In which I once again fall flat on my face attempting to read the fame-deluded minds of a bunch of old white men who think that prestige movies are the equivalent of those thick British novels you have to read in English class, the ones you use years later to prop up your bedroom air conditioner. That’s where most of the nominated films this year will end up.
Best animated feature film of the year. This is the consolation prize for Wall-E, which should have been nominated for Best Movie and wasn’t because (a) it’s animated and (b) it’s popular. Expect to hear the Oscar Orchestra play “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” for this.
Best foreign language film. I only saw Waltz with Bashir. Since it deals with Israel, it’s the only one of the four nominated movies with even a peripheral connection to Matthew’s Fourth Rule Of Oscars (anything with a Holocaust-related theme wins), so it gets my vote over the French classroom movie, the German history lesson, and the weird Japanese cremation thing.
Supporting Actor. There’s always one category where you say “Crap, I bet they wish their movies had been released next year, because there’s no way any of them is going to beat [insert name here].” Fill in Heath Ledger’s name and that’s what Supporting Actor is this year. Philip Seymour Hoffman was his usual brilliant self, Josh Brolin made Dan White sympathetic, Michael Shannon brought Revolutionary Road to life (twice!), and Robert Downey Jr. got nominated for a role which made fun of what actors will do to get Oscar nominations, but because Heath Ledger fucked up his anti-depressants, none of that matters. The only real lock of the night. If Ledger doesn’t win this, he should rise from the grave and haunt everyone who voted against him. As for who’s going to accept the award on his behalf, I’d love to see Downey do it in blackface.
Supporting Actress. Personally I’d like to see Marisa Tomei win it; there’s a scene she has in The Wrestler that I rave about whenever the movie comes up and I still can’t forget it. (And no, it’s just her face. As a male friend of mine said a couple of nights ago: “You were looking at her face?” God yes.) But Tomei’s already won this once. Penelope Cruz has the Woody Allen Factor going for her (Allen's films are like a frakking gold mine for Supporting Actress Oscars), and wouldn't it be cool if Javier Bardem handed her that statue? But since this is the only acting category with people of color, the award will probably go to either Viola Davis or Taraji P. Henson. Given Hollywood’s preference for fantasy over reality, I’m guessing Henson for Benjamin Button.
Adapted screenplay. Doubt and Frost/Nixon were plays, so they don’t count. The Reader has Matthew’s Fourth Oscar Law going for it, Benjamin Button has the literary cachet (F Scott Fitzgerald story) and the Hollywood spin (look -- Brad Pitt’s face CGI’d over an old man’s body!), and Slumdog Millionaire is Cinderella (or rather Sejal-ella.) The snarky side of me wants Benjamin Button to win, so I can chortle over how nobody mentions F Scott Fitzgerald’s name once the way nobody mentioned Winston Groom’s name once the year Forrest Gump won everything. But I think Slumdog will take it.
Original screenplay. Nobody saw Frozen River, maybe two people saw Happy-Go-Lucky, and Milk made me want to rent the documentary. That leaves Wall-E and In Bruges. The anti-animation bias, added with the pro-McDonagh bias (he won best short film in ’06) means In Bruges will win.
Best Song. "The Wrestler" by Bruce Springsteen. I don’t care if it wasn’t nominated. The fact that it wasn’t nominated pisses me off. So when the nominees are read, I am going to HALO into the Kodak, steal the statue at gunpoint, and drop it off in Jersey. "Jai Ho" can eat it.
Best Actor. Conventional wisdom says this is a two-man race between Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke. Outside shot: Frank Langella’s Nixon. But Straight Man Does Gay trumps Historical Mimicry, so advantage Penn. Way outside shot: Richard Jenkins, who’s worked with everyone. But Comeback trumps Connections, so advantage Rourke. No shot at all: Brad Pitt, who if he ever wins an Oscar at all, will get it for the crazy character stuff he does in films like Snatch and Burn After Reading. So that leaves Penn and Rourke. Penn’s already won Best Actor, which is a plus for Rourke. But Rourke’s already won a couple of ancillary awards (like the Golden Globe), which is a plus for Penn. I’d say it was a dead heat except for the Cinderella Factor. Given that Slumdog has no actors nominated, Rourke is the closest thing to Cinderella in the Actor category. Personally I’d like to see him win it, but when it comes to acting, Straight Man Does Gay trumps everything.
Best Actress. Melissa Leo, your award is the nomination. Angelina Jolie? Individual frames from Wall-E were more animated. Anne Hathaway has an outside shot, but her scenes made people squirm. Nobody in Hollywood likes to be forced to squirm in a real-life movie –- that’s what horror movies are for. So if Rachel Getting Married had zombies, or if Hathaway started taking an axe to her family, she’d be a shoo-in. (Memo to Hathaway’s agent: have her do the Full Charlize and play somebody ugly next year. She’ll be a lock.) Which leaves Streep and Winslet. Since Winslet’s part falls under the Fourth Law of Oscars, the little gold guy is hers to lose.
Best Director. Usually there’s one guy in here (and I do mean guy) whose movie hasn’t been nominated, but this year, all 5 Best Movie directors are up for it. So how does it break down? Ron Howard basically filmed a play; sorry, Ron. Stephen Daldry gets nominated every couple of years and has finally caught on that Hollywood Loves The Holocaust, but he picked the wrong movie. People want to be told that the Holocaust is bad, but there were good people who surmounted it -- people don't want to be told that the Holocaust is less shameful than illiteracy. Gus Van Sant has the outside shot here over David Fincher because, while both men have effectively squelched their signature styles to make a “popular” film, Van Sant’s film has the Straight Man Does Gay thing going for it. If it goes to Van Sant, look for Milk to have a better shot at Best Picture than Slumdog. If it goes to Danny Boyle, start practicing your Bollywood dance moves.
Best Picture. Filmed Play trumps Forrest Gump Clone. Biography Of Martyr trumps Filmed Play. Holocaust trumps Biography of Martyr. Cinderella trumps Holocaust.