Do you remember that moment of every Academy Award ceremony when some random celebrity is given the menial task to state that the show will be broadcast in some inordinate amount of countries, as if the world really cares? This the first time I will be happy to hear that and not yell, "great -- now get off the stage and give away another award."
For the first year since I have become an unabashed Oscar watcher (I type "unabashed" with a bit of reservation, however, since our relationship can easily be summed up by the word "masochostic"), I will not be in front of my northeastern, American television watching the ceremony at promptly 8PM. I will comfortably settle, although I'm sure "uncomfortably squirm" will ultimately be more accurate, into the common room around 2 AM with some popcorn and other irascible cinephiles (and a few annoying fashionistas) to watch the Academy Awards on German television (even though I'm residing in a castle in the Netherlands).
Although only a week or two ago the Oscar race for nominations seemed wide open, it's inevitable that, as the guilds announce nominees and winners, the nominees become way too clear and, frankly, begin to bore me. Therefore, I'm offering my predictions, but I am only writing comments (or justifications) for my more irrational choices. This year, the only race with variety that should demand rationalizing commentary is the Best Supporting Actor race, which is becoming duller by the millisecond.
Little Miss Sunshine
Pedro Almodovar, Volver
Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Martin Scorsese, The Departed
If any category feels deceptively secure, it's this one; I even believe that Frears is vulnerable. I'm expecting at least one foreign-language director, besides Inarritu (so either Almodovar, Cuaron, Del Toro), but I'm much too timid to predict any of them. Almodovar has been nominated here too recently and his film isn't even a lock for a screenplay nomination, which Volver needs in order for Pedro to break in here. Cuaron will not get in for the sole reason that it would make too many people happy and Del Toro probably does not have the buzz here to overcome his film's "genre" status (I think both will be awarded with screenplay nods, though). I have a sneaking suspicion that Almodovar will score here. If he's being anointed as the new Fellini for the Academy, he's got to start picking up those directing nods.
Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America to Make for Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
I optimistically included Almodovar for wishful thinking and I'm pessimistically excluding Ryan Gosling here in hopes that I'll be pleasantly surprised. As for Sacha Baron Cohen, the academy has recently been trying their hardest to seem hip. Usually they just use the Best Song category ("It's Hard Out There for a Pimp," "Lose Yourself"), but this year they're turning towards the category they nominated a pirate in just a few years ago. Come on, even Warren Beatty attempted to mimic Borat in public (and what a hilariously awful and desperate attempt it was). I'm actually curious to see if DiCaprio makes the list for Blood Diamond. I have no idea what's going on with that mess, so I'm just leaving him up there for The Departed.
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sherrybaby
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Why is Maggie on this list instead of Kate? Because I'm bored, or crazy -- I can't decide between the two, so let's just say both.
Best Supporting Actor:
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
I would rather give Eddie Murphy an Oscar for his "Party All the Time" music video than Dreamgirls. I'm not exactly sure which is chessier. Only one Departed chap will make it. Remember, I'm going nuts here, because Jack makes so much more sense. I refuse, however, to make sense of this category.
Best Supporting Actress:
Adrianna Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration
I'm almost as sure that Abigail Breslin will be left off this list as I was that she would snag a SAG nomination. Child stars usually need both a Golden Globe and SAG nomination to pull off an Oscar citation (like Haley Joel Osment). Abigail Breslin will join Freddie Highmore and Dakota Fanning at the SAG kid's table. The only thing I cannot figure out is...who is going to replace her?
Best Original Screenplay:
Little Miss Sunshine
I would include Half Nelson if I was sure which category it belongs in; since I'm uncertain, the Academy must also be, so no nomination for Fleck and Boden.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Children of Men
Which heavy-handed drama will make it? Little Children or Notes on a Scandal. Which comedy will make it? Borat or Thank You for Smoking? They gave the middle finger to Patrick Marber for Closer even after the Globe nomination and the lack of WGA recognition is troubling. Perhaps personal preference is clouding my power of prediction, but I refuse to believe that Thank You for Smoking's fire-in-all-directions, yet oddly remain dull, satire can receive a nod. Since Little Children and Thank You for Smoking are both satires (albiet poor ones), only one of them will likely get in. With Globe and SAG love, Little Children should snag a spot to match Haley's nomination, leaving Borat looking nice.
As an added bonus, new grades are posted to the right, in the sidebar. Feel free to call me silly, sharp or downright certifiable; I'd appreciate it.