Who Will Win The Oscar? (Part One)

Every year, there are 3 days I look forward to more than any others:  my birthday, Christmas Day and the night The Academy Awards are handed out.  (Yes, I’m straight.)  The 79th edition of the annual cinematic lovefest arrives 3 weeks from today.  I can’t wait.
 
Since 1992, my family has had an Oscar pool.  I’m the current defending champion with two consecutive victories.  I’ve also won the most pools overall:  7.  No one has been able to win with a perfect score, however.  My father came close in 2004 when he got 19 out of 24 categories correct.  (It helped immensely that he was the only one in the family that year to predict a clean sweep for The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.)  Maybe this is the year somebody breaks that impressive statistic.
 
At any event, it’s time once again to unveil my predictions for this year’s Oscars.  
 
BEST PICTURE – THE DEPARTED
 
Martin Scorsese’s highly acclaimed remake of the 2004 Chinese film, Infernal Affairs, is the film to beat for this year’s top prize.  Why?  Let us count the reasons.
 
First, it was an enormous “audience picture”, as Scorsese himself would put it.  The two and a half hour crime drama, as of this writing, has accumulated almost 300 million worldwide, making it easily the most commercially successful nominee this year.  (In fact, it’s earned more money than all the other nominees put together.)  Reviews were overwhelmingly positive.  (It has a 93% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes.)  A number of critics groups have named it the Best Film Of The Year.  (Boston, Chicago, Florida, Las Vegas, Broadcast Critics, Southeastern Critics)  The National Board Of Review named it one of the Top 10 Movies Of 2006 and it took home the Best Picture prize at The Satellite Awards.  None of the other nominated films have received as many Best Film Awards as this movie.
 
Then, there’s the most important factor.  A Scorsese Picture is simply long overdue to win this prize.  In ceremony after ceremony, he has watched in silent anguish as other films have been awarded Best Picture Oscars which have left many movie fans and critics terminally perplexed.  Raging Bull and Goodfellas both lost to movies made by actors-turned-first-time-directors.  (Robert Redford’s Ordinary People in 1981 and Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves in 1991.)  Gangs Of New York lost to a musical.  (Chicago in 2003.)  And The Aviator was outvoted by a Clint Eastwood film.  (Million Dollar Baby in 2005.)  This year, Scorsese’s drought will come to an end.
 
As for his competition, you can count out Eastwood who’s already won this award twice.  (He was also victorious in 1993 for producing Unforgiven.)  Although his companion film to Flags From Our Fathers is the more highly regarded WW2 movie, his last victory in this category is too recent so Letters From Iwo Jima will be stiffed.  Although the cast of Little Miss Sunshine won for Best Ensemble Acting at this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, the acting equivalent of a Best Picture, I don’t see it pulling off an upset (although, that would be something). 
 
Babel, which premiered in Cannes last May and toured the festival circuit before being shipped to theatres, did win the Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Picture but that doesn’t mean anything.  (Last year, Brokeback Mountain won the same prize.  Crash won the Oscar.)  Plus, it didn’t generate the same kind of positive feedback as The Departed.  (It has a fresh rating of only 68%.)
 
That leaves The Queen which actually earned better reviews.  (A 98% fresh rating.)  But barring an astonishing surprise, the cast and crew will have to be satisfied solely with the nomination.
 
Any way you slice it, it’s Scorsese’s year. 
 
BEST DIRECTOR – MARTIN SCORSESE (THE DEPARTED)
 
I’m very surprised by this prediction.  Not too long ago, I emailed an old friend of mine to tell him that Scorsese would never win this trophy.  He was forever doomed to be just a multiple nominee, I told him.  (I’m paraphrasing.)
 
What’s changed my mind?  A number of things.
 
Scorsese recently won the Directors Guild Of America prize for Best Director, his first victory after 6 previous nominations.  As Roger Ebert will tell you, that’s a very strong reason to bet on the Italian-American master.  More often than not, with very few exceptions, whoever wins the DGA award goes on to win the Best Director Oscar.  (Ang Lee was the recepient of both awards last year for Brokeback Mountain.)
 
He’s also been cleaning up on the pre-Oscar awards circuit.  I’ve counted 12 Best Director Awards for The Departed on the Internet Movie Database and I bet there’s more to come.
 
Scorsese has previously been overlooked in the directing category at the Academy Awards 5 times.  He’s been previously nominated for directing Raging Bull, The Last Temptation Of Christ, Goodfellas, Gangs Of New York and The Aviator.  (Temptation was the only one not included as a nominee for Best Picture.)  Besides losing to Redford, Costner, and Eastwood, he’s also been denied by Roman Polanski (The Pianist) and Barry Levinson (Rain Man).  But this year is his year.
 
Eastwood already has two of these trophies, the most recent one for Million Dollar Baby, so he won’t win.  Paul Greengrass (United 93) and Stephen Frears (The Queen) don’t have a prayer.  And Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the director of Babel, is going to have sit this one out.
 
That leaves Scorsese, the terminal bridesmaid on the verge of becoming a blushing bride.  Expect a standing ovation for 5 minutes before he even speaks.
 
BEST ACTOR – FOREST WHITAKER (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND)
 
This one is a lock.  All the other nominated actors in this category can stay home and watch the show in their underwear for all I care.  Don’t even bother getting fitted for your tuxedos, guys.  It doesn’t matter.  None of them have any kind of hope of stealing this prize away from the highly respected Whitaker.
 
Whitaker plays the infamous Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, in this highly acclaimed film (an 89% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes).  Recently, he’s been busy winning award after award for his performance – Best Actor (Screen Actors Guild), Best Dramatic Actor (Golden Globes), Best Actor (Washington DC Film Critics), Best Actor (Southeastern Film Critics), Best Dramatic Actor (Satellite Awards), Best Actor (Online Film Critics), Best Actor (New York Film Critics), Best Actor (National Society Of Film Critics), Best Actor (National Board Of Review), Best Actor (Los Angeles Film Critics), Actor Of The Year (Hollywood Film Festival), Best Actor (Florida Film Critics), Best Actor (Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics), Best Actor (Chicago Film Critics), Best Actor (Broadcast Film Critics) and Best Actor (Boston Film Critics).
 
Dizzying, isn’t it?
 
Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith and Peter O’Toole are all previous nominees but they don’t have a hope in hell of winning.  Canadian Ryan Gosling, I’m sure, is happy just to receive his first nomination.  Fellas, your presence at the ceremony is not required.  Stay home.  You’ll be glad you did.
 
BEST ACTRESS – HELEN MIRREN (THE QUEEN)
 
The eternally sexy British siren has been wowing ’em with her highly regarded performance as Queen Elizabeth II.  Like Forest Whitaker, she’s been scooping up award after award for her work, a grand total of 21 separate prizes.  She’s won the SAG Award, a Golden Globe, a Satellite Award, and other Best Actress prizes from the following critics groups:  Boston, Broadcast, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Florida, Las Vegas, L.A., National Society, New York, Online, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Southeastern, Toronto and Washington, D.C.  If that weren’t enough, she’s also been honoured by The Venice Film Festival and The National Board Of Review.
 
Add it all up and it means Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet will have to smile, look pretty and pretend not to be upset when Reese Witherspoon calls out Helen Mirren’s name.  It shouldn’t be too difficult.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 5, 2007
12:09 a.m.
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Published in: on February 5, 2007 at 12:20 am  Leave a Comment  

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