With the Oscars a week away, I will attempt to make a prediction in the major categories, even though I’m pretty lousy at it. I’ll also tell you whom I’d vote for if I were a member of the Academy (aside, of course, from No End in Sight winning Best Documentary and “Falling Slowly” winning best original song).
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Atonement (Christopher Hampton, based on the novel by Ian McEwan), Away From Her (Sarah Polley, based on the story “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Ronald Harwood, based on the memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby), No Country for Old Men (Ethan and Joel Coen, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy), There Will be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair)
Who will win: Ethan and Joel Coen. For Polley, the nomination is the award, Harwood won here recently, and some thought Hampton’s screenplay missed the essence of the book. Anderson might win here if the Academy wants to throw him a bone, but Daniel Day-Lewis will probably cover the film. Besides, the Coens won the WGA award.
Who should win: Paul Thomas Anderson. I’m one of those people who thought Hampton took a complex book and made it too simplistic, and Harwood’s screenplay was also the weakest part of his film. Polley and the Coen brothers both did outstanding work, but neither of them constructed their work as well as Anderson.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Juno (Diablo Cody), Lars and the Real Girl (Nancy Oliver), Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy), Ratatouille (Brad Bird, Jim Capobianco, Jan Pinkava), The Savages (Tamara Jenkins)
Who will win: Diablo Cody. Oliver probably wrote the most despised nominee on this list, an animated film has never won this category, and for Jenkins, the nomination is the award. Gilroy has a good chance, being a respected veteran who wrote a respected screenplay, but Cody is the darling of the moment, and she won the WGA award.
Who should win: Tony Gilroy. I haven’t seen Lars and the Real Girl yet, but while all the other screenplays were very good, especially Jenkins’, Gilroy wrote the most entertaining and artful of them.
BEST DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood, Ethan and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men, Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton, Jason Reitman, Juno, Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Who will win: Ethan and Joel Coen. For Gilroy and Reitman, the screenplays of their respective films overshadowed their directing work, and while Schnabel dazzled many with his direction, his film didn’t get a Best Picture nod, and he’s not particularly well liked. Anderson has a lot of passionate fans, but having won the DGA, this is the Coens to lose.
Who should win: Paul Thomas Anderson. There’s not a bum nominee on this list, but Anderson’s film showed the most ambition and talent on display.
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
Who will win: Ruby Dee. This is the toughest category to pick, because there’s no clear favorite – only Ronan will have to be satisfied with the nomination. Blanchett received the acclaim, but she’s won here recently. Ryan won most of the awards, and she’s well liked, but not enough people saw the movie. Swinton is well liked, and she may win the movie’s only prize, but she doesn’t seem to have any push behind her. My guess is, despite the smallness of her role, the Academy will find the sentiment too much to ignore, follow the lead of the SAG Awards, and reward Dee.
Who should win: Tilda Swinton. Dee is a treasure, but she was barely in her movie, and while Ronan was good, she struggled with a weak script. Blanchett and Ryan were both terrific, but neither reinvented their parts like Swinton did hers.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War, Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
Who will win: Javier Bardem. For Affleck, the nomination is the reward, Hoffman won too recently, and like Swinton, Wilkinson is respected but has no push behind him. Holbrook could win the sentimental vote, but Bardem seems too formidable a foe.
Who should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’m in the minority, but I didn’t like Affleck’s performance – it seemed too mannered. The other three performances were terrific, but Hoffman was most indispensable to his movie. Admittedly, he also had an MVP year, but he really was that good in this film.
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
Who will win: Julie Christie. For Page, the nomination is the reward at this point, not enough people saw Linney’s film, and everyone agrees Blanchett’s nod here is for the lesser of her two performances. Cotillard’s got a lot of passionate fans, but Christie is well liked by everyone.
Who should win: Laura Linney. Blanchett deserved her supporting nod, but has no business in this category, and Cotillard tried, but was defeated by the screenplay. Christie and Page were terrific, but Linney did best in playing an inherently sympathetic character in an unsympathetic way while still retaining our sympathy.
BEST ACTOR: George Clooney, Michael Clayton, Daniel Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood, Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd, Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah, Viggo Mortenson, Eastern Promises
Who will win: Daniel Day Lewis. Basically, this is Lewis’ to lose, especially since Clooney won too soon, Depp is playing a competing crazy, not enough people saw Jones’ film, and for Mortenson, the nomination is the reward.
Who should win: Tommy Lee Jones. Depp was good at being angry, but not great at anything else, and Mortenson was defeated by a plot turn near the end, damaging otherwise fine work. Clooney was terrific, and Day-Lewis was magnificent, but Jones went further in letting an inherently likable character be unlikable.
BEST PICTURE: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood
Who will win: No Country for Old Men. Atonement lost the buzz it had back in September, plus it’s the only picture without a Best Director nomination, and while Michael Clayton is well liked, it doesn’t have the passion behind it. Juno has an outside chance if people want a feel-good movie, and there’s a loud fanbase behind There Will Be Blood, but this seems like the Coens’ year.
Who should win: There Will Be Blood. No other film this year had as much ambition, or the talent that matched that ambition. No other film explored as much what this country was, and is, about. Also, Atonement was very disappointing, and while the other three are very good, particularly Michael Clayton, none of them aimed as high.
See you on the 24th!