Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oscarology: The Most Imprecise Science

Why is predicting winners and losers of Oscars so difficult in advance? It's almost impossible to predict the nominees without missing a few here and there. Part of the problem is that so many films aren't even out yet. Yes, Oscarologists are expected to predict five nominees and a winner in categories where several films are still post-production.

So forgive me if the following attempt is a crapshoot. Frankly, that would be par for the course.

The nominees are as chosen by The Envelope's Buzzmeter, with slight modifications where I deemed them necessary.

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Breakdown: Penn's the sure thing in this. Rourke was generating a lot of buzz early on, but it doesn't help that he is, um, an awful human being. (Not that Penn's any saint, either, but at least he didn't lie throughout his New York Times profile...) Langella's getting some traction for his bombastic performance as Richard Nixon. Pitt's barely hanging on to his footing in this category, as is DiCaprio. One of them will likely fall off the radar before the nominations. To who? My bet's on Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. But it's all a moot point, anyway. The Oscar should and will go to Penn.

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road

Breakdown: Winslet has a problem. She's too good in two movies. While this would never seem to be a negative, I'm afraid she's going to beat herself. Not only does she have Road, she also has The Reader. Pitifully, she is attempting to campaign in the Supporting Race for her Reader role, but she's got no case there. No, she'll have to choose which movie she wants the nod for, something she isn't doing right now. Still, with Streep getting mixed reviews (there's some Doubt she's as good as was expected) and Angelina Jolie falling off the radar once again (last year, for A Mighty Heart, this year for Changeling), there aren't many choices left. Leo is a wonder in River, and Thomas is a powerhouse, but I'm gonna go the road less traveled and say Hathaway should take home the Oscar gold. Who will win, though? Too close to call at this point.

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, Milk
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Breakdown: ...Do I really have to say anything? Ledger is the year's surest bet of all. However, I do want to note something strange. Patel, who is the lead in Slumdog, is being entered in Supporting categories, making him the male Winslet in The Reader. I'm afraid this will ultimately work against him, and his spot might go to either James Franco for Milk, or Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder. Ledger's one spoiler? Hoffman. The Academy loves him, so if anyone is going to take this away from the Joker, it's gonna be Hoffman's pedophile priest.

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Breakdown: This is a weird year in this category. After a ridiculously strong Supporting Actress category last year (Blanchett, Ryan, Dee, and Swinton, an ultimately undeserving winner), Oscarologists are having to pull random actresses from movies nominated in other categories (DeWitt, Tomei), all of whom do solid work, to fill spots. Right now, it looks like a two-woman race. Davis is a powerhouse in Doubt, and manages to "act Streep off the screen in only two scenes". The frontrunner, however, is Cruz. Personally, I loved Barcelona, and to see it get any awards recognition is great. I personally question Cruz's performance as Oscar-caliber, but it is a fantastic performance, and her chemistry with Javier Bardem is smoldering. Plus, it's status as a comedic performance is helpful in the Supporting race, because, like Jennifer Hudson two years ago, a nontraditional breakout performance can win easily. So safely bet on Cruz to win.

Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Burn After Reading
Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married
Nick Schenk, Gran Torino

Breakdown: Yet another great year for the Original Screenplay after Diablo Cody's much-deserved win last year for Juno. All of these presumptive nominees are deserving. Allen created a world outside of his much-loved New York that is his best work in years. Black and Lumet are both young breakthroughs with powerful scripts. Lumet, daughter of the legendary Sidney Lumet, crafted a wedding every member of the audience felt like a part of. Black broke barriers in writing the impossible script, after more polished and professional writers all failed. The Coens, longtime Academy favorites, wrote a whacked-out screenplay that made me laugh more than any other movie this year. Schenk's already racking up early awards, and his screenplay, though appearing to be nothing more than a "bigot finds his heart weepie", belies its depth and power. So what wins? Though Lumet really should take home the gold, Black is unbeatable this year.

Best Director
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Breakdown: What a boys' club. Though no one is more deserving than Nolan, I have a sickening feeling it's going to go to Fincher, who is, like Rourke, an awful human being. (Not kidding, either; he's already abusing the people working for him.) There is one chance for upset: Boyle. If you've noticed, Slumdog doesn't pop up in many categories, but is the frontrunner in the Best Picture race. This is, most certainly, due to Boyle's expert direction. So, even though it's probably a pipe dream, I'll pick Boyle to win.

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Revolutionary Road
Slumdog Millionaire

Breakdown: This is it. The big one. With just more than a month to go, this race is far more wide open than it should be. Possibilites not on my nominees list include WALL*E and The Dark Knight. So why the five above? The frontrunners are Slumdog and Button. Frost/Nixon is getting glowing reviews, as is Milk. Road rounds out the five for its overall appeal; however, it is by far the weakest of the bunch, and is susceptible to the two underdogs. So what wins? Too close to call, again, but as far as who should win, Slumdog takes it by a long shot.

So what do you think? Should The Dark Knight get that Best Picture nod? What about Ledger? Will sentimentality see him through? What will be the biggest snubs? Leave a comment either on Facebook or on Awkward is What We Aim For at!

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