Although 2008 was a historic year in politics for obvious reasons, it has the potential to be groundbreaking for the movie industry as well.
Slumdog Millionaire would seem like an odd choice to be leading the Best Picture race, considering it has no established stars and a relatively reasonable budget, but this inspiring and hopeful story is the kind of one Oscar loves but often forgets to reward.
If Slumdog Millionaire is assured a nomination, what will it compete against? Who will be the nominees in the other major categories? Here are my predictions for the 2008 Academy Awards nominations.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with its vast epic scale, beautiful cinematography, and groundbreaking special effects, appears to be in the best shape of receiving a nomination other than Slumdog Millionaire.
The other two films that have done everything necessary in pre-Oscar honors to feel reasonably optimistic about their chances come Thursday are Milk and Frost/Nixon, both with directors who are respected in the industry and lead performances that make the material compelling with messages and truths that are still applicable today.
The fifth nominee is harder to discern with many films gaining momentum late in the process and others receiving support from lesser known critics’ groups. Gran Torino, which has the Clint Eastwood pedigree behind it and startlingly high box office numbers, might sneak in the last spot but no guild nominations seems to have indicated a rejection of its dark subject matter.
WALL-E has received virulent support from the critics but an animated film probably needs overwhelming praise to be considered as a serious candidate for the top prize, which this has yet to possess. The Reader and Revolutionary Road both received Best Picture nominations from the Golden Globes, but they might have better luck in the acting categories because of divisiveness about their merits from critics.
Doubt got a surprising five SAG nominations, which illustrates massive support from the actor’s branch, but not many people have named it one of the year’s best films.
It appears as if the fifth nominee come down to two completely different films about men fighting for a better tomorrow in The Wrestler and The Dark Knight.
Because of its support from the guilds and massive box office returns, The Dark Knight has to be considered the frontrunner for the final spot, but the underdog story of The Wrestler might ride its wave of critical acclaim to a surprising nomination.
Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant, Milk
Danny Boyle, David Fincher, and Christopher Nolan, even if The Dark Knight is squeezed out of the Best Picture race, seem poised to receive their first ever nominations for films that have been lauded for their directorial achievements. Gus Van Sant brought poignancy to Milk that should help him secure a nomination, while Frost/Nixon might be seen as more of a triumph of writing and acting, causing Ron Howard to be excluded from the final five. The films of previous winners Clint Eastwood and Sam Mendes may be unfairly compared to their other works, hurting either one’s chances for a nomination. Stephen Daldry, John Patrick Shanley, Mike Leigh, and Andrew Stanton probably would have a better chance in a year without so many viable candidates. Therefore, the Academy can honor The Wrestler with the first nomination for director Darren Aronofsky instead of a Best Picture nomination.