Friday, January 11, 2008

Gold Rush, Part I


While many of you celebrated your big holidays last month, mine comes just near the end of this one. No, it's not my birthday. January 21st is the eve of the announcement of the nominations for the 80th Annual Academy Awards. As I used to do as a child every December 24th, I now do as an adult on this occasion: lose precious sleep due to excitement and anticipation, and wake up the following morning at 5 am.

At the beginning of December, I posted what I then called my "final" Oscar predictions within a separate blog. What a fool am I. Winds change, opinions change, and as anyone who follows awards season knows, the Oscars are all about precursors and politics. This has been one of the toughest years to call, as predicted front-runners are hanging by threads and dark horses are emerging on the front lines. Also, given the activity (or lack thereof) of the scribes within the industry, the show may not even go on. Therefore, this entire labor-of-love posting dedicated to my self-professed personal Super Bowl may be entirely in vain. So whether the awards are handed out in a press conferrence or in the lavish, stadium seating setting they so deserve, behold my FINAL (promise), calculated predictions on who and what will be duking it out for them in the six major categories.

Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
A shoo-in for a nomination. Her turn as Bob Dylan was one of the year's very best.
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
83-year-old Dee may be one of early contender Gangster's few nominations.
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
While the film's spotlight is fading, Ronan's fiery debut is hard to ignore.
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Officially (albeit somewhat inexplicably) the front runner. She's won nearly every precursor award.
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
Long overdue for a nom, Swinton will finally be recognized for her stunning work in the legal thriller.

Catherine Keener, Into the Wild

Like Dee, Keener received a SAG nomination from her peers. If her film performs well, she could too.

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesses James by the Coward Robert Ford
Affleck has had a breakout year, and will likely score a nod as the titular villain.
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Bardem is the one to beat, having created a character that will long be remembered (and feared).
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
With three great performances in three big '07 films, Hoffman is sure to get in somewhere. This seems like his best bet.
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Veteran Holbrook's heartbreaking role as a surrogate father should land him his first nomination.
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
The film's showiest performance demands attention, and will probably get it.

Tommy Lee Jones,
No Country for Old Men

A No Country sweep could put
Jones in the running, who's also
had a big year with this film and
In the Valley of Elah.

Amy Adams, Enchanted
Ms. Adams might just go all the way with this delightful Disney homage.
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Currently the frontrunner, Christie has won the most critics' awards.
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
A sure-fire contender from the moment her film debuted last spring.
Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart
As real-life widow Marianne Pearl, the paparazzi queen proved she's still got the chops.
Ellen Page, Juno
Page poses the biggest threat to Christie's win, in a performance that's every inch believable

Cate Blanchett,
Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Though she's received noms from
SAG and the Globes, this movie's
weak showing will probably have the
great Cate settling for supporting.


George Clooney, Michael Clayton
The A-list heartthrob continues to build an impressive resume, and will fight it out with Day-Lewis and Depp in this category.
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
The favorite to win, he catches the Academy's eye every time he works (which isn't often).
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Depp should score his third Best Actor nod as the murderous barber, revealing pipes no one knew he had.
Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild
His lead role in Sean Penn's American tale was one of the year's most affecting, and he could join Ellen Page in representing the younger bracket.
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
Mortensen's second outing with director David Cronenberg was another success, and he'll probably receive love for playing a Russian mobster to perfection.

Denzel Washington,
American Gangster

Seemingly a sure thing just months
ago, Washington's chances have been
gravely affected by the crime epic's
steady decline in the awards circuit.

Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Butterfly is said to be breathtaking, and while it seems it won't crack the Best Pic race, look for Schnabel to get acknowledged for guiding it.
Sean Penn, Into the Wild
Penn's was one of the year's most passionate projects, and as Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson will attest, The Academy loves actors-turned-directors.
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
The Bourne writer's debut feature was the year's smartest movie, and thanks to his script and air-tight approach, he should sneak in here.
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
The brothers Coen will surely see their second nomination after 1996's Fargo, and with No Country cleaning up the critics' awards, they're the pair to beat.
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Delivering what some are calling an "American masterpiece," auteur Anderson will indeed make the cut for his gritty oil epic.

Joe Wright, Atonement

While his film will likely land a Best Picture
slot, Wright's Director's Guild shut-out puts a
damper on his Oscar hopes.

Despite being the film with the most Golden Globe nominations (7), Atonement is experiencing a Dreamgirls-esque backlash, falling victim to an over-abundance of early hype. However, it seems impossible for the lavish achievement not to make the top-honor short list.

Into the Wild
Almost universally loved and helmed by an actor who's deeply respected in the industry, this touching story of doomed traveller Christopher McCandless has racked up enough precursor nominations to make it to the big show.

Balancing out the pool as the only title to offer lighter fare, Juno's popularity has made it a serious contender, anchored by Page's lead performance and Diablo Cody's fresh screenplay. The film is also championed by Roger Ebert, one of the few who foresaw Crash's unlikely victory two years back.

No Country for Old Men
The undisputed critical favorite of 2007 has already been showered with a mantle's worth of trophies, and it could very well be honored with one more come February. The masterful, riveting thriller has surpassed Atonement as the surest bet to win.

There Will Be Blood
Showing up late in the game and peaking just as Oscar voters are paying closest attention, Blood has followed a similar strategy as 2004's Million Dollar Baby, which went on to win the top prize of that year. Falling just behind No Country in its staggering amount of critical praise, its practically guaranteed a nomination.

Michael Clayton
The thinking person's law drama has done very well, with early recognition in areas of acting, writing, directing and editing from each respective guild. If it keeps its momentum, it could very possibly knock out Atonement, Juno, or Into the Wild for a position in the top five.

Even if the Oscars go the route of the Golden Globes, and the picket lines keep the ceremony from seeing the light of the Kodak Theatre, the magic of nomination day will ne'er be affected. And life-long cinephiles like me surely won't let a little strike rain on our golden, 5 am parade.
So, make note of my Oscar E.S.P. (rightfully ignoring
that other foolish list), and check back on the big day (January 22, 2008) to view my scorecard and the full list of Academy Award nominees.
Until then, Movie Buddy out.

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