Oscar Picks (Part One)

It’s been an annual tradition of this website since its inception nearly two years ago.  We’re less than two weeks away from the 80th Annual Academy Awards and you know what that means.  That’s right.  It’s time to present our predictions for this year’s crop of nominees.
Who will win the golden naked man named Oscar and who will develop a nasty heroin habit the minute they lose?  Let’s find out by going through each of the 24 categories one by one.
Most years, this is an utterly predictable category.  But since Crash upset Brokeback Mountain in 2006 and The Departed surprised many (not me) with its triumph last year, the most important honour of the night has recently become the most exciting.  This year, four critically acclaimed dramas duke it out with a comedy blockbuster.
There’s Atonement, based on the novel by Ian McEwan.  A teenager’s misunderstanding leads to a false accusation in this modest grossing British feature.  Michael Clayton has George Clooney playing a “fixer”, an attorney specializing in bailing out shady corporations, during a crucial week of his life.  There Will Be Blood is about a dastardly oilman in the late 1800s.  Juno is a romantic comedy about a pregnant 16-year-old.  And No Country For Old Men, based on the book by Cormac McCarthy, involves missing drug money and a ruthless serial killer.
We can eliminate Atonement right away.  Although the academy loves to reward period UK productions, it’s not getting much attention at the moment which is a bad sign.  Michael Clayton won’t win for the same reason.  Ditto There Will Be Blood.
That leaves Juno and No Country For Old Men.  The former is the biggest grossing nominee this year.  (It recently passed the 100 million mark.)  But comedies routinely get screwed over on Oscar night and that tradition will continue February 24th.  There’s also been a bit of a backlash happening, as well, which Roger Ebert’s Movie Answer Man column has noted.  Besides, The Coen Brothers are due.  Fargo lost in this category eleven years ago.  (It was beaten by The English Patient.)  Furthermore, No Country For Old Men has been winning numerous Best Picture honours (Boston Film Critics, Broadcast Film Critics, Central Ohio Film Critics, Chicago Film Critics, Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics, Florida Film Critics, Las Vegas Film Critics, National Board Of Review, New York Film Critics, Online Film Critics, The Producers Guild Of America, Phoenix Film Critics, San Diego Film Critics, Satellite Award, Southeastern Film Criitcs, Toronto Film Critics, Washington D.C. Film Critics, Screen Actors Guild (Ensemble Acting)) and has the momentum on its side.  Finally, it’s the best reviewed nominee (94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes compared to Juno’s 93%).  Juno could be a spoiler but I seriously doubt it.  No Country For Old Men will take it.
Three previous winners, a three-time nominee and Aragorn are competing in the Best Actor In A Leading Role category this year.  George Clooney plays the title role in Michael Clayton.  Daniel Day-Lewis plays another bad dude with a great moustache in There Will Be Blood.  Johnny Depp sings and slices in Tim Burton’s adaptation of the dark musical, Sweeney Todd.  Tommy Lee Jones is trying to solve the mystery of his soldier son In The Valley Of Elah.  And Viggo Mortensen, the star of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, is a Russian mobster in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises.
Count out Clooney who won The Best Supporting Actor Oscar two years ago playing a fat, bearded guy in Syriana.  Tommy Lee Jones won in the same category in 1994 playing Harrison Ford’s worthy nemesis in The Fugitive.  The academy is not aching to give this cranky old sod another trophy.  Mortensen will have to be content with his nomination.
That leaves Depp, who was previously nominated for his first portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates Of The Caribbean:  The Curse Of The Black Pearl) and Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie (Finding Neverland), and Day-Lewis, who won in this category almost 20 years ago for his highly regarded performance in My Left Foot.  The latter was the favourite five years ago, thanks to his brilliant work in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York, but Adrien Brody (The Pianist), the only nominee that year who didn’t already have an Oscar, pulled an upset.  (His other nomination was for In The Name Of The Father.  He played one of the wrongfully convicted Guildford Four.)
Depp hasn’t won any major prizes for Sweeney Todd.  (The bowling trophy better known as The Golden Globe doesn’t count.)  Day-Lewis, on the other hand, has been cleaning up.  He’s won a BAFTA (British Oscar), a SAG award, and Best Actor honours from the following film critics’ associations:  Broadcast, Central Ohio, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Florida, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, National Society, New York, Phoenix, San Diego and Southeastern.  (And yes, he, too, won a bowling trophy.)
Consider this a make-good for 2003.
A mix of new and familiar faces make up the shortlist of this year’s leading actress nominees.  Cate Blanchett reprises her role of Elizabeth I in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.  Julie Christie (Shampoo) plays a woman slowly slipping away in the Canadian-made Away From Her.  Marion Cotillard is Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose.  Perennial nominee Laura Linney squabbles with brother Philip Seymour Hoffman over their sick father in The Savages.  And Canadian beauty Ellen Page is the pregnant teenager, Juno.
Blanchett was previously nominated for playing the legendary British monarch in the superb 1998 movie, Elizabeth.  (She lost to Gwenyth Paltrow.  What a mistake that was.)  She won in 2005 for Best Supporting Actress portraying Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator.  Considering how unloved The Golden Age was by critics her nomination was a surprise.  She won’t have to prepare an acceptance speech, though.
The stunning French actress Marion Cotillard should worry more about what to wear on February 24th rather than thinking of something memorable to say on stage.  She doesn’t have a prayer.  Besides, she’s already won numerous awards for playing Piaf including a BAFTA award.  Linney has previously been acknowledged for her work in You Can Count On Me and Kinsey, one of the best films of the decade which was unfairly maligned at the time of its theatrical release.  (She played Alfred Kinsey’s long suffering wife.)  As good as she’s been in films like Kinsey, Primal Fear, Mystic River and the underrated Congo, I suspect the academy will reward her some time in the future.
This one’s between the ageless Christie and Kitty Pryde.  The former plays a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s and the latter is a wisecracking pregnant teen.  A tough one to call considering the amount of buzz both performances have received.  This is Page’s first nomination and Christie’s fourth (she was previously singled out for Afterglow and McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and won this category in 1966 for her work in the film, Darling).  Will the long respected veteran win for the second time or is the academy thinking of honouring the newcomer?  Give the edge to Christie.  She’s already won numerous critics’ prizes for this performance and more importantly, she won the SAG Award.  Furthermore, the academy is made up of a lot of geezers who relate more to older characters than young whipper snappers. 
Page could pull an upset but Christie has more respect.  The Oscar is hers.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
12:44 a.m. 
Published in: on February 12, 2008 at 12:44 am  Leave a Comment  

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