The event has finally arrived. On Sunday, February 22, the 81st annual Academy Awards ceremony will take place. Hopefully more than 30 million viewers tune in or the talk of low ratings will drown out a hopefully great telecast. If there’s a theme about this year’s Oscars, it’s that things are going to be different… starting with Hugh Jackman as this year’s host. Like him or not, he’s an entertainer and should do a fine job, and he’s quite a change from the traditional comedian host.
What else are they doing different? They’re concealing the identities of the presenters. I’m not exactly sure if this will make the public so curious they’ll have to watch just to see who’s going to read a teleprompter… but sure, it’s something different. And how about those musical performances? Okay, some of the songs were simply painful to sit through, but sometimes you have just have to sit through garbage to get to the memorable performances, like Elliott Smith performing “Miss Misery” or even last year when Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performed “Falling Slowly.” This year, the three nominees are being combined into a short medley. Like the idea or not (I don’t like it… I was really looking forward to a complete number of “Jai Ho” and “Down to Earth”), it’s different.
This year was definitely an interesting one, especially during the awards season. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the front runner for most of the year, which is the kiss of death. When you’re marked as potentially the best movie of the year, you have a large bull’s eye on your back. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button did manage to pass the mixed reviews and the enormous hype to secure 13 nominations including Best Picture… I say, not too shabby.
The election year proved to be beneficial for the political dramas this awards season. Milk and Frost/Nixon both were nominated for Best Picture and Gus Van Sant and Ron Howard received Best Directors nods respectively. Both were solid films but I’d give Milk the advantage to actually pull an upset, while Frost/Nixon will remain content to have received a nomination.
And then there’s this little film called The Reader. The surprise Best Picture nomination of the pack, this was probably the film that bumped The Dark Knight or WALL-E into snub-ville. But with a Holocaust setting and the producers Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, this is Academy gold. Oh, and it has a delightful actress named Kate Winslet driving the film. It’s easy to say that the Academy didn’t want to take risks this year, choosing an traditional Oscar-worthy film like The Reader over the more deserving but unconventional Best Picture potentials The Dark Knight and WALL-E. Nonetheless, Harvey Weinstein is grinning at his chance to once again boast a Best Picture winner.
But we all know that won’t happen. Finally, the little film that exploded onto the movie scene and into the public’s heart… Slumdog Millionaire. Can anything stop this movie from capturing (or even sweeping) a number of awards on Sunday? I doubt it.
So Slumdog will win Best Picture, Danny Boyle will win Best Director, and Heath Ledger will win Best Supporting Actor. It’s not even worthwhile discussing what every post and article has already made visible. So let’s get down to the real races.
I must start with the Best Lead Actor category where it’s a photo finish between Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) and Sean Penn (Milk). Take your pick, either one can win and I don’t think there’s one who has fortified an actual lead. So flip a coin for your prediction because this is as close as a two-man race can get. Of course there’s always the possibility of Frank Langella stealing the award, which would go down as one of the most memorable upsets in this category in Oscar history. I thought both gave excellent performances and will be happy with either one as the winner. I personally am leaning towards Mickey Rourke to win, but it seriously can go either way.
Another compelling category would be Best Lead Actress. Although the race isn’t as close as the Best Lead Actor category, there is more up in the air between Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet. Winslet seems to be the slight favorite over the legendary Streep, but never rule out the veteran. And there’s also the looming third-wheel, Anne Hathaway, who could pull off an upset worth expecting. Sorry Angelina Jolie and Melissa Leo, but I just don’t think either has a shot. Kate Winslet is definitely due and this was definitely a great year for her with Revolutionary Road and The Reader. But there is so much controversy going around with The Reader. Maybe it’s from the backlash thinking The Reader replaced The Dark Knight. Maybe it’s the denial of a Holocaust discussed in the film. Maybe it’s an attack on Harvey Weinstein. Whatever the reason, I don’t sense a lot of love for The Reader and this might hurt Winslet in the end. I sure hope she wins the Oscar because she certainly deserves it, but again will the Academy be awarded Winslet’s performance in The Reader, or giving her the recognition from the amazing works throughout her career? And if it’s the latter, is that fair?
And then there’s the usual free-for-all category, Best Supporting Actress. We have Penelope Cruz, Taraji P. Henson, Viola David, Amy Adams, and Marisa Tomei. I don’t think the performances of Taraji P. Henson and Marisa Tomei were that strong, and the two Doubt actresses should split voting… so that would leave Penelope Cruz as the winner, but this is certainly no guarantee. Viola Davis gave the most moving performance in her extremely limited screen-time and can easily pull off the upset.
Here are my final predictions:
Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Lead Actor: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Best Lead Actress: Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Best Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black (Milk)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Editing: Chris Dickens (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Best Costume Design: Catherine Martin (Australia)
Best Makeup: Greg Cannom (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Best Original Score: A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Original Song: Peter Gabriel, Thomas Newman “Down to Earth” (WALL-E)
Best Achievement in Sound: Tom Myers, Michael Semanick, Ben Burtt (WALL-E)
Best Sound Editing: Richard King (The Dark Knight)
Best Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Animated Feature: WALL-E
Best Foreign Language Film: Waltz with Bashir
Best Documentary: Man on Wire