Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Race for the Prize: Final Oscar Predictions

"Whatcha got ain't nothin new. This country's hard on people, you can't stop what's coming, it ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

We've nearly made it to the end of yet another excruciating Oscar watching year, with front runners upended (Atonement), dark horses gaining ground (There Will Be Blood), and more than a couple juggernauts (No Country for Old Men, Daniel Day-Lewis) steamrolling over their competition. Here's how I think things will go down in the Shrine Auditorium come February 24.

Best Picture

Obviously No Country for Old Men is the odds-on-favorite to take home the gold, having demolished the precursor awards season unlike any film since American Beauty back in 1999. With that being said, a Best Picture/Best Director split doesn't seem entirely out of the question in my mind. If the Crash/Brokeback Mountain fiasco of a couple years back taught us anything, it should be not to get too comfortable with the front runner. I see Juno being a possible threat here, along with Michael Clayton, the former because it grossed a boatload of money and because it is the only feel-good movie in the bunch; the latter because it is the non-confrontational, across-the-board respected film...and of course, it has George Clooney. There Will Be Blood fits the Oscar profile for most of its runtime save the last 30 minutes, however it is a cold and divisive film, much like Babel was last year (I won't make that same mistake twice). Love it or hate it films rarely win the top prize. Atonement pulls up the rear simply because it is missing that allusive Best Director nomination. I fully expect No Country to triumph however, as the film has just gotten to the point where it is too big to ignore.

Will Win: No Country for Old Men
Should Win: There Will Be Blood
Should Have Been Nominated: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Best Director

Whatever happens with Best Picture will have no effect on the outcome of this race. The Coen Brothers are long overdue for the first directing Oscar, and since this is arguably their finest work to date, what better way to honor them. Surprisingly, the lone-director nominee, Julian Schnabel, provides the biggest threat here, as the Academy clearly loved The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but a win without a Best Picture nomination would be rather surprising. Paul Thomas Anderson sits as the dark horse I believe, putting together a true "directors" picture with There Will Be Blood, but like I said before, not everyone could get on board with it's unrelenting brutality. Everyone else in this category is just along for the ride.

Will Win: Joel & Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Should Win: Joel & Ethan Coen -
Should Have Been Nominated: Andrew Dominik - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Best Actor

Come Sunday, Daniel Day-Lewis drinks everybody's milkshake. Period.

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Should Have Been Nominated: Ryan Gosling - Lars and the Real Girl

Best Actress

And here we have the night's first toss up. We are down to Julie Christie vs. Marion Cotillard vs. Ellen Page at the moment. I would say Cotillard could win this if the film wasn't in French and if the film was any good at all, since this is an amazing, transformative performance that Oscar loves to honor. Plus, she's young and hot and Oscar loves that more than anything. On the other side of the coin however, there is Christie, the respected veteran who won her only Oscar over 40 years ago. She barely works anymore and her work in Away from Her was heartbreaking. She's won a lion share of the precursors as well, no doubt due to the fact that Lionsgate has barraged voters with screeners. But this race still somehow reeks of the 2004 Best Actor race, wherein the two front runners, Daniel Day-Lewis & Jack Nicholson, were upended by Adrian Brody. In this case, Brody could be played by the delightful Ellen Page, with breakout role in a Best Picture nominee. I'll be rooting for her, but I wouldn't bet against Christie at this point.

Will Win: Julie Christie - Away from Her
Should Win: Ellen Page - Juno; or Laura Linney - The Savages
Should Have Been Nominated: Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart

Best Supporting Actor

Here's another major category lock. There is no way Javier Bardem doesn't win this award running away. Although I feel that Hal Holbrook gave the year's best supporting performance in Into the Wild, there is just no denying the iconic status that Bardem's Anton Chigurh has already risen to. We are talking Hannibal Lector-sized villainy here. Plus, he is a respected foreign actor who was previously nominated and many feel he deserves an award at this point regardless.

Will Win: Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Should Win: Hal Holbrook - Into the Wild
Should Have Been Nominated - Max Von Sydow - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Supporting Actress

And here we are. The toughest category of the night. I've gone over this before and have continued to re-think all the possibilities in my head, yet I haven't gotten very far. Anyone besides Saoirse Ronan seems plausible here, and honestly, if she won I wouldn't be overly shocked. But let's break it down again: No cared about I'm Not There (except me of course); No one saw Gone Baby Gone besides critics; Ruby Dee is on screen less than 5 minutes in American Gangster; Ronan is 13 years old and represents Atonement's only acting nomination. That leaves Tilda Swinton - a respected character actress, who is deliciously evil in Michael Clayton. It's a large part as well and I can't see Michael Clayton going home completely empty handed.

Will Win: Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton
Should Win: Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Should Have Been Nominated: Marissa Tomei - Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Best Original Screenplay

Juno has won everything up to this point, and deservedly so IMO, but then again, Michael Clayton seems poised to take home at least one Oscar, right? Well, maybe. This award almost always goes to the indie-hit/quirky comedy (Lost in Translation/Eternal Sunshine/Little Miss Sunshine). Predicting anything else would be risky at this point. Plus, I can't see how all the old men in the Academy could pass up the opportunity to award a former stripper.

Will Win: Diablo Cody - Juno
Should Win: Diablo Cody - Juno
Should Have Been Nominated: Kelley Masterson - Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Best Adapted Screenplay

No Country has been my sight-unseen prediction since the early fall, and I can't seem to force myself to look elsewhere in this category. It is a strong group of contenders however, with Ronald Harwood's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly script in the upset seat right now. Many feel that No Country won't sweep, and if so, this seems like the logical place to reward another well-liked film, such as Diving Bell or There Will Be Blood. The funny thing about No Country is that the problem most detractors have with the film - the 3rd act - is the most well written part of the film. As strong as the script to Diving Bell is though, it is foreign and it strikes me more as a director's film, same as Blood, which isn't exactly a writer's movie in any sense. Recall, there is no dialogue for the first 15 minutes or so of the film (there is that iconic "milkshake" line however, so who knows). And Atonement and Away from Her are lucky to even be nominated over something like Zodiac or Into the Wild, so don't get to excited for their prospects.

Will Win: Joel & Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Should Win: Joel & Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Should Have Been Nominated: James Vanderbilt - Zodiac

Documentary Feature

If Michael Moore hadn't won already for Bowling for Columbine, I'd say he'd win this in a walk for Sicko. Instead, I'm going with the most acclaimed film of the bunch, No End in Sight. This group is notorious for going their own way however, so it is anything but a sure thing.

Will Win: No End in Sight
Should Win: Sicko
Should Have Been Nominated: The King of Kong

Foreign Language Film

This category is a mess and the branch as a whole loses more and more respect every year when they neglect critically lauded films in favor a middling work. The Counterfeiters, being the highest profile film here, is how I'm predicting. It really is anyone's guess though.

Will Win: The Counterfeiters
Should Have Been Nominated: 4 Months, 3 weeks, 2 Days

Animated Feature

Ratatouille really has no competition here. It is the most widely seen of the three, plus it has that all important screenplay nomination.

Will Win: Ratatouille
Should Win: Persepolis

Art Direction

Atonement was a visual feast no doubt, while Sweeney Todd was a rather glum affair, albeit meticulously designed. There Will Be Blood was eye-popping though. That oil derrick alone should go a long way towards corralling this award.

Will Win: There Will Be Blood
Should Win: There Will Be Blood

Best Cinematography

This is easily the most exciting tech category of the night. Roger Deakins should easily take this for The Assassination of Jesse James. That is, if he wasn't also nominated for No Country. He is sadly going to split his own vote and it will be a travesty to behold. That leaves 3 other superbly shot films though. The Diving Bell is certainly the most innovative of the nominees, but it isn't exactly pretty, which is how this award is usually judged. That leaves Atonement vs. There Will Be Blood. That huge tracking shot in Atonement was amazing no doubt, but TWBB took home the guild award, so that's where I'll lay my bet for now.

Will Win: There Will Be Blood
Should Win: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Costume Design

Also a bit of a toss-up between Atonement and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. As most have been saying however, that green dress in Atonement is the year's most instantly recognizable costume, and since the entire Academy votes on this category, that's exactly what I feel most people will remember and mark down on their ballots.

Will Win: Atonement
Should Win: Sweeney Todd

Film Editing

This award almost always goes to the Best Pic winner, or at least a nominee. This year that would be No Country. That is, when it isn't going against a juggernaut type editing extravaganza. This year that would be The Bourne Ultimatum. It could go either way, but Bourne's ACE win last weekend has pushed me into it's corner. Plus, how many Oscars can the Coen Brother's seriously be expected to win in one night? And I bet the Academy frowns on the whole Roderick Jaynes pseudonym.

Will Win: The Bourne Ultimatum
Should Win: No Country for Old Men


Norbit? Hah.
Pirates? Been there, done that.
La Vie En Rose? Sure why not.

Will Win: La Vie En Rose
Should Win: ???

Original Score

The two best scores of the year weren't nominated, one because of idiotic rules (There Will Be Blood) and one because of the Academy's stupidity (Assassination), which leaves four forgettable nominees and an oddly original work by a veteran. Atonement skates to an Oscar here.

Will Win: Atonement
Should Win: Atonement

Original Song

The 3 Enchanted nominees cancel each other out just like Dreamgirls did last year, and August Rush falls by the way side, leaving Once to easily grab the gold.

Will Win: "Falling Slowly" - Once
Should Win: "Falling Slowly" - Once

Sound Editing & Sound Mixing

I can't remember the last time the sound categories were so competitive. There is going to be that sentimental vote for the Transformers team to take home both sound Oscars, seeing as how they have 32 combined previous nominations without a win. The No Country sound is really something to behold however. In a tight, tight race I'd give the edge to Transformers because it is big, bold and LOUD, whereas No Country is subtle and intricate, two things that don't translate well when people go to vote for sound. I could see these two categories splitting however, with Transformers taking Mixing and No Country taking editing (or vise versa I suppose). It's a shot in the dark though. Watch the Bourne Ultimatum with both now.

Will Win: Transformers
Should Win: No Country for Old Men

Visual Effects

Uhhhhh.....Transformers. Who else is nominated?

Will Win: Transformers
Should Win: Transformers


Anonymous said...

solid picks, although i think Sweeney Todd takes art direction in the end. also i think the academy will group around Jesse James for cinematography, even though it seems like vote splitting could occur.

Anonymous said...

followed your link from Awards Daily (i'm logged in as San FranCinema there)... i think you've got the most succinct and convincing argument for tilda swinton winning that I've heard so far!