Hey there, crew, it's that magical time of year again: The Oscars. That special time when movie studios pound and pound away at you the merits of their movie through every available media outlet, completely ignoring the fact that you've never seen virtually all of these movies.
I'm still a bit behind in my Oscar films myself, but I've seen enough and heard enough that I feel I can make some fairly accurate predictions. Heck, I was about 90% accurate last year, but I skipped some races that I didn't know anything about, and I missed The Big One: I had Brokeback Mountain winning Best Picture.
This year, I'm throwing down on all the races. If I find a race boring, I'm casting my vote and moving on fast before I fall asleep writing about this stuff. These columns get boring quick, and anyway, these things always end up becoming an exercise in "Y'know, sure, he'll probably win, but don't discount..." so that the writer can cover all his bases. This time, I'm not worrying about hitting to all fields. I'm going all in for the power stroke. And hopelessly muddling my sports metaphors. So here's my predictions:
Picture: People go on and on about how it's an even race, any one of these films could win, it's all up in the air, yadda yadda yadda. Here's my call: The Departed edges Babel by a nose. The Queen is gonna steal too many of Babel's acting-conscious voters away, and also, Babel has too many detractors since it's, y'know, weird. But I'm discounting The Queen, too, since it features two dynamic performances around what's otherwise a somewhat slight movie; while everyone acknowledges the film, I don't think anyone was blown away by it. I certainly wasn't. It's a deserving Best Picture nominee, but not a winner.
Letters From Iwo Jima is too low-budget and not a grand enough vision to be honored, and not enough industry voters will acknowledge the value of Little Miss Sunshine for it to be a truly credible threat. Sunshine's not nominated in the two categories that tend to foretell Best Picture winners: Best Director and Best Editing. The last time a movie won Best Picture without a nod in either of those categories? Never. Not a good sign, guys.
Director: Martin Scorsese. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear you, Alejandro González had a grand vision, Paul Greengrass was mesmerizing, whatever, I don't care. This is Scorsese. He's been dissed in this category so long he's become the Academy's gold standard of the running joke. He created a wildly popular film with nuanced performances from people who don't really give nuanced performances on a regular basis, he's a legend and he's due, so who's voting against him?
Actor: I loved Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson (and I think he's a good dark horse here if you're a dangerous gambling man), I loved Will Smith in Pursuit of Happyness, I think Leonardo DiCaprio and Peter O'Toole are credible threats. But no one's beating Forest Whitaker. The guy played Ida Amin and scared us all to tears. Done and done.
Actress: Helen Mirren. Moving on.
Supporting Actor: Tough call. I think that this category is actually pretty lame this year. Mark Wahlberg and Alan Arkin are credible threats, but they were barely in the movies that they're nominated for. Jackie Earle Haley hasn't been in a movie in who knows how long (hyperbole alert: he was in one earlier this year. But it was a long time before that one), and Djimon Hounsou ranted for pretty much the entire two hours he was on screen. I think Eddie Murphy's got it in the bag for resurrecting that ol' SNL James Brown impression and putting some Serious Actor funk on it.
Supporting Actress: The girls from Babel split their vote, so it's between Abigal Breslin's little girl cuteness and Jennifer Hudson's "Hey, I used to be on American Idol but now I'm a serious actress" vibe. I'll give my vote to Hudson, but my heart belongs to Breslin's performance.
Animated Feature: Cars is a lock. Moving on.
Art Direction: Tougher category. I give it to Pan's Labyrinth - c'mon, they had a monster who wore his eyeballs in his hands - but I fear that reverse Dreamgirls backlash (it was overrated, but then it got snubbed by the Oscars, so people might vote sympathetically) might give it to them. That would be really lame if that happened.
Cinematography: If anyone besides Children of Men wins this, it's a travesty. There has not been a film more technically groundbreaking in this category in the last decade (I have no idea if that's true. I made that up. But it feels like it's true). Go watch that movie and try not to gasp.
Costume Design: Three films are in this one with a legitimate chance. Curse of the Golden Flower actually had the best costume design, but it's a foreign flick and not that many Academy voters saw it. Dreamgirls had great costuming, but the design is very modern and it's unlikely to create any real stir among voters (unless there's - da dum dum - reverse backlash). So the award likely goes to Marie Antoinette, which was mostly an exercise in fun-with-frilly-clothes-and-80's-music anyway.
Documentary Feature: There's no way An Inconvenient Truth could win. Hollywood hates liberalism and agendas.
Short Documentary Feature: "Recycled Life." Because... that's what everyone says will win. Heck if I know.
Editing: United 93. Because the actual best picture of the year oughta win something.
Foreign Film: Pan's Labyrinth vs. A Bunch Of Films No One Saw. I don't care if The Lives of Others is "the new media dark horse," this race is over.
Make-up: Pan's Labyrinth vs. A Mel Gibson Movie vs. An Adam Sandler Movie. I'm pretty sure I don't need to vote on this one.
Score: My favorite is Thomas Newman's score for The Good German, but I hear that it has no chance in hell. Ah, well. I'll vote for Gustavo Santaolalla in Babel. I know Alexandre Desplat's evocative score for The Queen is heavily favored, but I didn't think it was all that good.
Original Song: You might think that the fact that three Dreamgirls' songs are in the mix means that they'll split the vote. You're probably wrong. It's just because the Academy couldn't nominate only Dreamgirls songs, and they would've if they could've. This has happened before: Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King both got three nods in this category. They both took home the final prize. Prediction: Beyonce's "Listen" will end up taking it.
Still, why three nominations for Dreamgirls? Sure, the songs aren't bad, but - as a number of Oscar buffs besides myself have been harping - it wasn't exactly a weak year for original songs. Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" fromthe completely overlooked Casino Royale would've been a deserving pick, Devotchka's breezy "Til The End of Time" from Little Miss Sunshine was a standout, and pretty much anything Jack Johnson recorded for Curious George could've been in there. Hey, the man went #1 on the Billboard chart with a collection of kids' songs and no radio airplay whatsoever, and he gets no love in this category? Shame, shame, shame, shame.
Short Film (Animated): "The Little Matchgirl." Apparently it's a powerhouse.
Short Film (Live Action): "West Bank Story." I don't even know what it's about.
Sound Editing: Clint Eastwood's two films split the serious-movie vote, Pirates of the Caribbean wins.
Sound Mixing: Reverse backlash wins Dreamgirls this prize. Plus, there was music in it. Oscar voters tend to vote this subject with a "hey, which one of these was a musical again? Musicals are hard to mix. I should vote for that one."-type mindset. This means 19-time nominee Kevin O'Connell will get sent home empty-handed, again, which is a real shame, especially on the night Scorsese is finally getting his props. Of course, O'Connell mixed for Apocalypto, which is everybody's favorite to win no awards whatsoever.
Visual Effects: Pirates of the Caribbean. Because it made the most money of any film this year. And the Academy likes to show that they're hip to what everyone likes.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): The Departed. None of the other films will be able to gather enough votes to form a formidable threat. Though it's not the best screenplay of this lot. That probably belongs to Little Children.
Writing (Original Screenplay): A Best Picture nominee that won't win any other awards? This prize has to go to Little Miss Sunshine.
You didn't even read this far, did you? Yeah, I didn't think so. I'm lucky if I got you to "Sound Editing." Still, come back after Oscar night and double-check me. I'm prepared to take any sort of beating you throw at me. Because I think I've got a good chance to go 75, maybe 80% accurate this year. Bring it on.