Oscar’s year of the Joker
It’s pretty safe to say, even before all the rewards are handed out and the speeches given, that the 81st Annual Academy Awards will be remembered as the year movie fans are either satisfied, or disappointed, when Heath Ledger wins, or doesn’t win the award for Best Supporting Actor.
The late Ledger’s brilliant performance in The Dark Knight, a film which easily out-earned all other comers in 2008, stands as one of the only major storylines at this year’s awards. Nevertheless, there are a few intriguing contests in the major categories that are sure to having the audience guessing until the envelope is opened.
Marking the somewhat inexplicable domination (13 nominations) of the rather pedestrian The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the best actor category contains two heavy hitters, Sean Penn — Milk and Brad Pitt — Benjamin Button, one old-timer, Frank Langella — Frost/Nixon, one underdog, Richard Jenkins — The Visitor and one comeback kid, Mickey Rourke — The Wrestler. While all the momentum seems to be behind Rourke for his raw performance as a washed up grappler, Milk is the exact sort of film that Hollywood fawns over. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that Jenkins stands any chance amongst such a distinguished crowd, as his fantastic performance came in a wonderful yet tragically unseen film.
Prediction: Sean Penn
Best Supporting Actor
You have to feel at least a little bit bad for everyone in this category who didn’t play an anarchist nemesis to a billionaire crime fighter, because there is simply no way that any actor whose name doesn’t rhyme with Keith should be taking home (so to speak) the award. Brolin was sufficiently awkward as misguided civic supervisor in Milk, and Philip Seymour Hoffman was fantastic as the “did he or did he not?” priest in Doubt, but if the Academy fails to award Ledger, they are missing a chance to honour the very sort of performance that makes us all remember just why we love going to the movies in the first place.
Prediction: Heath Ledger
If Meryl Streep were an athlete, she would be Wayne Gretzky; a performer capable of levels of greatness that all others are merely also-rans. Unfortunately for Streep, this may also work against her, as she has accumulated a record 15 nominations over the years, and the Academy might feel it’s time to honour the younger generation, who are well represented in the category. Anne Hathaway has been getting plenty of attention for her performance as a young woman battling addiction who returns home for her sister’s wedding in Rachel Getting Married, and Kate Winslet racked up yet another nod — her sixth — for her role in The Reader. With such stiff competition don’t count on Angelina Jolie — Changeling, or Melissa Leo — Frozen River, walking off with Oscar.
Prediction: Meryl Streep
Best Supporting Actress
If there is a category that is completely up in the air, it’s the award for best supporting actress. Doubt managed to garner two nods, one for Amy Adams’ performance as a naïve nun caught in the middle of the film’s central argument, and one for Viola Davis, who makes the most of her very limited appearance as a mother struggling to do what’s best for her son. A nomination for Taraji P. Henson continues the undeserved attention lavished upon Benjamin Button, and strong performances from Penelope Cruz — Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Marisa Tomei — The Wrestler, make it all the more difficult to pick a winner.
Prediction: Penelope Cruz
If the Academy could be accused of making one blunder this year, it would undoubtedly be the failure to recognize Christopher Nolan, the brilliant director who allowed The Dark Knight to transcend the superhero genre. Despite not receiving a single nomination in any of the acting categories, the fantastic Danny Boyle was finally rewarded with a nomination for Slumdog Millionaire. Stephen Daldry continues his string of good luck with a third-straight best director nod, this time for The Reader. Surprisingly, Frost/Nixon marks only the second time that Ron Howard has garnered a nomination, despite being one of the more accomplished — not to mention Hollywood friendly — directors around. And with a nomination for Milk, Gus Van Sant continues his trend of gaining Oscar attention for his mainstream works while his less-conventional films go by the wayside. David Fincher’s nod for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button continues the Academy’s trend of honouring the right person for the wrong film.
Prediction: Danny Boyle
With The Dark Knight snubbed again, the best picture category reads like a carbon copy of the best director field. Through the Awards 80-year history, the best picture winner has also taken home the best director award 59 times, so there’s a good chance that we’ll see a repeat performance. Given The Dark Knight’s absence, it’s a shame that Pixar’s Wall-E couldn’t have been nominated in the best picture category rather than just the best animated film, as it stands out as easily one of the most enjoyable, and innovative, films in
Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire
For the official Oscar website
Cody Stuart has probably watched more movies than you ever will and really does not care if you disagree with him. He will share is opinion in the written form when he feels like it.