Monday, February 11, 2008

Picking the Oscar Winners

The 80th Annual Academy Awards are coming up on Feb 24. As usual, I haven't seen very many of the nominated films at this point, but it's always fun to try and pick the winners. I usually do pretty well picking the winners of the big six categories (Best Picture, Best Director, and the four acting awards), but this year there is no clear cut front runner in several of the categories. Almost all of these awards have at least two strong possibilities.

The one major exception this year is Best Actor. Here are the nominees:

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

Daniel Day-Lewis has got this one locked up. The buzz on his performance is just about the strongest any actor has received in the last 20 years. Of course the last time I said that an Oscar win was a sure thing was predicting "Cars" would win Best Animated Feature last year. Curse you "Happy Feet."

The rest of the categories aren't so simple to pick. Take Best Supporting Actor, just a few weeks ago everyone was saying that other hopefuls should just stand back, let Javier Bardem and his cattle gun take home the award for "No Country for Old Men," and hopefully nobody gets hurt in the process. But wait, enter Hal Holbrook's performance from "Into the Wild." The veteran of film's such as "All the President's Men", and "The Star Chamber" has received a lot of buzz and he's got age on his side. He's 83 years old and never been nominated before. Age and a long history in the film industry can be a factor, especially in the supporting actor categories. Just look at Sean Connery's win for "The Untouchables," Dom Ameche's win for "Cocoon," or even Alan Arkin's win last year for "Little Miss Sunshine."

Over in the Best Supporting Actress category, age is also a factor. Ruby Dee, also 83, is nominated for her performance in "American Gangster." The favorite, up to this point, has been Cate Blanchett for playing one of several versions of Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There." But Blanchett has won in this category before (for "The Aviator") and she is also nominated in the Best Actress category for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." So she may cancel herself out. Combine that with Ruby Dee's recent Screen Actors Guild Award win, and the age factor, it's a tough race to call.

Over in the Best Actress category you have Julie Christie's performance as an Alzheimers's patient in "Away From Her" generating a lot of talk. Christie is only 66, but that's a lot more than closest competitior, Ellen Page from "Juno," who turns 21 just a few days before the awards are presented. Christie seemed to be the early favorite, but "Juno" is the film that everyone is talking about, and Page, who previous to this was best known for playing a junior superhero in the last X-Men movie, is the source of a lot of that talk.

Things are no easier over in the Best Director and Best Picture categories. In these fields the battle rages between Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood," and the Coen Brothers' "No Country for Old Men." For Best Picture, the stronger buzz seems to be with "There Will Be Blood." Over in the directing category the Coens have 24 years of great films on there side compared to PTA's filmography of four films, including offerings such as "Magnolia," which some people hated as much as others loved. Really both categories could go either way.

All that having been said, here are my choices as of 7:00 PM Mountain Time, Feb 11, 2008.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Actress: Ellen Page
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett
Best Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Best Picture: There Will Be Blood

I may change my mind before the broadcast. A lot can happen between now and then.

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