It’s Oscar time boys and girls, that magical night when Hollywood’s best and brightest get all dressed up, try to avoid Joan Rivers, and sit in anicipation for the Academy of Arts and Sciences to give out little phallic golden statues for the best work in film over the past year. This year Ellen DeGeneres will host (yeah I know, but watch anyway) the night that never ends. We’ve got a preview of the nominees in the major categories and predictions for the winners so come on in, pull out your Oscar ballot, and set a spell.
Questions abound this year – Will Martin Scorsese finally win Best Director? With no real front runner, who will take home the prize for Best Picture? Are the acting categories as big a lock as they appear to be? Muldoon and I sit down to scour the field and make some brillant Oscar predictions (the brillance inherent in our picks shall not be any lessened if we are proved wrong).
Deserves a spot on the list – Oscar chose to play it safe and not take chances on several more original works such as Marie Antoinette and Thank You for Smoking. Getting a comedy on the list was hard enough, and animated films like Cars almost never earn best picture nominations, and you can forget any sci-fi epic earning a spot (unless it’s twelve hours long and directed by Peter Jackson).
Doesn’t belong – Of the group Babel troubles me. It’s a well made film but it’s also deeply flawed and the material used within could have made three or more better films with each story flushed out over an entire movie.
Thundarr sez – The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine were both on my top films of the year and The Queen is a fine film. Of the three Sunshine would be my pick.
Muldoon sez – I keep on hearing buzz that The Queen is going to come back from behind, but this contest is done, and the winner is Little Miss Sunshine. It’s not as polished as The Queen and not as much fun as The Departed, but I’ll be damned if it’s not likable when not lovable. Folks have adored the little indie that could, and on Sunday night it’s going to be an Oscar winner.
Who will win – With no clear favorite the field is wide open. If ever there was a year for a comedy to win it would be a year like this and choosing Little Miss Sunshine would be a nice way to celebrate the best of indie cinema. Still, you have to wonder if the Academy might prefer to use this opportunity to recognize Scorsese’s return to form or take a safer bet with The Queen. The winner? I’ll take 5/4 odds on The Departed in the closest race of the night, but if Scorsese loses Best Director all bets are off and the little yellow VW van may just drive off with the Oscar.
Deserves a spot on the list – Sofia Coppola for creating one of the most original and most unlikely films of the year in Marie Antoinette, and Jason Reitman for one of the best, and smartest, comdies in years, Thank You for Smoking. I’d also put Emilio Estevez on the list for his surprisingly adept direction in Bobby.
Doesn’t belong – Again here I’d bump Babel for the reasons mentioned above.
Thundarr sez – Although many like Greengrass’ United 93 it just left me cold. Just give it to Scorsese already.
Muldoon sez – Okay guys. Martin Scorsese should have won an Oscar a long time ago, but he shouldn’t win one this year. He probably will, but The Departed was never anything stunning, it’s nothing that blows you away. United 93, on the other hand, was a film that shattered preconceived notions on what a 9/11 movie could be. Greengrass pulled off an intensely delicate subject by just telling a story as plainly as he could. It’s as powerful as it is devastating, thanks to Greengrass’s shockingly subtle approach to the film. I haven’t seen anything this quiet and meaningful in a long time, and Greengrass is the only director in this category that actually accomplished something worth rewarding this year.
Who will win – This is Scorsese’s best chance to win in years and with a win at the DGA‘s he would appear to be the man to beat.
Deserves a spot on the list – Did you notice no performance from any of the best picture nominees is represented here? I don’t have a problem with DiCaprio’s nomination, but it should be for The Departed. And Aaron Eckhart is robbed by not earning a nomination for the performance of the year in Thank You for Smoking!
Doesn’t belong – Aside from the wrong DiCaprio nomination I’m not sure I like O’Toole being nominated for not being dead yet.
Thundarr sez – Of the list Gosling, Smith, or Whitaker would all seem deserving and cases for all three can easily be made. Of the three I’ll take Whitaker’s tour de force performance slightly ahead of the others.
Muldoon sez – It’s not to say that Forest Whitaker didn’t blow me away in The Last King of Scotland, it’s just that if you were to ask me who the best lead actor of the year was, I’d have to go with Ryan Gosling all the way. He’s the single most important force in Half Nelson as a character that you can spend decades debating – was he a good guy, was he a bad guy? Still, Whitaker’s performance is quite a feat itself, and I won’t be too bothered to hear his acceptance speech.
Who will win – Odds favor Forest Whitaker here to take home the award in his first nominated performance.
Deserves a spot on the list – Kirsten Dunst carried Marie Antoinette, a film with almost no plot, and without much help from the rest of the cast; it was a most unexpected and trancendent performance.
Doesn’t belong – Meryl Streep. Don’t get me wrong, I love her and the perfromance is quite good but it belongs firmly in the Supporting Actress category as the film is centered completey around Anne Hathaway‘s character. Dench was great but the peformance was little more than Oscar Bait for a so-so film.
Thundarr sez – Disqualifying Streep that really just leaves three performances, Cruz, Mirren, and Winslet. Winslet is good in Littile Children but the subdued peroformance probably isn’t enough to beat out either of these other two women. Of the two I’d pick Cruz who actually surprised me. Mirren was great in The Queen giving me no more and no less than I’d expected.
Muldoon sez – The Academy is going to get it right when they give Mirren the Oscar. This book was shut on this race a long time ago, Mirren achieves the pain of being forced to give into the demands of a bloodthirsty and bloody stupid public with ease, driving the message of the film.
Who will win – Mirren won this months ago.
Deserves a spot on the list – Ben Affleck‘s pitch-perfect performance from Hollywoodland, both Jack Nicholson and Alec Baldwin from The Departed, Freddy Rodriguez from Bobby, Steve Carrell and Paul Dano from Little Miss Sunshine, and where’s Michael Sheen for his terrific performance as Tony Blair in The Queen?
Doesn’t belong – Hounsou’s nomination is a real head-scratcher.
Thundarr sez – Haley’s performance is more than a little too dark to win (a nomination for such a role is darn good). Of the remaining, Murphy, Arkin, and Wahlberg, none seems to really stand-out. I’d choose Arkin just on the idea of Little Miss Sunshine winning as much love as it can for the night.
Muldoon sez – Jackie Earle Haley’s portrayal of a man whose life has been tainted by a charge of indecent exposure is both tragic and fucking creepy. Haley deserves the Oscar hands down for being able to frighten us more than Michael Myers ever did, but my spider sense is a-tingling, telling me that Alan Arkin may pull an upset on Eddie Murphy. I mean, come on, how was Norbit going to help the guy out at all? But what I’ve got to wonder is, where the hell was John C. Reilly‘s nomination for his surprisingly wild comedic turn as Cal Naughton, Jr. in Talladega Nights?
Who will win – The choice of actors seems to open the door wide for a Murphy win as other big names who might have caused trouble were left off the list.
Deserves a spot on the list – My two favorite performances from this category, Maggie Smith for Keeping Mum and Diane Lane for Hollywoodland, were both shut out.
Doesn’t belong – Sorry Idol fans, but I’d bump Hudson, who isn’t much of an actress, in a second to make way for Maggie Smith.
Thundarr sez – Dismissing Blanchett (see Juid Dench above), I’d go with Kikuchi in the best performance from, by far, the best storyline of Babel, with Bresslin as a close second.
Muldoon sez – This one’s a bit tricky. Everyone’s been saying Jennifer Hudson, but ever since Dreamgirls missed out on the top two categories, support has been sagging. This one could still go to Hudson, but we may find it heading towards Barraza for her supreme acting chops, or to Bresslin for her supreme adorable chops. Both of them break your heart, but will either have what it takes to take down Hudson and her goose-bump-inducing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going?”
Who will win – Hudson seems to be the hands-down favorite but this is the category Oscar likes to make surprise choices (remember Marisa Tomei?). Odds still favor Hudson (sadly) but someone else might just sneak it to steal the gold, Little Miss Breslin perhaps?
Deserves a spot on the list – Both Who Killed the Electric Car? and Shut Up & Sing (which was a surprise snub) deserve spots on the list.
Doesn’t belong – Neither My Country My Country nor Iraq in Fragments got any play out our way. Do they belong on the list? Who really knows?
Thundarr sez – An Inconvenient Truth seems like an unstoppable juggernaut (and deservingly so), but Delvier Us From Evil‘s inclusion on the list might make it a tighter race than some realize.
Muldoon sez – Okay, I have to admit that I’ve only seen the first two films in the category, but I’d have a hard time believing any of the others could match the power of Deliver Us From Evil, a disturbing look at the Catholic Priest scandals that were unjustly forgotten a few years back. It’s not just a film asking the Church to change, it’s a furious indictment leaving any viewer convinced that things have to change. An Inconvenient Truth will probably end up winning, but at least we’ll be able to say that Al Gore starred in an Oscar-Winning film.
Who will win – The former VP wins an election, and this time gets to keep the prize.
Deserves a spot on the list – Volver and The Science of Sleep (La Science des reves)
Doesn’t belong – Days of Glory and Water are both fine films, though not as good as the two I just mentioned. I haven’t seen The Lives of Others or After the Wedding.
Thundarr sez – Pan’s Labyrinth in one of the easiest choices of the night.
Muldoon sez – I outdid myself from the Best Documentary field by only seeing one of these films, (if it helps, I did see The Science of Sleep, which should have been nominated,) but I’m going to go with what the Academy is going to go with when I say that Pan’s Labyrinth was one fine film.
Who will win – Pan’s Labyrinth
For a full list of all nominees in all categories go the the Academy’s official page.