Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And the Nominees Will Be . . . .

As part of my ongoing celebration of Oscar season, I'd like to kick things off today with my predictions of what names will be called next week when nominations are announced. Those of you playing at home can keep track and see just how accurate I am. Trust me. It's fun!


* The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
* The Dark Knight
* Frost/Nixon
* Milk
* Slumdog Millionaire

The Dark Knight is my "dark horse" pick. It's a risky film to nominate -- a superhero flick? But it's a well-made, complex film and being a huge box office success is a nice way for Hollywood to pat itself on the back as if to say, "See, we can still make good films AND make a shitload of money!" Remember that such blockbusters as Star Wars and E.T. were also Best Pic nominees. The film may also get swept up in the Heath Ledger adoration. Of the "also rans" here (Doubt, Revolutionary Road, The Reader, Gran Torino), it seems as if those films will receive a lot of acting recognition, but none of them seem to have the Best Picture mojo in that they haven't made a lot of the critic's lists or received many big awards up to now. Revolutionary Road and The Reader were shockers when they were nominated for Golden Globes, meaning no one quite thought they had it in them to be up for the big dog. Obviously, I think this race will ultimately be a showdown between Benjamin Button and Slumdog -- the lavish studio flick versus the little indie engine that could. Slumdog has been sweeping the critics' awards lately and won the Golden Globe Sunday night. Let's see how the next month or so pans out for it and if any backlash starts to develop.


* Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
* Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
* Sean Penn, Milk
* Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
* Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

This is a tough category this year. A completely different list could emerge next week with a lot of different names, but these five seem to have the momentum going into nominations. A lot of fine performances, though, will be left out because this has been such a competitive year for leading men-- Leonardo DiCaprio for Revolutionary Road, Dustin Hoffman for Last Chance Harvey, Javier Bardem for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Michael Sheen for Frost/Nixon, and more. Sean Penn's chances may be dimming as Mickey Rourke continues to gobble up the early awards. Don't count out, either, another sentimental choice in Clint Eastwood who could finally take him his first Oscar for acting in what he claims will be his last acting performance. (Gran Torino's big box office may help a little with voters as well.)


* Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
* Meryl Streep, Doubt
* Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
* Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
* Angelina Jolie, The Changeling

Not a particularly great year for actresses (AGAIN!), but the great roles that were out there were pretty great. Kate Winslet's chances of winning here perhaps improved with her Golden Globe win, but then so did Sally Hawkins's. I still suspect that Anne Hathaway is the favorite here, even if the race is tightening. The question is whether voters will go with the subtlety of Winslet or Hathaway, the charm of Hawkins, or the scenery chomping of Streep and Jolie.


* Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
* Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
* Josh Brolin, Milk
* Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
* Kevin Bacon, Frost/Nixon

Bacon is my dark horse. I wouldn't be surprised to see Ralph Fiennes for The Reader or maybe someone else from Milk. Fiennes is one of those actors who pretty consistently turns in fine work with little appreciation (I still think he was robbed in 1994 when he didn't win for Schindler's List) Hollywood loves a "redemption tale", and really no one has had quite the same tale of redemption as Downey this year. In a weaker year, he could be a contender for Best Actor for Iron Man. Kevin Bacon is one of the most underappreciated actors out there. (Can you believe he's NEVER been nominated??) Maybe he'll finally get some love. This seems like a relatively weak year in this category, and this probably ends up as a showdown (again) between Ledger and Hoffman. Obviously, Ledger is the sentimental favorite.


* Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
* Viola Davis, Doubt
* Taraji Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
* Kate Winslet, The Reader
* Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Again, Winslet may have improved her chances Sunday night with her double win, particuarly since there doesn't seem to be a clear favorite here yet. Davis's part is pretty small in Doubt (but it's a helluva part). Henson could be the road the Academy takes to honor Button if it opts for the Slumdog path for the other big prizes. Cruz seemed to be gaining momentum, but her loss Sunday may be an indication that her support is slipping. And then there's poor Marisa Tomei who has spent the past decade delivering lovely performances in indie films as if in penance for her shocking win 15 years ago for My Cousin Vinny. (Go back and watch that movie, if only for her scenes. As "silly" as the film is, Tomei's performance is totally charming and well worth the win, particularly since Oscar rarely rewards comedic work.) This could end up being the category that makes or breaks you on all those Oscar pools.


* David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
* Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
* Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
* Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road
* Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino

Again, a lot of great directors left out. Again, I wouldn't be surprised to see other names here -- Gus VanSant, Christopher Nolan, Woody Allen, Daren Aronofsky. I think at least one of the best picture "also rans" will get some recognition here, if only as a way to recognize a director's work with fine actors, which is why I've included Mendes here. But who knows? With the high quality of the Best Picture nominees, all five of those directors could end up here. My gut tells me Nolan may be the one in the most danger of not securing a nomination for himself, but my guy has been wrong before. (Friends may remember my total certainty that films like Big Fish, Cold Mountain, and Dreamgirls would collect Best Picture nominations. I was wrong.)


* Rachel Getting Married
* Vicky Cristina Barcelona
* Wall-E
* Milk
* The Wrestler


* Frost/Nixon
* The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
* Doubt
* Revolutionary Road
* Slumdog Millionaire

I always find screenplay the hardest category to predict. There's always the question of which ones are adapted and which ones are original. Often, it becomes a chance for little indie films to get some recognition when they're about to be shut out of the big dog awards like Best Pic (think Pulp Fiction, Lost in Translation, Juno). My success rate here could be pretty low, although I'm feeling a bit more confident as I look over the list again. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

If you've slogged through this whole thing, congratulations. And I'll check in again next week with my reaction to the actual nominees. (Of course, I'll probably post sooner than that, but . . .)


Danielle Mari said...

Thank you for adding Robert Downey Jr. I have my doubts as to whether or not the Academy can be as forward thinking as you and nominate his fantastic work in a film that's... well... purty durned silly. (Not to mention the growling it inspired from learning specialists and advocates for those battling developmental challenges.)
I thought he was utterly fantastic, though. I would not have known it was him if I had... er..... not known it was him.

Mel said...

I know, but I wanted to take some risks with my predictions. He was nominated for a Globe, a SAG Award, and several other critics' awards, so . . . . This is the category where silly comedies often find the most love -- Kevin Kline, Marisa Tomei, etc.