Friday, February 20, 2009

Oscars Predictions Time

The Oscars are this Sunday, and I can't remember the last time I've been this unexcited about the competition aspect of the ceremony. First of all, the big winner of the night is a foregone conclusion: Adding to the pile of awards it's already amassed this season, "Slumdog Millionaire" is clearly going to take the big prize of the night. And it will most likely win every other Oscar for which it's been nominated (nine total, including Picture).

There's more suspense to be had in the acting races, it's true. Will Sean Penn edge past Mickey Rourke, who seems to have the momentum going into the homestretch? Will Kate Winslet, after being an Oscar bridesmaid five times, finally vindicate Ricky Gervais by landing the golden boy, that maddening tease, for her first Holocaust movie? Will dark horse Viola Davis overtake early frontrunner Penelope Cruz? Will Heath Ledger...nah, I'll stop there, that one's not in question. Just not.

And even if the main event - the ultimate crowning of "Slumdog" - is a nonevent at this point, there's still the show itself, which attempts another change in format and style, embodied in the choice of host. I don't think it'll do a thing for the ratings (they should've nominated "The Dark Knight" for Best Picture if they wanted those), but I have to admit I'm thrilled about Hugh Jackman, much more so than I would have been about any of the usual suspects. While he may not be a comedian, all reports indicate the "boy from Oz" is an entertainer extraordinaire. Will he sing? Will he dance? Will he take his shirt off? Um, probably not that last, but a girl can hope for all three anyway, can't she?

Anyway, here are my predictions for the winners. Too bad I was so uninspired I didn't even enter or start an Oscars pool. Watch me be right on everything for once.


BEST PICTURE

Nominees: "Slumdog Millionaire"; "Milk"; "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; "Frost/Nixon"; "The Reader"

Will win: "Slumdog." To quote the movie itself, it is written. Or it might as well be.

Ought to win: "Milk." Not without flaws, but easily the strongest movie of the five.


BEST DIRECTOR

Nominees: All the directors for the above films - Danny Boyle for "Slumdog"; Gus Van Sant for "Milk"; David Fincher for "Benjamin Button"; Ron Howard for "Frost/Nixon"; Stephen Daldry for "The Reader"

Will win: Danny Boyle

Ought to win: Again, among this lot, Van Sant. He made "Milk" into something edgier and more poetic than the standard biopic it could have been, and gave plenty of breathing room for the rest of the cast to shine while still highlighting Sean Penn's incredible performance. Still, I'm ok with Boyle winning, more so than his picture - he makes some interesting stylistic choices with the material in "Slumdog," even if the movie as a whole didn't come together for me.


BEST ACTRESS

Nominees: Meryl Streep, "Doubt"; Kate Winslet, "The Reader"; Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"; Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"; Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"

Will win: Winslet, by a hair, over la Streep. Not everyone may be enthralled by this specific performance from Kate (I know I wasn't), but most are agreed she's overdue for her Oscar.

Ought to win: I haven't seen "Frozen River" or "Changeling," but as between the other 3, I actually think Hathaway did the unthinkable and upstaged both Streep and Winslet. Her performance was truly a revelation.


BEST ACTOR

Nominees: Sean Penn, "Milk"; Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"; Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"; Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"; Brad Pitt, "Benjamin Button"

Will win: Total toss-up between Penn and Rourke, but as of post time, I give the edge to Rourke. Penn's already won an Oscar, and everyone loves a comeback kid.

Ought to win: This, too, is a toss-up, but here I give the edge to Penn for what I believe to be the best performance of his career. For once, he didn't overplay it; he let us see the hero, but also the flawed man underneath. That said, Rourke was splendid and I'll be very happy for him if he wins.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Nominees: Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"; Amy Adams, "Doubt"; Viola Davis, "Doubt"; Taraji Henson, "Benjamin Button"; Marissa Tomei, "The Wrestler"

Will win: Cruz, though this is the category that can surprise...so don't count out an upset by Davis

Ought to win: Cruz was very good, but "VCB" was so slight a film it didn't really register with me. Davis was excellent in a small and to my mind, problematic, role (I never found her character in Doubt totally convincing, though she plays it well), but I think I was most moved by Tomei as "The Wrestler"'s female counterpart.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Nominees: Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight," and...are the rest even relevant? Ok, ok: Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"; Josh Brolin, "Milk"; Robert Downey, Jr., "Tropic Thunder"; and Michael Shannon, "Revolutionary Road"

Will win: Ledger - his win is the only thing more certain than "Slumdog"'s win for Best Picture

Ought to win: I haven't seen "Tropic Thunder" or "Revolutionary Road," but I do think Ledger deserves this, posthumously or no.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Nominees: "Milk"; "WALL-E"; "Frozen River"; "In Bruges"; "Happy-Go-Lucky"

Will win: Probably "Milk," though "WALL-E" also has a shot

Ought to win: I won't opine on this one since I haven't seen 3 of the 5 nominees (shame!)


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Nominees: "Slumdog Millionaire"; "Benjamin Button"; "Frost/Nixon"; "The Reader"; "Doubt"

Will win: Duh, "Slumdog"

Ought to win: Among this rather weak bunch, "Frost/Nixon," I think - it did a good job transferring a talky play to the rather different medium of the big screen. But really, I can't muster up much enthusiasm for any of these nominees


OTHER AWARDS

In addition to Picture, Director, and Screenplay, "Slumdog" is also up for Editing, Cinematography, Score, Song, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing, and as I said, I predict it will take them all. Except maybe the sound awards, which could go to "WALL-E." Though "Benjamin Button" will be shut out of the majors, it'll likely pick up Art Direction and Makeup, and possibly Costume Design, though "The Duchess" seems too sumptuous to ignore in that last category. "WALL-E" will easily win best Animated Feature, "Man On Wire" will win Documentary, and I think "Waltz With Bashir" will edge out "The Class" for Foreign Film. I won't even bother to guess on the shorts - my recommendation if you're guessing is to choose the ones with the titles you like the best.

We'll see how I do! Stay tuned for my post-Oscars recap, Sunday night or Monday.