Monday, January 21, 2008

Oscar Nominees Prediction

The Oscar nominees will be announced tomorrow. Whether the show itself will go on is still unclear. The writers strike has made for an interesting awards season, reducing the Golden Globes from a lavish red carpet event to a press conference. Does that reduce its impact on the Oscars or underscore that it doesn't have as much impact as some would like to believe? Here are my predictions based on research, history, and gut feelings:

Best Picture
  • Into the Wild
  • Juno
  • Michael Clayton
  • No Country for Old Men
  • There Will Be Blood
It's a tough race for best picture this year, with very few front runners. Looking at the above list, the only film I feel I can say for certain will appear is No Country for Old Men, the year's most decorated movie, which makes it the frontrunner to win. There Will Be Blood was a dark horse for awhile, but its buzz has been growing, collecting its share of accolades too. Both films were nominated by the Producers Guild of America (PGA), and important best picture barometer, along with Michael Clayton and Juno, which is looking more and more like this year's Little Miss Sunshine. Juno took a bit of a hit by not winning the Globe for comedy/musical, but given its buzz and box office (it's the only indie during the "Oscar quarter" that really made any money), I think it still looks good. It's the last slot of course that's the hardest. I would love love love to have put Atonement in here. Despite its Globe win--and every Globe drama winner for the last 30 years has been a best picture nominee--the other evidence against, no PGA, no Writers Guild (WGA), no Actors Guild (SAG), is still too strong to ignore. Think of it like last year's Dreamgirls--a film a lot of people liked and thought looked Oscar-worthy, but too few loved to give it enough support for a nod. With that aside, another strong contender is The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was nominated by PGA and DGA, and won the director's globe. It is, however, a foreign language film, and a best picture nomination for such is fairly rare (recent ones include last year's Letters From Iwo Jima and 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Sweeney Todd, which won the Globe for comedy/musical, could also be a contender, but I see it getting nods more for technical categories. American Gangster at one time looked strong, but has failed to achieve much notice of late. 3:10 to Yuma could be a real spoiler, but I don't see it happening. I think the last slot will go to Into the Wild. The Oscars love actor-turned-director success stories (Dances With Wolves, Unforgiven, Braveheart, Million Dollar Baby, etc.), and Sean Pean is a much-loved actor. It has that feel of being an essentially American movie, uplifting despite its sad ending, and SAG loved it, giving it a cast nod plus nods for three actors. That the actors are the biggest branch of the academy should be enough to push this into the race over Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Best Director
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
  • Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
  • Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
  • Sean Penn, Into the Wild
  • Julian Schnabel, Diving Bell and the Butterfly
I'm going with DGA all the way here, the best prognosticator for this award there is. The Coens, Anderson, Schnabel, and Penn all look really good, with Gilroy being the least probable. That makes Juno this year's Best Picture nominee without a director nod for Jason Reitman, a fate that befell Little Miss Sunshine last year. If Atonement does manage to pull off a best picture nod, then Joe Wright could be in here too. Other longshots include Tim Burton for Sweeney Todd and Ridley Scott for American Gangster, as well as a sentimental pick for Sidney Lumet for Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

Best Actor
  • George Clooney, Michael Clayton
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
  • Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
  • Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild
  • Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
Daniel Day-Lewis and George Clooney look the sure things here, and SAG went a long way in clarifying this race, honoring Emile Hirsch and Viggo Mortensen. SAG also nominated Ryan Gosling for Lars and the Real Girl, but I'm betting he gets passed over for Johnny Depp's late-blooming Sweeney Todd. Depp is a Hollywood favorite, and he's great in the macabre musical. Long shots include Denzel Washington for American Gangster, James McAvoy for Atonement, and Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah, the last of which I would love to see in this race, but probably won't. How come no one ever mentions Josh Brolin for No Country for Old Men?

Best Actress
  • Amy Adams, Enchanted
  • Julie Christie, Away from Her
  • Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
  • Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart
  • Ellen Page, Juno
Last year this race was so completely obvious to make it boring, so it's nice to see there's some competition this year. Marion Cotillard, Julie Christie, and Ellen Page look like locks right now. Angelina Jolie looks really strong too, despite not being very interesting, IMO. It's the last spot here that's really tough, and I've seen little consensus among various sources. SAG honored the above 4 plus Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth - the Golden Age, but that film flopped, which could hurt her chances. I would love to see Keira Knightley here, but I'm afraid the lack of Atonement support will shut her out. EW predicts Laura Linney for The Savages, but I've seen little support elsewhere for that, so I kind of doubt it. Helena Bonham Carter was great in Sweeney Todd, but with that film not getting tremendous buzz, I think the support there will be for Depp. I'm going out on a limb and saying it will be Amy Adams, for her comic fish-out-of-water turn in Enchanted that was endearing and very very funny.

Best Supporting Actor
  • Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
  • Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
  • Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
Javier Bardem is the strong frontrunner, and Casey Affleck and Hal Holbrook look like locks too. Tom Wilkinson also should be in there, leaving only one spot that's really up for grabs. Philip Seymour Hoffman is an Academy favorite, so I think he'll get it, but Paul Dano could be a spoiler with late-building buzz for There Will Be Blood. Tommy Lee Jones is a long shot at this point for No Country for Old Men, as is John Travolta for Hairspray.

Best Supporting Actress
  • Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
  • Jennifer Garner, Juno
  • Catherine Keener, Into the Wild
  • Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
  • Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
Cate Blanchett may be iffy in the actress race, but she's the frontrunner in the supporting category for her Bob Dylan portrayal in I'm Not There. Amy Ryan and Tilda Swinton look like locks too. The last two spots are fairly open though. SAG went with Catherine Keener, and given my prediction that Into the Wild will do well, I stuck her in. The other SAG nominee was Ruby Dee for American Gangster, who made a big impact in American Gangster, but with a very very small role (less than 5 min screen time). The three actresses who portrayed Briony Tallis in Atonement could be in the running, Saoirse Ronan (young Briony), Vanessa Redgrave (old Briony), and Romola Garai (young adult Briony). I'm going with my gut and say Jennifer Garner for the lost slot, who should surprising range as the controlling yet sympathetic yuppie in Juno.

Adapted Screenplay
  • Atonement
  • Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Into the Wild
  • No Country for Old Men
  • There Will Be Blood
I'm going with WGA here with the exception of Atonement. How can you ignore the achievement of successfully adapting Ian McEwan's layered epic novel? I think it will get the hand over WGA's final pick, Zodiac. Charlie Wilson's War and American Gangster could be also be contenders, but I don't see much hope for The Kite Runner.

Original Screenplay

Knocked Up
Lars and the Real Girl
Michael Clayton
The Savages

With most of the big dramas this year being adaptations, the original screenplay is an opportunity for comedies to shine. Juno, which will probably win this, leads the pack, along with sure bets The Savages and Lars and the Real Girl. I expect popular Knocked Up could even get in, over more indie choices like Waitress. Some pundits say Ratatouille will be nominated. While it was a cute movie, was it really that original of a story, the rat thing aside?

Animated Film
  • Persepolis
  • Ratatouille
  • The Simpsons
Ratatouille and The Simpsons were major hits, but Bee Movie was a flop, so I'm hoping French Persepolis (which looks really cool) manages to snag a spot here, given that it won't be a foreign film contender (see below).

Foreign Film


Few American film goers see foreign films, but those who do would probably say they would expect to see these films in this list: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Persepolis, La Vie en Rose, The Orphanage, The Kite Runner, or City of Men. Will they? No! None of these movies made the cut to the semi-final round of 9 films from which the final 5 will be chosen. Some of these, like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, were never even in contention. It's a bizarre category.

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