Last Minute Oscar Thoughts: Possible Surprises

Another yearly award season will come to an end tonight when trophies for top motion picture honors, the Academy Awards, are handed out in California. As with previous years, the long stretch of endless pre-cursor awards handed out leading up to the Oscars means we pretty much know what to expect tonight. It would perhaps be Oscar’s biggest shock if someone like Mo’nique ended up losing.

Sure, there are people out there who think there’s an actual race for Best Picture between Avatar and The Hurt Locker. The only thing I can say to that is that I don’t get it.  The Hurt Locker might appear microscopic in comparison to Avatar but, apart from the Golden Globe, it has won every award you can think of so far. An Avatar win tonight would flat-out shock  and disappoint me. True, I would have said the same thing about a Brokeback Mountain loss a few years back, but I am not expecting history to repeat itself so soon. So with Picture, in my opinion, pretty much wrapped up, it narrows down the likelihood of any major surprises to a couple of categories. The most likely of these is Best Actress.

Let’s face it, if one year ago someone had said tonight’s frontrunner to win would be Sandra Bullock, most (if not all) of us would have quietly and discreetly driven them to a nearby mental institution. But here we are, and it is a reality.

The thought of that only reminds me of what should be already obvious. There is so much more to the Oscars than quality. I’m not ashamed to publicly say  that Sandra Bullock is a great actress. A supporting actress nomination would not have been unwarranted a few years ago for her performance in Infamous. Even before that, she had been consistently delivering performances that were far better than the material she was being given. Her performance in The Blind Side is another great one, no doubt about it. But best of the year? Not a chance.  And yet I’m having a difficult time being too upset about the possibility of her winning. That has little to do with the performance itself and everything to do with the grace and charm that Bullock has shown throughout the season, and even before that. Which makes me wonder if an equally consistent actress in the same role, giving an equally good (or better) performance would have had any chance of being nominated, let alone win. I am inclined to say no.

The Oscars are, of course, awarded by people within the field in some capacity or another.  While they should be about the best work of the year, how many of use can say that, if given the task of choosing a co-worker (in any field) for some type of honor, we would be able to be 100% objective and take only their work into account.  Not I. That is perhaps the fundamental problem with those who every year whine about quality not playing a big enough role (raises hand) at the Oscars. We are expecting voters to do their job in a way that most of us would not be able to ourselves.  That’s not to say quality isn’t factored in at all, which is what makes this category the most likely for a surprise tonight.

Most people who think there’s an actual race in the category have focused on Bullock and Meryl Streep, and it’s hard to argue against it. Streep gave a great performance this year and she has been doing so, consistently, for over three decades. That, arguably, the best actress of this generation has not won an award in 27 years seems unbelievable. That alone makes her a contender for the win every time she is nominated. Let’s not forget, though, that she has won her share of awards from various groups this year as well, including the Golden Globes, the Broadcast Film Critics, and numerous other critics associations.  If voters decided they would not be able to sleep with themselves after a vote for Bullock, Streep is a serious possibility.

A  third possibility, however,  has been on my mind the last couple of weeks: Gabby Sidibe. I think if, as it should be, only quality was taken into account she would win hands down. The fact that the only  two contenders for the win so far have been perceived to be Bullock and Streep only helps Sidibe. While a segment of voters flip-flops with the decision of Streep vs. Bullock, Sidibe and her film, Precious have maintained steady support from a considerable and vocal fan base.  So much so that I was thisclose to going ahead and predicting her as the ultimate winner tonight.

The second, though far less likely, surprise tonight might come from the best supporting actor category. Christoph Waltz has won pretty much every award this year short of the Nobel Prize. It will take a lot to defeat him, but if anyone stands a chance, it’s Woody Harrelson for his performance in The Messenger. Again, the Oscars are about a lot more than just quality. Like Bullock, Harrelson has been around for a while and general perception is that he is well-liked. The Oscars have shown him their love in the form of a previous lead actor nomination. He even managed to get a couple of awards from critics here and there this year, an amazing accomplishment, considering Waltz.  Waltz, on the other hand was pretty much unknown in North America prior to his role in Inglourious Basterds . Period. Does Harrelson actually have what it takes to pull a major upset tonight? Unlikely, but it’s a distant possibility. Stranger things have happened, after all.

Regardless of the outcome tonight, I am as excited as ever about the ceremony tonight, flaws and all. After all, what other event can claim to have given me a life-long supply of reasons to whine? That, I will cherish forever.

What about you? Do you foresee any surprises tonight or will it be business as usual? What wins would make your size grow a size or two?

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