Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscars: Final Thoughts and Predictions

This isn't my time to gripe about The Reader and Frost/Nixon being nominated.  It isn't even my time to gripe about Slumdog Millionaire winning all the Guild awards.  Yes, I believe the Academy dropped the ball in this year more than any others that I've been watching (in terms of nominations, let's get through the winners first) and all it takes to understand that is pull up lists of top 10 lists that put Wendy and Lucy, Frozen River, Synecdoche New York, Rachel Getting Married, Wrestler, et al far above Slumdog Millionaire and Benjamin Button.  This isn't to slight those films, and you have no idea how happy I was when Frozen River got its two nods, but this was a year for new, emerging American directors (yes, Fincher counts and yes, Boyle has not received his due) like Aronofsky and Nolan.  But I digress.

The show will either be terrific or unbearable.  Bill Condon keeps saying he wants to make things fresh and enjoyable to avoid the ratings pitfall, but it's a pitfall that will happen.  Without Dark Knight or Wall-E vying for the top prize, who's going to turn in past the Supporting Actor award?  I bring this up unfairly, since last year was the worst-rated Oscars telecast in its history, but the nominees and winners were all SO good.  Still, nominating The Reader makes the big race boring, and Slumdog's control of the entire season certainly won't help gather viewers (lack of excitement).  I'm excited to watch Hugh Jackman, I'm excited to see what they through into this machine.  I'm EXCITED to see the winners!  I may be the only one who cares deeply about Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, but there are so many races that haven't been written, that make my predictions difficult.

Final Predictions

Best Picture

Probably the one of four truly easy calls.  I wrote a post earlier in the week hinting Slumdog wouldn't win, and I still think it might not.  There are a series of If/Then statements (at the bottom of this post) that could bush Benjamin Button into the BP slot, splitting Director and Picture.  The odds of that happening, just going by statistics, are remarkably thin.  Slumdog has overcome its prejudice as a British film with no white actors, filmed in a foreign country, and made up of 1/3 subtitles.  The only real question is: will the Academy detest it for its favoritism?

Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Should Win: Milk

Best Director

Here's the only way Danny Boyle *doesn't* win: We have a repeat of 2002 when the Academy wants to recognize another director in the wake of awarding a technical achievement.  In this case, Gus Van Sant will upset, as he is previously nominated, hasn't won, and has a lot of supporters from his decade-long foray into under-the-radar independent films.  But if there is a split, I think it makes more sense for Boyle to win here and Slumdog to lost Picture.

Will Win: Danny Boyle
Should Win: Gus Van Sant

Best Actor, Lead Role

Sean Penn or Mickey Rourke?  The former: a dramatic portrayal of a real person (who was assassinated), gay (they love it in the actors!), a Best Picture-nominated film, the Critics Choice award, the Screen Actors Guild Award, a previous Best Actor winner.  The latter: a comeback performance, legitimate acceptance after years of being washed up, a character all his own, a weepy of a movie, winner of the Golden Globe and the British Academy Award.  Here's why, statistically, I think Rourke wins: The BAFTA has become increasingly vital over the last 4 years (I don't know why!), and it's difficult to win a second Oscar so close to your first.  Ten more years, Sean Penn!

Will Win: Mickey Rourke
Should Win: Mickey Rourke

Best Actress, Lead Role

Common thinking says Kate Winslet - she won the Globe and the SAG in Supporting and the BAFTA in Lead, plus she's never won despite six nominations, and she's in a Best Picture nominee.  They clearly loved The Reader, here's the chance to reward it.  But what about Meryl?  True, she's won two Oscars, but she hasn't won since 1982, and her speech at the SAG was a poignant reminder of that.  But let's say the two of them split, why not award Anne Hathaway in a split a la 2002?  Well, because Rachel Getting Married doesn't have enough broad support.  I once read a stat that says for women, it's easier to win when you're young and you haven't won yet.  That's what I rely on here.

Will Win: Kate Winslet
Should Win: Melissa Leo

Best Supporting Actor

I've read chatter that the Academy could shut Ledger out since they shut Dark Knight out of Picture and Director.  But if not Ledger, who? Josh Brolin?  Where is the evidence that he has enough support?  Lest we forget, Dark Knight has 8 nods, it has the support.  BUT, there has only been one Oscar given to an actor posthumously (Peter Finch, Network, 1976).  For Heath to overcome that hurdle is the most telling.

Will Win: Heath Ledger
Should Win: Heath Ledger

Best Supporting Actress

Is it wide open?  Will Doubt split itself - because I can see Viola Davis taking most of the votes there.  Marisa Tomei doesn't have it.  Tajari P. Henson could win (it's part of my If/Then stuff down below), but the obvious choice kind of seems to be Penelope Cruz in that it's a much talked-about role from a superstar actress who has been nominated, hasn't won, and continues the recent trend of honoring foreign-born actors and actresses.

Will Win: Penelope Cruz
Should Win: Marisa Tomei

Best Adapted Screenplay

Easiest pick of the night. Don't even think anyone else will win.

Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Should Win: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Screenplay

This seems to have been narrowed mostly to Milk or Wall-E.  Some are speculating In Bruges could win, and a split could make it so.  However, I think most voters don't necessarily see the screenplay in Wall-E (it's wordless, obviously!), and Milk is a sprawling, historical study.  But In Bruges has the best dialogue.  I'm going with the Writers Guild winner, though with a slight hesitance.

Will Win: Milk
Should Win: Milk

Best Animated Film

Will Win: Wall-E
Should Win: Wall-E

Best Documentary Film

Common thinking says Man on Wire, but in order to vote in this category you must have gone to a mandatory screening of all 5 films.  This means there could be greater emotion towards Trouble the Water. I don't know.  This category can get tricky, but I *do* know that Man on Wire's win for Best British Film at the BAFTAs is extremely telling of its popularity.

Will Win: Man on Wire
Should Win: Man on Wire

Best Foreign Language

I haven't seen any of them, and I think it's largely a toss-up between The Class and Waltz With Bashir.  Since Waltz has made bigger noise in the US, I'm picking it.  BUT, like Doc, you must have seen all 5 films to vote, and The Class has the Palme d'Or Award behind it. Besides, popularity here doesn't mean a win (see Lives of Others over Pan's Labyrinth)

Will Win: Waltz With Bashir
Should Win: N/A

Best Art Direction

Ben Button and Dark Knight won the ADG.  Period pieces get recognized FAR more often than contemporary ones, and if they want lavish they'll pick The Duchess.  I don't think so, though.  They have a category for that one.  Ben Button should take it as the only Best Picture nominee in the category.

Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Cinematography

Okay, so MOST people are picking Slumdog Millionaire because of, y'know, it winning everything.  But when I was reading some blogs yesterday getting these together, I found a good point: the Academy always awards the "prettiest" cinematography, not the most difficult.  Handheld stuff isn't really their thing (note they didn't award Children of Men, a HUGE crime).  They like good lighting, iconic images, really pretty stuff.  Besides, why is so little being made of the fact Benjamin Button has 13 nods?!  I think Button has a mild upset here.

Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Costume Design

If not The Duchess, then Button.  If Button wins this, it could win Best Picture.  I'm serious.

Will Win: The Duchess
Should Win: Australia

Best Film Editing

Recently, the trend has been to award the most edited film of the year.  That should be Dark Knight (amazing intercutting structure, just watched it again last night), but Slumdog was edited faster.  So it wins.

Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Should Win: The Dark Knight

Best Makeup

If we're going to be technical about it, Button is a mixture of makeup and digital effects.  The Dark Knight has the Joker going for it, but give it to the Best Picture nominee.

Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Should Win: The Dark Knight

Best Original Score

For Button or Wall-E to win here would be tremendous.

Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Should Win: Wall-E

Best Original Song

You could reason that Slumdog will split the vote and give it to Peter Gabriel,  but his refusal to perform probably irked them.  The Academy has gotten weirder and weirder about this category (Three Six Mafia? Really?), which means O...Saya, the less traditional song, could win, but I think they'll have responded more to Jai Ho.  It is one of the movie's best sequences, after all.

Will Win: Jai Ho
Should Win: Jai Ho

Best Sound Mixing

Another place where people are picking Slumdog but I don't buy it.  The loudest film wins.  Plus, Ben Burtt is IMMENSELY respected in the Academy, giving Wall-E a bit of an edge.  But I'm going to do what's probably foolish and predict Mixing and Editing will go hand in hand again, just like last year, just like 2005, 2003, most any year where there's one really loud movie.

Will Win: The Dark Knight
Should Win: Wall-E

Best Sound Editing

Will Win: The Dark Knight
Should Win: Wall-E

Best Visual Effects

The more you show off, the higher your chance to win. Being nominated for Best Picture doesn't hurt, either.

Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The If/Thens

We can't predict how the night will evolve.  One category can literally change everything.  In 2005, when Brokeback lost Best Cinematography, I knew it was going to lose.  I don't know why, I just had a hunch.  So here are my assorted If/Thens for the evening:

IF Heath Ledger should lose THEN Dark Knight will probably lose all the tech categories.

IF Benjamin Button wins Best Score THEN it will win Best Picture

IF Slumdog loses Best Film Editing THEN it will lose Best Picture

IF Benjamin Button wins Best Costume Design THEN its chances go way up to win some of the major categories

IF Milk wins Best Film Editing THEN it will win Best Actor and possible Best Director or Picture

IF The Curious Case of Benjamin Button loses Art Direction THEN I don't think it can steal Best Picture

IF The Curious Case of Benjamin Button wins Best Adapted Screenplay THEN it wins Picture

IF Milk loses Best Original Screenplay THEN Sean Penn will not win Best Actor

IF Tajari P. Henson wins Best Supporting Actress THEN The Curious Case of Benjamin Button wins the night (really, if she wins this it will be astounding and there will be crazy things in store for the evening)

IF Josh Brolin wins Best Supporting Actor THEN Milk wins Best Director or Picture, in addition to Screenplay and Actor

IF Brad Pitt wins Best Actor THEN Button wins Picture

That's it.  Enjoy.

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