Talkin’ Oscar: 79th Annual Academy Awards Predictions

79th Annual

Academy Award Predictions

After besting the Elder earlier this year in our Nominations Predictions, I think I might be in more trouble here. While I’m great at reading buzz about nominees in major categories, I am decidedly less good when things open up into the technical categories. It’s all a bit of a gamble even in the major categories this year (some of them anyways) so I’m really sticking my neck out there.

And, perhaps I should look back to my predictions for nominees where I took some risks that paid off, because after completing this predictions I notice that I’m not taking too many risks. My “Dark Horse” candidates are even quite predictable, and I don’t appear to be sticking my neck out much further than I have to. Still, I don’t think I’m towing the line too much, so here’s hoping for some disagreement and some surprises come Sunday night.

Best animated short film

THE DANISH POET
LIFTED
THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL
MAESTRO
NO TIME FOR NUTS

For the Animated Shorts, which most of us might not see in any capacity, Animation World Network has been kind of enough to develop an Oscar Showcase with clips and information on each of the shorts. Click on each nominee to view their page, and load up the clip to see them for yourself.

Now, let’s face it: A majority of people have not seen these shorts outside of No Time for Nuts, which was featured on the Ice Age 2: The Meltdown DVD this fall, and The Little Matchgirl which was featured on the Little Mermaid DVD but likely watched by less kiddies. While this could in fact put ICe Age in a position to win, I also think that it’s a little bit too simple in its execution, almost too child-focused. Lifted has much the same problem (as most Pixar shorts do. While I believe that all of them have a chance, I’m going to go with Disney’s The Little Matchgirl. It signals Disney’s return to the original short arena (If we view Destino as not entirely original but rather adapter) and deals with some interesting subject matter.

Prediction: The Little Matchgirl

Dark Horse: The Danish Poet

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Adriana Barraza – BABEL
Cate Blanchett – NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Abigail Breslin – LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Jennifer Hudson – DREAMGIRLS
Rinko Kikuchi – BABEL

While technically Breslin or Blanchett could sneak in here, Jennifer Hudson has done far too good a job transitioning into her new role as an actress. TV performances, appearances, red carpets: through them all she has appeared poised, mature and humble. With a much-talked about performance and a recognizable story for people to follow, she’s almost the perfect storm Oscar nominee. Everything came together, none of the possible problems popped up, and she’ll be taken seriously before and after her Academy Award win.

Prediction: Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)

Dark Horse: Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Alan Arkin – LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Jackie Earle Haley – LITTLE CHILDREN
Djimon Hounsou – BLOOD DIAMOND
Eddie Murphy – DREAMGIRLS
Mark Wahlberg – THE DEPARTED

This is an incredibly tough category to call, perhaps the most difficult out of the acting categories, purely because of the “old guy” factor. With apologies to Alan Arkin, who I enjoyed during his brief screen time in Little Miss Sunshine, I don’t really think that the role is Oscar worthy. Eddie Murphy’s career resurgence signaled by his role in Dreamgirls is a much better story, much more deserving, and yet the Academy could revolt against a performer who has never been considered a “real” actor.

Still, as much as I think Arkin could take this thing, I think that Eddie Murphy has done enough work to be rewarded for his performance. With both SAG and Globes going his way, I don’t see the Academy turning around and giving Arkin this award, especially since I think they’ll be giving one to O’Toole later in the evening.

Prediction: Eddie Murphy

Dark Horse: Alan Arkin

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Penélope Cruz – VOLVER
Judi Dench – NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Helen Mirren – THE QUEEN
Meryl Streep – THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
Kate Winslet – LITTLE CHILDREN

There is no competition here. While The Queen will likely go home empty-handed otherwise, Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II has been an unquestioned sure thing for months. None of the precursors changed this, and anyone in their right mind will select her in their oscar pools.

Prediction: Helen Mirren (The Queen)

Dark Horse: Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Leonardo DiCaprio – BLOOD DIAMOND
Ryan Gosling – HALF NELSON
Peter O’Toole – VENUS
Will Smith – THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
Forest Whitaker – THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

This is one of those awards that, much like Supporting Actor, there are a lot of factors at play. On one hand, Whitaker has taken most of the precursors (Including both the SAG and Globes) and is generally well-liked, humble, all of that jazz. However, he’s up against two candidates with more pedigree, more prestige if you will. O’Toole is old, beloved, and has never won despite his lengthy career (Including a snub for Lawrence of Arabia). Leo is young, had huge roles in both Blood Diamond and the Departed, and has been taken very seriously as an actor in recent years.

I think Old and Winless is going to take it this time around, in the end; O’Toole is actually attending the ceremony, he was on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and I think the Academy feels it’s time to give him his due. Whitaker is still in solid position, though I think I’ll have Leo as my Dark Horse, perhaps shooting myself in the foot.

Prediction: Peter O’Toole (Venus)

Dark Horse: Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond)

Achievement in directing

BABEL
THE DEPARTED
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
THE QUEEN
UNITED 93

This is Marty’s year. The award is being presented by three of his most famous contemporaries (Spielberg, Lucas, Ford Coppola), and he won the DGA earlier this year. The fact of the matter is that, while there are some strong contenders in the category, The Departed was received well by audiences and critics alike, and there is no candidate to stand against him. Still, the Academy could be real jerks and give it to Eastwood again, but I can only hope they don’t do such a thing.

Prediction: Martin Scorcese (The Departed)

Dark Horse: Paul Greengrass (United 93)

For my prediction for the big one, Best Picture, as well as the rest of the awards:

Best motion picture of the year

BABEL
THE DEPARTED
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
THE QUEEN

The past few years have been fairly tight races for Best Picture. Last year, Crash and Brokeback Mountain were the only real candidates, and my correct prediction of Crash killed me due to my inherent dislike for the film’s popularity (The film itself is fine and all, but come on). The year before was The Aviator and Million Dollar Baby, each about equal in terms of their ability to win. The year before that was Return of the King, which was as much of a lock as we’ve seen in recent years.

There is no lock. There is not only two candidates. There are at least four films considered to be threats to taking this awards, with The Queen being left out but not without intense consideration. Each film has something desirable to the Academy, and depending on what side of the bed they wake up on things could go in just about any direction.

Babel is worldly, perhaps explaining their win at the Golden Globes. It has pretty Hollywood stars, smaller foreign names, and a sense of prestige purely in its subject matter. It also has the 2nd most number of total nominations.

The Departed is helmed by Martin Scorcese, stars more stars than you could possibly imagine, and has the highest box office gross of any of the nominated films. Did I mention it was directed by Martin Scorcese.

Letters from Iwo Jima is an achievement of epic proportions for its beloved director Clint Eastwood, the second of two films profiling the famous World War II battle between the Americans and the Japanese. It lacks a high-profile cast, but as a pure filmmaking achievement it is hard to root against.

Little Miss Sunshine is the little best picture that could: bought at Sundance, features two beloved supporting roles, and has gained great audience recognition in both its theatrical and DVD releases.

I think back to two years ago when, after Eastwood took Best Director, many expected the Academy to choose The Aviator for Best Picture. They didn’t, sticking with Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. After Marty picks up Best Director, people might expect the Academy to reward another filmmaking with the evening’s biggest prize, but I think they’ll keep it in the family.

The Departed doesn’t lack anything: it has big-name stars, high box-office returns, filmmaking pedigree, writing and editing nominations. Iwo Jima lacks big-name stars and box office returns, Little Miss Sunshine lacks the filmmaking pedigree, and Babel lacks the box office success and could turn voters off with its international perspective. While I think that any of the films could break through, with Little Miss Sunshine’s goodwill perhaps the strongest, I think that discerning voters will go with what least offends their sensibilities. Unless they think it’s too violent, that film is Martin Scorcese’s The Departed.

Prediction: The Departed

Dark Horse: Little Miss Sunshine

Best animated feature film of the year

CARS
HAPPY FEET
MONSTER HOUSE

This is a tough category, as Cars and Happy Feet have been splitting the precursors right down the middle. Cars took home the Golden Globe and the Annie, but yet Happy Feet still has this sense of pedigree that might be difficult to ignore especially amongst environmentally or Prince loving Academy voters. While Pixar carries more foreign weight than Happy Feet could, I think that the penguins might be able to take this one; if Shrek could beat Monsters Inc., I think that Happy Feet can beat Cars.

Prediction: Happy Feet

Dark Horse: Cars

Best foreign language film of the year

AFTER THE WEDDING
DAYS OF GLORY (INDIGÈNES)
THE LIVES OF OTHERS
PAN’S LABYRINTH
WATER

While there is some last-minute buzz for The Lives of Others, which has been well-reviewed, there is no question that Pan’s Labyrinth is the one to beat. With multiple nominations, Mexico’s lack of a win in this category in its history, and the fantastic critical reception to the film (Even Meryl Streep loved it!), it’s hard to think that it won’t succeed in this category. Still, watch out for the film directly above it.

Prediction: Pan’s Labyrinth

Dark Horse: The Lives of Others

Adapted screenplay

BORAT CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
CHILDREN OF MEN
THE DEPARTED
LITTLE CHILDREN
NOTES ON A SCANDAL

While these are certainly some strong candidates in this category, there is only one Best Picture nominee, one that has seen a great deal of acclaim for its adaptation of Infernal Affairs, the Hong Kong classic upon which it is based. The Departed should walk away with this one quite handedly.

Prediction: The Departed

Dark Horse: Borat

Original screenplay

BABEL
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
PAN’S LABYRINTH
THE QUEEN

Four Best Picture nominees and a Best Foreign Film nominee make this a tough category to call. Still, Michael Arndt (Who’s writing Toy Story 3, by the way) has the most to lose for Little Miss Sunshine, especially if it isn’t headed for Best Picture. While The Queen is certainly in a similar position, as is Babel for that matter, I think that the light-hearted fare of Little Miss Sunshine will win the day.

Prediction: Little Miss Sunshine

Dark Horse: The Queen

Best live action short film

BINTA AND THE GREAT IDEA (BINTA Y LA GRAN IDEA)
ÉRAMOS POCOS (ONE TOO MANY)
HELMER & SON
THE SAVIOUR
WEST BANK STORY

This category is even more difficult than animated, with not even clips to go on. However, I know my selection already based purely on the fascinating synopsis provided on Oscar.com for West Bank Story:

A musical comedy set in the fast-paced, fast-food world of competing falafel stands on the West Bank.

How could anyone in their right minds vote against that? Seriously. That being said, Binta and the Great Idea has the right kind of subject matter (And Unicef sponsorship) to carry the day as well. Still, I think people will find even the concept of West Bank Story hard to ignore when casting their ballots.

Predictions: West Bank Story

Dark Horse: Binta and the Great Idea

Achievement in sound editing

APOCALYPTO
BLOOD DIAMOND
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST

Prediction: Letters from Iwo Jima

Dark Horse: Blood Diamond

Achievement in sound mixing

APOCALYPTO
BLOOD DIAMOND
DREAMGIRLS
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST

Prediction: Dreamgirls

Dark Horse: Blood Diamond

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

“I Need to Wake Up” – AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
“Listen” – DREAMGIRLS
“Love You I Do” – DREAMGIRLS
“Our Town” – CARS
“Patience” – DREAMGIRLS

This is an incredibly interesting race, there’s no question about it. On one hand, you’ve got well-respected artists like Melissa Etheridge and James Taylor singing songs tied to a hit Pixar film (And written by Oscar favourite Randy Newman) and to the biggest rock star in any medium right now, Al Gore. On the other hand, you’ve got three songs from a $100 Million grossing musical that, despite not being nominated for Best Picture, still holds some major awards clout at this stage.

As a result, it’s somewhat tough to pick a winner here. With three songs from Dreamgirls they could cancel one another out, but Beyoncé has been here, there and everywhere performing “Listen” (Even, misguidedly from a musical perspective, at the Grammys). If they cancel one another out, I see Randy Newman getting his 2nd Oscar for his work on “Our Town”, but I think that Beyoncé’s song has been pervasive enough to win over audiences.

Prediction: “Listen” (Dreamgirls)

Dark Horse: “Our Town” (Cars)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

BABEL
THE GOOD GERMAN
NOTES ON A SCANDAL
PAN’S LABYRINTH
THE QUEEN

Perhaps similar to Original Song, Original Score is a tough call this year. Pan’s Labyrinth has had a lot of hype surrounding it, and is generally considered to be quite good, whereas more people have likely seen The Queen or Babel. And, yet, Notes on a Scandal is somewhat difficult to ignore either.

Nonetheless, I’m going to go with Pan’s Labyrinth. I think that people are too hyped about this film to ignore it, and its combination of fantasy and Spanish civil war drama is a unique challenge compared to the other films in the category (Babel is the other one who would have a chance in this area). Still, I’d say that The Queen has the better chance of spoiling.

Prediction: Pan’s Labyrinth

Dark Horse: The Queen

Best documentary feature

DELIVER US FROM EVIL
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS
JESUS CAMP
MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY

It’s hard to argue against Al Gore in this category; he’s been too much of a rock star for the Academy to ignore his influence in creating An Inconvenient Truth.

Prediction: An Inconvenient Truth

Dark Horse: Deliver Us From Evil

Best documentary short subject

THE BLOOD OF YINGZHOU DISTRICT (Young Aids survivor shunned by family)
RECYCLED LIFE (Families living in toxic dump)
REHEARSING A DREAM (High school students work with art legends)
TWO HANDS (Pianist battles debilitative hand disease)

Prediction: The Blood of Yingzhou District

Dark Horse: Two Hands

Achievement in costume design

CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
DREAMGIRLS
MARIE ANTOINETTE
THE QUEEN

Prediction: Dreamgirls

Dark Horse: Curse of the Golden Flower

Achievement in art direction

DREAMGIRLS
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
PAN’S LABYRINTH
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST
THE PRESTIGE

Prediction: Pan’s Labyrinth

Dark Horse: The Prestige

Achievement in makeup

APOCALYPTO
CLICK
PAN’S LABYRINTH

Prediction: Pan’s Labyrinth

Dark Horse: Click

Achievement in visual effects

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST
POSEIDON
SUPERMAN RETURNS

While there was some fine work within Superman Returns in regards to its Space Shuttle sequence, and the Academy loves water effects, how anyone could argue against the character of Davy Jones in this category boggles my mind.

Prediction: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Dark Horse: Superman Returns

Achievement in film editing

BABEL
BLOOD DIAMOND
CHILDREN OF MEN
THE DEPARTED
UNITED 93

This is such a tough category, as it contains only two of the Best Picture nominees. United 93 is a film very contingent on its editing, as is Babel, while The Departed has the pedigree of Thelma Schoonmaker. Considering that Babel and the Departed tied at the Eddies, it’s really a toss-up, but I’ll give it to The Departed.

Prediction: The Departed

Dark Horse: United 93

Achievement in cinematography

THE BLACK DAHLIA
CHILDREN OF MEN
THE ILLUSIONIST
PAN’S LABYRINTH
THE PRESTIGE

You can’t argue against Children of Men in this category. While some may dislike the film, no one can watch it without noticing the stunningly long shots which pepper the film, and a strong sense of filmmaking throughout. While Pan’s could certainly slip into this category, I think that Cuaron’s film has this one locked up.

Prediction: Children of Men

Dark Horse: Pan’s Labyrinth

1 Comment

Filed under Academy Awards, Award Shows, Cinema, Oscars

One response to “Talkin’ Oscar: 79th Annual Academy Awards Predictions

  1. Pingback: Talkin’ Oscar: 2007 Academy Awards Extravaganza Preview « Cultural Learnings

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