By Leo K. Moncel, Sean Kelly, Rachel West, and Shane McNeil
Rachel: It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Academy Awards season! The big day is fast approaching and it’s a tough competition in some categories, while others have a clear front-runner.
Sean: Forget the Superbowl, the Academy Awards are my big television event of the year. There is always something unexpected that happens during the awards show and this year the stage was set after Slumdog Millionaire’s sweep of the Golden Globes.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — Eric Roth
Doubt — John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon — Peter Morgan
The Reader — David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire — Simon Beaufoy
Leo: Got to be Slumdog Millionaire. It’s got its implausibilities, but it’s consistent within its fictional realm. Screenwriters may cringe at some of the dialogue that made the shooting draft, but it’s structure first and foremost they’ll be looking at, and this script succeeds in some really difficult games with timelines.
Sean: This is the first time I can think of that the majority of the Best Picture nominations were adaptations. That said, I’ll stick with the formula that the Best Picture winner usually also wins for its screenplay, and bank on Slumdog. However, I have to say that Benjamin Button also had a good story.
Rachel: In a year of some very respectable adaptations, Slumdog Millionaire should continue its Oscar dominance in the Adapted Screenplay category. Writer Simon Beaufoy has picked up a trophy for the Slumdog screenplay in every major awards ceremony this year and there is no reason to believe he won’t be adding the prized Oscar statuette to his collection.
Shane: Slumdog Millionaire… I think it’s inevitable.
Frozen River — Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky — Mike Leigh
In Bruges — Martin McDonagh
Milk – Dustin Lance Black
Wall-E — Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon
Leo: Wall-E. My God! I often feel that Pixar flicks are overrated, but I was positively losing it during the first 40 minutes of this one. We are introduced to a whole world that at first appears to be one thing, then another, then another. Writers will have immense appreciation for this kind of silent work — they know better than anyone how difficult it is.
Sean: Forget Best Supporting Actress, THIS is the toughest category to call. I would just love it if either Happy-Go-Lucky or In Bruges won. Milk is the safe bet and Wall-E winning would also be wonderful. That leaves Frozen River, which is a film I haven’t heard much about. I guess I am just going to cross my fingers and pick Happy-Go-Lucky.
Rachel: Milk picked up the award for Best Original Screenplay from the Writer’s Guild of America, but Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky could take home the prize. While the film’s star, Sally Hawkins, failed to capture an acting nomination despite her win at the Golden Globes, Leigh’s 4th nomination in this category proves that the Academy likes him.
Shane: Happy-Go-Lucky. It’s often more about WHO than WHAT and the Academy looooooves Mike Leigh. Conventional wisdom suggests Milk, but I’m following a hunch on this one.
Achievement in Directing:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — David Fincher
Frost/Nixon — Ron Howard
Milk — Gus Van Sant
The Reader — Stephen Daldry
Slumdog Millionaire — Danny Boyle
Leo: Unlike some folks, I thought Slumdog Millionaire looked amazing. I didn’t always think the performances were up to snuff, but for the sheer intensity of certain moments, and for his ability to unify discordant times and settings into a highly cohesive picture, they’ll give it to Boyle.
Sean: This category corresponds exactly to the Best Picture nominations; as such, I think Slumdog is a natural in both. I have this to say about Danny Boyle, though: it is very interesting that a director whose best known works have involved heroin addicts in Edinburgh and zombies in London, gets nominated for a film about a boy in India who appears on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? It’s amazing how diverse some directors can be.
Rachel: Danny Boyle has the Best Director Oscar just about locked up with Slumdog Millionaire. A solidly-directed film, Boyle outshines his closest competitor (David Fincher) as Slumdog continues to please both critics and audiences.
Shane: Danny Boyle here, Slumdog in the next column. Don’t even argue, this one’s so in-the-bag it’s not funny. I’m having a hard time remembering the last time a win was this inevitable – if it wasn’t “American Beauty”, it was probably “Titanic”. Even the hobbits had a shadow of a doubt at this point… this race, on the other hand, is done.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Leo: Slumdog again. True, it’s got problems, and is by no means perfect, but it has those edge-of-your-seat-oh-shit-what-am-I-seeing moments that are so precious that having a few of them has burned this movie into the hearts and minds of so many audiences. Can’t stop it now.
Sean: This is the first year I saw all five nominated films before nominations were announced. A few months ago, I would have filed Slumdog Millionaire along with Little Miss Sunshine and Juno as films that were well-liked, received a nomination, and…that was it. But after sweeping the Golden Globes, Slumdog is in prime position to take the big prize. However, I have to say: if The Wrestler was nominated, I would be rooting for that film.
Rachel: No competition here, expect Slumdog Millionaire to win Best Picture. While upsets aren’t unheard of, Slumdog has won nearly every award it has been nominated for in the Best Picture category. An uplifting tale with heartfelt comedic moments, with thrilling suspense and a love story to tie the whole film together, Slumdog is an audience and critics’ favourite.
Shane: (See above.)
Shane: I’ll be crushed if Waltz with Bashir loses Best Foreign. For a film that had a shot at Best Animated AND Best Doc and was snubbed in both, this is their one and only shot to get this one right.