It is time to predict who will actually take home Oscar, and while the general nominations are relatively easy to call, the actual winners are often harder to predict. In a backwards way, I wish there was one year when my predicting many categories is really moot because that would mean I am not second-guessing political factors and other trends and the vote is based solely on artistic quality.
Of course, politics and artistic quality are not necessarily mutually exclusive but the former should be minimized as much as possible so that we can have some pleasant and truly deserving surprise wins. Anyway, enough of my rambling... here are my predictions for who will win the Oscars as well as my preferences for who should win.
Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire, of course. It has the PGA and DGA on its side and, after the last few years’ Best Picture winners such as Million Dollar Baby, Crash, The Departed, and No Country for Old Men have been so downbeat, the Academy will feel that this is their opportunity to honor an uplifting film. The fact that it is set in India is also a gigantic boost, as the Oscars are really enthusiastic over the theme of globalization these days and this is the friendliest one they can pick.
In fact, it is the only particularly memorable movie in this category’s lineup, although it is getting ever clearer that the Academy tends to ignore films that really distend the realm of cinema. There are good movies here such as Milk, Frost/Nixon or The Reader but how many people will actually remember these movies after the next few years? And does The Curious Case of Benjamin Button really tell a story that exploits the possibilities of its wild premise beyond its slick technical and visual surface? Well, at least they will end up (hopefully) picking the one movie that stands out the most.
Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire
Preference: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: The Best Picture front runner will also carry the torch here for the director, Danny Boyle. He has been an ambitious director, immersing himself in almost any genre and most, including the DGA that has honored him, would agree that immersing himself so well in a foreign culture this time has allowed him to direct one of his best films yet. If there is a dark horse, I do not think it will be David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as many people believe, but Gus Van Sant, as there might be votes of sympathy for him after not winning for Good Will Hunting and making a slew of films that are strictly personal and outside the mainstream (although, of course, the Academy would choose to pick him for a more commercial movie like Milk rather than a more unconventional, ambitious film like Paranoid Park). Ron Howard is already a past recent winner and Stephen Daldry should be happy just with his nomination here, although he may start to get restless after losing with all three nominations.