Be-all and end-all guide to the Oscars

With the 82nd annual Academy Awards just days away, it’s time for you to start placing your bets even if you haven’t seen all the films nominated. While the substance of a film and the actors’ performances are crucial to scoring statuette gold, sometimes the marketing campaign behind it is just as important. So to help you predict the winners, the losers, and the best speech makers, here are Arts Editor Adam Avrashi, Assistant Arts Editor Chris Hanna, Music Editor Brennan Neill and Life Editor Valeria Nekhim on everything Oscar-related:

The panelists

These sports stars have been known to take full advantage of their celebrity status to play the field as well as the game.

Valeria Nekhim,
Life editor &-
Has a theory that the Oscars only give awards to films that regular folks don’t understand. She also starred as the Queen of the Night in her fourth grade production of The Magic Flute.

Brennan Neill,
Music editor &-
Known for his in depth interviews with bands on the road, Brennan Neill knows music like the back of his guitar pick. As for movies? He once took a film class.

Adam Avrashi,
Arts editor &-
He is planning on changing his middle name to Oscar and has a set of Academy Awards pyjamas. ‘Nuff said.

Chris Hanna,
Assistant arts editor &-
Is a film buff, but a softie at heart. He cries everytime he sees The Lion King during the death scene. No one messes with Mufasa!

10 Categories for Best Picture: ratings gold or watering down the competition?

This year, the Academy upped the number of Best Picture nominees from five to 10
AA: I think every time you add more nominees to any category, you just end up tarnishing the good name of the Oscars. Now 10 films can claim they were nominated for best picture and can put a little Oscar emblem on their DVD case, which just takes away from the uniqueness and distinguishing honor of the award.
BN: It’s just a nod to the films that fared well at the box office but would normally be overlooked when it comes down to the best picture nominations. I’m sure plenty of filmgoers were more than a bit peeved that The Dark Knight never made into the best picture short list in 2009. By bumping it up to 10 you might include some longshots for the best picture but I’m sure the Academy won’t be picking them anytime soon.

CH: It definitely dumbs down the category, but also gives well-deserved praise to films that wouldn’t have made the cut if there were only five films nominated, like District 9.
AA: Also, I think it’s fair to say that five of the nominated films could easily be taken out of the race without anyone really noticing. How many people, let alone Oscar voters, have even seen An Education or A Single Man? That’s what I thought…
VN: I take offense to that. I’ve seen An Education and I thought it was smart and thought-provoking in a subtle and engaging way. I think Oscar nominees need to first and foremost have a strong, intelligent message that challenges the mind and makes an individual see things differently. In this case, what is the deal with nominating an animated film like Up? In my mind that is a contradiction to everything the Oscars stand for. They decided to have ten nominations for a bizarre reason, perhaps for ratings, but then once they got to number seven or eight they ran out of movies so they figured they’d throw Up and Avatar in for shits and giggles. If there were ten worthy films I would understand, but this makes me lose respect for the Academy. Although, I already sort of lost respect when Babe was nominated for Best Picture in 1996. I wasn’t even 12 and I knew a pig didn’t deserve an award.

Speaking of Best Picture, who should win and who will win?

AA: For me, it’s a competition between big Hollywood blockbuster vs. small budget indie, and fantasy vs. reality. Avatar and The Hurt Locker are the two main contenders in a category full of strong competition (Precious, Up, Inglourious Basterds) and some oddball choices (The Blind Side, District 9). Normally I would have hoped for an indie upset, but with a mini-scandal on The Hurt Locker’s hands, it seems unlikely. The scandal? One of the film’s producers sent out an email to Hollywood agents asking them to ask their clients to vote for The Hurt Locker and not Avatar, which is against Academy rules. He later apologized, but the damage was done.
Will Win:Avatar
Should Win: The Hurt Locker
BN: I think anything to do with James Cameron and the Oscars will likely spiral into a big budget versus small budget debate. Avatar pulled in an excessive $2.47 billion with a budget of $237 million. The next film to come close to the budget of Avatar is Up with a budget of $175 million that translated into $723 million in gross revenue. As for the smaller productions A Serious Man only had a budget of $7 million and managed to pull in $20.5 million. An Education had a budget of $7.5 million and took in even less than A Serious Man, $15 million. But will big budget translate into Oscar gold? I doubt it, there’s much more to a Best Picture than funding.

Will win: The Hurt Locker (Scandal or no scandal)
Should win: Inglourious Basterds
VN: Inglourious Basterds, seriously? It’s pure violence and not even historically accurate. Not to mention how anti-Semitic it is. My vote goes to The Hurt Locker or the witty and right on the money Up in the Air. An Education is my third choice. Avatar is a visual masterpiece, but the story is so redundant and it’s too techy for me. It just takes away from the content. I’m all about plot and acting. Sorry blue people of Pandora &- you’re sexy, but just not my taste.
Will win: The Hurt Locker
Should win: Up in the Air or the The Hurt Locker
CH: I think Avatar will be given all the technical awards, but The Hurt Locker is going to take the big one. In terms of storytelling, The Hurt Locker feels real, raw, gritty and current. Avatar broke new ground in terms of technology, but its story is one that has been told and re-told. Precious gave me goosebumps from beginning to end. I’d love to see an animated film win Best Picture, but not Up, even though its story was more moving than most live-action films.
Will win: The Hurt Locker
Should win: The Hurt Locker

Best Actor?

AA: To be blunt, this category is a major snoozefest, considering that all the actors nominated are from smaller films, and with Jeff Bridges getting all the buzz, it would be silly to bet against him.
Will Win: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Should Win: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
BN: I have to disagree, Adam. I really enjoyed George Clooney’s performance, even if he was pretty much playing himself in Up in the Air, and Jeremy Renner was captivating and heart stopping in The Hurt Locker. Jeff Bridges may have been picking up the buzz but I’m going to have to foolishly bet against him.
Will win: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Should win: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
CH: The buzz would make you believe Jeff Bridges is the only nominee. Last year, Mickey Rourke won every award for The Wrestler, until Sean Penn took home the Oscar for Milk. I don’t anticipate an upset this year. Bridges will win, but Morgan Freeman should win for his role as Nelson Mandela in Invictus. The other nominees are all young enough to be nominated again if they keep picking good roles. Renner really was amazing in The Hurt Locker, but he’s too green to win just yet.
Will win: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Should win: Morgan Freeman, Invictus
VN: George, George, George! Okay, Jeff Bridges probably deserves it more because it was likely a more challenging role, but George was so good too. His performance was so real, and a far departure from his Dr. McDreamy days on ER. The man has got talent and good looks. Need I say more?
Will Win: Jeff Bridges Crazy Heart
Should Win: Jeff Bridges Crazy Heart or George Clooney Up in The Air (sorry for breaking the rules and picking two!)

Best Supporting Actor?

AA: This is an oddly competitive category as only one actor from this category is in a film nominated for Best Picture (Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds). So with that being taken into account, most Oscar voters who liked Inglourious Basterds, but voted for another film for Best Picture, will most likely transfer that vote here. His biggest competition in my books is the superb Christopher Plummer, The Last Station, who gave an awesome performance as the loony Leo Tolstoy. Plus the guy is 81-years-old and Canadian and this is his first Oscar nomination.
Will Win: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Should Win: Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
BN: I am all for Christoph Waltz to take the category for Inglourious Basterds. He was easily the most captivating character, like him (you most likely did) or not. How could you turn down such a conniving, infectious, brilliant and multi-lingual performance? Col. Hanz Landa might actually be one of the best villains of film in recent memory. I am going to call a bingo for Landa. By the way, when Waltz wins, it will make it the third year a villain has taken the award. Thoughts?
Will win: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Should win: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
CH: Hands down, Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. Villains are always the best part of any film, when they’re not over-the-top and fake. Landa was believable, frightening and hilarious in the sickest of ways. He was a joy to watch and not only carried that film, but elevated it as well.
AA: I think I’m one of the only people that thought Heath Ledger didn’t deserve the Oscar for playing the Joker, so maybe I have a thing against villains?

Best Actress?

AA: This category reminds me of the 2006 Oscars when Reese Witherspoon won for the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. She had the same Hollywood marketing as Sandra Bullock has now as the comedic actress who shows she has some dramatic chops; both had success with silly comedies (Legally Blonde for Witherspoon, Miss Congeniality for Bullock), and they both reached a pinnacle choosing to star in a serious film. In 2006 Witherspoon won over the more transformative performance (Felicity Huffman as a transsexual in Transamerica) and against the new up-and-comer (Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice). The same will probably happen this year when Bullocks wins out over the Meryl Streep’s french chef transformation in Julie & Julia and Hollywood newbie Gabourey Sidibe in Precious.
Will Win: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Should Win: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
BN: Is it bad that I have not watched one of the films nominated for having a best actress? I wonder if it has to do with the types of films most likely to garner a Best Actress nomination and my lack of interest in them.
CH: I am hoping it’ll be Meryl Streep as Julia Child. She hasn’t won since 1982’s Sophie’s Choice. What she needs is a Lifetime Achievement Award. Also, I trust Streep to keep choosing great roles. I fear Bullock will join the ranks of Halle Berry, Hilary Swank and Charlize Theron and be in some awful movie this summer after winning (the third instalment in the Speed or Miss Congeniality series) . There should be a rule where the Academy can take away your award if you make films like Catwoman, The Reaping and Aeon Flux after winning your Oscar. Bullock can get the Most Improved Actress award, but not this one. I felt like I was watching Julia Child, not Meryl Streep, in Julie & Julia. Now THAT is acting.

Best Supporting Actress?

AA: Mo’Nique has been cleaning up this category at other award ceremonies (Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, etc), and there is no doubt that here performance as the abusive mother mother of a pregnant teen in Precious, is down right scary real. However, I think Vera Farmiga, who stole every scene of Up in the Air as the sultry businesswoman George Clooney meets during his travels deserves some awards mention as well.
Will Win: Mo’Nique, Precious
Should Win: Mo’Nique, Precious and Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
BN: Again can’t say I’ve seen all of the films that have turned up nominations. But I can say I did enjoy Anna Kendrick as the uptight Natalie Keener (fitting last name) in Up in the Air. I thought she had great chemistry with George Clooney that translated into some humorous banter and that she was able to grow as a character. I have to agree about Vera Farmiga Adam, but Kendrick gets my nod.
CH: The supporting categories this year are locks, pretty much. Mo’Nique in Precious gives a spine-tingling performance as Precious’ mom, who is impossible to relate to and someone who is so awful and disgusting as a human being. Sadly, Up in the Air will have to hope it wins the screenplay award, otherwise it’ll leave empty-handed.
Will win, should win: Mo’Nique, Precious

Best Director?

AA: Ex-husband versus ex-wife. That’s what this competition all boils down to, as James Cameron (Avatar) competes with old flame Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker). This is Bigelow’s first nomination, and would be a first win in this category for a woman. Cameron has already won best director for Titanic in 1998, and it’s Bigelow’s turn to shine.
Will Win: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Should Win: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
BN: I’m not sure if the nominated screenwriters could come up with a more dramatic story line for this year’s Oscars. In this case I’m going to have to settle with the ex-wife, Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. She’ll finally break the glass ceiling with a much deserving film. Part of me will always hope to see Quentin Tarantino win and if anything Inglourious Basterds is his closest shot since Pulp Fiction (which was not nominated) but I know the Academy will pass on him. There will be another year for Tarantino.
Will win: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Should win: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
CH: James Cameron, like him or not, is a man that is totally dedicated to his craft. He has been working on Avatar for years, perfecting the technology to make it a visual masterpiece. Bigelow has proven that women can direct films that are not musicals or romantic comedies. She joins an elite group of a few women who have ever been nominated for a directing Oscar. I’m still on the fence with this one. I also really like Jason Reitman. The young Canadian is on a hot streak of really amazing films, Thank You For Smoking, Juno and now Up in the Air, but he’s definitely a long shot with a promising career ahead of him.
Will win: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker, James Cameron, Avatar
Should win: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker, James Cameron, Avatar

How do you think the two hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, will fare?

AA: Steve Martin hasn’t made me laugh since he was a regular guest of Saturday Night Live, and Alec Baldwin is funny on 30 Rock, but if I wanted to watch middle-aged men make a pathetic attempt at humour, I’d tune into Two and a Half Men.
BN: It isn’t too surprising to find out that Martin and Baldwin apparently weren’t the first pick to be hosts. Sacha Baron Cohen had been rumoured to take this year’s duties but was rejected because the Academy thought he was a “wild card.” Lame? Yes. I could only dream of Cohen hosting. I just wonder if he would have gone with the classic Ali G character as the only host or a rotation of characters.
VN: They did have good chemistry in last December’s It’s Complicated, but I really don’t know how these two will fare as hosts. I enjoy Steve Martin in comedies, but he fell flat when he hosted the Oscars a few years ago. He appeared nervous and his timing was all off. Maybe Alec will give him the spark he needs, but somehow I’m doubtful. I say they just let Beyoncé sing the entire time and bring back Hugh Jackman because he’s so pretty to look at and the accent gets me everytime.
CH: Alec Baldwin is a riot on 30 Rock and even if they weren’t funny at all come Oscar night, Adam, they’d be funnier than Two and a Half Men. I am expecting a lot less energy than Hugh Jackman had last year. In my opinion, Jackman was the best Oscar host since Billy Crystal. I don’t like the decision to have two hosts, but these two had great chemistry on the 30 Rock episode Steve Martin guest-starred in. Expect Martin to bring out his banjo and a lot of dry humour.
VN: Billy Crystal did rock, you’re totally right. Can two be better than one? Maybe Tina Fey will be in the mix at some point? Anyone care to bet on it?
CH: She is a presenter and for me, Tina Fey can do no wrong.
AA: Stephen Colbert should host next time, although it would be nice to get a woman in the mix (last one was Ellen DeGeneres in 2007).
BN: I wouldn’t mind seeing a John Stewart and Stephen Colbert team up but I’ll always be dreaming of an unwaxed-over-the-shoulder-speedo-wearing Cohen handing out the golden Oscars.
AA: After watching the dreary Bruno, I’ve lost respect for the man who had me rolling on the floor in a fit of laughter during his reign as Ali G. Perhaps Colbert in a speedo would please everyone?

Who will give the best speech?

AA: So far Mo’Nique has been giving tearful thank yous during her acceptance speeches at other awards ceremonies, but I truly hope that the comedienne and Late Night talk show host goes a bit wacky on Oscar night. If that doesn’t happen, I hope someone streaks across the stage like they did during the 1974 telecast. Don’t believe me? Youtube it.
BN: I hope we get to hear something from Tarantino. I imagine it wouldn’t be the standard mad-lib thank you list and teary acceptance. Kathryn Bigelow will also have my attention and I’m wondering if there will be any jabs at Cameron or Avatar.
CH: Meryl Streep is always so classy, eloquent and well-spoken. I loved her speech at the Golden Globes when she said “I’ve played so many incredible women in my career that I am being mistaken for one.” She’s very humble. I think the documentary winner will have something culturally or politically relevant to say. The nominees in that category are all socially relevant documentaries. I want to hear Christoph Waltz’ acceptance speech. He’s new at the Hollywood game, and his speeches at the SAG and Golden Globe awards were very well-planned and thought out.

The 82nd Academy Awards are presented on CTV and ABC this Sunday, March 7 at 8 p.m. Check out the Concordian’s live blogging of the event and the red carpet at


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