By Leo K. Moncel, Sean Kelly, Rachel West and Shane McNeil
Leo: So here we go folks, we’ve got four writers weighing in on our picks for best bets this Sunday night. This two-part spectacular promises to be longer than the ceremonies themselves!
Shane: Sometimes handicapping the Oscars is about as challenging as spotting steroid-inflated home-run records. Luckily this year has some more surprises up its sleeve with the acting races (yes, all of ‘em) still without a guaranteed winner.
Enough preambles… on to the main attraction.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Amy Adams – Doubt
Penélope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis – Doubt
Taraji P. Henson – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler
Leo: Marisa Tomei. Other than Penélope Cruz, I’m asking “Who are the rest of these people?” Maybe it will go to Taraji P. Henson, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Button get shut out of everything except some make up or costume awards.
Sean: This is probably the toughest category to call. I’m going to go with Marisa Tomei to get her second Oscar for her role as, what can only be called, a “stripper with a heart of gold.”
Rachel: Spanish spitfire Penélope Cruz should hear her name called on February 22nd for her work in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She’s been criticized for her work in English, but this film allows her to work in her native tongue as well. As Maria Elena, a disturbed ex-wife, Cruz effortlessly runs the gamut between the darkly comedic and genuinely dramatic.
Shane: Taraji P. Henson for Benjamin Button. It has to win somewhere. Woody hasn’t fared well over the last decade and I don’t think Viola Davis had enough screen time. However, beware of Marisa Tomei.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Josh Brolin – Milk
Robert Downey Jr. – Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Doubt
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon – Revolutionary Road
Leo: Unlike some folks who we may soon hear from, I felt we saw an exceptional performance, O.D. or no. While it’s Nolan and company who deserve the bulk of the credit for deciding where to psychologically “plant” the Joker, Heath Ledger gets full points for selling him as detailed person.
Sean: The question here is not whether Heath Ledger will win, it is rather does he deserve to win. I’m not saying that his role as the Joker was bad (it wasn’t), I just think that posthumous nominations may result in sympathy votes (then again, James Dean received TWO posthumous Oscar nominations and never won). If I had to pick an alternate, I would say Michael Shannon, who was really good in his small role in Revolutionary Road.
Rachel: For Michael Shannon, it should be an honour just to be nominated, while Philip Seymour Hoffman’s role in Doubt is overshadowed by Meryl Streep, and Josh Brolin’s role in Milk is brilliant, but underwritten. As the shining light in an abysmal film, Robert Downey Jr. should take home the trophy for his role as a dude playing another dude in Tropic Thunder over the sentimental favourite Heath Ledger.
Shane: Robert Downey Jr. I think I’ve made my reasons clear enough.
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie – Changeling
Melissa Leo – Frozen River
Meryl Streep – Doubt
Kate Winslet – The Reader
Leo: Has to go to Kate Winslet. This is her year. Jolie and Streep got at least as much flack as they did praise for their performances, with the accusation against Streep being she was just chewing up the scenery and Jolie that she couldn’t sell the period piece. Go Kate!
Sean: Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a repeat of Marion Cotillard’s surprise win from last year and Melissa Leo wins? I doubt that will that happen and believe Kate Winslet will follow her Golden Globe double whammy with a win here, though the nomination should have been for Revolutionary Road.
Rachel: A tough category to call as the nominated ladies all delivered stand-out performances, but it’s Oscar’s perennial bridesmaid Kate Winslet who should finally get to collect the award. In The Reader Winslet humanizes the monstrous Nazi guard Hanna Schmitz in what is both a sensuous and sorrowful performance.
Shane: Kate Winslet, The Reader. It’s about time. La Streep is one of the all-time greats, but with this being the best chance to honour her heir apparent, she has to lose another squeaker.
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Richard Jenkins – The Visitor
Frank Langella – Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn – Milk
Brad Pitt – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler
Leo: Busted up and broken down, the big comeback about a comeback. This one is too perfect for Mickey Rourke. Sean Penn is the only serious contender here, and everyone hates him for thinking he’s so cool.
Sean: This category is full of first-time nominees (and Sean Penn). The build-up has been over Mickey Rourke’s comeback and I have to agree. Though, I have to say I was also impressed with Langella’s performance in Frost/Nixon. While I don’t think he will win, I am sure Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under) is probably enjoying his nomination for the underrated The Visitor.
Rachel: Mickey Rourke may be the favourite, as the underdog both on-screen and off, and although he emerged victorious at the Golden Globes, Sean Penn’s performance as Harvey Milk was one of the most affecting performances of the year and is likely to add another Best Actor Oscar to his 2004 win for Mystic River.
Shane: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler. If Sean Penn hadn’t won an Oscar this decade and wasn’t one of Hollywood’s biggest douchebags, this race would be closer. Rourke is the kind of underdog Hollywood loves.