It’s Oscar time again. This year’s Academy Awards promise a shake-up, necessary to boost low television ratings, but might create a more creative format as well.
It looks like the film with the highest amount of nominations (13), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, might get shutout of the major categories, but can still get a nice tally in technical categories.
The 81st Annual Academy Awards will broadcast on Sunday, February 22 at 8 p.m. on ABC with Hugh Jackman hosting from the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
Categories and my picks in bold.
• The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
• Frost/Nixon (Universal)
• Milk (Focus Features)
• The Reader (The Weinstein Company)
• Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight)
Slumdog Millionaire comes in the favorite. It depends if the Academy has more traditional voters (Benjamin Button) or more independent-minded voters (Slumdog). The Dark Knight should have been a nominee – definitely. It could be a key omission that keeps viewers away as well.
• David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
• Gus Van Sant, Milk
• Stephen Daldry, The Reader
• Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Boyle won so many other awards, including the Director’s Guild award, so he edges out Fincher in another close one
• Richard Jenkins in The Visitor
• Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon
• Sean Penn in Milk
• Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler
Very tough to call. Penn did great in a role long digested in Hollywood (Robin Williams was considered early on), but Rourke fits an underdog template initiated during his Golden Globe-winning speech. Pitt will have to wait.
Best Supporting Actor
• Josh Brolin in Milk
• Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder
• Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt
• Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
• Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road
Ledger is the only white-faced hope for the deserving Knight to win a major award. Downey had to get nominated for something after an amazing year with more to come soon (like The Soloist).
• Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married
• Angelina Jolie in Changeling
• Melissa Leo in Frozen River
• Meryl Streep in Doubt
• Kate Winslet in The Reader
Winslet is “due”, but does that mean she’ll win? Streep could win a third Oscar…yeah, like she needs it with yet another popularity resurgence thanks to her nominated film and Mamma Mia!. Hathaway could make it in as well.
Best Supporting Actress
• Amy Adams in Doubt
• Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
• Viola Davis in Doubt
• Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler
A tough choice between Davis and Henson here, but Cruz has a good chance since the Academy seems to love rewarding supporting actresses in Woody Allen movies. Hopefully, they change their minds this year.
Best Adapted Screenplay
• Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
• David Hare, The Reader
• Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
• Eric Roth, Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
Beaufoy should win here. Morgan is the best chance for a major Frost/Nixon win. Can Roth win for a great actor showcase like he won for Forrest Gump?
Best Original Screenplay
• Dustin Lance Black, Milk
• Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
• Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky
• Martin McDonagh, In Bruges
• Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, WALL-E
Black has good chances here since it’s the only Best Picture nominee in this category, but look for the memorable In Bruges, put back in the forefront thanks to the Golden Globes, to possibly steal here.
Best Animated Feature
• King Fu Panda
Panda comes in a very distant second here. WALL-E wins here. The best sure-win besides Ledger in the Best Supporting Actor category.
Best Original Score
• Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Danny Elfman, Milk
• James Newton Howard, Defiance
• Thomas Newman, WALL-E
• A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Great work all around. This one could be anyone’s. Could Howard win after eight nominations? Will Elfman win after four noms? I think Newman will win after 10.
Best Original Song
• “Down to Earth” from WALL-E, Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
• “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire, Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
• “O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire, Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam
A reduced set omits Bruce Springsteen’s Golden Globe winner from The Wrestler. Gabriel won’t perform due to the cut down performance time, but will attend the ceremony to watch “Jai Ho” likely win, adding more gold to the Slumdog tally.
• Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire
• Chris Menges and Roger Deakins, The Reader
• Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Wally Pfister, The Dark Knight
• Tom Stern, Changeling
Will Deakins finally win? We’ll see, but this category has two main contenders, just as with many other categories, Mantle and Miranda for Slumdog and Benjamin Button, respectively.
Best Foreign Language Film
• The Baader Meinhof Complex, Germany
• The Class, France
• Departures, Japan
• Revanche, Austria
• Waltz with Bashir, Israel
Bashir and The Class seem to be the front runners.
Best Documentary Feature
• The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
• Encounters at the End of the World, Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
• The Garden, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
• Man on Wire, James Marsh and Simon Chinn
• Trouble the Water, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal
Herzog and Kaiser have a strong case, Man on Wire will cross the long traverse to win.
• John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan, The Dark Knight
• Greg Cannom, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz, Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Cannom should win here. Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy II gets nice recognition here – look for more when his two The Hobbit films release in 2012.
Best Animated Short Film
• La Maison en Petits Cubes, Kunio Kato
• Lavatory – Lovestory, Konstantin Bronzit
• Oktapodi, Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand
• Presto, Doug Sweetland
• This Way Up, Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes
Presto definitely had the widest audience, showing before WALL-E, also the likely winner for Best Animated Feature, but La Maison could upset.
Best Art Direction
• Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Michael Carlin, Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway, The Duchess
• Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Peter Lando, The Dark Knight
• James J. Murakami, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis, Changeling
• Kristi Zea, Set Decoration: Debra Schutt, Revolutionary Road
Best Costume Design
• Danny Glicker, Milk
• Catherine Martin, Australia
• Michael O’Connor, The Duchess
• Jacqueline West The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Albert Wolsky, Revolutionary Road
• Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Chris Dickens, Slumdog Millionaire
• Elliot Graham, Milk
• Mike Hill and Dan Hanley, Frost/Nixon
• Lee Smith, The Dark Knight
Best Documentary Short Subject
• The Conscience of Nhem En, Steven Okazaki
• The Final Inch, Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant
• Smile Pinki, Megan Mylan
• The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306, Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde
Best Live Action Short Film
• Auf der Strecke (On the Line), Reto Caffi
• Manon on the Asphalt, Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
• New Boy, Steph Green and Tamara Anghie
• The Pig, Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh
• Spielzeugland (Toyland), Jochen Alexander Freydank
Best Sound Editing
• Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood, WALL-E
• Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes, Iron Man
• Glenn Freemantle and Tom Sayers, Slumdog Millionaire
• Richard King, The Dark Knight
• Wylie Stateman, Wanted
Best Sound Mixing
• Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick, The Dark Knight
• Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt, Wanted
• Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt, WALL-E
• David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Visual Effects
• Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
• Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin, The Dark Knight
• John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan, Iron Man