For a good few weeks now, I’ve resigned myself from any awards season-related blogging. And though much has gone on – Critic’s Choice awards, National Society of Film Critics’ awards, SAGS nods, DGA nods, WGA nods, PGA nods, etc, etc, etc – there’s really not a whole lot to discuss (though had I been actively blogging, I’m sure topics would have included “Golden Globe winner” Anne Hathaway, the well-chosen NSFC critics awards, the wacky BAFTA longlists, of which my bitch-session would never have been articulated as well as Nat Rogers (particularly the omission of Rosemarie DeWitt, who I fear will be this year’s likely most unfortunate snub), EW’s Oscar do-over and disappointing Oscar predictions issue (it doesn’t get a cover anymore? Worse is William Peterson got the cover over the Oscar do-over), mostly annoying because of its lame “for your consideration” choices (Emma Thompson for Last Chance Harvey???)).
This is mostly because the race for Oscar seems sorta called. Ever since mid-December, it became clear what the five best picture nominees would be: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk and Slumdog Millionaire. And a month later, that lineup looks stronger than ever. Betting against it seems silly, right? Or maybe not. It’s been a while since the guilds and the Oscars aligned. The past few years, one film fell and another rose somewhat unexpectedly. Last year, frontrunner-turned underdog Atonement knocked out Into The Wild, in 2006 Dreamgirls fell to Letters From Iwo Jima, and in 2005, Munich took out Walk The Line. One reason for this, I think, is Oscars unique voting mechanisms, which makes it so its much more important to get “#1” votes than anything else. And also because Oscar comes later than everyone else. All three of the aforementioned “surprises” were December releases that benefited from a few more weeks to gain fans among voters.
So how could that potentially shake up this year’s frontrunner five? And what film would lose out? I have no idea, really. The Oscars-vote-later theory seems like it would benefit films like The Reader, Revolutionary Road, Gran Torino and The Wrestler, but none of those films really seem to have significantly taken on buzz (though Gran Torino‘s box office explosion certainly can’t hurt it). More reasonable is the “#1” theory, where a film like WALL-E (ineligible for many of the top guild prizes), could take out a less intensely-loved-by-some offering. And while many suggest the weakest link of the suggested five is The Dark Knight, I say its Frost/Nixon, which I just can’t see getting nearly as many #1 votes as any of the rest of them. Though I’m still not nearly confident enough to suggest that might happen (more likely is that one of the film’s directors – Ron Howard, most likely – falls to Darren Aronofsky or Mike Leigh or Woody Allen or even Andrew Stanton), its just something to consider. However, as far as the winner goes… its really hard to see anything but Slumdog winning.
Even if best picture does predictably give us the frontrunner five (and a Slumdog winner), there’s hope for some excitement in the acting categories. Last year at this point, two races were totally called: Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem. This year, there’s only one: Heath Ledger. Penelope Cruz, I believe, is close to joining Ledger’s lock status (unless Viola Davis has something to say about that), but the lead acting races could offer us some juicy races a la last year’s almost unparalleled four-horse best supporting actress race (sorry, Saoirse Ronan).
Best actor seems like Sean Penn‘s to lose, but Mickey Rourke and Clint Eastwood are definitely formidable opponents. While best actress, where people WANT to say Kate Winslet is the frontrunner, but its based on pretty much no precursor wins. Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway tied for the critic’s choice, while Sally Hawkins pretty much won every true critics’ award.
More interesting at this point are the potential nominees. I know Guilds and Globes seem to have narrowed down each race to 5-7 opponents, but the Oscars have been good at surprising us in the acting categories, often for the greater good. I actually forgot about this until I looked it up, but remember Tommy Lee Jones was nominated In The Valley of Elah last year based on absolutely nobody’s predictions, while Laura Linney‘s nod for The Savages came without a Golden Globe, SAG or Critics’ Choice nomination. And the year before that, when we saw Mark Wahlberg defy precursor premonitions. So I’m really hoping we see a whole lot of these sorts of nominations this year. Michelle Williams and Eddie Marsan would be my out-of-almost-nowhere nominations of choice, but that’s obviously a bit extreme. Either way, with that in mind, here’s my predictions for nominations in the major categories. I’ll do a full-on and likely altered list next week prior to nomination day (not to be confused with inauguration day, which actually has pumped the Oscar nods back two days this year).
Best Picture: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, Danny Boyle, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Gus Van Sant
Best Actor: Clint Eastwood, Richard Jenkins, Frank Langella, Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke
Best Actress: Anne Hathaway, Sally Hawkins, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet
Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Eddie Marsan
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Viola Davis, Taraji P. Hensen, Marisa Tomei, Kate Winslet
Best Original Screenplay: Happy-Go-Lucky, Milk, Rachel Getting Married, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, WALL-E
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire