Oscar Dark Horses

If you’re like many movie buffs, you’ll be watching the Oscars tomorrow night. But though you’ll probably be rooting for your favorites to win, most winners will likely come as little surprise. Now that there are a gazillion other awards shows that lead up to the Oscars and set a hard-to-change precedent by the time the Oscar winners are announced, surprise winners are difficult to come by. However, it’s still fun hoping to see an upset (like when Adrian Brody won best actor for The Pianist over Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson in 2003).

The following are three films nominated for Oscars this year that have zero chance of winning. But I’d love to be proven wrong! They are amazing films and far better than many others they’re nominated alongside.

Animal Kingdom (nominated for best supporting actress): No, this is not a film about a Disney World theme park. It’s an astonishing, subtle Australian film about a Corleone-esque crime family in the midst of Melbourne suburbia. Some have called it Australia’s Godfather, and I think the comparison is apt. The debut of writer/director David Michôd is an epic, tragic, beautifully told examination of power, fear, family, & survival.

Another Year (nominated for best original screenplay): Mike Leigh’s film is more than just an actor’s showcase for British thespians. It is that, but it’s also one of the most jarring, make-you-think studies of relationships that I’ve seen on film in some time. It’s about solid relationships, fragile ones, and the lessons we learn from both. But the “one year in the life of” film is also just about time, and the things (births, deaths, jobs, friends, food) that mark our lives. It may sound boring, but Another Year is anything but.

I Am Love (nominated for best costume design): There are many words I could use to describe Luca Guadagnino’s Italian film: grandiose, regal, sumptuous, sprawling, colorful, ambitious. But I’d rather just say, “essential.” For true fans of the cinematic art form, I Am Love is a must-see. The film’s attention to detail, and the pulsating intensity of Tilda Swinton’s performance (how did she not get nominated for best actress? Oh yeah, she scares people on the red carpet) make it one of my very favorites of last year. For a stellar critical engagement with the film, check out this video essay by Kartina Richardson.

And for the record, here are my predictions for who will win in the major categories at tomorrow night’s Oscars:

Best Picture: King’s Speech Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network Best Actor: Colin Firth Best Actress: Natalie Portman Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale Best Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter Best Animated: Toy Story 3 Best Foreign Film: In a Better World Best Documentary: Inside Job Best Original Screenplay: The King’s Speech Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network