Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oscar Predictions

Welcome again to A Mighty Fine Blog's Oscars prediction special. I've been a bit quiet over the last week or so as I've been mulling over the nominees, weighing the odds and generally computing in an attempt to determine who I think should take those coveted statues home with them this year, who will take them home, and who the dark horse is that might upset things.

That's enough prelude, let's leap straight in with, er...

Best Short Film, Live Action

Auf der Strecke (2007): Reto Caffi
Manon sur le bitume (2007): Elizabeth Marre, Olivier Pont
New Boy (2007): Steph Green, Tamara Anghie
Grisen (2008): Tivi Magnusson, Dorthe Warnø Høgh
Spielzeugland (2007): Jochen Alexander Freydank

As with last year, I haven't seen any of them. Going on name alone my pick is Grisen.

Best Short Film, Animated

Maison en petits cubes, La (2008): Kunio Katô
Ubornaya istoriya - lyubovnaya istoriya (2007): Konstantin Bronzit
Oktapodi (2007): Emud Mokhberi, Thierry Marchand
Presto (2008): Doug Sweetland
This Way Up (2008): Alan Smith, Adam Foulkes

Presto Presto Presto Presto Presto Presto Presto. It's a joyous little short that preceded a joyous little film.

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

The Conscience of Nhem En (2008): Steven Okazaki
The Final Inch (2009): Irene Taylor Brodsky, Tom Grant
Smile Pinki (2008): Megan Mylan
The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306 (2008): Adam Pertofsky, Margaret Hyde

No idea. Hmm... Smile Pinki. Again, the name sounds good.

Best Documentary, Features

The Betrayal - Nerakhoon (2008): Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath
Encounters at the End of the World (2007): Werner Herzog, Henry Kaiser
The Garden (2008/I): Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Man on Wire (2008): James Marsh, Simon Chinn
Trouble the Water (2008): Tia Lessin, Carl Deal

Man On Wire. As much as I'd like Herzog to get an Oscar, James Marsh's film is a truly spectacular documentary that represents a truly original take on an astounding story.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (2008)(Germany)
Entre les murs (2008)(France)
Revanche (2008)(Austria)
Okuribito (2008)(Japan)
Vals Im Bashir (2008)(Israel)

Interesting one, this, since when it was released it seemed like Waltz With Bashir could have been nominated for Best Foreign Language, Best Animated or Best Documentary. I'm glad that it's been placed here since it has the best chance of winning.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Bolt (2008): Chris Williams, Byron Howard
Kung Fu Panda (2008): John Stevenson, Mark Osborne
WALL·E (2008): Andrew Stanton

It's got to be WALL-E, hasn't it? Especially against that line-up. It's Pixar's most idiosyncratic and haunting film to date and it still made $500 million dollars worldwide. That's why I love them, that's why they should get the Oscar.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron
The Dark Knight (2008): Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Timothy Webber, Paul J. Franklin
Iron Man (2008): John Nelson, Ben Snow, Daniel Sudick, Shane Mahan

Even though I'm not a fan of Benjamin Button by any stretch of the imagination, it is undeniably one of the most impressive films of the year purely in technical terms, which is why I expect it to win this one and clean up the technical side of things.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

The Dark Knight (2008): Richard King
Iron Man (2008): Frank E. Eulner, Christopher Boyes
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Tom Sayers
WALL·E (2008): Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood
Wanted (2008): Wylie Stateman

Last year, The Bourne Ultimatum cleaned up at the sound awards because of sheer volume. I imagine that the same may happen this year and, despite the terrific sound design on both WALL-E and Slumdog Millionaire, this will belong to The Dark Knight.

Best Achievement in Sound

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, Mark Weingarten
The Dark Knight (2008): Ed Novick, Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty
WALL·E (2008): Tom Myers, Michael Semanick, Ben Burtt
Wanted (2008): Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño, Petr Forejt

I'm tempted to give this to The Dark Knight again, but I think WALL-E may take this one. It'll be between them, anyway.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Slumdog Millionaire (2008): A.R. Rahman, Sampooran Singh Gulzar("Jai Ho")
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): A.R. Rahman, Maya Arulpragasam("O Saya")
WALL·E (2008): Peter Gabriel, Thomas Newman("Down to Earth")

Usually in a situation like this, the film that has multiple nominations loses out because the vote gets split (see Enchanted vs. Once last year) but I'm going to stick my neck out and say that A.R. Rahman and Sampooran Singh Gulzar will be walking home with it for 'Jai Ho', which soundtracks one of the best credits sequences I've seen in a long time. I'd like Peter Gabriel to win, though, since it would put serious pressure on the remaining members of Genesis to get their act together and get composing.

Of course, the song that should be winning this is 'The Wrestler' by Bruce Springsteen, but that was snubbed. I am actually incensed at that snub; it was a fantastic song.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Alexandre Desplat
Defiance (2008): James Newton Howard
Milk (2008/I): Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): A.R. Rahman
WALL·E (2008): Thomas Newman

It's going to go to Rahman again. His score for Slumdog beautifully combines traditions of both Indian and Western popular music, creating a fresh and exciting soundtrack to a fresh and exciting film.

Best Achievement in Makeup

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Greg Cannom
The Dark Knight (2008): John Caglione Jr., Conor O'Sullivan
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008): Mike Elizalde, Thomas Floutz

Again, I'm not in Benjamin Button's corner but you can't fault the makeup in it. I'd like Hellboy 2 to win, though, since the makeup and effects in that film are brilliant.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Australia (2008): Catherine Martin
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Jacqueline West
The Duchess (2008): Michael O'Connor
Milk (2008/I): Danny Glicker
Revolutionary Road (2008): Albert Wolsky

I want Australia to win this since I really loved that film, but I suspect that Benjamin Button will pick this one up too, like the awards vacuum that it is.

Best Achievement in Art Direction

Changeling (2008): James J. Murakami, Gary Fettis
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo
The Dark Knight (2008): Nathan Crowley, Peter Lando
The Duchess (2008): Michael Carlin, Rebecca Alleway
Revolutionary Road (2008): Kristi Zea, Debra Schutt

My heart wants Changeling to, not only because of how wonderfully made it was but because one of the nominees shares a surname with a favourite author of mine, but I'm going to have to side with Benjamin Button again. Nice to see The Duchess getting a nod here and there, though.

Best Achievement in Editing

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter
The Dark Knight (2008): Lee Smith
Frost/Nixon (2008): Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill
Milk (2008/I): Elliot Graham
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Chris Dickens

Here is where I think the tide will turn and Slumdog will triumph. Though Benjamin Button, like David Fincher's previous film Zodiac, is brilliantly edited and makes light of an ungainly narrative, I do think that Slumdog has the advantage here.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Changeling (2008): Tom Stern
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Claudio Miranda
The Dark Knight (2008): Wally Pfister
The Reader (2008): Roger Deakins, Chris Menges
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Anthony Dod Mantle

Tough. Of the categories in which they are competing against each other, this is the hardest to call for either Slumdog or Benjamin Button. My gut says that Benjamin Button will because every shot of that film is gorgeous, but Anthony Dod Mantle did something really extraordinary when he made those slums seem magical. Umm...

Benjamin Button.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Eric Roth, Robin Swicord
Doubt (2008/I): John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon (2008): Peter Morgan
The Reader (2008): David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Simon Beaufoy

Well, here we have three books versus two plays so I'll deal with the plays first. Both Doubt and Frost/Nixon have been adapted into films by their original playwrights, but of the two I'd say that Frost/Nixon has a better chance since Peter Morgan made the transition seamlessly and made his story cinematic without also making it gimmicky. Doubt is much clunkier and, despite the strength of the source material, does not fare as well in the transformation. Of the books, Slumdog and The Reader are quite faithful whereas Benjamin Button sees the screenwriters taking a fable about youth being wasted on the young and turning it into a bloated, overblown melodrama. Also, as Roger Ebert put it, Eric Roth already won an Oscar for this material when he wrote Forrest Gump. As such, I say that this will go to Slumdog for being a sleek, exciting film.

Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire

Who Should Win: Slumdog Millionaire or Frost/Nixon

Dark Horse: Doubt

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Frozen River (2008): Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky (2008): Mike Leigh
In Bruges (2008): Martin McDonagh
Milk (2008/I): Dustin Lance Black
WALL·E (2008): Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Jim Reardon

Oh, how I'd love for In Bruges to win this one. Martin McDonagh, already an Oscar winner for his brilliant short film, Six Shooter, really delivered with his foul-mouthed, yet morally complex film about hitmen in the sleepy Belgian tourist spot that is Bruges. Milk, despite not being a masterpiece, does have a great script and WALL-E is just wonderful, but I can't help but think that the lack of dialogue may turn voters against it. Plus, Pixar have routinely flirted with this award but never managed to consummate it, so historically the odds seem weighted against them, but this could be their year.

Who Will Win: Probably Milk. Or WALL-E.

Who Should Win: In Bruges

Dark Horse: Frozen River

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams for Doubt (2008/I)
Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Viola Davis for Doubt (2008/I)
Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler (2008)

I dearly want Marisa Tomei to win this since I feel bad that she has been a joke in Hollywood for some time. The joke goes that when Jack Palance read her name in 1992, giving her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny, he did it as a joke and everyone went along with it. Since then, though, Tomei has proved herself to be amongst the best character actresses in Hollywood, notching up fine performances in In The Bedroom and Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, nabbing an Oscar nom for the former. She's really the heart (and tits and ass) of The Wrestler, and I think that she deserves it more than the others, all of whom I like very much. However, it seems that Penelope Cruz may be cruising to victory here, which I'm sort of okay with since she is good in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but I'd have been much happier if she had won a few years ago for Volver.

Who Will Win: Penelope Cruz

Who Should Win: MARISA TOMEI!

Dark Horse: Taraji P. Henson

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Josh Brolin for Milk (2008/I)
Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder (2008)
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt (2008/I)
Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight (2008)
Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road (2008)

In the same way that Daniel-Day Lewis was a done-deal last year, this year it can't be anyone other than Heath Ledger. The others were all good (Josh Brolin, in particular, put in one of the year's best performances) but Ledger is the stand out from that pack and his performance as The Joker really has made him an icon.

Who Will Win: The guy who wanted to kill the Batman.

Who Should Win: Clowney McGee.

Dark Horse: None. I suppose if any of them decide to kill themselves before Sunday then they'd increase their chances, but they'd still lose and would have to wait until next year to get in the In Memoriam film.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Angelina Jolie for Changeling (2008)
Melissa Leo for Frozen River (2008)
Meryl Streep for Doubt (2008/I)
Kate Winslet for The Reader (2008)

It's going to be Kate Winslet, isn't it? I'm hoping for Angelina Jolie to win for her breathtaking turn in Changeling, or even Anne Hathaway for her great turn in the otherwise excruciating Rachel Getting Married, but it's going to be Kate bleedin' Winslet.

Now, let me explain, I have no problem with Kate Winslet, she's one of my favourite actresses, but I don't think that her performance in The Reader is the one that she should get her Oscar for. It's an ever so slightly above average film that has some interesting ideas in it but ultimately bails out on them for an interminable ending. It's also yet another example of how an alright film can get nominated just by being about The Holocaust (Sophie's Choice, Life is Beautiful, The Counterfeiters etc).

Who Will Win: Kate Winslet

Who Should Win: Angelina Jolie

Dark Horse: Anne Hathaway

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Richard Jenkins for The Visitor (2007/I)
Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon (2008)
Sean Penn for Milk (2008/I)
Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler (2008)

Nice to see Richard Jenkins get a nod. He was always one of my favourite things in Six Feet Under and, along with Brad Pitt, one of the few good things about Burn After Reading. I think that this will definitely go to Mickey Rourke because Hollywood loves a comeback and his has been the most triumphant of the year. Some people, most notably Roger Ebert, seem to think that Sean Penn will triumph but I'm confident that the Academy will recognise the brilliance of Rourke's performance. Frank Langella could be in with a shot but he's only really half of what makes Frost/Nixon so good and Brad Pitt is good for the first half an hour of Benjamin Button but quickly falls into the tried and tested lazy performance that he has built a career on.

Who Will Win: Mickey Rourke

Who Should Win: Mickey Rourke

Dark Horse: Frank Langella

Best Achievement in Directing

Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Stephen Daldry for The Reader (2008)
David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon (2008)
Gus Van Sant for Milk (2008/I)

It all comes down to these last two categories. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button versus Slumdog Millionaire. David Fincher versus Danny Boyle. Both men have great and interesting bodies of work behind them but only one can triumph on the night, and it'll by Boyle. Fincher's work on his film is terrific and shows what a brilliant director he has become but it isn't as good as Zodiac, which should have been nominated for a slew of awards last year, and as such I think that the award should go to the director whose best work is on display and that is, without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, Danny Boyle.

Who Will Win: Danny Boyle

Who Should Win: Danny Boyle

Dark Horse: Stephen Daldry

Best Motion Picture of the Year

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Ceán Chaffin, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall
Frost/Nixon (2008): Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Eric Fellner
Milk (2008/I): Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks
The Reader (2008): Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Donna Gigliotti, Redmond Morris
Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Christian Colson

No long prose this time. Slumdog Millionaire will walk away with the Oscar for Best Picture on Sunday night. Why? Because it's a big crowd-pleaser that is not dumb or crass, it's an intelligent film that is not dull or pretentious, and it's a romance that is not sappy or mawkish. It's a film that really affected me, seems to have struck a cord with audiences and, judging by it's continued success both here and in the States, continues to strike a cord with more people as time goes on. It's marvelous and they'd be mad not to acknowledge it.

Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire

Who Should Win: Slumdog Millionaire

Dark Horse: Frost/Nixon