Last minute jitters

Posted by · 10:16 am · February 19th, 2009

Waltz with BashirI’ll have a post up later today running a comb through my final predictions.  Tomorrow we’ll showcase all contributor picks (as well as the “Who deserves it?” poll results), but for now, I thought I’d share my pain with the readership.

By pain, I mean last minute jitters, those creepy, crawling, gut-twisting thoughts that leave you in a haze over what to pick in this category or that, even if a frontrunner is staring you in the face.  There are a number of categories doing this to me this year.

First and foremost, I’ve been on the precipice of picking a “Slumdog” sweep for nearly two weeks now.  Nathaniel Rogers has been bold enough to go there, but I haven’t allowed myself (yet) to think the Academy will vote for the film in the Best Sound Editing field.  However, as a multi-nominated sound mixer friend told me, members generally just vote for their favorite film throughout the crafts categories (much to his own chagrin many times over).

I also found out last night that the only films that reached the Cinema Audio Society in screener form were “Quantum of Solace” and…”Slumdog Millionaire,” which makes their vote a bit difficult to chalk up as comprehensive.  Maybe “The Dark Knight” and “WALL-E” are still very much in the mixing race and the Best Picture frontrunner will lose both statues.  But this is just one example of the insanity that flows through my mind this time of year.

Another thought is all the bad “Reader” press lately and how that may or may not affect Kate Winslet’s chances of a win in the lead actress category.  Many have chalked Meryl Streep up as the competition, but there have been murmurs for some time that Melissa Leo is a prized commodity in this field.  Sasha Stone is spit-balling the possibility today as well.  She’s got people like Dustin Hoffman out there singing her praises.  And her film is a welcome point of variety in a slate of expected nominees (both here and in the original screenplay category).

And don’t even get me started on that field.  I think I’ll stick to my guns and predict “WALL-E,” because it seems to me that original scripts as by-the-numbers as “Milk” (no matter the Best Picture nomination) haven’t won in quite some time.  “Most” original seems to dominate, and really, “Milk” almost seems like an adaptation of something doesn’t it?

But the last time a film won here that wasn’t nominated for the big category was 2004 when “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” predictably beat out “The Aviator.”  But I feel like “Milk” has a bit of the original screenplay flavor of “The Aviator” and “Gangs of New York,” somewhat broad, epic stories that lose to more intimate, creative pieces.

That documentary feature category still has me wondering (though I may not have the courage to bet against “Man on Wire” in the final analysis), while the foreign language film field is raising more question marks than you might think.  Given a general bias against nontraditional filmmaking, I could easily see “The Class” reign supreme.  And publicity has kept all eyes off of the Japanese entry “Departures” (try as I might, they wouldn’t send me a screener and it’s the only nominated film I haven’t seen).  I know it’s an extremely conventional film and there are those who think it can upset.  First press screening is Feb. 27, not that that does me any good.  (UPDATE: Within the last hour I’ve nailed down a copy of the film and can give it a look, so perhaps the foreign predictions will wait a spell.  Most think “Bashir” is still the winner but this flick has a lot of voters talking, I’m told.  I’ll put up an analysis of the category tomorrow.)

The Best Supporting Actress category still has room for an upset, most people thinking that it’s Viola Davis threatening Penelope Cruz’s perch.  That talk has snowballed in the last week or so, and some even think Marisa Tomei has an outside shot.  Personally, I see no reason to bet against Cruz at this point, bu the fact that she is the lone representative of her film across the board puts her in dicey waters.  And “the numbers,” for what they’re worth, seem to indicate an upset for Taraji P. Henson.  Talk about up in the air.

Then there are the short categories, which have some people picking the doc “The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306” because it’s about Martin Luther King and this is “the year of Obama.”  They’re picking it without having seen the film, mind you, and to my mind, “The Conscience of Nhem En” is the most attractively assembled of the bunch.  Most are coming to the consensus that “Toyland” will reign out in the live action short film category, while you’ll get any number of guess on the toons: “Presto,” “This Way Up,” “La maison en petit cubes,” you name it.  I might stick with the latter.

But no one’s doubting a Heath Ledger win, right?  Right?  Well, as someone close to the production of the telecast told me yesterday, I expect people will be tearing seats out of the Kodak if that goes a different direction.  But I have to say, I’m feeling more and more confidence in Mickey Rourke, as are a slew of others.

Most industry talk swarms around one key point: I hope there’s a surprise.  Many people (even those who love the film) are bored with the “Slumdog” train and want to see some excitement injected into the proceedings.  That just leaves us to wonder whether the membership at large was thinking the same thing when they put pen to paper to mark their ballots.  It also leaves a guy like me pulling his hair out at 10:08 am on a Thursday morning for no good reason.

So it goes…

I’ll be back later today with fresh final charts and a rundown of my picks in all categories.

→ 20 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

20 responses so far

  • 1 2-19-2009 at 10:18 am

    Selina said...

    I don’t understand this whole screener process. I read somewhere else that Academy members never received screeners of “Happy Go Lucky.” How could a studio let that happen?

  • 2 2-19-2009 at 10:46 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    “…as a multi-nominated sound mixer friend told me, members generally just vote for their favorite film throughout the crafts categories (much to his own chagrin many times over).”

    Could this person be Kevin O’Connell by chance? Because I’ve got to tell you, as far as overdue Oscars go, NO ONE can touch that dude.

  • 3 2-19-2009 at 10:55 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    You’re close…

  • 4 2-19-2009 at 11:22 am

    D said...

    The only two categories I give a damn about are Actor and Supporting Actor. Go Mickey and Heath!

  • 5 2-19-2009 at 11:28 am

    James D. said...

    The only acting category I am confident on now is Supporting Actor. Even Winslet is becoming less and less certain. The category issue in the actress categories has screwed me up so much.

    I hope The Class wins. Waltz with Bashir is very good, but The Class is better.

  • 6 2-19-2009 at 11:57 am

    JoesBoxOffice said...

    Indeed. In my final predictions, I had to go with Mickey Rourke. I’m feeling the Slumdog Sweep, though I think Wall-E may be the only film to beat it (in Song and Sound Editing?)

    Davis seems to upset in Supporting Actress.

    I still pick Milk for Original Screenplay, but Wall-E seems just as likely.

    Just some thoughts…

  • 7 2-19-2009 at 12:18 pm

    Alana Smithee said...

    The rules for the Academy (which does allow screeners) AND the CAS is that the screeners must be “plain wrap”! No graphics no bonus materials. The rest of the guilds are willing to allow commercial dvds/screeners to be sent to their members. As for the CAS I have it on good authority via a mixer friend that they also got Ben Button, Wrestler, Kung Fu Panda, Indiana Jones, Rev Road. But one would think that after the nominations come out the nominees would send screeners since these folks are usually busy working and depend on screeners to make the final vote.

  • 8 2-19-2009 at 12:33 pm

    amanda said...

    Henson winning BSA would be terrible. She shouldnt have even been nominated.

  • 9 2-19-2009 at 1:00 pm

    Alana Smithee said...

    No screeners for DGA!!

  • 10 2-19-2009 at 1:05 pm

    Josh said...

    I’m sticking to my guns for In Bruges to pull an upset, and when I’m wrong, everybody gets to say “I told you so.”

  • 11 2-19-2009 at 1:30 pm

    Alex in Movieland said...

    Melissa Leo winning would be just painful. She was on The View like a week ago and she was soooo ANNOYING and full of herself. You can check it on youtube. I could only imagine how her speech would look like.

  • 12 2-19-2009 at 1:48 pm

    Mark said...

    This happens every time it looks like each category is known beforehand. People get bored and start talking up “upsets” and “surprises” to have something to talk about. As Gene Siskel told Roger Ebert about gambling (revealed by Ebert in his beautiful memorium) “never bet a hunch.” If you predict the “boring” list of winners odds are you’re going to come out smelling like a rose.

  • 13 2-19-2009 at 3:34 pm

    Aaron said...

    Melissa Leo was great, but she shouldn’t be rewarded for a film that was on the whole, TERRIBLE.

    Every other actor in that film was absolutely atrocious.

  • 14 2-19-2009 at 4:57 pm

    head_wizard said...

    See this tired thing never works for me, I prefer a sweep if it is for the best choice (Helen Mirren was such an example) I am still hopefull that Penn can beat Rourke, now that would be a happy surprise!

  • 15 2-19-2009 at 5:14 pm

    Jake said...

    I am hoping for a few surprises as well except for in the supporting actor category (Heath honestly DESERVES the award). Bah! If only Winslet had received her nomination for Revolutionary Road! I hope TDK goes home with at least two trophies.

  • 16 2-19-2009 at 6:02 pm

    Jake said...


    It has to be a fake.

  • 17 2-19-2009 at 10:02 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    I care about
    Benjamin Button winning something

    I welcome Frozen River in the original screenplay.

  • 18 2-20-2009 at 1:19 am

    Ross said...

    I think that people are wrong about this year’s Oscars. I know people talked the same about the 73rd Oscars, with GLADIATOR, Ang Lee, Russell Crowe, Julia Roberts, Benicio Del Toro, Kate Hudson being considered locks and predicted by nearly everybody. And then Ang Lee lost (despite of having the Globe/DGA/BAFTA wins) and Kate Hudson lost to Marcia Gay Harden (not even a SAG nominee) and the technical categories offered lots of upsets. It happens when you have a really predictable show, because voters want surprises. And that’s why I expect some.

    Oh! And the 2002 show was considered predictable…

    I still think Meryl Streep could win. Even Leo can. As for supporting actress: it could be a real shocker. And the original screenplay category is open as are some technical categories.

  • 19 2-20-2009 at 5:15 am

    Andrew said...

    Ang Lee actually won

  • 20 2-20-2009 at 6:02 am

    Mark said...


    Actually Steven Soderbergh won that year for Traffic. Lee was nominated that year for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and won the Globe, DGA and BAFTA awards.