Sunday, February 22, 2009

If It's Oscars Time, We're Making Predictions!

This is probably being posted too late for anyone to read it before the actual ceremony, but in the name of continuing a FRT institution - five years running, baby - we're predicting the Oscar winners in the so-called major categories. Tomorrow, we'll also be doing our traditional Oscar post-mortem and hand out some of our own awards.

As much as I love the Oscars, however, I don't feel as much enthusiasm for them as in recent years. Largely because I don't believe there's going to be much suspense, other than in two or three categories. (Maybe it's always been that way, and I talk myself into believing some awards are up for grabs. Or maybe I read so many movie blogs now that conventional wisdom seems more locked in than it used to be.)

In addition, I usually think the Academy gets it right with the Best Picture nominees, but I wasn't thrilled with their choices this year. I still think Doubt got screwed. How can every actor in the cast be recognized, yet the film itself doesn't get nominated. And I'm still disappointed a more daring choice like The Dark Knight or WALL-E wasn't made.

But I'm very curious to see how Hugh Jackman does as host. I think not having a comedian sounds like a bad idea, but maybe this is one of those daring choices that I just accused the Academy of not making. Plus, he's Wolverine. So he'll get it done somehow. Also, I really want to see if Mickey Rourke wins and what he might say in an acceptance speech.

Okay, here's how I think it'll go:

Viola Davis - Doubt

I know - she's only in the movie for, like, 10 minutes. But it's a great 10 minutes, especially when you have to go toe-to-toe with Meryl Streep. I also think Doubt has to win something tonight, and this is where it'll be. I have to admit, however, I didn't see Vicky Christina Barcelona (though I just got it from Netflix), so I can't say if the herd has it right on this one.

Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight

Probably the lock of the night, don't you think? Other than a happy ending for the Mickey Rourke rebirth story, this will likely be the most emotional moment of the evening. And it's not like Ledger doesn't deserve this award. It may have been the most memorable performance in any movie last year.

Kate Winslet - The Reader

Actually, this could be the lock of the night. I didn't see The Reader, nor do I have much interest in doing so, despite the promise of Winslet getting naked. Thankfully, she's done that in plenty of other movies, a dedication to craft that will finally be saluted tonight.

Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

I haven't posted my thoughts on The Wrestler, though I still intend to because I have a lot to say about it. But - spoiler alert - I loved it, and still think about it weeks after I saw it (twice). Rourke's performance was amazing, but I also wonder if his story has kind of overwhelmed critical opinion. Not to say I'm not guilty of that, either. I've read or watched as many recent interviews with him as I can, and gone back to read profiles from five to 10 years ago. It would be great to see Rourke win this when he's been painfully honest about how badly he's screwed his life up.

However, if you're talking about the craft of acting, Sean Penn completely becomes someone else in Milk. It's unlike anything else I've ever seen him do, and there's nothing showy or over-the-top about it. So I think there's a damn good chance he wins this.

Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire

This isn't just because Boyle directed the likely Best Picture winner. But of the five nominees, I think he also created the most consistent, exciting film. Frost/Nixon really takes a while to get going. I'm not sure 'Benjamin Button' ever really does get going.
And though I believe Milk is Gus Van Sant's best film, it sometimes feels formulaic. Slumdog Millionaire just feels alive. Boyle quick cuts when the action calls for it, he slows down when he has to, splices in flashbacks at just the right time, juggles humor and drama skillfully, and uses music masterfully.

Slumdog Millionaire

Well, I think I already described what makes 'Slumdog' a worthy winner. I'll add, however, that it has quite possibly the best ending credits sequence that I can remember. If any of the other nominees has a chance at winning, I believe it's Milk. And years from now, we'll probably be saying that was the more important film. But there's also something to be said for acknowledging the zeitgeist and embracing a cultural phenomenon as it occurs, and 'Slumdog' has definitely tapped into something.

And because we're all about the writers, the screenplay awards must also be mentioned. I'm going to predict a surprise for BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY. Martin McDonagh is going to win for In Bruges - creating a strangely touching, though unquestionably dark and violent, story around four or five memorable characters - though Andrew Stanton is probably the favorite for WALL-E. And Simon Beaufoy will get BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY for Slumdog Millionaire.

Finally, I predict an 11:45 p.m EST ending for the festivities. Jackman will move the show along as best he can, but some of those speeches are going to run on.