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Thursday, January 22, 2009

First Thoughts on Oscar Nominations

Welcome to the 2008 Academy Awards. Excited?! Maybe a little? With a month to go there is a lot to talk about, so let's not waste any time.

First things first, times really never change with the Academy. Then again, I don't think these nominations will ever please everyone. Yet, some people get so mad and for what? There's always something that makes you scratch your head. I think that is party of the Oscars beauty. They really don't care what anyone thinks.

I didn't get the number correct, but as expected Benjamin Button topped the nominations with a total of 13 (I predicted 11). Slumdog came in second with a total of 10 (too much in my opinion). Should be interesting to see who takes the most in on Oscar night. No film has won more than five Oscars since Return of the King back at the 2003 Oscars.

Let's take a look at some of the major categories...

* Means I have seen film.

Best Picture:
1. *Slumdog Millionaire
2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. *Milk
4. *Frost/Nixon
5. *The Reader

I know some people are complaining about The Dark Knight and WALL-E, but I'm not going to sit and cry about it. Yeah, it would have been nice to see them nominated, but the Academy was and still is old school. The surprise on this list is definitely The Reader, but I'm not going to lie, I liked this film. I thought it was well done and will be on my top ten list. While Slumdog is the favorite, I wouldn't say this race is over. Though, I'm still having a hard time trying to convince myself the other four films have a chance.

I think the nail in the coffin will be if Slumdog wins SAG. It has no right to win SAG and if it does, then that will prove the support for this film is so strong that it will be unbeatable. Of course, Crash won the SAG back in 2005 and it ended up giving it enough momentum to upset Brokeback. One of these four other nominees will need to do something very similar. I still look to Button or to a lesser extent Milk.

Don't forget that Button led the nominations and 13 is a lot. This film is well represented across the board. It also has a couple acting nominations which are important. Actors make up the largest branch of the Academy. Slumdog doesn't have any acting nominations and if it wins on February 22nd, then it will be the first to pull off the feat since Return of the King.

Best Director
1. *Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
2. David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. *Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
4. *Gus Van Sant, Milk
5. *Stephen Daldry, The Reader

The biggest complaint in this list is no Chris Nolan. I feel for the guy, but nothing takes away the fact that the guy directed a 500 million dollar movie. It should also be noted that Stephen Daldry has directed three films and he has been nominated for every one. That is something and a true testament to him.

Looking at this race, it's hard to pick against Boyle. Months ago, I thought Fincher was going to run away with this. He's been around for a while and has done some phenomenal films. Though, he has been shut out this whole season by Boyle. The DGA almost always matches up with the Oscar in this category, so I expect that trend to continue.

I see Howard, Van Sant, and Daldry simply along for the ride. I just don't see them figuring into the equation. This should be unofficially locked up after the DGA awards.

Best Actor
1. *Sean Penn, Milk
2. *Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
3. *Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
4. Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
5. Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

For me this is the hardest race to choose maybe of the whole night. Not on it being difficult, but for the reason that I simply love both Penn and Rourke's performance. They are both probably their best performances of their careers. I was emotionally moved by the both of them. As a result, Milk and The Wrestler are my two favorite films of the year (which one will be number 1 will be unknown until I release my top 10 on 2/21/09).

I'm going with Penn for the simple reason that I think it will have more support. The Wrestler was virtually shut out of the Oscars (Bruce didn't even get nominated). Plus, I think the fact that Rourke plays a wrestler will hurt him, which is unfair. Penn plays a real person and the Academy loves biopics. Four out of the last six winners have been based on real people. I would say the only thing that could hurt Penn is that he recently won in 2003 for Mystic River. The Academy may want to spread the love. Plus, Rourke has resurrected his career, which is always a great story to reward.

Unless there is a late surge, I see Langella, Jenkins, and Pitt not really factoring in on this race.

Best Actress
1. *Kate Winslet, The Reader
2. *Meryl Streep, Doubt
3. *Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
4. Melissa Leo, Frozen River
5. Angelina Jolie, Changeling

Well, the Academy really threw a curveball when they nominated Winslet for The Reader not Revolutionary. The studio was campaigning for her role in The Reader to go supporting, but it didn't happen. Poor Revolutionary as it was literally shut out of the Oscars. In a way, it is probably best for Winslet. If she wants to win, then she is going to need to go with her best role. And I think this is going to be her year.

Streep and Hathaway could give her a run for her money, but I don't see it. I've said this before, but Streep has her Oscars and Hathaway is too young. If she continues to work hard, then she will be rewarded down the road. This should make Kate the favorite.

The other two nominees were a bit surprising to me. I haven't seen either performance. Both have been talked about, but other performances such as Blanchett in Button and Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky were getting more attention. It just seems like they are along for the ride.

Best Supporting Actor
1. *Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
2. *Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
3. *Josh Brolin, Milk
4. *Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
5. Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

This is still one of the most fascinating races this year. Watching Ledger dominate the awards season even though he has been gone for a year is one for the ages. A win on Oscar night could make for one of the show's greatest moments. It feels like this whole town is behind him and it would be shocking if he were to lose. Not only does he give one of the best performances of the decade, but the competition is relatively weak. I've been saying this for some time, who is going to beat him? I look at Hoffman and while his performance in Doubt is great it still does not stack up well against Ledger.

The only way Hoffman, Brolin, Downey Jr., or Shannon can win is if people simply don't want to give it to someone who has been dead for 13 months on the night of the Oscars. A lot of people use the James Dean example, but times have changed. James Dean didn't have the media to back him or build his support. I think the media has played a part in this quest. I also really think that if Ledger were still alive there is a good chance that this category would be locked by now. The death factor makes this a little shaky, but it seems like a safe bet that Heath Ledger will join Peter Finch as the second posthumous major category Oscar winner.

Best Supporting Actress
1. *Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
2. *Viola Davis, Doubt
3. Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
4. *Amy Adams, Doubt
5. *Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

This whole race changed this morning when everyone found out that Kate Winslet's performance in The Reader was moved to lead. Also, I am sure Penelope Cruz is extremely happy. I mean all the nominees are happy Kate is out of the race, but Penelope has jumped up to frontrunner. The biggest problem with predicting this race now is that Winslet has been in every major supporting actress race this year. If Winslet wins the SAG in this category (she won the Globe), then it will be really hard to determine a true frontrunner.

People seem to think Cruz and I agree with them, but I think this could maybe be the toughest major category of the night to predict. I think Viola Davis has to be taken seriously, but she could possibly split with Adams. This category is a mess and I'm getting a headache thinking about it.

Other Quick Thoughts:
- Bruce Springsteen getting shut out of the song category was maybe the biggest diss of the day. This really opens up the song category. My great success at picking that category could be in jeopardy.
- Speaking of the song category, I was hoping Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino song would get nominated for the small chance that Clint would perform it on Oscar night. No such luck.
- I don't have too many complaints this year. Unlike last year where I was somewhat emotionally involved with a film (There Will Be Blood), I feel very neutral.

I'll have more thoughts probably after the SAG awards this weekend. Also, be on the lookout for the 2nd annual Oscar contest. THERE WILL BE BLOOD and a PRIZE (Before everyone asks I'm not giving away Blood on dvd. I just felt like typing that, but there will really be a prize!).

To view the complete nominations click HERE!

1 comment:

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