Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oscar 2009 - Winner Predictions

Who's going to win at Sunday's Academy Awards? Marisa? Meryl? Mickey? “Milk?” Get out your ballots, ladies and gentlemen, because these are my final predictions for who will – and who should – emerge victorious on Hollywood's biggest night.

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

Will win: Penelope Cruz
Should win: Viola Davis

With predicted front-runner Kate Winslet bumped to lead status for her work in “The Reader,” early favorite Cruz – who's already nabbed seven critics' awards – has returned to the front lines as the likeliest winner in this category (and it doesn't hurt that she's up for a role in a Woody Allen film; his movies have a history of guiding their supporting ladies to Oscar gold). Cruz is pure dynamite in “Vicky Cristina,” but first-time nominee Davis, who holds her own against 15-time nominee (!) Meryl Streep in one of the year's most powerful scenes, gives a shockingly courageous performance that lingers in the memory.

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

Will win: Heath Ledger
Should win: Heath Ledger

2008 was a tough year to be a standout actor in a supporting role. No matter how great the performance, none stood out more than the late Ledger's now iconic interpretation of Batman's maniacal arch-nemesis. There's not much to say that hasn't already been said – Ledger can't lose. Only one question remains: who will accept the award?

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

Will win: Kate Winslet
Should win: Anne Hathaway

The powers that be have seen to it that Winslet – who, at 33, is now the youngest actor ever to receive six nominations – ends up in the winner's circle on Feb. 22. Despite her many invitations to the Kodak Theatre, the Berkshire-born chameleon has never garnered a trophy. And since her Golden Globe, Critics' Choice and SAG Award-winning performance in “The Reader” was moved from supporting to lead by the Academy (knocking out her even more shattering lead turn in “Revolutionary Road”), it's safe to assume they'll seize this one opportunity to finally reward her. I adore Winslet, but she's great every time out, and her work in “The Reader” isn't her best. Hathaway, however, blows the doors off of “Rachel,” and she's admitted herself that she may never get a role this rich again.

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

Will win: Mickey Rourke
Should win: Sean Penn

Speaking of once-in-a-lifetime roles, Rourke gets his in Darren Aronofsky's “The Wrestler,” a bruised and brutal character study that casts the '80s icon as a man not unlike himself: a washed-up former star seeking redemption. Rourke is the comeback kid of the year, emerging from a career slump to deliver a performance that's layered, human and achingly true. In the other corner is Penn, Rourke's strongest competition, who somehow manages to top his already astonishing body of work. As Harvey Milk, Penn shows us a new side of himself – a softer, lighter side – and digs so deep into the soul of his martyred character, it's near-impossible to believe he's the same guy who gives inappropriate speeches and used to punch photographers.

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

Will win: Danny Boyle
Should win: Danny Boyle

Child actor-exploitation rumors be damned – Boyle works magic in “Slumdog,” a movie that's been overpraised in many areas, but certainly not directing. Fincher, an atmospheric master, may have achieved the year's most impressive technical triumph, but Boyle does something better: he breathes vibrant, energetic life into an already lively screenplay and balances the dueling tones of hope and despair with impeccable grace. “Slumdog” may have its detractors – myself included – but, if for nothing else, Boyle deserves a heap of credit for turning an exotic take on a Dickensian fable – with no name actors, mind you – into the most popular film in America.

- “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
- “Frost/Nixon”
- “Milk”
- “The Reader”
- “Slumdog Millionaire”

Will win: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Should win: “Milk”

There are whispers of uber-producer Harvey Weinstein seeking a Best Picture upset win for “The Reader,” but I'm not buying it. “Slumdog” has been gobbling up every award in sight – including four Golden Globes, a Producers' Guild award, a SAG Ensemble award and over 25 (!) critics' awards – and still seems plenty hungry. This little-movie-that-could has become a behemoth that can't be stopped, not even by “Milk,” a superior film that boasts a better cast, a far stronger emotional sweep, the year's best male performance, best original screenplay, and most powerful singular image (hint: it comes at the end). And, not that a Best Picture must, but “Milk” has more socio-political relevance than any other film in the running. Here's hoping that Academy voters kept America's presidential election in mind when they cast their ballots for Movie Decision: 2008.

Best Original Screenplay: "Milk" (Dustin Lance Black)
Best Adapted Screenplay: "Slumdog Millionaire" (Simon Beaufoy)
Best Documentary Feature: "Man on Wire"
Best Documentary Short: "The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306"
Best Animated Feature: "WALL-E"
Best Animated Short: "Presto"
Best Live Action Short: "Spielzeugland (Toyland)"
Best Foreign Language Film: "Waltz with Bashir"
Best Cinematography: "Slumdog Millionaire" (Anthony Dod Mantle)
Best Film Editing: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Best Art Direction: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Best Costume Design: "The Duchess"
Best Makeup: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Best Visual Effects: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Best Sound Efffects Editing: "The Dark Knight"
Best Sound Mixing: "The Dark Knight"
Best Original Score: "Slumdog Millionaire" (A.R. Rahman)
Best Original Song: "Jai-Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire" (A.R. Rahman and Gulzar)

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