Friday, February 20, 2009

One out of 365 . . .

Oscar night. The mere mention of those two words conjurs in my mind a feeling of excitement unlike just about any other that I experience for the rest of the year. Yes, it's true. The Academy Awards are my Superbowl. Months before the ceremony, I'm actively trying to guess what the nominees will be, keeping a keen eye on the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and the Guild Awards for any sign that might illuminate what might transpire within the minds of the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I have watched the telecast since I was a kid. I remember my mother turning it on and seeing the stars arrive on the red carpet. I never used to get to watch the whole telecast, since it invariably went on too long and meant that I had to go to bed. I still love Steve Martin's priceless line from the close of an Oscar telecast, "Well, we've reached the halfway point." So very true.

It's with great sadness that I report that I'll be missing the telecast this year. I am currently in London at the close of a whirlwind tour of Europe and, for the first time in what seems like forever, will not be able to watch the Academy Awards live. Instead, because of the generosity of a friend, I will be able to watch them after I get back. Before I left, I was willing to try to watch them here, whatever the cost. Now, after experiencing the rigors of non-stop travel and how hard it is to keep up with a 9 hour time difference, I feel differently.

However, there's no way in this world or the next that I would leave you without my Oscar picks. I've been trying to pick the winners for years now, with varying degrees of success. This year, I'll just say it. Some of the winners look like sure things, but as I always take care to remind you, this is the Academy we're talking about. They LOVE to make the "screw-you" pick that no one expects. So, while some seem like sure things, you never know.

Best Picture

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk
  • The Reader
  • Slumdog Millionaire

Predicted winner: Slumdog Millionaire
If I was voting: The Reader
Possible upsets: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader

Analysis: Slumdog Millionaire is the obvious favorite. It's won nearly every single major award leading up to Oscar night and received overwhelming critical acclaim. That said, I can't help but feel that it's not entirely deserving of the Academy Award. Don't get me wrong, I liked it a lot and think that it's clearly one of 2008's best films, but I don't think it's got the "pop" that a Best Picture winner should have. Some of this stems from the fact that I think the film has third act problems and is just basically a really well-done feel-good movie. Now, once again, while a win in this category looks like a sure thing, you never know. A few years ago, Brokeback Mountain was in an almost identical position and lost to Crash, much like Saving Private Ryan's loss to Shakespeare In Love. If anything can beat it, I'd have to give the dark horse status to The Reader (never count Harvey Weinstein out of anything. ANYTHING.) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (for some reason, this scenario has a dim glimmer of possibility).

Best Director

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

Predicted winner: Danny Boyle
If I was voting: David Fincher
Possible upsets: David Fincher

Analysis: Danny Boyle has all the momentum, and, perhaps most importantly, the Director's Guild Award. That said, I think the Academy might split the Best Picture/Director awards and reward David Fincher's virtuosic work. While the film itself could have been stronger, the fact that Fincher managed to keep all of the balls in the air and somehow emege with a coherent film is a feat that deserves much more recognition than it's gotten up to this point. So, I'd be somewhat foolish not to pick Boyle, but I'm holding out hope for Fincher.

Best Actor

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

Predicted winner: Mickey Rourke
If I was voting: Mickey Rourke
Possible upsets: Sean Penn

Analysis: Basically, Penn and Rourke are the only serious contenders in this category. Penn has a bit more momentum than Rourke at this point, but I think that the Academy might not be able to resist rewarding Rourke's comeback. So, I'm picking Mickey Rourke with the knowledge that it could very easily be Sean Penn's night.

Best Actress

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

Predicted winner: Kate Winslet
If I was voting: Meryl Streep
Possible upsets: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway

Analyis: I think this award will probably go to Kate Winslet as a kind of consolation prize because she's been regarded as one of the best in the biz for so long without having won. That said, while I'm glad the Academy put her in the right category for this film (finally!), I think that Meryl Streep's performance was much better in the under-appreciated Doubt. There was a moment in that film when Streep gave me goosebumps. You don't fake that. I loved The Reader, but Winslet never got to me on that level. I don't care if Streep's won twice already. I don't care that she always gets nominated and never wins nowadays. This time, I think she's earned it. That said, I still think it's Winslet's night.

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Josh Brolin - Milk
  • Robert Downey, Jr. - Tropic Thunder
  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
  • Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
  • Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

Predicted winner: Heath Ledger
If I was voting: Heath Ledger
Possible upsets: None.

Analysis: This category is closed. No one else stands a chance. Was the buzz around Ledger's turn as the Joker heightened by his untimely death? Absolutely. Was that buzz underserved? Absolutely not. Ledger is that good. I remember when I first heard that he'd gotten the part. I didn't understand why he, of all people had been chosen. Now, I can't imagine anyone else in the part. No one else stands a chance on Sunday night.

Best Supporting Actress

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

Predicted winner: Viola Davis
If I was voting: Marisa Tomei
Possible upsets: Penelope Cruz

Analysis: In the early going, Penelope Cruz had a lot of momentum, until Kate Winslet started getting acclaim for her performance in The Reader. However, after the Academy finally did the right thing and nominated her in the Leading category for that performance, this category has been thrown wide open. I think that Davis has the momentum right now, but Cruz could certainly swoop in for the win. That said, I have to be honest when I say that Marisa Tomei's character in The Wrestler was one of my favorite characters in any film last year. I don't think she'll win, but I loved her all the same. Hold on to your hats and glasses. This is the most open of all the major categories.

In closing, here's hoping that Hugh Jackman knocks it out of the park as the host, David Fincher gets his due, and and Slumdog Millionaire gets brought back down to earth. That balloon needs popping. Good film, but 10 nominations? Get real.

Enjoy the show.


Hannah said...

I agree. Slumdog was fun and well-done and heartful and all that, but not Academy Award worthy.

Here is my number one complaint about the movie: the love story. Does anyone remember this line?
"You're crazy! What will we live on?"

Oh the tears.

Adam said...

"Oh the tears."

I don't know about you, but love has proven to be a very reliable substance to sustain life. Personally, I like mine fried, with just a tinge of garlic.

What would you have liked to see win Best Picture?