait until I was home with my wife to watch them on YouTube to simulate the live experience. It was tough, but I did it. Here are the nominations in the main categories, along with how my predictions went.

Best Picture

“Avatar” James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
“The Blind Side” Nominees to be determined
“District 9” Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
“An Education” Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
“The Hurt Locker” Nominees to be determined
“Inglourious Basterds” Lawrence Bender, Producer
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
“A Serious Man” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
“Up” Jonas Rivera, Producer
“Up in the Air” Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producers

How I did: 9/10. I only missed The Blind Side and put in Invictus instead.

All right. The big surprise here is definitely The Blind Side being included. It's also the only one of the nominations I haven't seen. Does this mean I have to see it?? It probably took the spot of Invictus, which I'm definitely not sad to have miss.

I am very excited to see A Serious Man and District 9 make the final cut. The big question is probably whether it was worth it to expand the field to 10. The reason they did it is, presumably, due to the snubs of The Dark Knight and Wall-E last year, in order to ensure that more "profitable" movies are included to draw a bigger audience to the broadcast.. I think it's safe to say the following movies would not have made the Top 5: The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, A Serious Man, and Up. With Avatar, The Blind Side, Inglorious Basterds and Up included, there are definitely some big hits in this year's race. So the producers of the awards show are probably happy today. As for film fans, , I think it is interesting to have a more diverse line-up (despite now having to live with The Blind Side being a Best Picture nominee).

Best Director
“Avatar” James Cameron
“The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow
“Inglourious Basterds” Quentin Tarantino
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels
“Up in the Air” Jason Reitman

How I did: 5/5.

These would have been your 5 best picture nominees. All in all, not a bad bunch, and a little more diverse than usual. Let's hope Kathryn can go all the way to that winner's podium and place in history!

Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”

How I did: 5/5.

Pretty easy to call category. It's a race between Sandra and Meryl. Based on the Best Picture nom for The Blind Side, it looks like Sandra pay have pulled ahead.

Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

How I did: 5/5

Another pretty easy category to call. I'm so happy Renner found his way to this group. For the win, it definitely looks like it's Bridges' to lose (and he probably won't).

Supporting Actress
Penélope Cruz in “Nine”
Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”
Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

How I did: 3/5

A tough category, and I made the wrong calls. Penelope survived the Nine backlash and Maggie rode the Jeff Bridges gravy train. The race is now over. Your Oscar winner: Mo'Nique.

Supporting Actor
Matt Damon in “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

How I did: 4/5. I picked Anthony Mackie and not Christopher Plummer (my first runner-up). As I said, it was probably wishful thinking.

This category is also now over. Your winner: Christoph Waltz.

Adapted Screenplay
“District 9” Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
“An Education” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“In the Loop” Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
“Up in the Air” Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

How I did: 4/5. I picked Crazy Heart instead of In the Loop.

I'm very excited about the nomination for In the Loop. A very funny screenplay.

Original Screenplay

“The Hurt Locker” Written by Mark Boal
“Inglourious Basterds” Written by Quentin Tarantino
“The Messenger” Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
“A Serious Man” Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“Up” Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

How I did: 4/5. I picked (500) Days of Summer instead of The Messenger.

Haven't seen The Messenger, but I'm sure glad (500) Days of Summer didn't get a nomination for its overrated screenplay.

How I did overall: 39/45. 87%. Not too bad, right? The only category where I predicted less than 4 was Supporting Actress.

My Favorite Category: Adapted Screenplay. I really really like all 5 movies (District 9, An Education, In the Loop, Precious, Up in the Air)

Things that were in question that made me happy:
-In the Loop for Best Adapted Screenplay
-District 9 and A Serious Man getting Best Picture nominations
-Invictus not getting a Best Picture nomination

Things that were in question that did not make me happy:
-The Blind Side for Best Picture. Granted, I haven't seen it. But I saw the preview and feel like I already have.
-Matt Damon for Supporting Actor. He was fine, but definitely not nomination-worthy.

If you'd like to see the whole list, go right here.