Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Oscar predictions 2009

My bloghounds will have noticed that I've been on a reviewing rampage the past couple of weeks. This year I took it upon myself to watch as many Oscar-nominated movies as I can before the winners are announced, and for the first time ever, I've managed to watch all 5 movies nominated for Best Picture prior to awards night, a feat I didn't even manage to achieve 2 years ago when I was an Oscars panelist for BBC.com (to this day I have yet to see Letters from Iwo Jima).

I admit a large part of my motivation in undertaking this time-consuming film-viewing task is the petty desire to win our annual Oscars betting pool. And before anyone sneers, I'd like to clarify that it's not about the money, it's about the gloating rights. I've beaten my siblings only ONCE in the 7 years we've been betting on the Oscars, and it was the same year of my BBC stint, when I had been forced to watch as many of the nominated pictures as possible so that I could write about them. So I figured if I prepare as thoroughly, I'd stand a better chance of winning. Of course the drawback to my ingenious plan is that my sister has watched all the same movies I have, which means she is just as prepared. But we'll see who prevails come February 23. *evil laugh*

Since my sibs and I have already sealed our Oscar ballots and we can no longer change our bets (and copy each other's), it's now safe to announce my picks for each major category. Feel free to comment and tell me if you think I made the right choices.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Why she will win: Her Maria Elena stole the thunder from Vicky AND Cristina, and Barcelona's beauty took a backseat to her intensity and iridescence. "GEENius! Not talent, GEENius!"
Whom I want to win: Penelope Cruz, my new girl crush

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Why he will win: Duh.
Whom I want to win: Heath Ledger, for single-handedly redefining the comic book villain archetype, and for the most kick-ass swan song of any actor of our generation

BEST ACTRESS: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Why she will win: She didn't really blow me away in this one, but the Academy will reward Kate for her impressive and heretofore unrecognized body of work over the past decade. And this should make up for the injustice of her not winning Best Supporting Actress for Sense and Sensibility 12 years ago (eat your heart out, Mira Sorvino!).
Whom I want to win: Meryl Streep, because there's no such thing as overrewarding greatness

BEST ACTOR: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Why he will win: Everyone loves a comeback kid, and a comeback kid playing a comeback kid with the combined control of a seasoned pro and raw vulnerability of a newbie is bound to win over Academy voters. They will want to give acting legend Rourke his redemption... even if he uglies up the red carpet.
Whom I want to win: Colin Farrell, who wasn't even nominated for his brilliant performance in In Bruges

Why it will win: Pixar owns this category. And those first 20-something dialogue-free minutes of WALL-E were truly beautiful.
Whom I want to win: Kung Fu Panda, just for kicks (pun not intended)

Why it will win: It's a classic rags-to-riches story given a modern Mumbai twist, which gives it both universal and international appeal. And who doesn't like a happy ending?
What I want to win: Frost/Nixon, so that it wins SOMEthing (it seems so wrong for such a good movie to not be awarded a single distinction)

Why it will win: The Academy will probably give Milk this consolation prize since Slumdog's pretty much sure to walk away with Best Picture.
What I want to win: In Bruges, the funniest and most smartly written movie among all the nominated films

BEST DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Why he will win:
Shooting a movie in Mumbai is difficult enough, but shooting an outstanding movie in Mumbai is pretty damn amazing. Plus he drew wonderful performances from a cast of mostly unknown and first-time actors, especially the children.
Whom I want to win: Danny Boyle, hands down

BEST PICTURE: Slumdog Millionaire
Why it will win: In a cynical world and a cynical entertainment industry, it's a rare and welcome treat to come across a feel-good film that is in no way contrived or corny.
What I want to win: Slumdog Millionaire, just the breath of fresh air Hollywood has been needing

My other bets include Slumdog Millionaire for Best Cinematography, Original Score, Film Editing and Sound Mixing; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for Best Art Direction, Makeup, and Visual Effects; The Dark Knight for Best Sound Editing; and WALL-E for Best Original Song.

This year's crop of nominees are quite an exceptionally awesome bunch, certainly far better than last year's contenders. I dare say that collectively, this year's batch is the best we've seen in the past 5 or so years. In particular, there was solid acting all around: from grizzled Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon to young David Kross in The Reader; to Sean Penn's tour de force in Milk to Taraji P. Henson's breakthrough performance in Benjamin Button; to the fabulous foursome of Doubt (who, sadly, will probably get shut out) right down to everyone in Slumdog Millionaire. It's a pity they can't hand out Oscars to everyone, but considering the outstanding and comparable quality of practically all the nominees, for once that whole "it's an honor just to be nominated" cliche will ring true.

But dammit, I want to win our betting pool.


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