Oscar 2011 Predictions: State of the Race at Halfway Stage

Toy Story 3 and Inception for Best Picture - Javier Bardem already a lock for Best Actor?

You may have noticed a couple of days ago we added an OWF Oscars Pool to the sidebar as we begin the long and winding road to next February's Oscars ceremony. The list was chosen and written by me, but please accept this as my article seeking out further advice from my fellow OWF-ers, to see if there's anything I've missed from the year so far. It is of course way too early to firmly nail down which films will be nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, etc, that much is true. We are still in the silly Summer season, and the awards minded movies don't begin rolling out till the New York, Venice and Toronto Film Festivals in the forthcoming weeks but having said that -- there's two or three movies, and definitely a couple of performances we can probably consider as shoe-ins right now. I currently have 6 movies listed for Best Picture from the 50 or so movies I've seen this year but I'm only willing to declare 3 of them as 'absolutes' for the final ten. Blue Valentine - Derek Cianfrance€™s low budget and anguish filled dissection of two young people who are in a failed marriage, where one of them is still in love and desperate to keep it working and the other isn€™t. It's an emotional sucker-punch of a movie, a fly on the wall, almost peeping-tom John Cassavetes style drama and I'm certain this one will be the critics darling of 2010. It really is that good. The other two are mass-audience blockbusters; Toy Story 3 and Inception - which are basically taking the place of Inglourious Basterds and Up from 2009. I don't think Inception could win the Oscar because like Avatar it's on such a grand scale that the concept/thematics take over the story/performances, though it will take many visual/technical gongs and Marion Cotillard HAS to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Part of me also wonders if Blue Valentine will be gunning for the acting statues as the performances of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are almost a lesson in the art themselves but Toy Story 3, most definitely could go all the way and win it. Sensational to think that but Pixar keep surprising us by how far they can continue to raise the bar every year and they deserve the statue for it's cumulative run of knock-out films that sadly will come to an end next year with Cars 2. The rest of my list are made up of maybe's - movies I loved or liked a great deal, and are among those that could make it but with so many movies sight unseen, I wouldn't like to bet money on these. Shutter Island, a movie I flipped for and declared my love to back in February and for me it's this decade's Vertigo. You have to remember that although Hitch's movie is considered an absolute classic right now - nobody was saying so when The Master of Suspense released it in 1958. These days, nobody is going to talk about Shutter Island as the classic it actually is until the decade is out, I'd imagine. Leonardo DiCaprio's greatest ever screen performance is in this movie, and he should be rewarded with a nomination for his Teddy Daniels (more so than Inception) as it feels more harrowing and immediate, and Robert Richardson absolutely has to be nominated for Best Cinematography. Stunning. Black Narcissus for the modern age. In the Best Actor category I have also included Javier Bardem's multi-layered performance in Biutiful, but thematically the movie is all over the place and shouldn't in contention for anything else. At times, it is the best picture of the year, some of the individual scenes are among the most effective I've seen in the ghostly chiller genre but there's no structure to the story and it's a mess. You are with Bardem all the way though. Casey Affleck's turn in The Killer Inside Me, at this stage, would get a nomination for me. I have a soft spot for The Ghost Writer also, but unless there's a mass Polanski sympathy vote - I don't think it'll be anyway near. I enjoyed Pierce Brosnan as a pseudo Tony Blair and maybe he's worthy of a nom? The other two movies I caught in Cannes that are worthy of a mention; Mike Leigh's Another Year and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - and I imagine supporting nods for Josh Brolin (as an even more cold-hearted Gordon Gekko of the modern age!) and Lesley Manville (who is fantastically depressing in Another Year). I also loved Woody Allen's You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger probably more than the others, but it's light-hearted comedy stuff. Then after that, it's the usual guessing game where you can sometimes look a fool (how many of us predicted that Invictus would be so mediocre from Eastwood/Damon/Freeman and wouldn't be in the running last year - not many I'd imagine) - so I won't get into it at this point. Instead, I will just paste my list of picks as of July 22nd, 2010. Tell me I'm crazy over some of the choices, or let me know what I've forgotten; BEST PICTURE Blue Valentine Toy Story 3 Inception Shutter Island Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Another Year BEST ACTOR Javier Bardem (Biutiful) Leonardo DiCaprio (Shutter Island) Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine) Casey Affleck (The Killer Inside Me) BEST ACTRESS Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Josh Brolin (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) Jim Broadbent (Another Year) Pierce Brosnan (Ghost Writer) BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Marion Cotillard (Inception) Lesley Manville (Another Year) BEST DIRECTOR Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island) Christopher Nolan (Inception)Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Christopher Nolan (Inception) BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Michael Ardnt (Toy Story 3) BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Robert Richardson (Shutter Island) Wally Pfister (Inception)

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Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.