Monday, December 29, 2008

BLACK LIKE ME

The critics have spoken, and now so will I. Here is my updated list of predicted nominees in the major categories for the 2009 Oscars. Look for my final update after the Golden Globes. Envelope! Drum roll! Actors and actresses, please take a bow!

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Clint Eastwood Gran Torino
Richard Jenkins The Visitor
Frank Langella Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn Milk
Brad Pitt The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke The Wrestler

Don't worry, I can count. I'm just having a bit of trouble narrowing this very difficult category down to five. Leonardo DiCaprio, once such a seemingly sure thing for Revolutionary Road, is out. Sean and Mickey are locks, and Frank, who would be the second actor nominated for playing the disgraced 37th U.S. president despite not bearing the slightest resemblance to him, is more or less a sure thing. Brad is slightly shakier but pretty likely. The final nod will go to either Richard or Clint, whose stellar work in Gran Torino has the feel of a swan song. My money's on the latter sneaking in Tommy Lee Jones-in-2008 style, since it will probably be the last time the Academy has the opportunity to reward him for acting.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Anne Hathaway Rachel Getting Married Will the Academy be able to resist nominating both Devil Wears Prada leads in the same year? I seriously doubt (pun intended) it.
Sally Hawkins Happy Go Lucky This year's Imelda Staunton, nothing more, nothing less.
Melissa Leo Frozen River My expectations for her have been great since July.
Meryl Streep Doubt Judging from the trailer, she overdoes the bitch-nun-on-wheels thing a tad, but if she's going to ever score another best actress trophy, this is her best shot yet.
Kate Winslet Revolutionary Road The one everyone thinks will take it. It could happen, but it would probably be a lifetime achievement award at the tender old age of 33.

The Changeling's Angelina Jolie could easily sweep in and take Anne or Melissa's place (most likely Melissa's). But as we saw last year with A Mighty Heart, getting noticed by all the right precursors doesn't necessarily translate into a nomination -- especially with several other notable leading ladies (I've Loved You For So Long's Kristin Scott Thomas and Nothing But The Truth's Kate Beckinsale) waiting in the wings to become this year's surprise nominee a la 2008's Laura Linney (The Savages).

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Heath Ledger The Dark Knight The Academy probably won't be able to resist giving its first posthumous Oscar since Network's dead as a doornail Peter Finch went all the way in 1977, but I think a Robert Downey Jr. win (see above and below) would make for a much better TV moment.
Josh Brolin Milk The character lacks notable screen time or any perceivable character arc, but Josh makes the most of what he's given, and let's face it: After two great years and counting, the Academy owes him at least a nod.
Robert Downey Jr. Tropic Thunder I didn't really get the film, but so what? Not only does he nail the role of a black man of a certain age and a certain ego level, but when the blackface comes off, he does the same with his actual character, an Aussie Russell Crowe-like quadruple Oscar winner.
Philip Seymour Hoffman Doubt These days he gets a nod just for showing up on the set, and in another weak year for supporting guys, he's a practical shoo-in.
Dev Patel Slumdog Millionaire

Revolutionary Road's Michael Shannon and Frost/Nixon's Michael Sheen both have shots, but the unknown from Slumdog Millionaire should end up being the token nominee from that Best Picture co-frontrunner.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Penelope Cruz Vicki Cristina Barcelona With no real emotional meat to chew on, Penelope turned in a performance that was more enjoyable than impressive, but it's the kind of colorful, over-the-top role that wins Woody Allen actresses Oscars in this category.
Viola Davis Doubt Six minutes of screen time doesn't necessarily a nominee make -- or break. Look what happened last year with Ruby Dee.
Rosemarie Dewitt Rachel Getting Married I'd still prefer to see the Academy give Debra Winger one more chance to finally get her due, but Rosemarie is the Rachel supporting player that's getting all the love from the precursors. P.S. As for the actual ceremony, I smell another supporting actress upset, and her name is Rosemarie Dewitt.
Taraji P. Henson The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button Perhaps the shakiest of the nominees, as most of the acclaim is for the film and not the actors, so if she doesn't make it in, look for Doubt's Amy Adams to steal her spot.
Marisa Tomei The Wrestler My fingers are so crossed for her to go all the way. Again.

BEST PICTURE
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Doubt
Milk

Slumdog Millionaire

The Wrestler


Frost/Nixon could sneak in and take Doubt's place. The Reader has an outside chance, but it's looking more and more outside the realm of probability.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING
Daron Aronofsky The Wrestler Both he and David Fincher (see below) are due for their first nominations.
Danny Boyle Slumdog Millionaire My prediction: It'll probably end up being a Danny Boyle vs. David Fincher showdown.
David Fincher
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button See above.
Gus Van Sant Milk He's no lock, but my guess is that he can start thinking about a tux, if not an acceptance speech.
Mike Leigh Happy Go Lucky One director of a non-nominated film usually makes it in, and it will probably be the guy who directed the most lauded female performance of the year.
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