Can Wolverine save the Oscars? It seems a rather odd request for an X-Man, but after mixing it up with a variety of comedic hosts (Letterman, Martin, Stewart) and being met with increasingly dwindling ratings, the awards show will need a superhero to rescue it this year. The question is: Is Hugh Jackman’s plan of hosting a “more intimate” Oscar ceremony what is needed?
First, there is not really a blockbuster of the bunch (Benjamin Button is the highest grosser, but it's hard to find someone who really loved the film).
Second, the nation's largest economic recession in decades hardly feels like a time to celebrate the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. ("Hmmm… can I feed my children and myself tomorr…oooh, is she wearing Versaci?")
Third, no disrespect to Jackman, but how intimate can a bloated, three-plus hour extravaganza soaking in Hollywood excess be?
He has a Herculean task tomorrow, and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science president Sid Ganis’s proclamation of a “truly different” ceremony does little to allay fears (Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White was certainly “different”). As done in the past, I will break the main categories in what will win and what should win.
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Reader
- Slumdog Millionaire
What will win: Slumdog has been on a roll, and it's the plucky underdog story that seems to dominate the awards of late (see the entirely overrated Juno and the sweet-but-marginal Little Miss Sunshine).
What should win: Honestly, none of these choices are truly worthy of being called the best film of the year, but for sheer visionary achievement, Benjamin Button is deserving for its epic sweep, seamless CGI, and thematic heft.
- Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
- Angelina Jolie, Changeling
- Melissa Leo, Frozen River
- Meryl Streep, Doubt
- Kate Winslet, The Reader
Who will win: Winslet's Golden Globe win ups her chances for Oscar glory, and her winless streak combined with two strong 2008 performances should increase her chances here.
Who should win: Those few who have witnessed Leo's note-perfect performance in River will not soon forget it.
- Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
- Sean Penn, Milk
- Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
- Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Who will win: Rourke has been rapidly exhausting his goodwill with his erratic off-screen behavior (which is just puzzling, as he's not getting the award for his lifestyle). Nonetheless, look for Penn's earnest embodiment to eke out a victory.
Who should win: Rourke. While his face may have changed over the years, his talent continues to mesmerize.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- Amy Adams, Doubt
- Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- Viola Davis, Doubt
- Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Who will win: Cruz has been the slow and steady one in this race, and was the standout of Woody Allen's sexed-up dramedy. And while Davis was equally impressive, her marginal role in Doubt may not be enough against some of the meatier roles.
Who should win: Between The Wrestler and last year's Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead Tomei has bared herself to the audience in ways no other mainstream actress of her generation has.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
- Josh Brolin, Milk
- Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
- Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
- Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
- Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
Who should and will: A much deserving Heath Ledger.
- Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
- Stephen Daldry, The Reader
- David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
- Gus Van Sant, Milk
Who will win: Danny Boyle. For all its sentimental faults, he raised Slumdog with skill and technical verisimilitude.
Who should win: It always seems as though this category exists for voters to split love between two Best Picture favorites, so since I selected Benjamin for the top honors, it's only fitting that Fincher should prevail here.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
- Dustin Lance Black, Milk
- Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
- Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky
- Marttin McDonagh, In Bruges
- Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, WALL·E
Who will win: Milk's Black crafted a fine highlight reel of the politician's life, which should also get a boost from those in the Prop. 8 state.
Who should win: Is it odd that a film with such little dialogue win best screenplay? I don't care, for within WALL·E's rather quiet first half, there are still plenty an homage to cinematic genres to appeal to any lover of film.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
- Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
- David Hare, The Reader
- Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
- John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
- Eric Roth, Robin Swicord, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Who will and should win: Life-as-game show metaphor Slumdog should prevail here.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
- Kung Fu Panda
Who will and should win: WALL·E, if only because this is one of the few bones thrown to this picture this year.
And the rest of the categories…
Who will win: This one will most likely be just another winning round for Slumdog's contestants.
Who should win: Dark Knight, for providing us with the anti-Bay summer blockbuster that's not afraid to let the camera linger for more than 20 seconds.
After being left out of top-tier prizes, look for Dark Knight to nab various technical awards this year.
Judges will honor Slumdog's score to earn hipster points.
Because of the frustrating Academy rules that exempted Spingsteen's poetic closing number for The Wrestler, look for Peter Gabriel to earn honors here for WALL·E's "Down to Earth."
Unless the voters are feeling sorry for sending Button home empty-handed by giving it to them, bow to The Duchess here.
Button's astounding work should earn props here.
Dark Knight, here's another consolation prize.
The Dark Knight
Button should stitch this up.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Waltz with Bashir should, after getting snubbed in the animated category.
Man on Wire
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Yes, most of these are available to those who search hard enough. That said, the short that accompanies WALL·E, "Presto" is vintage Warner Bros.-era bliss.