I known I’ve been away for awhile — I’ve been drowning in work and too tired to write when I get home, so the poor site here has been suffering. And it’s been killing me: I totally missed writing about the Oscar nominations (I didn’t even know they were happening until after they’d happened, and that never happens), totally missed writing about the Grammys (hooray Dixie Chicks, though psst, Natalie: a little humility never hurts), totally missed writing about whatever the hell is happening to Britney Spears (is there anyone who cares about this girl enough to help get her shit together?). But the Oscars are Sunday night, and I couldn’t let them pass without offering My Official Predictions for this year’s awards.
My regular Oscar-predicting disclaimer applies: what follows are not the movies or performances I think should win, but rather those I think will win. As with every year since I became a parent, I’ve seen very few of the nominated films. This year in particular it seems like there’s a lot of smaller independent films nominated for major awards, and those usually prove even harder for me to see. Maybe I’ll write up my own awards soon based on the, what, 20 movies I saw from 2006, but for now, this is what you get. (I’ll say this as a preview of my awards: you’ll see a whole lot of The Prestige in there.)
Away we go:
Best Picture: Babel. I don’t want this movie to win it because I’ve heard it’s such a prime example of The Theatre of Look How Much Life Sucks, and I don’t have much desire to see that kind of thing rewarded, well done or not. None of this year’s nominees scream Best Picture to me, honestly, but I suppose something’s gotta win. My preference would be Little Miss Sunshine (the anti-Babel — life may suck, but you have to find the joy and beauty in it anyway), if only to see a comedy win Best Picture, which almost never happens; I really enjoyed The Departed, but I have trouble seeing what’s essentially a high-class crime thriller winning the top prize. Babel‘s the kind of Important Film which is constructed to win Oscars (ref. Crash, 2006), so I’d imagine it will, depressing a thought as it may be.
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland. Every year, there’s a shocking upset! in one of the major categories, and this year Best Actor feels like it’s got the best shot at seeing a surprise winner. For all of the talk about Whitaker’s performance as Idi Amin in Scotland, it seems like the movie itself wasn’t particularly well regarded; while I think he’s still clearly the front-runner, I want to say right here that I won’t be even a tiny bit shocked if Leonardo DiCaprio walks away with it. While technically the award would be for Blood Diamond, DiCaprio’s work in The Departed was also Oscar-worthy, so I can see Academy voters going the two-for-the-price-of-one route and giving the nod to Leo.
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen. If this award goes to anyone else, it’d go down as one of the greatest upsets in Oscar history.
Best Supporting Actor: Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children. This one’s my actual upset pick. I know Eddie Murphy is considered the favorite here, but Hollywood loves comeback stories even more than it does wait-but-I-didn’t-know-he-could-do-that stories. Haley’s out-of-nowhere performance was, so I’ve heard, devastating. Plus, A) I can see voters not wanting to give the same movie both supporting actor awards (see the next paragraph) and B) I can’t help but think all of those ads for Norbit can’t be helping Murphy’s Oscar caché (we’re going to give him an Oscar? Oh, nuh uh). Sorry, Eddie; maybe now it’ll be time to learn how to pick your roles better.
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls. From all I’ve heard, the only crime if Hudson were to win this award would be that she didn’t win Best Actress, instead. I’m not necessarily big on musicals, but I want to see this movie because of all I’ve heard about Hudson’s (and Murphy’s) performance. Upset potential exists for Babel‘s Rinko Kikuchi — never underestimate the awards-garnering power of portraying the handicapped.
Best Director: Martin Scorcese, The Departed. Ironically, Marty will finally win the award for the movie he probably least deserves it for. That’s not a knock on The Departed, which is a fantastic movie — it’s just not Scorcese’s best directorial job, especially given some of the movies for which he hasn’t won. This win will classify as much for a lifetime achievement award as a win for this particular movie — the Academy will finally be able to rectify the fact that they’ve given Clint Eastwood two of these and never even given Scorcese one. (If, for some reason, Eastwood somehow pulls out a win here for Letters From Iwo Jima, I think Marty will be fully justified in jumping Clint on the way to the podium and pulling a Departed of his own on him.)
Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine. I believe this will be the only major award Sunshine gets; it seems like when the Academy falls in love with a little indie of this sort and lavishes it with bunches of nominations, they usually wind up giving it one award as a pat on the head, and frequently that award is for its screenplay. (Lost In Translation, anyone?) So this award will just have to do. (I’d like to say here that I wish the Oscars would follow the pattern of the Screen Actors Guild awards and issue a Best Ensemble Acting award; I think it’s quite likely Little Miss Sunshine, a movie in which there really isn’t a lead actor, would have taken that one.)
Best Adapted Screenplay: William Monahan, The Departed. Eh, just a gut feeling, really. None of the nominees jumps out at me as an obvious winner; I’m thinking it comes down to this or Little Children by Todd Field and Tom Perrotta. I’ll tell you this right now: while you’re watching the awards telecast, if you see The Departed win this award and Scorcese wins for Best Director and you’ve got money riding on it winning Best Picture — go change your bets fast if you still can. No way does it win all three.
Best Animated Feature: Cars. I’m really torn here. I thought Happy Feet was a better picture overall than Cars, but I’d imagine Cars is going to win — it’s Pixar, and no Pixar movie released since they began this award has failed to win it. (OK, yes, that’s only two movies, but still). [EDIT: Nope, I'm wrong here. As my friend Tim P. pointed out, Monsters Inc. lost to Shrek the first year this award was given out. Pixar's not quite as infallible as I thought. That'll learn me to rely on my memory instead of doing research.] Plus, Cars has Paul Newman, so. Either way, I’m not going to complain — both movies are certainly deserving.