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Oscar Handicapping January 22, 2008

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
Tags: ,

The Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and while it was a pretty weak year for movies and the nominations themselves were fairly predictable, picking the possible winners is always a challenge.

A challenge, sir? I demand satisfaction!

That’s what I say when I come bounding into the brothel… “I demand satisfaction!”

So let’s see about the 2008 Oscars – remember, this is who I think will win, not who I necessarily want to win:

Performance by an actor in a leading role:
George Clooney in “Michael Clayton”
Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood”
Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd”
Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah”
Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises”

Perhaps the easiest of the bunch to predict: I’ll go with Daniel Day-Lewis, since he chewed the most scenery.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Julie Christie in “Away from Her”
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose”
Laura Linney in “The Savages”
Ellen Page in “Juno”

This one is almost as easy as Best Actor. They gave one to Blanchett recently, no one saw La Vie en Rose, no one saw The Savages and they’ll figure Laura Linney (Brown ’86, YAY!!!!) will be back someday, and they’ll definitely figure Ellen Page will be back someday, so it’s time to give Julie Christie the nod here, for this movie, for her career, for playing someone with a deadly disease (always a shoe-in), and for putting up with Warren Beatty.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild”
Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton”

The Supporting Actor category sometimes goes for the young star on the rise in a breakout performance (like when they gave it to Kevin Spacey or Denzel Washington), and sometimes goes to someone who has been around forever without winning an award (i.e. Jack Palance). We can eliminate Philip Seymour Hoffman since he just won Best Actor. We can eliminate Casey Affleck since he’s in a movie that nobody saw. Javier Bardem was certainly memorable, but it’s basically a one-note scary-psycho-guy performance. So, we’re left with a career award for first-time nominee Hal Holbrook, or a “this guy always does great work” award to Tom Wilkinson. I didn’t see either movie, so I’m gonna go with “career award for Hal Holbrook” on this one. C’mon, he was Mark Twain, fer chrissakes!

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There”
Ruby Dee in “American Gangster”
Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement”
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone”
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton”

The Supporting Actress category is most often the bizarro crapshoot – think Marisa Tomei, Beatrice Straight, or even Judy Dench for her eight minutes in Shakespeare In Love. But out of all of those names, the only one that jumps out to me as one who critics and people repeatedly discussed as giving a brilliant and memorable performance that defined the movie they were in would be Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone. So, assuming they don’t go nuts and pick a wild card in this category, I’ll go with that.

Best Director
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Julian Schnabel
“Juno” Jason Reitman
“Michael Clayton” Tony Gilroy
“No Country for Old Men” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” Paul Thomas Anderson


Best Picture
“Michael Clayton”
“No Country for Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”

I think Director & Picture will match this year, and it’s pretty much between the Coens and Anderson. This is a tough one to call, especially since I thought both movies were extremely overrated. Will younger voters all go for Juno? It’s this year’s Little Miss Sunshine! That means it might win a screenplay award and nothing else. So don’t bet on it going beyond that. The most likely voters for Juno were also dazzled by No Country and Blood, and while my gut reaction at first (and as I originally posted here) was to lean towards Anderson & Blood, the more I think about it, I’m wondering if they’ll go with the Coens as sort of a “body of work” award along with their hugely over-rated film which has enough of the artsy “look how profound our cartoon violence is!” hook that Academy voters are always such suckers for. This is a tough one to call, and a lot of it depends on whether Academy voters see Blood as purely a one-man acting show for Lewis or as (again) a film with enough narcissistic artsy profundity to snag the award. Remember, these are the same people who voted Crash as Best Picture a couple of years ago since it was a safer pick than Brokeback Mountain. Which of No Country or Blood is the safer faux-edgy pick this time? I feel like flipping a coin.

Coin Flipped: No Country For Old Men & The Coens

Adapted screenplay
“Atonement” , Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
“Away from Her”, Written by Sarah Polley
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
“No Country for Old Men”, Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood”, Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Original screenplay
“Juno”, Written by Diablo Cody
“Lars and the Real Girl”, Written by Nancy Oliver
“Michael Clayton”, Written by Tony Gilroy
“Ratatouille”, Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
“The Savages”, Written by Tamara Jenkins

The general rule of thumb with the screenplay noms is to pick the ones that also get a Best Picture nomination, or win, which is why I’ll change one pick here from my original post. So, I will pick No Country For Old Men for Best Adapted Screenplay & Juno for Best Original.

I’m not familiar with the documentaries, but I think they will reward the antiwar contingent here, since none of the antiwar feature films (1) made ANY money at the box office and (2) got the piles of nominations they were clearly after (except for Tommy Lee Jones, and he’s also in another multiple-nominated film), so I think they’ll go with Operation Homecoming, since it gets to be both antiwar and pro-troops and features Hollywood star voiceovers from (presumably, since Robert Duvall is one) across the political spectrum. I’ll give it a slight nod over No End In Sight, though I wouldn’t underestimate the chances of a traditional antiwar, anti-Bush doc winning an award. In the documentary shorts, we all know that they love films about anyone, preferably children, struggling with fatal disease, as well as films about movies uplifting people’s lives. We have short documentaries about both of these things, and since there’s no movie about yet another group of noble goyim who saved Jews in World War 2 to trump them both, I think I’ll go with Salim Baba, which is about someone running discarded movie clips with a hand-cranked projector for kids in Kolkata, India. Just reading about it made me feel uplifted!

Excuse me while I adjust myself…

I think Ratatouille will win for Best Animated Feature over Persepolis, mostly because of the quality of the animation. I really haven’t thought about any of the technical awards yet, though usually the films with the most editing and most make-up, quantity wise, tend to win. Now the film with the most editing would be There Will Be Blood, so no problems there, and I think they’ll want to give it something besides Actor, and the Coens edited their own film under a pseudonym – but the most make-up would probably fall to Norbit, and would the academy want to reward that pile of crap with anything?? And the other nail-biter of the night will be whether Kevin O’Connell, who is nominated for Best Sound Mixing and has been nominated now twenty times without ever winning, will win this year – I’m guessing he goes 0 for 21 since he’s up for Transformers, but who knows?

Random Predictions About The Broadcast:
A lot of this depends on the writers’ strike. There’ll certainly be pro-writer-tinged jokes in Jon Stewart’s monologue and ad-libs, and perhaps some unfunny self-congratulatory politically-tinged nonsense. But I can’t predict any specific bits or jokes beyond that. I’ll go for a longshot on who gets pole position (the finale) of the memorial death reel and go with former MPAA President Jack Valenti. Ingmar Bergman, Michaelangelo Antonioni and perhaps Deborah Kerr are the only competition here for “biggest name we lost in 2007.” And who knows, Valenti might get his own separate tribute. Or perhaps Bergman will. Or maybe they’ll finally see to it that justice is done and give Roger Corman the lifetime achievement award for basically running his own film school in the 1960s and keeping Vincent Price perennially employed.

Best Song? Are you kidding me? Do you really care? It’s always something hideous. Three of the five this year are from Enchanted. Wanna pick a winner? Easy! Pick the most annoying one and leave me alone. I’m going to make some pasta for dinner.



1. ed - February 3, 2008

No Country, The Coens, DDL, Christie, Bardem, Swinton, No Country, Juno.

I met Laura Linney back around 2001 and she is just stunningly beautiful.

Patriots 45 Giants 20

2. Jim Berkin - February 3, 2008

After watching Bardem win some other acting awards, I think that might be the only prediction I’d revise. If Lewis wins basically for defining a movie with his performance, then the same standard would apply to Bardem, in which case he’d win the award. But I’ll stick with my pick for Holbrook, since I’d love to see him be the oldest winner ever.

Hope you’re right about that Superbowl prediction! I’m off to a Superbowl party now…

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