Monday, January 12, 2009

Oscar Nominations Predictions

On a suggestion from a friend, I have decided to start writing about my favorite subject- movies. As most of you know, Oscar season is upon us, my favorite time of year. So, to start out my non-professional writing career, the topic will be predicting the nominations for the Academy Awards in all the major categories, with a major emphasis on Best Picture, 'cause let's face it, that's the only one that really matters.

Best Picture

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

This may seem like a copycat list pulled from other professional critics' predictions, but let me assure you it is not. I have been updating and reworking my list for the last couple of months now, and only just recently got it to be the five that it is now, and I'm pretty confident that this is what the final nominations will be. I'll go through each spot individually now.
The two best bets are and always have been Benjamin Button and Milk. They each have been advertised long before they came out, and are both critics' darlings. Both have been critically acclaimed long before they ever appeared in a theatre, and have both done pretty decently at the box office. Button has the 'spectacle' spot, in that it is a semi-epic film with a lot of appeal for technical aspects like art direction, visual effects, and costume design. The fact that it is also a winner in storytelling makes it a shoo-in. Milk is a little film that packs a wallop in emotion. It's a great acheivement in writing, directing, and acting. The fact that California recently passed Proposition 8 makes this important to today, despite that it takes place in the 70s.
Every year, one spot goes to a little indie film that is original and entertaining and makes the country turn their heads. This year, that spot is taken by Slumdog Millionaire. Three months ago, no one had even heard of it, but it is now sweeping the nation and picking up awards left and right. The spot usually goes to a comedy, which I would say this film is not (I would classify it as a happy drama), but the fact that it has a happy ending, in our times, makes it a must-see and a must-vote for the Academy.
The fourth spot has been very tricky for me and went through the most changes. Doubt had gone in that spot until it opened to mixed reviews, and for a long time, I was holding onto hope that Revolutionary Road would take that spot. The fact that it has been left off of many critics' top ten lists makes me wary. I finally gave the spot to Frost/Nixon, an entertaining film but certainly not my first choice. I thought that it just didn't have the relevance or the entertainment value to get a Best Picture nomination, but it is being universally lauded by critics since it came out. If Ron Howard gets a Best Director nomination, this is sure to get the fourth slot.
The final slot is the biggest question, the darkest horse, and the reason this particular Oscar year could be the year that the whole country pays attention. The question is: Will The Dark Knight get a Best Picture nomination? I believe the answer is yes, although it will be a long shot. It is now the second-highest grossing film of all time, behind Titanic, which, of course, swept the Oscars in 1997. The Oscars tend to stay away from big hits, but they can't ignore a hit of this magnitude. The fact that it was also universally loved by critics will ultimately earn it the nomination, as it has proved to be the most unique superhero movie in history, and much more than just a final vehicle for Heath Ledger. The Oscars generally hate comic book movies, but there is always a first for the Academy. Who remembers The Lord of the Rings winning Best Picture? I sure do.

Best Director

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant, Milk

This category is easy. The Director nominations don't always square up exactly with Best Picture, but it does happen from time to time. I think they'll be the same this year.

Best Actor

Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Maybe this is more wishful thinking than anything else. The Visitor is a movie almost no one has seen, but almost everyone will like. Richard Jenkins is an actor almost no one has heard of, but almost everyone has seen. His first real lead role is emotional and realistic, and after a long career of unthankful roles, he totally deserves this nomination. Clint Eastwood is an Oscar-winning director and producer, and despite him being one of America's best and most famous actors, he has yet to win an Oscar for acting. This may be his year. The Oscars love actors playing real people, so cue Frank Langella and Sean Penn as Richard Nixon and Harvey Milk, respectively. If it weren't for The Wrestler, I never would have heard of Mickey Rourke (apparently he was the next Brando until he became a prima donna, a boxer, addicted to drugs, and basically ruined his own life). I haven't seen this film yet, and as such, am still skeptical, but the critics seem to love him, and Oscar does like a comeback.

Best Actress

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long

I always seem surprised by what the Academy nominates in this category, so I have prepared for that possibility. Meryl Streep is obvious; she can't get in front of a camera without getting nominated. The Academy likes to nominate women for foreign-language films that no one has seen, so Kristin Scott Thomas will probably get that slot. Sally Hawkins is the woman that gets nominated for an indie film that no one has seen. People forget that Angelina Jolie is in fact an Oscar winner, and while critics weren't too fond of the film itself, I think she has gained enough momentum to get a last-minute nomination. Anne Hathaway was the girl from The Princess Diaries, but her nomination this year is one of the only sure things, as she's been getting rave reviews for months. However, Bride Wars just opened today, and that film's obvious awfulness will hurt her for sure. If you don't believe me, think about this: Eddie Murphy was nominated for Dreamgirls right as Norbit was released in theatres. He was the favorite to win, but he didn't.

Best Supporting Actor

Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
David Kross, The Reader
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

This category is always a mixed bag of actors, both dramatic and comedic. Posthumous nominations are rare and tricky, as they don't want to give away a nomination or a win just because the guy is dead. However, for Heath Ledger, this is not the case. He has created one of the best screen villains in film history, and I'm sure he would still get nominated if he were still alive. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the other sure thing in this race, although why Supporting Actor? He was the male lead in that movie. Josh Brolin is also a critics' favorite as the tortured villain of Milk. I would not have thought Robert Downey, Jr. could ever have gotten anything for this movie, but his character was incredibly original and this award does like to honor comedy roles. David Kross is the long shot here, and is unlikely to appear on any professional critics' lists. But he has been hailed for his performance, and for his age, it is difficult to get recognized, but I think the Academy will do so last-minute.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Kate Winslet, The Reader

If my predictions are wrong in this category, it will be because I put Amy Adams in the list. If you're paying attention, I'm saying that Doubt will receive four acting nominations but not get a Best Picture nomination, a feat that is very unusual and not suggested by professional critics. But after seeing the movie, I think they will be ignoring a great performace by not nominating her. (Maybe it's just cuz I got a little crush. Can you blame me? When she's not wearing a nun's cap, she's really cute!) Viola Davis and Kate Winslet are sure things, have been ever since before the season started. Taraji P. Henson is a long shot, but her performance raises that movie to a new level, and won't be ignored. Personally, I don't think Penelope Cruz's work warrants a nomination, but strange enough, she is a sure thing. The film came out last summer and promptly flopped, and they're gonna give the star an Oscar nomination. This is why no one watches anymore.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

All Best Picture nominees generally get a screenplay nomination, so in that spirit, I give you four of the five in the adapted category. The Dark Knight is a long shot, but I think it's foolish to give it a Best Picture nomination but ignore it here-the screenplay is half of what made the movie so good. Doubt is added in because it was skillfully adapted from a stage play into a film that doesn't feel contained or staged.

Best Original Screenplay

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The Visitor
The Wrestler

I'm probably way off on these. The only ones I'm sure of are Milk and WALL-E, the former because it's a Best Picture nom, and the latter because they do tend to nominated animated films here, especially Pixar. Ratatouille was nominated here last year. The Visitor and The Wrestler are long shots, but since I think they'll be nominated for Best Actor, the Academy will also honor the films themselves here. And finally, Oscar does like Woody Allen, so Vicky Cristina Barcelona will probably get nominated here as well.

The Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 22nd at 6:30 am Colorado time, live. I think it will be on all the news stations, but ABC is your best bet. This is the one day of the year I willingly get up before the sun rises. The ceremony itself will be live Sunday, February 22nd at 7:00 pm on ABC.
Also, is a great place to watch movie trailers; it's got all the movies mentioned here. Make sure you have QuickTime installed.
Well, those are my long-winded but informed predictions. Feel free to respond with comments, arguments, suggestions, or questions.

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