Iris Out: Oscar preview

Micah Paisner

With the 83rd Academy Awards coming up, I’d like to give a preview of the ceremony. I know personally that it’s been difficult to see all of the films while living in Appleton, which is why I attempt to see as many as I can when I’m home in Chicago. Here’s a short breakdown of the major categories:

• In an attempt to gain a more widespread audience, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expanded the Best Picture section to 10 films from the previous five. The result is an amalgamation of independent films, big studio films and even popular blockbusters. The nominees this year are “127 Hours,” “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “Inception,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Social Network,” “Toy Story 3, “True Grit” and “Winter’s Bone.”

The frontrunner is “The Social Network,” directed by David Fincher, which focuses on Mark Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook while in college. The film won Best Picture at the Golden Globes last month and seems like a lock for the Oscar as well.

The only film that could give it trouble is Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech,” which tells the story of King George VI overcoming his stutter to lead his country during World War II. The film has won several awards and has all the trappings of an Academy favorite — it’s a period piece, in addition to a story in which an unlikely protagonist overcomes a serious problem to become a leader. Look for one of these two films to earn Best Picture.

• In the male acting category, Colin Firth seems to be a sure thing for Best Actor for his portrayal of King George VI. He did a wonderful job with the role, and he’s the kind of actor the Academy likes to support. He’s been acting for years and has quietly gained the reputation as one of the best working actors in the business.

Firth’s only real competition this year is Jeff Bridges for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the Coen Brothers’ Western remake, “True Grit.” Bridges did a phenomenal job with the role, but I can’t fathom the Academy giving the award to Bridges for a role previously played by John Wayne. Wayne is a much too iconic figure to tamper with.

• On the other hand, the Best Actress category should be very interesting race. Right now, it boils down to Annette Bening for “The Kids Are All Right” and Natalie Portman for “Black Swan.” Both Bening and Portman took home Golden Globes for their roles, Bening for comedy and Portman for drama.

Personally, I feel the award should go to Portman, who had a much more demanding role than the always-great Bening. “Black Swan,” a psychological thriller, focuses on the rivalry between two young ballet dancers, Nina (Portman) and Lily (Mila Kunis). With her performance in “Black Swan,” Portman has solidified herself as one of the top female actors around.

Unfortunately, she followed this film with “No Strings Attached,” a film starring Ashton Kutcher which could create an Eddie Murphy situation for her chances of winning. Murphy was considered the front runner for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Dreamgirls” in 2007, but lost the award to Alan Arkin. It was widely believed that Murphy lost the award because of his atrocious follow-up film “Norbit.”

• The Best Director category is almost a lock for Fincher. He has little competition this year, and the Academy has often nominated his work. Look for him to walk up to the podium for his first Oscar win for the topical “The Social Network.”

In the end, look for “The Social Network” to win the most awards. Many critics have referred to it as the film of our generation, and the Academy will most likely uphold these claims.

The Academy Awards air this Sunday, Feb. 27, hosted by first-timers James Franco and Anne Hathaway.