Monday, February 16, 2009

Oscars 2009 Educated Guesses

Best Animated Feature
Kung Fu Panda

Who Will Win: Wall-E, though this race is closer than I would have thought if I had made this prediction a month ago. Kung Fu Panda unexpectedly swept the Annie Awards (for animation), walking away with nearly all the top prizes. That said, I still think the widespread critical and popular adoration for Wall-E (plus the fact that Pixar almost never loses this category) will pull it across the finish line.

My Choice: Wall-E. It ought to be up there in the Best Picture category, but we won't get into that right now.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire
David Hare for The Reader
Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon
Eric Roth and Robin Swicord for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley for Doubt

Who Will Win: This should be just the beginning of a lot of love for Slumdog Millionaire. People love the structure of the film and this category (as well as editing) is the place to reward it. A possible upset is David Hare's adaptation of The Reader, should that happen, more wins from that durable underdog may be on the way. For now though, Slumdog looks to claim the prize.

My Choice: Slumdog.

Best Original Screenplay
Dustin Lance Black for Milk
Courtney Hunt for Frozen River
Mike Leigh for Happy Go Lucky
Martin McDonagh for In Bruges
Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and Jim Reardon for Wall-E

Who Will Win: Interesting category full of unique work, but the winner seems pretty clear. Since opening in more theaters, Milk is really developing a following and this is one of its best chances for a win. Producers struggled for decades to try and create a film about the Harvey Milk's career, but Black started from scratch, did the research, and hit it out of the park.

My Choice: Milk.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams in Doubt
Penelope Cruz in Vicky Christina Barcelona
Viola Davis in Doubt
Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler

Who Will Win: This category is evil. My average with it is not good, and this year it's not any easier. Many pundits are banking on Cruz, but I don't think she has all that much momentum. It seems to be that if Doubt has so many acting nominations, the voters will want to make sure someone in the cast gets a trophy. Davis won very enthusiastic raves for her work, but splitting the vote with Adams will hurt. On the other hand, Henson could pull this off if the voters decide Benjamin Button needs some love somewhere. All in all, very tough, but I'm going to bank on Davis.

My Choice: Tomei.

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin in Milk
Robert Downey, Jr in Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road

Who Will Win: I'm always more nervous when I'm personally invested in a particular category's outcome, but a win by Heath Ledger seems overwhelmingly certain. The performance itself is amazing, but likely would not have made it this far were it not for his tragic death last year. If anyone could upset, it would be either Hoffman or Brolin, but that seems highly unlikely. There are plenty of people who feel Ledger should have won for Brokeback Mountain, and this will be the last chance for the Academy to honor his devastatingly short career.

My Choice: Ledger. The curious thing will be who presents the Oscar for the category. Normally, it would be the previous year's Supporting Actress winner (Tilda Swinton), but the producers of this year's telecast say they're shaking up the formula and keeping the identities of the presenters a secret. One rumor says that Joker Emeritus Jack Nicholson will present this award. We'll know for sure Sunday.

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

Who Will Win: This category is nasty this year. We can rule out Melissa Leo. She was a surprise and her nomination will probably be seen as the reward itself. Angelina has won before, and I think she will have to find a way to stay out of the tabloids for a while before the voters feel more comfortable giving her more attention. Meryl Streep, who has the most nominations of any performer in history, hasn't won for over 20 years. This year, her work in Doubt has earned her the SAG award, a good sign. There's a lot of goodwill out there towards Anne Hathaway, and I could see a scenario with her winning...though the Academy doesn't seem to be all that crazy about her movie - this is its only nomination. Winslet is the one who really shook up this contest. She's been riding most of the awards circuit in the Supporting Actress bus, but the voters are so into The Reader that they bumped her up into the lead category. She's been due for a long time (5 previous nominations), and I'm thinking the stars will finally align.

My Choice: Winslet. As I've said, she's really overdue. In my opinion, she should have won this category years ago for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I'm not a big fan of The Reader, but the best performers rarely win for their best work.

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

Who Will Win: This is hard too. For whatever reason, this category always seems to devolve into a two-man race. This year, it's a nail-biter between Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke. Rourke has the more compelling backstory, and seems to really want the victory more than Penn, though he's an odd guy and may turn off some voters. Penn floored audiences as Harvey Milk, and the Academy seems to be very fond of the movie, but then again he just won in this category 5 years ago. A very close competition, but I think in the end, Penn will squeak ahead because of the broader support for the film in general.

My Choice: Rourke.

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

Who Will Win: Boyle, and commandingly so. He's been turning in unique, interesting work for a long time, and Slumdog Millionaire's visuals nearly jump off the screen. He's already got the Director's Guild win which almost always forecasts this category.

My Choice: I would be pleased with a win by either Boyle or Fincher.

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Who Will Win: Slumdog. Don't listen to Harvey Weinstein - The Reader was a surprise, but it's too controversial to go the distance. There's a bit of poetic justice going on here. Following an ugly smear campaign against Slumdog, which I'm just about positive was perpetrated by Big Loud Harv, plenty of articles have sprung up dissecting The Reader's view of the Holocaust, which is morally questionable at best. If a film will upset, it will be Milk. Will the Oscars want to make up for Brokeback Mountain's infamous loss by honoring another film about gay rights? Probably not this year.

My Choice: Slumdog if the question is just about my favorite out of the five nominees. Milk if the question is about which victory would have the most important cultural power. I really wish The Dark Knight was up here...bastards.