Friday, February 20, 2009

2008 Oscar Preview & Predictions: The Big Six


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

What Should Have Been Nominated? Where to start? I'll be talking a bit about the Academy's choice of these five pictures when I start my review of 2008 next week. But for now, let's just say that I can think of at least ten films better than Milk, my favourite in the category. Chief among them is Wall-E, which I'm sure wasn't far away, and The Dark Knight's omission from this lineup is hard to bear.

What Deserves To Win? I've cooled on all of these films but Milk is very well-made and the only one that struck a resonant chord with me. It's standard in many ways but always interesting and certainly knows itself more than these other pictures.

What Will Win? You can read theories about Benjamin Button being the "true Oscar picture", or Harvey Weinstein going all-out for his holocaust baby, but this is Slumdog's year. The media undoubtedly had a lot to do with the film's buzz and making it seem like serious fare, but since most of Hollywood seem to love it the awards press can't shoulder all of the blame. Slumdog Millionaire will win because it's genuinely cherished -- at least for now.


Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry - The Reader
David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant - Milk

Who Should Have Been Nominated? Anyone a bit more interesting. Andrew Stanton, Christopher Nolan (and I'm not even the biggest fan of his direction), and Darren Aronofsky are the major players who were left in the lurch.

Who Deserves To Win? Gus Van Sant, for the reason that the others either had relatively little to do (Daldry & Howard), or were overbearing in visual elaboration of painfully simple stories (Boyle & Fincher).

Who Will Win? Danny Boyle.

Actor in a Leading Role

Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Who Should Have Been Nominated? TBA. My personal awards (The Addicts) start next week.

Who Deserves to Win? This is one of the best categories actually, although the only ones I'll admit to loving are Penn and Rourke. They're the frontrunners so at least there's some justice in the world. I can't decide between them just yet.

Who Will Win? I've been going back and forth on this so it's time to make a decision. Penn's advantages are that he has the lion's share of critics awards (which obviously doesn't matter much, just ask Sally Hawkins), the biopic character, the straight man playing gay card, the fact that he dies, the Best Picture nominee, and the SAG. Rourke's plus points: he has the media, the comeback story, the fact he has considerably less Actors to help him in the film, the Globe and BAFTA wins, and that Sean has already won an Oscar whereas it would be a great "story" if he were to crown a troubled career with a golden guy.

I always find that predicting from the heart is a bad idea. I want Mickey Rourke to win this, because he's bound to make a great speech and Sean Penn really doesn't need another Oscar. But something tells me that the biopic will win out again, as no other likely acting winners on the night will have played real-life people, and so I'm predicting that Sean Penn will win this particular tussle.

Actress in a Leading Role

Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet - The Reader

Who Should Have Been Nominated? TBA. My personal awards (The Addicts) start next week.

Who Deserves To Win? By a country mile it's Anne Hathaway, who has so much more to do than the other four women, and generally succeeds.

Who Will Win? I'm having jitters about Winslet's chances, what with the Meryl SAG win and the fact that nobody really loves Kate's performance. But the other four women have had similarly troubled paths, and you've surely got to think that with just the one nomination (for a performance undefeated at Globe, BAFTA, and SAG) Kate Winslet has enough supporters to win this one with ease.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey Jnr. - Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

Who Should Have Been Nominated? TBA. My personal awards (The Addicts) start next week.

Who Deserves To Win? I might be being picky but I reckon both Hoffman and Ledger are leading in their respective films. But I'm willing to admit that these aren't Jamie Foxx in Collateral-style examples of category fraud and so I'll whole-heartedly commit to saying that Ledger's performance is fantastic, and way worthier than anyone else included here.

Who Will Win? There really haven't been many posthumous nominations/wins, you know? His win seems a given, which in turn is generating talk that Academy members might tick another name instead, believing that their vote won't matter. This seems a very wayward theory to me, and if Heath's name isn't called out and received to a lengthy standing applause, I'll be shocked.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

Who Should Have Been Nominated? TBA. My personal awards (The Addicts) start next week.

Who Deserves To Win? Again, I consider Amy Adams to be a lead in Doubt; if only for her part in the Frosty the Snowman office meeting. Hers is my favourite performance of these five because she's the principle force, introspectively coaxing us from one side of the fence to the other, and she's devastatingly effective as a naive, torn, inexperienced young woman frightened of allegiance and equally wary of confrontation. Beyond that, I like Penelope Cruz and Marisa Tomei very much.

Who Will Win? I think this is still a five-way race. Taraji P. Henson represents Benjamin Button's only realistic chance at a major award (rather like Swinton in Michael Clayton), Davis has the baitiest role in an incredibly baity film, Marisa Tomei won lots of critics stuff and her film has just the two nominations, of which its fans could easily tick both boxes on their ballots. Penelope Cruz has the only legitimate precursor in BAFTA (Winslet's Reader performance won both Globe and SAG in this category) and has been up there in the betting for a while, and Amy Adams has by far the biggest role (co-lead, if you ask me) in her film and is the kind of American starlet (like Tomei back in '92) that wins for a Supporting award.

I'm actually going to go for Marisa Tomei, because it's been sixteen years since she won, and she may mop up votes from the people who *just* preferred Penn's performance to Rourke's.

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