So the 82nd Academy Awards are a mere week and a half away and I still have a TON of work to do for my Oscar party.  I’ve got to sew together the little tuxedos for all my kitties, pick up the ingredients for my famous homemade pizza egg rolls from the meat rendering plant, sculpt a life-sized effigy of Academy President Tom Sherak out of hummus and of course I still have to go see G-Dawg Killa, my dope man, about an order of “party favors” that will guarantee my female guests will be incapable of resisting my charms come March 7th.  

And of course I have to give you the rest of my Oscar picks.  Over the past few weeks I’ve shared my thoughts about the major categories and dissected some of the frontrunners for Best Picture.  But what of the lesser categories?  You know, the ones that no one cares about?  

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Matt Damon in "Invictus" (Warner Bros.)
Woody Harrelson in "The Messenger" (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Christopher Plummer in "The Last Station" (Sony Pictures Classics)

Stanley Tucci in "The Lovely Bones" (DreamWorks in association with Film4, Distributed by Paramount)

Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds" (The Weinstein Company)
One of Quentin Tarantino’s greatest strengths is finding the right talent to fill his roles, even if these casting choices are “outside the box” (I just threw up in my mouth a little writing that tired cliché (and threw up in YOUR mouth a little writing that second tired cliché)).  In doing so he’s revived the floundering careers of some veteran actors – um, can we put Travolta back in the carbonite chamber now?  But Tarantino seemingly plucked Christoph Waltz out of the Teutonic actor ether to play Colonel Hans Landa.  Thanks to Waltz’s inspired performance, Landa turned out to be the most engaging onscreen Nazi since Colonel Klink.  Give that man an Oscar!

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Penélope Cruz in "Nine" (The Weinstein Company)

Vera Farmiga in "Up in the Air" (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)

Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Crazy Heart" (Fox Searchlight)

Anna Kendrick in "Up in the Air" (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)

Mo'Nique in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" (Lionsgate)
Mo’Nique received a good deal of buzz for her turn as the titular character’s cracked-out mom in Precious, but I think giving the sympathy Oscar for Best Actress to Gabourey Sidibe will free up the Academy to give a Best Supporting Actress Sympathy Oscar to Best Picture also-ran Up in the Air.  I mean they have to give it a trophy for something, right?  Besides, Vera Farmiga has that MILFy horny soccer mom thing going on, like if you buy her a few Mudslides at the TGI Friday’s happy hour she’ll drag you into the men’s room handicap stall and perform acts on you that are technically illegal in Kentucky.  She’s definitely getting the Best Supporting Actress Award from my boner.

Best animated feature film of the year

•    "Coraline" (Focus Features)    Henry Selick
•    "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (20th Century Fox)    Wes Anderson
•    "The Princess and the Frog" (Walt Disney)    John Musker and Ron Clements
•    "The Secret of Kells" (GKIDS)    Tomm Moore
•    "Up" (Walt Disney)    Pete Docter

It’s pretty much a given that Pixar will take this category every year they put a movie out.  Let’s face facts:  Even though what they do is animated, kid-friendly fare, Pixar is the only studio churning out consistently great films.  While the Big Six have been using up all their development money buying up the movie rights to board games and bubble gum and random inanimate objects found in dumpsters, Pixar have devoted theirs to developing original ideas into meaningful, appealing films that reach across age barriers and speak to all four quadrants. I only wish I could’ve seen Up in a theater, in 3D, as it was intended to be viewed.  But alas, per order of the Supreme Court of California I am no longer allowed to be in a dark room alone with children. 

Achievement in art direction?
Achievement in cinematography?
Achievement in film editing
Achievement in sound editing?
Achievement in sound mixing
?Achievement in visual effects

"Avatar" (20th Century Fox) A Lightstorm Entertainment Production
Anything remotely technical, visual, or effectsy will go to Avatar this year.  Not that it will deserve every Award – according to some audio engineer friends of mine, Avatar’s sound design was like something lifted from an old NES cartridge – but because for these categories most Academy members are simply checking whatever boxes it takes to get their ballots in the mail.   These are the “Star Wars” Awards – the ones given to the most bombastic, effects-driven picture of the year – and Avatar was undoubtedly this year’s Star Wars.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

•   "Almost There" from "The Princess and the Frog" (Walt Disney)    Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman?
•  "Down in New Orleans" from "The Princess and the Frog" (Walt Disney)    Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman
?•  "Loin de Paname" from "Paris 36" (Sony Pictures Classics)    Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyrics by Frank Thomas?
•  "Take It All" from "Nine" (The Weinstein Company)    Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston
?•  "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" from "Crazy Heart" (Fox Searchlight)    Music and Lyrics by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

Can we please stop giving awards to Randy Newman?  The dude’s not Vivaldi.  He’s not Bach.  He’s not even Andrew W.K.  He made his name writing novelty songs like “Short People” and “I Love L.A.”  Look, I hate midgets and love my smog-enshrouded city as much as the next guy, but come on… It’s like giving an Oscar to Weird Al Yankovic.  Man, I want to punch this guy. T-Bone Burnett on the other hand is one of the best producers and songwriters working in what’s left of the music industry, and the music he wrote for Crazy Heart was better than any of the sorry excuses for country songs blasting over tractor pull PA systems these days.  Give the man an Oscar!

Best documentary feature

•    "Burma VJ" (Oscilloscope Laboratories) A Magic Hour Films Production  Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
?•    "The Cove" (Roadside Attractions) An Oceanic Preservation Society Production    Nominees to be determined?
•    "Food, Inc." (Magnolia Pictures) A Robert Kenner Films Production    Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein?•  "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers" A Kovno Communications Production    Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith?
•    "Which Way Home" A Mr. Mudd Production  Rebecca Cammisa

Full disclosure: I don’t watch documentaries.  If I want to see real life I’ll just look out my window and watch the fat girl in the building across the way dancing naked to Fergie with her shades open.  But there were a lot of Facebook status updates from my pseudo-intellectual liberal friends about Food, Inc. and how great it is and how everyone should see it and how it’ll make you never want to eat food again, so I’m guessing it’ll be this year’s An Inconvenient Truth.  Sounds more like the cinematic equivalent of a gluten allergy but whatever, well-to-do hippies will use any excuse to eat weird, overpriced, expensive crap from Whole Foods.    

Adapted screenplay

•   "District 9" (Sony Pictures Releasing)  Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell?
•   "An Education" (Sony Pictures Classics) Screenplay by Nick Hornby?
•   "In the Loop" (IFC Films) Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
?•   "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" (Lionsgate) Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher?
•    "Up in the Air" (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)  Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Crom knows I wish I could give this category to District 9, which was probably my favorite film of the last few years not involving two girls, a drinking vessel, and a whole lot of love.  But I think this is one of those categories where the Academy votes politically rather than artistically. Sure, Up in the Air was a critically lauded film, and starred one of Hollywood’s leadingest leading men; but it had about as much substance as those little bag of pretzels the flight attendants begrudgingly hand out on Southwest Airlines flights (just not to Kevin Smith).  However this Shiny Gold Dude is not so much about Up in the Air as it is about Juno.  When the bulk of the latter’s awards season heat went to pole-dancing screenwriter Diablo Cody, director Jason Reitman got lost in the curvaceous scribe’s pasty-enhanced shadow.  Then Jennifer’s Body came out and made everyone realize that Cody writes about as well as every other stripper with daddy issues.  Again, Up in the Air was too popular and well-regarded to not win for something, and this category gives the Academy a chance to vindicate Reitman just a bit.

Original screenplay

•   "The Hurt Locker" (Summit Entertainment)    Written by Mark Boal
?•   "Inglourious Basterds" (The Weinstein Company)    Written by Quentin Tarantino
?•   "The Messenger" (Oscilloscope Laboratories)    Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman?
•   "A Serious Man" (Focus Features)    Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen?
•   "Up" (Walt Disney)    Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter  Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

I will not argue that The Hurt Locker was not a great film.  But was it a great script?  The story was bare-bones, giving the film a stripped-down, documentary-like, naturalistic feel.  Highly effective for the overall result, but I do get the feeling that Mark Boal could’ve written it over a weekend after watching the Generation Kill DVD set.  Still, given the numerous awards the film has alread taken, and the great deal of critical praise heaped upon the film, The Hurt Locker does seem to be the safest bet of the bunch.  Give the man an Oscar!