The 81st Annual Academy Awards are fast approaching with great anticipation and suspense as to who will leave the Kodak Theater Sunday with a gold statuette that will change their lives forever. Everybody is stating what they believe should and will happen, so I figured it was time to throw my hat into the ring by picking my favorites of the year in each category, my preferred winner out of those nominated, and my predictions of who will take home Oscar gold in all of the major categories.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
For it: This tale, told with an epic scale about love forbidden by time, is the type of thing the Academy loves (think The English Patient). Although its storyline is a bit unconventional, the film is certainly the most similar to past winners out of all the nominees and is the most commercial friendly with stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Also, it has the most nominations out of the final five with 13, exhibiting that there may be many supporters within the voting block.
Against it: Lately, the Academy has been choosing the best film instead of the one that looks great or appears to be worthy of a Best Picture statuette, starting with Million Dollar Baby. Plus, not many people have actually called it the “best film of the year.” If the Academy truly wants to honor its achievements, they should do so in the technical categories rather than gracing it with the night’s biggest prize.
For it: The battle between David Frost and Richard Nixon was riveting and compelling when it first aired, but transcends into a morality play when the back story is dramatized and the wounds have been given time to heal. The film is aided by the superb performances of Frank Langella and Michael Sheen and directed by an Oscar favorite, Ron Howard.
Against it: Many have called the film a good achievement, but not many believe it achieves greatness with the consistency that would earn it a Best Picture Oscar. The Academy has already honored the film with a nomination but would be better served by giving it an award in either the acting or screenplay categories.
For it: The inspirational story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay American politician elected to office, was brought to brimming life with the magnificent Sean Penn performance and the direction of Gus Van Sant. The film has a special resonance today after the Proposition 8 controversy in California, where most of the voting block resides, echoing a bill that was put forward in the Milk years that would not allow openly gay individuals to serve as state employed officials.
Against it: Sean Penn’s performance is garnering most of the acclaim and they could honor the film by giving him his second Oscar, along with the possibility of a Best Original Screenplay award. Since the ending is inevitable, some voters might hold this predictability against it, even though it is touching and heartbreaking as well.
For it: The film is paced by another tremendous performance from Kate Winslet and tells a rare story that makes each viewer question his or her morality. Also, Harvey Weinstein, the man who built the Miramax empire, is the film’s producer and he can be extraordinarily persuasive in causing an upset, just like in 1998 when Shakespeare in Love took home the top prize.
Against it: Its subject matter is a bit controversial, and many voters will struggle with having empathy for the Winslet character after the horrible atrocities she caused. The brutally honest manner in which the film views morality with shades of gray may not sit right with some with a strict sense of right and wrong.
For it: It has swept the guilds and won the BAFTA for Best Picture, meaning it appears unstoppable at this time unless there is a colossal upset. The film is extremely appealing to voters with its amazing rags to riches story combined with believing in the enduring power of love in a world Hollywood tends to ignore.
Against it: The biggest obstacle it has is that of predictability. It has been the clear frontrunner since mid-December and has continued to steamroll over the competition in most awards shows, but the Academy tends to covet unpredictability, as Saving Private Ryan learned in 1998. Odds: Even. Pick: The Wrestler. Preference and Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire
Bottom Line: Starting with this prize, Slumdog Millionaire looks as if it is preparing the biggest awards haul in years, unless Milk or The Reader pulls off the colossal task of defeating the giant.