Saturday, February 21, 2009

Final Oscar Predictions.

Given how "Slumdog" spoiled the fun of predicting who'd win many (if not most) categories, this year the possible upsets lie in the acting races and some of the technical awards which I refuse to believe will go the Danny Boyle flick (in recession times a sweep would be too indulgent).
After re-watching the movie the other day, I couldn't help but feel a tad disappointed at how people have failed to see beyond the energy of the film.
Like the newly appointed American president, who I think should stop appearing everywhere (he's a politician not a rock star...why was he in my "Vogue" last month?) the movie's optimism has blinded everyone and people who at some point were "thinkers" have succumbed to the most childish kind of joy and have failed to see how obvious its manipulation devices are.
I don't want to sound like a sourpuss, although it might be too late for that, but I worry about what the hangover of this optimistic drunkenness will be like.
Then again I have to remember, we're just talking Oscars here...

Best Picture

Will win: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Should win: "The Reader"
Should have been nominated: "WALL-E"

Sadly, this one is practically a lock.
So unless the entire Academy suddenly realizes that "Slumdog" will not fix the recession, cure any form of cancer or banish poverty from the world, there's no way this movie can lose this award.
Weird that the most successful film, in award terms, is such an unexpected, almost bizarre choice. Even though a lot has been made about the way the Academy snubbed "genre" films, Boyle's hit might count as genre, sorta, as it includes some Bollywood-isms into its Dickensian narrative (I have a whole international genre theory, a la "Crouching Tiger" that might've worked if the movie wasn't such a lock at this point).
If there was any justice Stephen Daldry's severely underrated "The Reader" would sneak into voters' minds and take the big prize if only for the way it's being treated and also because it's by far the best picture of the bunch. Those who condemn it as "the Holocaust movie that stole Batman's spot" are merely reflections of the film's greater message about how easily we cast judgment to benefit ourselves.

Best Director

Will win: Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Should win: Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"
Should have been nominated: Andrew Stanton, "WALL-E"

Boyle infuses his films with an energy that is nothing short of wondruous, which is why this award is well deserved...but not for this film! Especially when the man has delivered much better work previously. Still, arguing why he shouldn't win won't make him lose and this is the one award this film could never ever lose.
Ron Howard's nomination is an insult and David Fincher actually would be a worthy winner, since it's not his fault the screenplay for his film sucked so much, because he did prove his cold approach gives a special something to the epic genre.
I'd vote for Stephen Daldry in a heartbeat, who actually does deserve all his nominations and with "The Reader" proves he's truly brilliant at transferring intellectually challenging ideas into images. He may scream "stock director" to so many (Weinstein haters mostly) but isn't it true that people like Victor Fleming and Michael Curtiz were also heavily bossed by their producers? And see the masterpieces they delivered...

Best Actor

Will win: Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"
Should win: Rourke or Sean Penn, "Milk"
Should have been nominated: Leonardo DiCaprio, "Revolutionary Road"

If I ever wished for a tie at the Oscars it would be here. Bad boys Rourke and Penn deliver truly masterful performances in their respective films and if I'm leaning for Rourke is only because Penn won a few years ago, if the more deserving Bill Murray would've won that year, this would be a walk in the park for Penn, but I'm sure voters won't want to reward him again so soon (this rarely happens if your name doesn't rhyme with skank and you're in a Clint Eastwood movie) .
Especially not when they can vindicate Rourke, who nobody ever expected to resurface like this (even if he was the only good thin in "Sin City" a few years back), his work in this film goes beyond acting, which is why some people say he just played himself and might want to give the vote to Penn (again he doesn't just imitate Harvey Milk, he actually becomes this man, he's perfect!) but no, the Academy is rtaher corny most of the time and the ovation for Rourke would only be smaller in comparison to the other actor who will win in the Supporting category...

Best Actress

Will win: Kate Winslet, "The Reader"
Should win: Winslet
Should have been nominated: Kristin Scott Thomas, "I've Loved You So Long"

Best Actress and Supporting Actress were a complete mess until the Academy decided to remove Kate from one of the categories and upgrade the performance she'd been winning awards for in the other category. So this being "Kate Year" and all, there's no way she can lose this. It also helps, a lot, that she was just so perfect as Hanna Schmitz.
You leave the film without thinking of her as a Nazi, child abuser or criminal and this is all Winslet.
Anne Hathaway was amazing in "Rachel Getting Married" but the movie wasn't very loved by the Academy, Meryl Streep (who should win if only for the speech she will deliver) was incredible in "Doubt", but she's Streep, when isn't she incredible? And the film again wasn't really loved, but admired.
There's Jolie who like her man got into the race almost by default (their acting is so dull that they might actually play each other at some point) and Melissa Leo who is very likable, but whose movie wasn't really that good. Those upset rumors about her are almost ridiculous. So yeah Dustin Hoffman loves her, but everyone else loves Winslet and with her double whammy in this and the underrated "Revolutionary Road" should stop being bridesmaid once and for all.

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
Should win: Josh Brolin, "Milk"
Should have been nominated: Bill Irwin, "Rachel Getting Married"

Ledger started the buzz by dying the day last year's nominations were announced (and he was mentioned a lot by Daniel Day Lewis in every award show last year too).
He sealed it when the movie opened.
The Academy won't resist rewarding a posthumous award after decades of not doing it, even if Brolin's performance as Dan White is chilling and the best in the category.
At least they didn't nominate Dev Patel...

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Penélope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Should win: Cruz
Should have been nominated: Rosemarie DeWitt, "Rachel Getting Married"

Penélope Cruz gave the performance of the year in Woody Allen's ingenious, clever and sexy film about expatriates, threesomes and art and she's also won Best Supporting Actress awards from England and Spain's respective Academies (that never hurts huh Marion Cotillard?). Her María Elena is archetypal Woody (and he's gotten two actresses three wins in this category alone) and her line delivery is perfection, but Cruz goes beyond the Allen-esque and gives her character a more sordid background, that María Elena breaks your heart as much as she makes you laugh and even arouses you is testament to an actress at the top of her game. Now that Winslet has stopped getting her awards, Penélope should be the lock (the buzz started at Cannes last May and rightfully returned to her)...but there's talk of an upset from one of the "Doubt" women, especially Viola Davis who gives a superb performance in one single scene and even when this category loves limited roles, Davis hasn't been making too much noise (which might be sign of a sneak attack...).
This however is perhaps the best category, in terms of quality, out of the acting races and honestly almost any of the nominees would make a fantastic winner (except maybe Taraji P. Henson) with Penélope being the highlight of the night.

-Best Original Screenplay
Will win: Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"
Should win: Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, "WALL-E"
Should have been nominated: Woody Allen, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

This is perhaps the best shot at Oscar for "Milk" and even if the screenplay was flawed (the movie is mostly about ensemble and delivery) Black will get to kiss a man, if he's dating someone, before he goes up the podium to receive Oscar.
Too bad that animated films are rarely taken into consideration for the "big" awards, otherwise "WALL-E"'s magnificent storyline and even greater execution would nab this award.
Overall it's a great category, even if it's rather odd: a Mike "Improvisation" Leigh screenplay over the actress who made the film? A comedic thriller about two killers? No Woody for his greatest film in years?

-Best Adapted Screenplay
Will win: Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Should win: David Hare, "The Reader"
Should have been nominated: Justin Haythe, "Revolutionary Road"

If "Slumdog" doesn't deserve an award it's for its screenplay, which is so full of plot holes, implausibilities and plain under-writing that you feel its whole "it's written" theme was the screenwriter's method of self defense.
This should be David Hare's who with "The Reader" proves he's the go-to-guy for translating "impossible" books into movies.
He should've won this award for his layered, miraculous work in "The Hours" (a book that I never thought could be turned into a movie, much less a good one, just like when I read "The Reader").

-Best Animated Feature
Will win: "WALL-E"
Should win: "WALL-E"
Should have been nominated: "Waltz With Bashir"

"WALL-E" is so good that should also win Best Picture! Period.

-Best Foreign Language Film
Will win: "Waltz With Bashir"
Should win: "Revanche"
Should have been nominated: "Gomorrah"

The Academy hates this category and each year they try their best to nominate the worst offerings from other countries, perhaps in order to drive us to horrid blockbusters during the summer.
This year they left out the Italian masterpiece that is "Gomorrah", but also left a couple worthy candidates (I've yet to see them all, who has seen them all for that matter?) in the running, but Ari Folman's animated documentary will be a worthy choice, this award should go to Austria's best contender yet (that it won last year is a sorta sad thing, especially when they had this coming) which is a film so good that it's a surprise that they even nominated it.

-Best Documentary Feature
Will win: "Man on Wire"
Should win: "Man on Wire"
Should have been nominated: "Standard Operating Procedure"

Like "Slumdog" in Best Picture this one is a lock, it's won every single thing.
If, they went for something else here, we might be in for a big upset at the end of the night.

-Best Cinematography
Will win: Claudio Miranda, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Should win: Roger Deakins & Chris Menges, "The Reader"
Should have been nominated: Mandy Walker, "Australia"

The Academy likes nominating handheld stuff here ("City of God", "The Constant Gardener" and the brutally robbed "Children of Men") but it rarely, if ever, wins, so you have to wonder if the whole Academy is sure of what each category means. Do all of them know that cinematography includes camera moves and not just lighting?
Apparently, from their choices, they don't, which is why I don't see them rewarding "Slumdog" here. Think of "Benjamin Button" as this year's "Pan's Labyrinth". Not that it wouldn't be a worthy winner either way, Miranda's work with Fincher is spectacular in the best sense of the word and since cinematography screams "pretty" to Academy voters, they will prefer evoking the image of a ballet dancing Cate Blanchett, over a kid covered in shit.

-Best Art Direction
Will win: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Should win: "Changeling"
Should have been nominated: "Australia"

The longer the film, the more the art direction, the easier the choice.
Expect "Benjamin" to rule in the tech categories, where it does shine.

-Best Costume Design
Will win: "The Duchess"
Should win: "Australia"
Should have been nominated: "Sex and the City"

Usually understood as "Most Costumes" this category always favors period pieces with huge dresses, which is why the last two years alone prove they don't give a damn for how much the costumes contribute to the film as long as they look difficult to wear.

-Best Editing
Will win: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Should win: "Milk"
Should have been nominated: "WALL-E"

The less you can see in each frame usually means the better the editing, at least for Academy members who also relate this award to the eventual Best Picture winner and will easily favor "Slumdog" here.

-Best Music, Original Score
Will win: A.R Rahman, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Should win: Alexandre Desplat, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Should have been nominated: Nico Muhly, "The Reader"

It's pretty much a "Slumdog" world...and the score is energetic and very good, but...
If there was any justice, Alexandre Desplat would be collecting his third Oscar this year, arguably one of the greatest living composers his elegant pieces often end up adding an unexpected layer of classic sophistication to all the movies that feature them.
Can you imagine Scarlett Johansson being as seductive in "Girl With a Pearl Earring" without Desplat's themes? Do you see "The Queen" being so full of intrigue without his picaresque, slightly baroque score? And we shouldn't even go into the ones he's been snubbed for...
His work in "Benjamin Button" might be one of his finest yet and like the good part of the film (Fincher's direction and Miranda's tricky camera work) it's completely detached, haunting and effective.

-Best Music, Original Song
Will win: "Down to Earth" from "WALL-E"
Should win: "Down to Earth" from "WALL-E"
Should have been nominated: "All Dressed in Love" from "Sex and the City"

I see this category like this: on one side you have two "Slumdog" candidates and usually these cancel each other out right? Just see the two last years to prove this theory.
Plus it's in an unknown language (although this matters little to these people) and most won't know one song's title apart from the other.
But, it's "Slumdog" so it gets tricky...
But OK, then there's also the "WALL-E" song which not only is understandable, and gorgeous, but also talks about the planet and being green and what not (which got Melissa Etheridge her Oscar two years ago...).
There's also the fact that by rewarding this song they'd be giving out Oscars to the incomparable Peter Gabriel and the brilliant Thomas Newman who believe it or not has never won an Oscar.
They love getting overdues out of the way (see Randy Newman who, like his cousin, won unexpectedly for a Pixar movie) and if they can get two for one, it's even better so expect this one to trump Bollywood and the inevitable Dev Patel dance step.

-Best Makeup
Will win: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Should win: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Should have been nominated: N/A

Omg! It's Brad Pitt looking like he's twenty!
Omg! It's Cate Blanchett looking like she's a hundred!
How much was CGI, how much was makeup is something voters won't even stop to wonder about, giving this film one of its most deserved awards.

-Best Visual Effects
Will win: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Should win: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Should have been nominated: N/A

See above.

-Best Sound Mixing
Will win: "The Dark Knight"
Should win: "WALL-E"
Should have been nominated: "Iron Man"

They love loud movies and musicals here.
We've no musicals, except for the "Slumdog" credits sequence, so expect Batman, like Jason Bourne and King Kong to take this category by surprise.

-Best Sound Editing
Will win: "WALL-E"
Should win: "WALL-E"
Should have been nominated: N/A

Ben Burtt is a genius and "WALL-E" is perhaps his greatest achievement yet.
If voters find out what the difference between Sound Editing and Mixing is, both awards should go to "WALL-E".
Call this wishful thinking and see as "Slumdog" probably gets this...

-Best Documentary Short
Will win: "Smile Pinki"

-Best Short Film, Live Action
Will win: "On the Line"

-Best Short Film, Animated
Will win: "Presto"

As you can see I've got "Slumdog" for a "paltry" five wins on Oscar night and I honestly call this wishful thinking as most people are predicting a sweep (some might even suggest a tie in Best Song so that they can win all ten awards) but I honestly don't see that happening.
The Academy hasn't been in a sweep mood lately, "The Lord of the Rings" doesn't count, and in harsh economic times it'd be too indulgent not to "spread the wealth".
Whatever happens in the end, the show itself is promising to be something more exciting than we've seen in Academy history, so between Hugh, the fashion and whatever your drink of choice for your party will be, we can all at least try to have a good time.

The Academy Awards air February 22nd on ABC.


Sally Belle said...

I agree with practically everything you said.

This Slumdog thing has me disoriented!

Matt said...

nice predictions... you're pretty similar to me, especially in the big categories... but i think that one reason for a films greatness is fine. many of chaplin's stuff is great for very simple and basic reasons... though i think there is more than energy to slumdog... but hope you enjoy the oscars!