Cinema Autopsy’s predictions for the 81st Academy Awards

Jamal (Dev Patel) and Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) from <em>Slumdog Millionaire</em>

Dev Patel as Jamal and Anil Kapoor as Prem Kumar from Slumdog Millionaire

As promised in my piece about the Academy Award nominees, here are my predictions for who I think will win the major awards and who I think should win the awards this Sunday night. If this year is like any other year then I will be way off the mark, but that’s not going to stop me from still having a go.

 

Best Motion Picture of the Year

The Reader and Milk are really the two most deserving films nominated but given the popularity of Slumdog Millionaire and it’s current winning streak at other awards then I think it is going to be the film that takes home the prize.

Predicted to win: Slumdog Millionaire
Should win: The Reader or Milk
Would annoy me if it won: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and frankly, despite initially liking it, the fuss over Slumdog Millionaire is starting to really turn me against it.
Also nominated: Frost/Nixon

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Mickey Rourke as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson in The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson in The Wrestler

This is a tough one as all the nominations this year are excellent. However, I suspect it will come down to either Sean Penn for Milk or Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler. I think Rourke may just beat Penn.

Predicted to win: Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler.
Should win: Mickey Rourke or Sean Penn would make me happy although I would also love to see Richard Jenkins get it for his beautiful performance in The Visitor.
Would annoy me if they won: Nobody – I bear no malice towards any of these guys.
Also nominated: Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

I would love this to go to Anne Hathaway as she is incredible in Rachel Getting Married. However, I suspect that her presence in other dubious films will work against her. Likwise, despite her terrific performance in Changeling, Angelina Jolie faces the same disadvantage. This will most likely go to a more consistently strong actor making Kate Winslet the obvious choice. However, there is a very real danger that the Academy will mistake Meryl Streep’s overly dramatic emoting in Doubt for acting.

Predicted to win: Kate Winslet for The Reader.
Should win: Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married, Angelina Jolie for Changeling or Kate Winslet.
Would annoy me if they won: Meryl Streep for Doubt.
Also nominated: Melissa Leo for Frozen River.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Heath Ledger will almost definitely get this in recognition of the fact that he was a terrific actor and he won’t ever get the chance to win an Academy Award again (his final film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, due for release later this year, is unlikely to get too much Academy recognition as director Terry Gilliam doesn’t exactly make films that appeal to the Academy). Ledger was a fine actor and the great tragedy of his death was that his best work was still clearly to come. However, it needs to be said that although his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight is sensational, I cannot believe that somebody who played a Batman villain would be up for this award had they not died. It is not even Ledger’s best performance as he portrayed far more complex and challenging characters in Brokeback Mountain and I’m Not There. Nevertheless, it would be callous to say that this recognition is undeserved and it should prove to be a powerful moment when announced.

Predicted to win: Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight
Should win: If I remove all emotion from the situation then I have to say that Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road is the person who I really think gave the best performance in this category. All the same, I am looking forward to seeing Ledger honoured.
Would annoy me if they won: Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt. He’s not as bad as Streep but still goes way over-the-top.
Also nominated: Josh Brolin for Milk and Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Penélope Cruz as Maria Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Penélope Cruz as Maria Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Despite being annoyed at the theatricalities of Streep and Hoffman in Doubt, I thought Amy Adams and Viola Davis gave great performances. In fact, all the nominees in the category were terrific but I think the award will go to Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Despite being a massive Woody Allen fan, I was not a fan of the actual film but I thought that Cruz was magnificent.

Predicted to win: Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Should win: Penélope Cruz, although I’d also love to see Viola Davis win for Doubt as her scene was the best moment in the entire film.
Would annoy me if they won: None, they are all deserving.
Also nominated: Amy Adams for Doubt, Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler.

Best Achievement in Directing

While I really don’t want Slumdog Millionaire or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to win the best picture awards, I do admire the direction in both and think that both Danny Boyle and David Fincher deserve recognition. However, I think Gus Van Sant’s incredible work on Milk should be what gets the award although it will most likely go to Danny Boyle.

Predicted to win: Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire
Should win: Gus Van Sant for Milk
Would annoy me if they won: Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon. Great film but there was nothing remarkable about the direction and I still haven’t forgiven Ron Howard for The Da Vinci Code.
Also nominated: Stephen Daldry for The Reader and David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Milk is the only film that stands out on this list as having the type of screenplay that the Academy usually goes for. As good as the script for Milk is, it would be wonderful to see something off beat like Happy-Go-Lucky or In Bruges win. WALL·E also deserves considerable kudos for it’s deceptively clever script. The only weak nomination on this list is Frozen River as a screenplay that flippantly uses people smuggling as a plot device should not be winning awards. 

Predicted to win: Milk
Should win: Milk, Happy-Go-Lucky, In Bruges or WALL·E
Would annoy me if it won: Frozen River

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Frost/Nixon, The Reader and Slumdog Millionaire are all excellent examples of how to adapt material from another medium into something that resonates on screen. I’m actually going to go completely against the grain and instead of picking Slumdog Millionaire, I predict that The Reader will get this award partly as a sort of conciliation for the fact it that it won’t win much else.

Predicted to win: The Reader
Should win: Frost/Nixon or The Reader
Would annoy me if it won: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button since the weakest thing about it was its script, and Doubt since it is an appalling adaptation – how was this even nominated in this category in the first place?
Also nominated: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Slumdog Millionaire might get this one because the Academy are easily won over by shots of exotic, foreign countries. It’s a pity because the cinematography in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Dark Knight is spectacular and deserves recognition.

Predicted to win: Slumdog Millionaire
Should win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or The Dark Knight
Would annoy me if it won: Slumdog Millionaire
Also nominated: Changeling and The Reader

Best Achievement in Editing

I’m never sure what to be more impressed by in editing – fancy and noticeable edits or edits that blend the action so seamlessly that you don’t even notice that they are there?

Predicted to win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as it does use so many interesting edits.
Should win: The Dark Knight – for a film with so much action, it had an incredible amount of clarity and that is very much due to the editing.
Would annoy me if it won: None, all these films are beautifully edited.
Also nominated: Frost/Nixon, Milk and Slumdog Millionaire

Best Achievement in Art Direction

When it comes to Art Direction the Academy has long rewarded films that reproduce the past over films that do something bold and original in a contemporary or futuristic setting.

Predicted to win: The Duchess – it’s the film set in the oldest period so therefore likely to win.
Should win: The Dark Knight because the whole film looked stunning.
Would annoy me if it won: Revolutionary Road because 1950s American suburbia is not exactly a stretch to recreate on screen.
Also nominated: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Changeling.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Again, costumes from an older era usually get the nod over costumes that subtly enhance the way the audience perceives the character.

Predicted to win: The Duchess
Should win: Revolutionary Road or Milk           
Would annoy me if it won: I honestly don’t feel passionate enough about any of the nominees in this category to care that much.
Also nominated: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Australia.

Best Achievement in Makeup

All worthy contenders but Hellboy II was the only film where I was not actually aware of the fact that I was watching actors in makeup, hence it gets the nod from me. It will probably go to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as the Academy usually get pretty giddy over aging makeup.

Predicted to win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Should win: Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Would annoy me if it won: None, they all deserve recognition.
Also nominated: The Dark Knight

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

WALL·E

WALL·E

Music is an incredibly strong factor in the degree in which I enjoy a film so it is something that I take extra notice of when enjoying a film. The standout music score on this list is the score for WALL·E and I really think that it just might win.

Predicted to win: WALL·E
Should win: WALL·E
Would annoy me if it won: Defiance for being blank, generic and dull (like the film itself) and Slumdog Millionaire for being completely forgettable.
Also nominated: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Milk.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Please, please, please let this go to the wonderful song sung by Peter Gabriel over the end credits of WALL·E. The fact that there are two songs nominated from Slumdog Millionaire mean that the ethno-kitsch vote may be divided and therefore Gabriel’s song will win. Fingers crossed.

Predicted to win: “Down to Earth” from WALL·E
Should win: “Down to Earth” from WALL·E
Would annoy me if it won: “Jai Ho” or “O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Achievement in Sound

Surely this will go WALL·E, a film brought so vividly to life through its extraordinary sound design. The Dark Knight is also a very close contender but considering the presence of legendary sound designer Ben Burtt on WALL·E then I think the little robot film will actually win this.

Predicted to win: WALL·E
Should win: WALL·E
Would annoy me if it won: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Slumdog Millionaire as they are so far behind the other nominated films in terms of sound design.
Also nominated: The Dark Knight and Wanted.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

I have a completely unfounded theory that this award is usually given out as a conciliation prize to whoever just missed out for “Best Achievement in Sound”. Hence, I think this will go to The Dark Knight although WALL·E would deserve to win for this too.

Predicted to win: The Dark Knight
Should win: The Dark Knight or WALL·E
Would annoy me if it won: Slumdog Millionaire ­- why is it even on this list?
Also nominated: Iron Man and Wanted

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Please, please, please let this go to The Dark Knight since it actually avoided using Computer Generated Imagery as much as possible and therefore contained the most consistently impressive looking visual effects. Unfortunately I think The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will win for the novelty of having its stars appear so old and so young. Many of the effects in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button were actually very good but there were too many moments where you could tell that you were looking at something done on a computer.

Predicted to win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Should win: The Dark Knight
Would annoy me if it won: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Iron Man for being overly reliant on CGIs.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Is there any need to discuss this?

Predicted to win: WALL·E
Should win: WALL·E
Would annoy me if it won: Bolt or Kung Fu Panda because neither of them are WALL·E

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Unfortunately only two out of five films nominated in this category have been released in Australia but out of The Class and Waltz with Bashir I think Waltz with Bashir is the better film and more likely to win.

Best Documentary, Features

Man on Wire is the only film in this category to be released in Australia and I’m guessing that it might actually win considering the acclaim that it has earned, even though I seem to be the exception in thinking it was not that great. I would much prefer to see the strange, funny and beautiful Encounters at the End of the World win. Unfortunately I can’t comment on the other three nominations.

Best Documentary, Short Subjects
Best Short Film, Animated
Best Short Film, Live Action

I haven’t seen any of the short films nominated for these three categories so cannot comment.

So there you have it. The actual award ceremony will take place next Monday during the day, Australia time, so I’ll do a post on the outcomes either Tuesday or Wednesday next week. Feel free to let me know what you think of my predictions and to later mock me for getting it all so wrong.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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Cinema Autopsy on the 81st Academy Awards ceremony and winners

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4 Responses to Cinema Autopsy’s predictions for the 81st Academy Awards

  1. moogirl22 says:

    Ron Howard did The Da Vinci Code? Ew.

    I agree with your thoughts on WALL·E for best original score, but I actually liked Slumdog Millionaire’s music – one of the best things about it. I am still baffled at Bruce Springsteen’s exclusion from the Best Song category, and even more baffled at Slumdog’s two nominations. Even more baffling is that they told Peter Gabriel his performance could only be 65 seconds long and is therefore boycotting the event (you go, man) — wouldn’t they be struggling for entertainment given the smaller number of Best Song nominees? I have no idea what they’re going to do for entertainment, given the Slumdog songs will probably be mashed into one like what they did with Dreamgirls a while back.

    I find the lack of nominations for Australia to be astounding – I didn’t expect any of the major categories, but at least (in addition to their single nomination for Costume) for Art Direction, and possibly cinematography. Usually the Academy loves stuff like that. And it’s sad, because it will most likely not even get the Best Costume award because of The Duchess. :(

    For best director, whilst I have only seen Slumdog and Ben Button out of the nominees, I would FAR prefer Fincher to get it – and not for the reason most give in that he should have gotten it for Zodiac or Se7en and that this is some sort of “sorry we didn’t give you one then, but here you go”. I think he did a really great job with that film. That said, I am assuming to change this opinion when I finally see Milk – high expectations. :D

    One thing I find quite sad is that whilst Ledger is set to win Best Supporting Actor, the nominees would be basically neck-to-neck if he had stayed alive. And I VERY much agree with your prediction of Cruz taking away the statue for VCB – brilliant performance (I liked the film too). Her line about wanting to kill Cristina is pure gold.

  2. I’d forgotten about Springsteen’s song from The Wrestler. Why on Earth wasn’t that nominated? It’s not like there wasn’t room for another song (or in fact another two songs) to get nominated. Very strange. I think they are trying to put together a faster moving show and feedback has indicated that the songs do slow proceedings down a bit – I know that in the past I’ve been guilty of flicking channels when the songs get performed, but that is usually because the songs are crap. At first I thought Gabriel was being a bit precious about not performing as “Down To Earth” is 6 minutes long so asking him for a condensed version seemed reasonable. But I hadn’t realised that they wanted him to cut it down to 65 seconds, which is ridiculous. I blame the Idol factor – people are now used to hearing songs being performed as brief sound-bites instead of listening to the entire song.

    I was actually surprised that Australia didn’t get much a look in either as you are right, the Academy usually loves that stuff. At the same time, the ‘beautiful’ cinematography and art direction of Australia was a bit by numbers so I’m glad it is not included.

    The Academy are funny about awarding people in recognition of their previous work, which is why Fincher and Boyle do have a good chance. Then again, Van Sant is due a quite a bit of recognition too. Anyway, it’s good to have a Fincher fan around these parts. I’ve long argued that Se7en and Fight Club are modern masterpieces.

  3. moogirl22 says:

    I think the main factor in Gabriel telling them to stuff themselves was the fact that he needs a big band and choir and whatnot to actually perform the song. It’d be pointless to drag all those people out for a 65 second performance, which would barely squeeze in the first chorus.