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2009 Oscar Picks and Analysis

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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.

Best Picture

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.

Best Director

• 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

Best Actor

• 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).

Best Actress

• 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

Bolt
King Fu Panda
WALL-E

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.

Best Cinematography

• 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.

Best Makeup

• 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

Best Editing

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

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  • http://blogcritics.org Clarence Yu

    Very logical analysis. I was thinking about this the other day and thought that Slumdog would be the big winner but had no major actor, so it was either Penn or Rourke. Penn having won previously with Mystic River, it’s really logical for Rourke to get it. And who else but Kate Winslet?

    My only major disappointment was the complete shutout of Gran Torino. Though I might be biased as I am a big Eastwood fan.