By Jess Skinner and Doug Nayler
Most people are aware that receiving an Oscar isn’t simply a matter of being the best in your category. There are endless other considerations that enter the mind of that small group of Academy Award voters. Often a director or actor will be recognized for an inferior movie because the voters feel guilty for overlooking them in the past (see: Martin Scorcese). People would argue that some years have more than a little to do with tokenism. And then sometimes, nobody has any clue what happened. But at any rate, there is one thing that is for sure: the Oscar selection process is so strange and weird, it’s impossible to predict them accurately. That said, we’re still going to try.
Best Picture of the Year
Nominees: Atonement, No Country For Old Men, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood
Probable Winner: No Country for Old Men - This movie went a lot further than I thought it would. I expected quality, but not such a great wave of hype and praise. It arrived certainly.
Personal Favourite: There Will Be Blood - Daniel Day-Lewis eats everything alive and spits it back out in PT Anderson’s epic. A cynical melodrama it is, but also a truly bizarre slap in the face.
Probable Winner: There Will Be Blood – While I see the race this year as a dead heat between this and No Country, I’m going to give the edge to this one because the director prize is most likely going to the Coens.
Personal Favourite: As long as it goes home with There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men, I’m happy.
Nominees: PT Anderson – There Will Be Blood, The Coen Brothers – No Country for Old Men, Tony Gilroy – Michael Clayton, Jason Reitman – Juno, Julian Schnabel – Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Probable: The Coen Brothers – Up-and-coming has nothing on long overdue, and Anderson still may have to crank out a few more deserving attempts to win.
Personal: Jason Reitman – You know, they say comedy does not get enough respect, and their right. Reitman doesn’t do anything flashy, but his is the invisible guidance holding everything together.
Probable: The Coen Brothers – Agreed. They took the DGA prize, and it seems like everyones’ consensus is that there time is now.
Personal: PTA – Yes he’s still very young, etc., etc. However in pure quality of work the man has outshone most of his peers and each film just seems to get better and better. If he keeps it up, this prize is as good as his, but I think he deserves it now.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominees: Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth: the Golden Age, Julie Christie – Away From Her, Ellen Page – Juno, Laura Linney – The Savages, Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose
Probable: Julie Christie – Getting old and dying is something the Academy voters can probably relate to, not to disparage Christie’s performance or anything which I haven’t seen so I should just stop talking about.
Personal: Laura Linney – In The Savages, Linney perfects the kind of role she has been trying for a while. That is, the befuddled intellectual facing reality and all that. It’s an admirable achievement in what will probably be another loss for her.
Probable: Laura Linney – A wise, sage friend of mine has informed me that in the Best Actress category if there’s only one American actress, she always wins it. He’s pointed out to me countless examples where that’s been true in the past, so I didn’t argue; and this year Linney is the only American actress in the category. And besides, after The Squid and the Whale, Kinsey, and You Can Count On Me, I think Linney’s now in the overdue category, even if this role wasn’t as worthy as those two.
Personal: Marion Cotillard – Believably playing Edith Piaf from her teens to her 40s-which-looked-like-her-90s, Cotillard completely disappears into the role. It’s an extremely impressive display of acting.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: George Clooney – Michael Clayton, Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd, Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood, Viggo Mortensen – Eastern Promises, Tommy Lee Jones – In the Valley of Elah
Probable: Daniel Day-Lewis – A fairly sure bet, if you are the kind of people who bet on the Oscars. I know who you are. This Irishman, previously seen in Gangs of New York, continues to display a knack for playing crazy fucking Yankees.
Personal: George Clooney – Clooney gets trashed by people I know. I go to his movies because it’s refreshing to watch an actor with that profile and reputation barely even try. I mean that in the most positive way. He just walks out, half-asses it and gets away with it. I admire that.
Probable: Daniel Day-Lewis – Are you kidding? This is the only sure bet of the night.
Personal: Daniel Day-Lewis – Part of the reason Lewis is a sure bet is because nobody else in this category has done a performance anywhere near the same league.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Casey Affleck – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men, Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson’s War, Hal Holbrook – Into the Wild, Tom Wilkinson – Michael Clayton
Probable: Javier Bardem – However silly he may look, Bardem is positively spooky as the shuffling killer, another in the Coen Brothers’ long line of stoic and implacable maniacs.
Personal: Tom Wilkinson – Giving the best acting performance onscreen in 2007, Wilkinson is so good he deserves to be the guy who should have won the award, sure to be robbed by hype and bad luck. Even more proof of how good an actor he is: after watching movies with him in them for years, it was only like two months ago I found out he’s English and not American.
Probable: Javier Bardem – He took the SAG trophy both on his own, and as part of Best Ensemble Cast for No Country. And with very good reason. If he hadn’t been as terrifying and fascinating in his role, the whole film would’ve potentially fallen apart.
Personal: Tom Wilkinson – For one thing, Michael Clayton is mis-titled because Tom Wilkinson’s role is what really gives the movie heart. And for another, from his roles in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to Normal and In The Bedroom, Wilkinson is one of the best actors in Hollywood today.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There, Ruby Dee – American Gangster, Saoirse Ronan – Atonement, Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone, Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton
Probable and Personal: Cate Blanchett – Androgynous is the new retarded when it comes to Oscar-nominated acting, but Blanchett does a damn good job here and deserves the award. That having been said, I’d make a case for Amy Ryan, who was the best thing I could care to name about the otherwise forgettable Gone Baby Gone, managing to remain convincing despite everything going on around her not making an ounce of sense.
Probable: Amy Ryan – Don’t ask me why, but I think Ryan’s won enough of the other pre-Oscar awards to be credible as the night’s first big upset.
Personal: Cate Blanchett – One of the few truly fascinating things to watch in the nearly unwatchable clusterfuck that was I’m Not There is Cate Blanchett’s complete dissappearance into Bob Dylan circa Don’t Look Back.
Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: Diablo Cody – Juno, Nancy Olivier – Lars and the Real Girl, Tony Gilroy – Michael Clayton, Brad Bird – Ratatouille, Tamara Jenkins – The Savages
Probable: Diablo Cody – A cinematic hipster icon for the modern age, Cody deserves some kind of award just for pulling off a movie like Juno and not completely missing the point.
Personal: Brad Bird – Ratatouille was the best reviewed movie of the year but somehow got nudged out of most of the important awards. Give them some sort of recognition, and I won’t get angry.
Probable: Diablo Cody – Despite my constant misunderstanding as to why Juno is such a big thing, there is no denying that it is a big thing. And the screenwriting category is often where the more out there films that deserve more recognition get it. So, even though Alex Huls and I are apparently the only two people alive who don’t think so, everybody else thinks Juno fits perfectly in that category.
Personal: Tony Gilroy – I don’t think Michael Clayton’s going to get much on the award front anywhere else, so I think it should get it here. Gilroy deserves some real props from taking a very tired, boring, worn-out genre and bringing it back to life.
Predictions for the 81st Academy Awards, 2009
Best Supporting Actor
Probable: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight – I obviously have yet to see the movie, or any other film that could possibly be nominated, but this is just a hunch of mine. Mix the existing huge buzz and interest in Ledger’s turn as the Joker with the almost universal feeling that he passed away before he was able to reach his considerable potential. Add to that a related, new-found guilt amongst the Oscar crowd for not giving him a statue for his turn in Brokeback Mountain, and I think there’s already a very good chance that Ledger will get a post-humous statue. But, we’ll have to wait a year to see.