Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Oscar Predictions

Hello, and welcome to an Oscar Predictions Special from A Mighty Fine Blog and shefsteel.com. In anticipation of the 80th Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday, I've looked through the list of nominees and come up with a list of who I think will win, which will be presented in an, hopefully, humourous and light-hearted manner.

I had hoped to do this as a filmed piece to be put on YouTube but a combination of bad timing weather-wise, lack of time and just plain laziness has conspired against me. Plus the opening scene had me climbing a mountain to cry in anguish at the lack of recognition for Zodiac, so my ambitions may have outstripped my means on that particular occasion.

Any way, hope you enjoy the article.

Oh, and not a single fucking nomination for Zodiac? What the hell, Hollywood? And only two nominations for The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford? Well, you got some of the nominations right, but you're all on notice.

First, let's go through the technical (read: unimportant) awards:

Best Short Film, Live Action

Om natten (2007): Christian E. Christiansen, Louise Vesth
Supplente, Il (2006): Andrea Jublin
Mozart des pickpockets, Le (2006): Philippe Pollet-Villard
Tanghi argentini (2006): Guy Thys, Anja Daelemans
The Tonto Woman (2007): Daniel Barber, Matthew Brown

I've not had a chance to see any of these films so I'm going to pick the one with the best name, as the Oscar voters themselves no doubt also do, so I'll call it for Le Mozart des Pickpockets.

Short Film, Animated

Même les pigeons vont au paradis (2007): Samuel Tourneux, Vanesse Simon
I Met the Walrus (2007): Josh Raskin
Madame Tutli-Putli (2007): Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski
Moya lyubov (2006): Aleksandr Petrov
Peter & the Wolf (2006): Suzie Templeton, Hugh Welchman

Again, not seen any so I'll say I Met The Walrus will win. Cool name and a great visual image.

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

Freeheld (2007): Cynthia Wade, Vanessa Roth
Corona, La (2008): Amanda Micheli, Isabel Vega
Salim Baba (2008): Tim Sternberg, Francisco Bello
Sari's Mother (2006): James Longley

C'mon, get to something I've seen! Er...La Corona? It's a purdy name.

Best Documentary, Features

No End in Sight (2007): Charles Ferguson, Audrey Marrs
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (2007): Richard Robbins
Sicko (2007): Michael Moore, Meghan O'Hara
Taxi to the Dark Side (2007): Alex Gibney, Eva Orner
War Dance (2007): Andrea Nix, Sean Fine

Michael Moore released a fairly uncontroversial film this year, the medical system expose Sicko, which could win because it's Michael Moore but might not since it didn't set the world alight like his previous films, though it is his worthiest and most assured film to date. If he doesn't win, the dark horse for this category will be the harrowing Taxi To the Dark Side.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Fälscher, Die (2007)(Austria)
Beaufort (2007)(Israel)
Mongol (2007)(Kazakhstan)
Katyn (2007)(Poland)
12 (2007)(Russia)

Das Falscher, since it's almost unheard of for Oscar not to give something to a movie even tangentially related to the Holocaust.

Best Animated Film of the Year

Persepolis (2007): Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
Ratatouille (2007): Brad Bird
Surf's Up (2007): Ash Brannon, Chris Buck

On the one hand, Persepolis has been almost universally hailed as a visionary adaptation of the equally groundbreaking graphic novel, but Ratatouille has the bigger Oscar campaign budget and Disney/Pixar has really been pushing for it. Chalk up a second Oscar for Brad Bird because chances are more voters will have seen it.

Best Achievement In Visual Effects

The Golden Compass (2007): Michael L. Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris, Trevor Wood
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007): John Knoll, Hal T. Hickel, Charlie Gibson, John Frazier
Transformers (2007): Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl, John Frazier

C'mon, the Golden Compass? The effects in that were pretty ropey. It wasn't all awful looking but some of it really was. Pirates has had its chance, so it'll go to Transformers; those robots were pretty damn impressive. I mean, what with the epilepsy-inducing editing and Michael Bay's ''style'' you couldn't see them most of the time, but those promotional stills were really something.

Best Achievement In Sound Editing

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007): Karen M. Baker, Per Hallberg
No Country for Old Men (2007): Skip Lievsay
Ratatouille (2007): Randy Thom, Michael Silvers
There Will Be Blood (2007): Matthew Wood
Transformers (2007): Mike Hopkins, Ethan Van der Ryn

The first contest between No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood and it both could have a claim to this award. Both films use sound to great effect, though in strikingly opposing ways, No Country is all about silence and There Will Be Blood is all about noise, but I reckon this will go to The Bourne Ultimatum, which used sound to very great effect.

Best Achievement In Sound

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007): Scott Millan, David Parker, Kirk Francis
No Country for Old Men (2007): Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, Peter F. Kurland
Ratatouille (2007): Randy Thom, Michael Semanick, Doc Kane
3:10 to Yuma (2007): Paul Massey, David Giammarco, Jim Stuebe
Transformers (2007): Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, Peter J. Devlin

The difference between Sound and Sound Editing being? I'd say this one will go to No Country For Old Men, seeing as it hasn't got to compete with There Will Be Blood for this one.

Best Achievement In Music Written for Motion Picture, Original Song

August Rush (2007): Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack, Tevin Thomas("Raise It Up")
Enchanted (2007): Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz("Happy Working Song")
Enchanted (2007): Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz("So Close")
Enchanted (2007): Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz("That's How You Know")
Once (2006): Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová(“Falling Slowly” )

I'm giving this one to Once. Now, I love Enchanted, it was one of the single most enjoyable films I've seen this year and it really reminded me of how it felt when I watched Beauty and The Beast for the first time as a child. However, Once was a huge critical hit in America and Enchanted's three songs will probably cancel each other out. A win for Once would also allow me to sit there and say ''Fuck, the guy from The Frames has an Oscar...''

If August Rush wins I will punch Freddie Highmore in his cherubic face.

Best Achievement In Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Atonement (2007): Dario Marianelli
The Kite Runner (2007): Alberto Iglesias
Michael Clayton (2007): James Newton Howard
Ratatouille (2007): Michael Giacchino
3:10 to Yuma (2007): Marco Beltrami

Since the best scores of the year were in Into The Wild and There Will Be Blood, both of which have been ruled ineligible by moronic Academy rules, I couldn't care less who wins. I'll give it to Atonement because it was very lush and pretty in an ever so pleasing and likable way, though I did like Ratatouille's jazz/French hybrid score.

Best Achievement In Makeup

Môme, La (2007): Didier Lavergne, Jan Archibald
Norbit (2007): Rick Baker, Kazuhiro Tsuji
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007): Ve Neill, Martin Samuel

I'd dearly love Norbit to win since that event may just cause the universe to implode. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh; the best picture win for Crash a few years back showed that the Academy loves racism, or something, and that could really benefit Murphy in this category. Pirates of The Caribbean is more visual effects than makeup so I reckon this will go to La Môme (released as La Vie En Rose over here) for its subtle yet startling use of makeup to transform Marion Cotillard into Edith Piaf and age her so incredibly over the span of the film.

Best Achievement In Costume Design

Across the Universe (2007): Albert Wolsky
Atonement (2007): Jacqueline Durran
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007): Alexandra Byrne
Môme, La (2007): Marit Allen
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): Colleen Atwood

Some genuinely tough choices here as there were a lot of films that had some wonderful costumes in them. Elizabeth: The Golden Age will probably win since, although it's pretty damn awful, it did have some very stylish costumes.

Best Achievement In Art Direction

American Gangster (2007): Arthur Max, Beth A. Rubino
Atonement (2007): Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
The Golden Compass (2007): Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo
There Will Be Blood (2007): Jack Fisk, Jim Erickson

For sheer beauty and attention to detail it has to be Sweeney Todd, which was so incredibly stylised.

Best Achievement in Editing

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007): Christopher Rouse
Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007): Juliette Welfling
Into the Wild (2007): Jay Cassidy
No Country for Old Men (2007): Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
There Will Be Blood (2007): Dylan Tichenor

The Bourne Ultimatum for sheer volume.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007): Roger Deakins
Atonement (2007): Seamus McGarvey
No Country for Old Men (2007): Roger Deakins
Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007): Janusz Kaminski
There Will Be Blood (2007): Robert Elswit

It's really between Roger Deakins for No Country For Old Men and Roger Deakins for The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford. I'd like him to win for Jesse James since it seems like the only Oscar it has a chance of winning but he'll probably win for No Country For Old Men.

Right, that's the ones no one, apart from the nominees, cares about done with, now we're into the biggies:

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Atonement (2007): Christopher Hampton
Away from Her (2006): Sarah Polley
Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007): Ronald Harwood
No Country for Old Men (2007): Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
There Will Be Blood (2007): Paul Thomas Anderson

I've always found this category a bit odd since, depending on what criteria you apply, pretty much any of these nominees could win. If you try to judge a screenplay based on how well it recreates the feel of a book or short story, then No Country For Old Men would easily win since it feels almost as if the Coen Brothers used the novel as the shooting script, rather than rewriting it into screenplay form. However, if you were to judge based on how well the screenplay transferred the story from one form to another, then Atonement would win as Christopher Hampton managed to take a book which was, at best, difficult to recreate cinematically and did it with aplomb. Then again, if we're talking about 'difficult' translations, then surely The Diving Bell and the Butterfly will take home the gold as Ronald Harwood managed to take a memoir that pretty much everyone thought was unfilmable and made it into one of the most poignant films of the year. Then you've got There Will Be Blood, which is so different to the original novel that it surely qualifies based on how much effort must have gone into rewriting it and the fact that P.T. Anderson stamped his own personality so firmly onto the story.

Based on its recent win at the BAFTAs, as well as the sheer bravery of its adaptation, I'd think that The Diving Bell And The Butterfly has the best chance. Though if either There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men manages a sweep on the night then they'll almost certainly take this.

Who Will Win: The Diving Bell and The Butterfly.

Who Should Win: Any of them, really.

Dark Horse: Atonement.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Juno (2007): Diablo Cody
Lars and the Real Girl (2007): Nancy Oliver
Michael Clayton (2007): Tony Gilroy
Ratatouille (2007): Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco
The Savages (2007): Tamara Jenkins

The buzz this year has all been about Juno and its screenwriter, Diablo Cody, whose life story alone seems worthy of some sort of award (stripper-turned-blogger-turned-screenwriter) and her screenplay for Juno, which marries rapid-fire dialogue with great story structure and characters, looks like the front runner. However, we shouldn't dismiss Michael Clayton, a film which seemed to come from nowhere to get a clutch of nominations. Clayton's more heavyweight script and murky morals may make it more of an Academy-pleaser, even if Cody's script is more of a crowd-pleaser. Then again, we could see a real upset and have Ratatouille take home an Oscar, so who really knows?

Who Will Win: Juno.

Who Should Win: Any of them, really.

Dark Horse: Ratatouille.

Best Achievement In Directing

Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood (2007)
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for No Country for Old Men (2007)
Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton (2007)
Jason Reitman for Juno (2007)
Julian Schnabel for Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (2007)

In a fairly strong field this year it's hard not to think that the Coen Brothers will win; after the critical backlash against them for The Ladykillers, they've come back with certainly their most mature film to date, arguably their best (I don't think they'll ever top Raising Arizona but No Country is pretty good too) and even though Paul Thomas Anderson delivered one of the most audacious and spellbinding films of the year with There Will Be Blood, I'd say that his star may have outshone him on this one and that Oscar voters may be too hypnotised by Daniel Day-Lewis to notice Anderson's bravura direction.

Who Will Win: The Coen Brothers.

Who Should Win: It should be a tie between the Coens and P.T. Anderson for making such bloody great films.

Dark Horse: Julian Schnabel. Much like Best Adapted Screenplay, the technical demands of making The Diving Bell and The Butterfly could really go in Schnabel's favour.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There. (2007)
Ruby Dee for American Gangster (2007)
Saoirse Ronan for Atonement (2007)
Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton (2007)

The buzz for the last few months seemed to suggest that this was a dead cert for Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There, but that seems to have cooled of late so perhaps Tilda Swinton or Amy Ryan might sneak in there. I'm still betting that Blanchett will take home Oscar number two, especially since she's been more or less ruled out of the Best Actress category by stronger competition.

Who Will Win: Cate Blanchett.

Who Should Win: Saoirse Ronan.

Dark Horse: Tilda Swinton or Amy Ryan.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men (2007)
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild (2007)
Tom Wilkinson for Michael Clayton (2007)

I'd personally love it if Casey Affleck could win for Jesse James, but none of the other nominations have quite the magnetic, terrifying presence of Bardem's Anton Chigurh. He also went the extra mile by having one of the most ridiculous yet horrific hairdos in cinema history, which has got to count for something.

Who Wil Win: Javier Bardem.

Who Should Win: Javier Bardem.

Dark Horse: Casey Affleck.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
Julie Christie for Away from Her (2006)
Marion Cotillard for Môme, La (2007)
Laura Linney for The Savages (2007)
Ellen Page for Juno (2007)

Despite Away From Her disappearing almost without trace at the box office when it was first released, Julie Christie's performance seems to have astounded enough people for her to become the frontrunner for the Oscar. In fact, she seems to be unstoppable as she has two strong Oscar-friendly factors in her favour; her character suffers from a disability and she's a British woman over 60. Admittedly she has already won an Oscar, for her role in 1965's Darling, but that was the 60s; everyone was off their faces on drugs and did silly things like giving young British actresses Oscars. Nowadays you can't get an Oscar until you've gone to at least one W.I. meeting (sorry Winslet fans, looks like you've got another 30 years to wait until she gets her due).

However, whatever her momentum may be, Christie's performance is not the best of the year, that honour belongs to Marion Cotillard in La Môme . As Edith Piaf, Cotillard changed herself so completely, both physically and in terms of her voice and mannerisms, that it was almost impossible to think that the same actress was playing Piaf at the various stages of her life. Her's is one of the all time great performances and it would an injustice of Titanic proportions if she didn't get the recognition that she deserves.

Who will win: Julie Christie.

Who should win: Marion Cotillard.

Dark Horse: Ellen Page; it's notoriously difficult for comedic performances to win Oscars but Juno is this year's little film that could, so there's a chance she could take home gold this year.

Best Performance by an Actor In A Leading Role

George Clooney for Michael Clayton (2007)
Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood (2007)
Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah (2007)
Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises (2007)

Daniel Day-Lewis. I'm sorry to spoil the surprise but it just is going to be him.

Oh well, best consider the other possibilities.

This category is surprisingly free of the sort of performances that usually can be guaranteed to win an Oscar; there's no real people and no one suffering from a kind of cinematically pleasing disability. Although, the propensity with which Sweeney Todd breaks out into song could be construed as a mental illness, making Johnny Depp's chances significantly higher. That and the murdering.

However, as well as those two better know awards factors, we should also take into account one of the sure-fire Oscar indicators; naked male wrestling. Historically, Ken Russell's 1968 adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's Women In Love and 2006's Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan both featured prominent naked wrestling sequences, suggesting that Viggo Mortenson's turn in Eastern Promises may be in with a shot. However, Borat received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, though the absence of naked wrestling in the Borat TV series makes it seem as if it should have been in Original Screenplay, and didn't win, and Women In Love only won one Oscar for Glenda Jackson, who wasn't even involved in the aforementioned wrestling. So even if naked wrestling is a sure-fire ticket to a nomination, it doesn't necessarily lead to glory.

So, Daniel Day-Lewis...Well, the man's something of a god. His turn in There Will Be Blood is truly electrifying and he really is a force of nature in that film. In fact, his campaign up until the ceremony itself has been something of a force of nature as well. Let me explain; in the run up to the Oscars, Daniel Day-Lewis has been nominated for, and won, 18 awards for his role in the film. The only awards he hasn't won for it are ones he hasn't been nominated for yet.

Now, I'm not saying that it's impossible that someone other than Daniel Day-Lewis could win the Oscar for Best Actor, stranger things have happened (Chicago? Chi-fucking-cago?) but what I am saying is that if he were to lose, the sheer number of jaws dropping in the Kodak Theatre would create enough force to cause California to break away from the rest of America and float out into the Pacific ocean.

Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis.

Who should win: Daniel Day-Lewis.

Dark Horse: Anyone who, through accident of birth, isn't Daniel Day-Lewis.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Atonement (2007): Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster
Juno (2007): Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick, Russell Smith
Michael Clayton (2007): Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox, Kerry Orent
No Country for Old Men (2007): Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin
There Will Be Blood (2007): Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Lupi, JoAnne Sellar

Conventional wisdom has it that Best Picture and Best Director will go together, so my earlier prediction that the Coen Brothers will win suggests that No Country For Old Men, violent and nihilistic though it may be, will pick up the big prize on the night. Though Juno might take it due to its broader appeal, it seems that No Country For Old Men will be taking home the Best Picture award which, assuming the rest of the night unfolds as I think it could, would mean a bumper night for the Coen Brothers.

Who will win: No Country For Old Men.

Who should win: They're all pretty good films so I can't say who should win.

Dark Horse: Juno. Again, it's the little movie that could and it's the most commercially successful of those nominated so there's a lot of momentum behind it.

Of course, I could be entirely wrong about all of this, but that's just the way it goes.