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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Our complete Oscar predictions, even 'Documentary Short'

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The 2009 Academy Awards may have the most predictable Oscar slate in recent memory: most of the likely winners look like they'll carry their categories in a walk. But upsets happen every year, and the most surprising turn of events would be if nothing surprising happened. (By the way, did we mention that we'll be Liveblogging the Oscars broadcast on Sunday night? We did? Just checking.) At any rate, here's my complete list of predictions in every categories. And they're my final answers, Anil Kapoor.

Best Picture: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader , Slumdog Millionaire

Prediction: Benjamin Button received the most nominations and has earned the most money at the box office, Milk has the greatest political cachet, but Slumdog Millionaire has the most momentum, having virtually swept the various Guild awards. Plus the movie actually leaves the audience feeling good, which can’t hurt at times like these.

Best Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Stephen Daldry (The Reader), David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon), Gus Van Sant (Milk)

Prediction: Milk’s Gus Van Sant has a previous Oscar nomination and seems the most likely to spoil the win for Danny Boyle (especially if Sean Penn loses Best Actor). Slumdog has such visual energy and brio that it feels very much like a “director’s picture,” and Boyle won the Director’s Guild Award, too.

Best Actor: Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Sean Penn (Milk), Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Prediction: The evening’s tightest race comes down between two eminently deserving “bad boys.” Milk’s Sean Penn offers a deeply-felt, nearly unrecognizable change of pace performance, while Mickey Rourke mines his own life experience while embracing a pumped-up physical transformation. Penn could serve as a rallying point for Prop 8 opponents, but he already has a Best Actor Oscar, so I suspect Rourke’s comeback story will carry the day.

Best Actress: Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Angelina Jolie (Changeling); Melissa Leo (Frozen River), Meryl Streep (Doubt), Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Prediction: Despite some confusion as to whether she delivers a “lead” or “supporting” performance, Kate Winslet does some of her best work in The Reader, and has a staggering six nominations to date with no wins (yet). Of her closest competitors, multiple-Oscar winner Meryl Streep seems a little too established, and Anne Hathaway not established enough.

Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin (Milk), Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road)

Prediction: Due to his tragic death, Heath Ledger’s instantly-iconic, live-wire performance as Batman’s psycho arch-nemesis The Joker seems virtually assured of winning. Had Ledger lived, Robert Downey, Jr.’s fearless balancing act as a white actor in blackface would offer close competition.

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (Doubt), Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Viola Davis (Doubt), Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)

Prediction: Penélope Cruz all but swept the critic’s prizes and counts as the front-runner, but this seems the most likely category for an upset: the voting actors clearly love Doubt, with Viola Davis having the most powerful moments but Amy Adams being a contender as a Hollywood “It” girl. Henson’s the only nominee from a Best Picture nominee and Tomei seems to have a ton of buzz (but also already has an Oscar). Cruz may win, but it could surprise us.

Best Original Screenplay: WALL-E, Happy-Go-Lucky, Frozen River, In Bruges, Milk

Prediction: Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black may be the film’s sole winner in a major category.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire, Doubt

Prediction: Simon Beaufoy’s Slumdog Millionaire adaptation has picked up prior awards, although Benjamin Button has literary cred from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s source material, and the Academy seems like Doubt’s John Patrick Shanley, who won for his Moonstruck screenplay.

Best Animated Feature: Bolt, Kung Fu Panda, WALL-E

Prediction: Despite the popularity of Kung Fu Panda, WALL-E’s blend of romance, visionary imagery and weighty social commentary seem to guarantee the win, especially if they’re not going to nominate it for Best Picture.

Best Foreign Language Film: Revanche (Austria), The Class (France), The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany), Departures (Japan), Waltz With Bashir (Israel)

Prediction: I’ve only seen two of the nominees, but since the powerful Waltz With Bashir won the Golden Globe in this category and has been gathering world-wide raves, I’ll assume it has the edge.

Best Animated Short: La Maison En Petits Cubes, Lavatory - Lovestory, Oktapodi, Presto, This Way Up

Prediction: “Presto” was attached to WALL-E, so it’s probably been seen by the most people, while being uproariously funny, which makes it a front-runner. A potential Pixar backlash could help the warm simplicity of “Lavatory – Lovestory” or the poetic “La Maison En Petits Cubes,” although “This Way Up” probably deserves to win for its deadpan hilarity.

Best Art Direction: Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Duchess, Revolutionary Road

Prediction: Benjamin Button’s script may not be particularly substantial but director David Fincher specializes in films that are rich and eloquent in their visual texture. Plus, it’s the only Best Picture nominee in the category.

Best Cinematography: Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire

Prediction: Reader co-nominee Roger Deakins has multiple nominations and is due for a win, and The Dark Knight’s heightened imagery of “Gotham City” sticks in the memory (especially for those who saw the film in IMAX), but I’m going to go with Slumdog Millionaire’s diversity of colors and styles based on locations ranging from TV studios to Mumbai slums.

Best Costume Design: Australia, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Duchess, Milk, Revolutionary Road

Prediction: The Academy usually loves costume dramas like The Duchess, but for some reason, I think Revolutionary Road will get it as its “consolation prize” for being shut out of most other categories.

Best Documentary Feature: Nerakhoon, Encounters at the End of the World, The Garden, Man on Wire, Trouble the Water

Prediction: Will Man on Wire’s acclaim and popularity work against it in a category that often rewards more obscure nominees? Maybe, but perhaps its haunting images of the World Trade Center will give it an extra boost.

Best Documentary Short: The Conscience of Nhem En, The Final Inch, Smile Pinki, The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306

Prediction: I have no idea: I haven’t seen any of them. Apparently “The Conscience of Nhem En’s” Steven Okazaki has three prior nominations, so that combined with the film’s Killing Fields subject matter could earn it a win, but “The Witness’” account of the assassination of Martin Luther King seems particularly well-timed at the dawn of the Obama Administration. (By the way, the other two involve Indian themes, which could redound to Slumdog’s benefit elsewhere.)

Best Film Editing: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire

Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire has won in this category elsewhere, and its scrambled chronology and quick-cut scenes seem like an ideal showcase of the editor’s art.

Best Live Action Short: On the Line, Manon On the Asphalt, New Boy, The Pig, Toyland

Prediction: “Toyland’s” Holocaust themes probably give it an advantage over the competition, although it's not nearly as rich a film as the achingly well-acted “On the Line” or the delicate, poetic “Manon on the Asphalt.”

Best Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight; Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Prediction: Frankly, Hellboy II is the most deserving in this category, although the horrific make-up of The Joker and Two-Face make The Dark Knight hard to ignore. Nevertheless, Benjamin Button’s transformation of Brad Pitt from elderly toddler to beaming youth is that film’s signature trick. (I keep changing my mind, though.)

Best Original Score: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Defiance, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, WALL-E

Prediction: The Dark Knight’sthrilling score, having been deemed ineligible and then reinstated as a contender, didn’t make the cut. Of the nominees, WALL-E had the only score I can remember, but Slumdog Millionaire’s Indian-flavored compositions by A. R. Rahman (who shares two nominations in the Best Song category) set the film's tone.

Best Original Song: "Down To Earth" (WALL-E), "Jai Ho" (Slumdog Millionaire), "O Saya" (Slumdog Millionaire)

Prediction: The two Slumdog songs will split the vote between them, so rock star Peter Gabriel will win for "Down to Earth" from WALL-E (unless Gabriel’s Oscar no-show works against him).

Best Sound Editing: The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Slumdog Millionaire, WALL-E, Wanted

Prediction: WALL-E, with its wordless robotic “dialogue” (partly from Ben Burtt, the voice of R2-D2), had the most memorably expressive noises of the year.

Best Sound Mixing: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Slumdog Millionaire, WALL-E, Wanted

Prediction: I still have trouble distinguishing this category from “Sound Editing,” but The Dark Knight’s multi-layered action scenes seem the most deserving.

Best Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Iron Man

Prediction: Ironically, The Dark Knight’s relatively realistic urban visuals may work against it in this category, with Benjamin Button’s century-spanning wizardry proving the most flashy.

(Photo by Ishika Mohan)

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