Yep. I’m a jumpin’ on that bandwagon and throwing out my prognostications for the winners of tonights big baldies. I’m kind of curious what kind of ass-backwards shenanigans they have planned to ‘rejuvinate’ the telecast, but I also have great hopes for Hugh Jackman as host, having seen what kind of effusive, jovial and highly talented showman he is. Hopefully they’ll leave the cheesy YouTube-style parody videos tot he MTV awards and get back to what the Academy Awards are best at – pomp, pageantry, star-watching and lucrative betting-pools.
First off, I think tonight will bear out the tradition of ‘the sweep’. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is a juggernaut. It will clean up in Best Pic, Director, Best Original Song and, most likely, Adapted Screenplay.
Best Actor should go to The Mick for his heartbreakingly revelatory performance in THE WRESTLER but will most likely end up in the hands of Sean Penn for MILK, as homosexual icon trumps washed-up hair-metal ‘wrassler’ for Oscar cred.
Best Actress is slightly less of a lock, especially with long-shot Melissa Leo taking the Independent Spirit Award this morning. You can white-out Angelina and the deserving, but too fresh-out-of-Rom-Com Anne Hathaway. That leaves Leo, who is still a wild-card at best, and the true rumble-in-the-jungle of the night – Streep vs. Winslet. I give the edge to Winslet, partly because she has yet to win, despite a total 6 noms, and partly on account of the double magnificence of her performances in THE READER and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD.
Best Supporting Actor is obviously a lock for Heath Ledger. I loved THE DARK KNIGHT and I think he was phenomenal in it, but this award will be to recognize the untimely loss of Ledger’s talent and make up for the snub over BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. If it was a more fortunate future, and Ledger hadn’t passed away, I believe this one would have gone to the roiling sociopathic discontent of Michael Shannon in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. Ledger’s part in DARK KNIGHT was really a lead and, but for his unfortunate death, a comic-book popcorn flick never would have been nominated for a major category (which is borne out by the complete lack of noms in the other major categories).
Best Supporting Actress is the most interesting category of the night, with 5 very good performances battling it out on even ground. Amy Adams and Viola Davis seriously impressed me in their respective parts in DOUBT, but they may split the vote for that film. Taraji P. Henson was, doubtless, the best part of the tepid mess that was BENJAMIN BUTTON, but the rest of the film fails her. That leaves two-time nom, one-time winner Marisa Tomei, who was nuanced and poetic in her role in THE WRESTLER battling it out with the very talented, very congenial Penelope Cruz, who finally found a proper American vehicle for her under-appreciated Euro-charm in Woody Allen’s VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA. Both women were amazing in their portrayals, and Tomei gains extra points for having the brass balls to stick it to the Hollywood stereotype of actresses over 40 and bare her soul, and her ass, for her art. In the end, I think Cruz will take it on Woody’s involvement alone.
I will admit that I haven’t seen any of the Best Foreign Language nominees out in my neck of the woods but, judgin by the hype, France’s experimental THE CLASS has this one sewn up. Likewise, my knowledge of the best Documentary Feature nominees is limited. I have seen MAN ON WIRE. It was breathtaking. Got my vote.
Best Song is a simple question of which SLUMDOG tune rules the day. I’m hoping for an encore of “Jai Ho”.
Best Animated Feature should go to WALL-E, but don’t count out the appeal of the very well-done and highly entertaining KUNG FU PANDA, which was one of the most flat-put entertaining flicks I saw last year. One thing’s for sure. It ain’t gonna be BOLT.
We covered Best Adapted Screenplay as part of the SLUMDOG landslide, but Best Original Screenplay is a hard call. Will the sparse dialogue and environmental message of WALL-E defy the odds? Will one of the Indie underdogs (FROZEN RIVER, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY) take the cake? I think this is down to the (I think) overhyped biopic MILK or the sublime linguistic jig of IN BRUGES, a film that I am absolutely in love with. I hope and pray for IN BRUGES to take it but realistically, fortune favors the ‘true story’.
That leads us into the dark recesses of the ‘technical awards’ that most people tolerate while waiting to see another teary actress kiss her equally teary actor husband. As someone with a little more hands-on experience and, I would hope, an honest appreciation for the technical aspects of filmmaking, I enjoy seeing how these pan out, although they are always nigh-impossible to handicap.
Best Cinematography is usually where the popular films get their appreciation. If BENJAMIN BUTTON or DARK KNIGHT are going to upset SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, this is where it will happen. Just don’t bet your house on it.
Best Visual Effects pits BENJAMIN BUTTON and DARK KNIGHT against IRON MAN, which may just take this award from its burlier brothers.
Best Costume Design is the only truly wide-open category of the evening and I hesitate to even venture a guess. Between AUSTRALIA, BENJAMIN BUTTON, THE DUCHESS, MILK and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD… I have no friggin’ idea how this will go down. I’m gonna hope for ROAD, just so it doesn’t walk away empty-handed.
That’s my two cents for the record, but we will see what we will see come 6-ish this evening. Happy Oscar Sunday, movie fans! Hope Seacrest and Ben Mulroney don’t chase you off before the show begins.