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Oscars 2008: A Look into My Crystal Ball

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Are you one of those film fans who treat the Academy Awards as the Super Bowl of cinema? Well, I am. 

The dozens of award shows leading up to the Oscars merely serve as playoffs, with the Golden Globes serving as the AFC and NFC Championships simultaneously. The red carpet is pre-game, and the performances are halftime entertainment. The only real differences between the Super Bowl and the Oscars are that the commercials aren’t as important and the action comes in the form of announcements, not touchdowns.   

Nonetheless, when you sit down to watch the big show, have some delicious party food in one hand and your predictions in the other. The following are my predictions of who I think will win gold and who will go home empty-handed.   

BEST PICTURE

  • Atonement
  • Juno
  • Michael Clayton
  • No Country for Old Men
  • There Will Be Blood  

Of all the 2007 theatrical releases, No Country for Old Men is easily the most masterful. Executed to perfection, No Country for Old Men is a classic take on the good vs. evil tale. While the film may appear to be focused on the paper that makes the world go round, it’s entirely centered on the contrasting personalities of its main characters. Between a small-town sheriff, a “lucky” hunter who believes in finder’s keepers, and an outright madman, there are purpose, providence, and chance respectively. 

Despite its sudden Sopranos-esque ending, No Country for Old Men unearths a whirlwind of cinematic sensations from intensity to reflectivity. One minute you’ll be sitting on the end of your seat and the next you’ll be pondering the poeticism. What’s more, it features some of the year’s best acting and puts a legendary directing duo on display at the top of their game. After taking home the Golden Globe, Atonement presents the film most likely to upset No Country for Old Men. As for Michael Clayton and There Will Be Blood, one hasn’t garnered enough buzz and the other is too dark and comprehensive for the Academy's choosing. By far, the most interesting nominee is Juno. Hands down, Juno is one of the best intelligent comedies to come along in years. Unfortunately for Ebert’s heart, Juno doesn’t carry the capacity to beat out No Country for Old Men for the ’08 title.  

  • Probable Academy Pick: No Country for Old Men
  • Possible Upset: Atonement     

BEST DIRECTOR 

  • Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)
  • Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (No Country for Old Men)
  • Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton)
  • Jason Reitman (Juno)
  • Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)   

Typically, the “best director” directs the “best picture.” That is to say, whoever takes home this golden guy virtually locks in the win for the final award. With that said, Joe Wright’s name is absent from the list. Therefore, Atonement loses stock in taking home the Best Picture honor. Similarly, Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly wasn't nominated for Best Picture or for Best Foreign Language Film. The Academy needs to rethink its factors for consideration. Even though the director is a Texan, the film at least deserves a foreign language nomination and more justly a Best Picture nom.  

While Paul Thomas Anderson is finally given credit where credit is due, There Will Be Blood is not his best directorial effort, or best film for that matter. Again, Tony Gilroy’s lack of buzz skips a mention, and while Jason Reitman worked well with his cast and script, he doesn’t stand up to the bigger names in the category. In lesser hands, No Country for Old Men could have been an average endeavor. But placed in the palms of the Coens, the motion picture is a full-fledged work of art. Forget mentioning No Country for Old Men among the ranks of Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Big Lebowski, and even Fargo. Place this Texas tale of drugs, murder, and vengefulness above the aforementioned and among the best of the decade. And, hand the Coens their first gold for direction.  

  • Probable Academy Pick: Ethan Cohen, Joel Cohen
  • Possible Upset: Julian Schnabel   

BEST ACTOR 

  • George Clooney (Michael Clayton)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
  • Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
  • Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah)
  • Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)   

There might as well be one nominee. No one besides Day-Lewis stands a “bloody” chance. While Clooney is an Academy favorite, Depp shows why he is one of the most versatile actors alive, and Jones and Mortensen put out great work, Day-Lewis will drink everyone else's milkshake and clutch the statue. To boot, he’ll most likely mention Heath Ledger’s death one more time.  

  • Probable Academy Pick: Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Possible Upset: Non-existent   

BEST ACTRESS

  • Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age)
  • Julie Christie (Away from Her)
  • Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose)
  • Laura Linney (The Savages)
  • Ellen Page (Juno)  

Julie Christie delivers a career performance. Under Sarah Polley, she is affectingly raw in exhibiting her character's Alzheimer's. At the same time, Marion Cotillard becomes Edith Piaf. With the assistance of top-notch make-up, Cotillard looks, sings, and acts just like Piaf. If you haven't heard of Edith Piaf, familiarize yourself with her story and music. If you haven't seen La Vie en Rose, make time to soak in Cotillard's wonder.  

Next to the French actress, no one has received more press concerning their nomination than Ellen Page. For Page to take on the role of an eloquently rebellious pregnant teenager is one thing, but for her to execute the part like she did is another. Page carries the most buzz and that, perhaps, could lead to an upset. Linney is worthy, but forgettable. Blanchett will get her recognition elsewhere. So, that leaves three. Put your money on Christie with a safety wager on Cotillard.   

  • Probable Academy Pick: Julie Christie
  • Possible Upset: Marion Cotillard    

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)
  • Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)
  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson’s War)
  • Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild)
  • Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton)  

Javier Bardem. Period. Bardem’s ability to appear more villainous and capable of stalking down any victim easier than Michael Myers is a testament to his unruffled, yet hair-raising, character. Additionally, in his quiet, unapproachable, and crazed role, Bardem encompasses the supremacy of No Country for Old Men and his portrait of a fictionalized villain goes down in history as one of the best.   

  • Probable Academy Pick: Javier Bardem
  • Possible Upset: Non-existent     

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Cate Blanchett (I’m Not There)
  • Ruby Dee (American Gangster)
  • Saoirse Ronan (Atonement)
  • Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
  • Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)  

If there is any category that may split voters, it's this one. The "Supporting" Oscars are notorious for surprises, and this year is no different. Consider this category open for an unexpected victor. Even though Cate Blanchett is the odds-on favorite for her transfixing role as Bob Dylan, don't be shocked if Ruby Dee or Amy Ryan gets the call to walk up to the podium for an emotional acceptance speech. Ruby Dee would be an Oscar packed with too much sentiment and not enough honesty. Amy Ryan would be a just choice. Saoirse Ronan or Tilda Swinton would shock the world with a win. While I'm thinking Cate Blanchett, I'm hoping Amy Ryan.   

  • Probable Academy Pick: Cate Blanchett
  • Possible Upset: Amy Ryan      

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Juno
  • Lars and the Real Girl
  • Michael Clayton
  • Ratatouille
  • The Savages  

The Best Original Screenplay category is probably the less competitive of the two screenwriting awards. With its tender charm and sharp intellect, Juno is a brilliant script. Diablo Cody deserves the nod and the victory for her freshman debut.  

  • Probable Academy Pick: Juno
  • Possible Upset: Lars and the Real Girl    

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 

  • Atonement
  • Away from Her
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • No Country for Old Men
  • There Will Be Blood  

Best Adapted Screenplay is a toss-up. Among the five nominees, all exhibit fine writing from an inspiration. No Country for Old Men is a finely condensed script that serves as the mold for the masterpiece. Yet Atonement expertly depicts the novel's successes — in terms of traversing timelines and its closing. Even though a guarantee cannot be made, No Country for Old Men should capture the "Best Adapted" honor and thus four of the eight major categories.  

  • Probable Academy Pick: No Country for Old Men
  • Possible Upset: Atonement     

The remainder of my predictions: 

  • Animated Feature: Ratatouille
  • Art Direction: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • Cinematography: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Costume Design: Atonement
  • Documentary: No End in Sight
  • Editing: No Country for Old Men
  • Foreign Language Film: 12
  • Makeup: La Vie en Rose
  • Musical Score: Atonement
  • Music (Song): "Falling Slowly" (Once)
  • Sound Editing: Transformers
  • Sound Mixing: No Country for Old Men
  • Visual Effects: Transformers

 

Stay tuned for my post-Oscar round-up. Otherwise, see you next year — same place, same time. And don't forget to wear your favorite team's jersey for support!

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About Brandon Valentine