BEST PICTURE (Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood) – Atonement has all the superfluous ingredients of your typical Academy choice, but it’s the weakest of the lot, so that’s a no go. Juno is totally agreeable, and while that does sometimes win Oscars, it shouldn’t this year. Meanwhile in a marked departure from Oscar’s regular dealings, the other nominees are actually three of the year’s best films (shocker). Blood is a landmark piece, but it won’t pull through here, with all the love for that film going toward Daniel Day Lewis. That leaves No Country and Clayton to duel it out. No Country’s the better film, but its unconventional ending didn’t sit well with everyone, whereas Clayton received universal love. Plus you can’t discount the Clooney-factor.
Should win: No Country for Old Men, a perfect mixture of style and substance.
Will win: Probably No Country. However, Clayton could be a spoiler, especially if Blood steals votes from No Country.
BEST ACTOR (George Clooney for Michael Clayton, Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood, Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd, Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises, Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah).
It’s almost impossible not to concede to Day Lewis at this point. If he wins he’ll become the 8th actor to win two best actor trophies (joining the likes of Tracy, Nicholson, Hanks, etc.) and he totally deserves it. Even Clooney, his strongest opponent, has admitted this much, telling Time magazine, “For me, it’s like being Hillary Clinton. If it weren’t for Barack Obama, it would’ve been a pretty good year [for her].”
This is especially true considering the other nominees. Jones got his nomination on the strength of two solid turns this season (the other in No Country), but he’s not nearly as magnetic as Day Lewis. Meanwhile, Depp was solid in a challenging (albeit one-note) role, but he garnered his other two nominations largely as payback for oversights earlier in his career and this is no different. Same goes for Mortensen. He was great and fearless in Eastern Promises, but this will function primarily as his final chance to get a nomination after oversights for Lord of the Rings and History of Violence (however, the tides could change next year with his lead role in the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road).
Should win: Day Lewis.
Will win: Day Lewis.
Best Actress (Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Julie Christie for Away From Her, Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose, Laura Linney for The Savages, Ellen Page for Juno).
Christie won a majority of the critics’ awards, but her turn is really a supporting one, and she’s just not given enough to deserve the Oscar over her colleagues. Meanwhile, Page has a lot of heat right now, but it seems unlikely that the Academy will notice here, even though she is herfilm’s greatest asset (despite belief that screenwriter Diablo Cody is). The biggest roadblock for Page will be Marion Cotillard, who did what the Academy loves best: uglified herself for a challenging biopic role. Rounding out the nominees, Blanchett and Linney are practically nonexistent in this race (both were surprise nominees, and haven’t gained ground over the last month).
Should win: Linney. She’s one of the best actresses around, and, as the focus of The Savages, she totally nailed it. Plus, more than anyone in this category, she deserves some payback love for Kinsey and You Can Count on Me (both of which she was nominated for), as well as The Squid and the Whale, The Truman Show and Mystic River (the latter of which she should’ve won for).
Will win: Cotillard, Christie and Page are all possibilities. I’m going to throw it up to predictability and say Cotillard.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men, Hal Holbrook for Into The Wild, Philip Seymour Hoffman for Charlie Wilson’s War, Tom Wilkinson for Michael Clayton).
This isn’t as much of a done deal as the Best Actor race, but everybody’s totally ready to hand this thing to Bardem, who totally owned No Country for Old Men. Hoffman was good in three films this year, but having recently won for Capote, the Academy will let this opportunity pass right by. Meanwhile, for Affleck the win was getting the nomination, which was uncertain, deserved (as a lead actually), but uncertain nonetheless. That leaves Holbrook and Wilkinson. Holbrook has the best chance to upset, especially considering his longstanding excellence and respect in the business. However, Wilkinson is also deserving for similar reasons, as he is arguably one of the best supporting actors out there right now.
Should win: I’m going to say Bardem even though I have a soft spot for Wilkinson, and would embrace that choice.
Will win: Bardem (possible, but unlikely, Holbrook upset).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS (Cate Blanchett for I’m Not There, Ruby Dee for American Gangster, Saoirse Ronan for Atonement, Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone, Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton)
Right off the bat, Ronan is out of the running, and Dee should be too. I acknowledge Dee has a “sentimental” angle, but if the “old, reliable institution” thing won’t work for Holbrook, it shouldn’t work for Dee, who had almost nothing to do in American Gangster. The race has been a back-and-forth between Ryan and Blanchett all season, with Ryan slightly unproven and Blanchett disadvantaged because of a win two years ago in the category for The Aviator (many see her as a lead actress, and may wait until her next serious nomination—not Elizabeth Part Deux—to bestow another Oscar upon her). That leaves Swinton, who should garner quite a bit of votes for breathing a lot of dimensionality and life into a stock role.
Should win: I love me my Blanchett, but Swinton is pretty darn cool. I’d jive with either, but not with Ryan, whose performance was realistic, but one-dimensional.
Will win: Swinton, especially considering all the factors—(1) Blanchett has a win; (2) Ryan is a newbie and played a one-dimension role (3) Swinton’s a solid standby and will be seen as a makeup win for Clayton’s defeat in almost every other category.
BEST DIRECTOR (Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men, Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton, Jason Reitman for Juno)
Reitman and Gilroy are both ones to watch but they’re definitely out of their league amongst the other three men this year. Schnabel’s gotten a lot of award love, and Anderson is arguably the best director of his generation, but it’s hard to see them stealing it from the Coens, who reaffirmed their legacy with No Country.
Should win: Anderson really did a fantastic job with Blood, pulling a 180 to make a totally different masterpiece then the ones he had been churning out over the last decade. The guy’s a friggin’ auteur and he out-directed the Coens, who I think should lose here and win in other categories.
Will win: The Coens, although they could suffer from a Scorsese-type mishap and lose to Schnabel.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY (Diablo Cody for Juno, Nancy Oliver for Lars and the Real Girl, Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton, Brad Bird, Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird for Ratatouille, Tamara Jenkins for The Savages).
You can count out Oliver and Jenkins right off the bat, and although everyone loves his films, Bird probably won’t net an award here. Odds are Cody will win, but Gilroy deserves it for his better script, as well as his continued excellence (three Bourne movies outweigh Cody’s absolutely nothing else output).
Should win: Gilroy.
Will win: Cody.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY (Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood, Christopher Hampton for Atonement, Ronald Harwood for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men, Sarah Polley for Away From Her).
For Polley, this nomination is an act of faith form the Academy that she’s a real-deal filmmaker, but she’ll have to prove herself with something else to be a serious competitor. There Will Be Blood stands a chance, but as I said before, directing and acting are this puppy’s best chance. Hampton’s script is just solid and Harwood’s always a threat, and in fact, won in this category for The Pianist, but I don’t think it’s his year. Last, the Coens hit their adaptation out of the park, adding subtleties and making judicious cuts to McCarthy’s masterwork.
Should Win: The Coen Brothers, because the improved upon an already seminal story.
Will Win: I want to say the Coens, but if they win the director award, it’s conceivable that Anderson will prove victorious here. Oh, and to reiterate, you can’t count out Harwood.
Cinematography (Roger Deakins for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Seamus McGarvey for Atonement, Janusz Kaminski for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Roger Deakins for No Country for Old Men, Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood)
Deakins offered up a one-two punch this year that’s hard to ignore, and deserves the win for Assassination. However, he could split his vote, leaving the race open to someone else. Kaminski (Spielberg’s regular guy) is a pro, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll get enough support to win his third Oscar (especially true considering Deakins has never won). It’s hard to imagine McGarvey will take the top spot as well, so that leaves it open for Elswit who did beautiful job with Blood, and has some good will hanging around from his great work on Good Night, and Good Luck.
Should Win: Deakins (for Assassination).
Will Win: Hopefully Deakins if supporters throw their weight in one direction (as happened with the director award for Stephen Soderbergh a few years back), but Elswit has a chance to sneak in.
Quick rundown of some other picks:
Film Editing – Roderick Jaynes (a pseudonym for The Coens) for No Country.
Song – “Falling Slowly” from Once (the Academy will surely want to acknowledge this great film in some way).
Score — It’s ludicrous that Johhny Greenwood couldn’t be nominated for his fantastic for on Blood, so I’ll say Atonement’s Dario Marianelli.
Visual Effects — Transformers