The Academy Awards are just around the corner on February 24th. For the first time in many years it appears that the acting categories may be easy to predict but there is no clear-cut front-runner to win Best Picture. The category has been murky for months as people scrambled to predict the nominees and it hasn’t cleared up much since then as the season awards have been handed out to a variety of movies.
Here is a list of the major categories and a few minor ones with my bold, but totally unscientific predictions.
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
I can’t remember this category being more difficult then it is this year. There is no clear-cut favorite and none of them can easily be eliminated, though I will try. “Dreamgirls” was considered a huge favorite and led with 8 nominations but failed to secure a nomination in this category, which opened things up even more. “The Departed” is the first film I will cross off the list. It is not the type that usually wins this award (much like “Good Fellas”) and Martin Scorsese’s likely win for Best Director will be its award. I don’t think “Babel” will win despite its Golden Globe victory as it is too downbeat and was a turnoff to some Academy voters as being anti-American. I am hesitant to eliminate “The Queen” from contention (anyone remember “Chariots of Fire” in 1981?) because it is a terrific film but it is likely to win a few other awards. That leaves “Letters From Iwo Jima” and “Little Miss Sunshine” to choose from. Clint Eastwood has become an Academy favorite over the last decade and this film is considered one of his best – if not his best. The film is entirely sub-titled which could count against it in the eyes of some voters. “Little Miss Sunshine” has the distinction of being the only film whose director was not nominated as well and only twice in history has the Academy awarded its top honor to a film in that case. “Sunshine” just won the top award at the SAG awards and 4 of the last 5 Best Picture winners won that award first.
PREDICTION: It’s the toughest call of the year but I look for an upset win for “Little Miss Sunshine.” It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if “The Queen” pulled off an upset but Clint Eastwood is also lurking in the shadows.
LEONARDO DiCAPRIO “Blood Diamond”
RYAN GOSLING “Half Nelson”
PETER O’TOOLE “Venus”
WILL SMITH “The Pursuit of Happyness”
FORREST WHITAKER “The Last King of Scotland”
This is a two-man race – barely. First we can eliminate DiCaprio, who gave two great performances this year (the other being “The Departed”) but his work in “Blood Diamond” is not strong enough to win. Gosling can be eliminated as few people saw his film and the nomination is his reward. Smith gave a nice performance but this isn’t his year. The race comes down to O’Toole and Whitaker. If this was even 20 years ago O’Toole might be more of a favorite having been nominated 7 previous times without a win. The Academy used to love to reward veterans but times have changed and it appears O’Toole is going to be a bridesmaid for the 8th time – an Academy record. Forrest Whitaker has been winning every major award and there is no reason to think the Academy will be any different.
PREDICTION: Forrest Whitaker
PENELOPE CRUZ “Volver”
JUDI DENCH “Notes On A Scandal”
HELEN MIRREN “The Queen”
MERYL STREEP “The Devil Wears Prada”
KATE WINSLET “Little Children”
This is a runaway category and one of the easiest to predict. Cruz will not win as her role was completely in Spanish and rarely does a non-English speaking role win. She was good but not riveting enough to steal the prize. Streep is up for her 14th nomination and that is reward enough for her. Winslet is up for her 5th but she appeared in a movie not widely seen. Her time will come. Dench offers the most competition as an obsessed teacher involved in emotional blackmail. In a lesser year she could be the favorite. Mirren is going to walk away with the Oscar as Queen Elizabeth II. She completely disappeared in the role and was riveting. Her winning every major acting award helps her case.
PREDICTION: Helen Mirren in a landslide.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
ALAN ARKIN “Little Miss Sunshine”
JACKIE EARLE HALEY “Little Children”
DJIMON HOUNSOU “Blood Diamond”
EDDIE MURPHY “Dreamgirls”
MARK WAHLBERG “The Departed”
Sentiment runs this category. Arkin received his third nomination but first one in 38 years. Haley hadn’t made a film in over 15 years after a popular career in his teens with “The Bad News Bears” and “Breaking Away.” Murphy made a triumphant comeback after years of kids films and flops. Wahlberg can be easily eliminated, as he was the only acting nominee for “The Departed” and far from the best one in it. Hounsou was quite good but it is the wrong year for him. It’s a three-way race and a little tougher to pick then one would think. Arkin stole the show in his small role as the drug addicted, foul-mouthed grandfather in a film that is gaining momentum. Haley stood out in a film filled with great performances as a sexual deviant and his comeback is one of the talks of Hollywood. I am guessing, reluctantly, that his nomination is his reward. Murphy is also on the comeback and the talk is even greater since he was a superstar in the 80’s. He has been collecting awards for his role as the drug addicted has been singer and will likely carry that into the Oscars.
PREDICTION: Eddie Murphy – but look out for a possible Alan Arkin upset.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
ADRIANA BARRAZA “Babel”
CATE BLANCHETT “Notes On A Scandal”
ABIGAIL BRESLIN “Little Miss Sunshine”
JENNIFER HUDSON “Dreamgirls”
RINKO KIKUCHI “Babel”
This is another surefire category. Barraza and Kikuchi were both riveting in “Babel” but will likely split the votes from fans. Blanchett is at her best but has won before and will likely win again. Breslin is absolutely adorable in a popular film but, unless there is a sweep, she will have to settle for the nomination. Hudson has a movie stealing musical number that brings cheers from the audience. Her own story of being eliminated from American Idol has endeared her even more to the public.
PREDICTION: Jennifer Hudson
ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU “Babel”
MARTIN SCORSESE “The Departed”
CLINT EASTWOOD “Letters From Iwo Jima”
STEPHEN FREARS “The Queen”
PAUL GREENGRASS “United 93”
This is another no-brainer for the Academy. Greengrass won’t win because his film was the only one not nominated amongst this list. Inarritu won’t win, as many believe his film has too many anti-American views. Frears is a veteran who has been nominated before (The Grifters) but finds himself amongst tough competition. Eastwood is an Academy favorite who has already won twice before and is unlikely to win again this year. Scorsese is well liked in Hollywood and has yet to win even though he is considered one of our best directors. This will be his year no matter what. It is his time.
PREDICTION: Martin Scorsese
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
The writing awards generally go to one of the film’s that has received a Best Picture nomination. This category has 4 of those films so I will eliminate “Pan’s Labyrinth” immediately. “Babel” and “Letters From Iwo Jima” benefited more from the actors and directors with some viewers becoming more then a little confused with “Babel.”“Iwo Jima” can also be eliminated because of the rarity of foreign films winning in this category. That leaves “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Queen.”“Sunshine” is riding a huge wave of momentum right now and could win here but I suspect Peter Morgan’s smart and perceptive script for “The Queen” will triumph.
PREDICTION: The Queen
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
CHILDREN OF MEN
NOTES ON A SCANDAL
This category is tougher to pick. If the Academy rewards the script whose film was nominated for Best Picture, then “The Departed” would win. This year I am not so sure. The film reminded many of Martin Scorsese’s other gangster films like “Good Fellas” and “Casino.” “Borat” will not win for two reasons. One is that the nomination is its reward. The other is that the film was almost completely improvised anyway. “Children of Men” is a well-done thriller but thrillers don’t usually win writing awards. “Little Children” would get my vote if I had one but it is likely too downbeat to reward it. “Notes On A Scandal” has a terrific premise and crisp dialogue that any actor would dream of reciting. It’s going to be a tough call for this award.
PREDICTION: Notes On A Scandal
We’ll see how I do when the envelopes are opened. Until then make sure to keep your feet off the seats, don’t leave personal belongings on the seat next to you, and have a popcorn as you settle in to watch the Awards.