OFF THE CARPET: Taking a final stab

Posted by · 11:05 am · February 20th, 2009

OscarsWell, this is what it all boils down to.  I almost DON’T want to go on the record, but I kind of have to, right?

Anyway, this is the first year I’ve actually seen every single nominated frame of film before the big night so these will either be the most educated guesses I’ve ever given or the most unfortunately influenced, one can’t be too sure.  Sometimes it’s better to predict in a void, other times not.  I did pretty good last year (after a wicked slump for a few years), largely because I succumbed to inevitability more than I have in the past, but I don’t want to be all douchey and put forth my record.  We all have ups and downs.  I’m not personally convinced of probably half of these predictions, so you certainly shouldn’t be either.

One thing that catches my eye as I go through my “will wins,” “could wins” and “should wins” is that in many cases, I’m predicting the contender that I also feel delivers the best work in the category.  But really, only in one arena could that stink of hopeful expectation (Best Actor).  The rest is just reflective of how this weak, thin season trickled down.  I almost always have a different preference than what actually wins, so I wouldn’t call me the wishful thinking sort when it comes to hammering these out.

Anyway, you’ll find category-by-category analysis throughout, but I have to say, those sound categories are fuckers this year.  Pardon the vulgarity.  It seems there are limitless possibilities.  I’m of the mind that one film takes both, so take your pick: “Dark Knight,” “Slumdog” or “WALL-E.”  I think the Academy at large doesn’t understand the subtlety of “WALL-E” (much like “No Country for Old Men” last year) and giving “Slumdog” a clean sweep seems to be too much.  But I’ll get into those categories, and more, after the jump.

There is a slight possibility I’ll stick my head back in here to adjust this prediction or that before Sunday.  If I do, I’ll be sure to draw your attention to it in this space.  Check back later today with a look at all out contributors’ predictions.  For now, here are mine…

The big award of the night is all but a done deal at this point.  Any hesitation from the presenter would be seen as a shock.  So what further commentary do we need to offer?

Will win: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Could win: “Milk”
Should win: “Slumdog Millionaire”

See Best Picture.  And man is it going to put a giant smile on my face to see an Oscar in Danny Boyle’s clutches.

Will win: Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Could win: David Fincher, “The Curious case of Benjamin Button”
Should win: Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”

This is probably the most hotly anticipated race of the evening, and though the smart money is still on Sean Penn for his miraculous performance in “Milk,” I’m betting that the comeback kid might have turned the charm on (and kept it at the right level).  Maybe I’m predicting with my heart, but I think Mickey takes it.  R.I.P. Loki.

Will win: Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”
Could win: Sean Penn, “Milk”
Should win: Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”

A lot of debate has been kicked up around this category as of late, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see presumed frontrunner Kate Winslet miss in the end and Meryl Streep to nab her third Oscar to date.  Furthermore, Anne Hathaway, I’m betting, isn’t even in the mix and Melissa Leo is threatening from the outside, though as two indie picks in a varied slate, they may have similar champions and thus split voting.

Will win: Kate Winslet, “The Reader”
Could win: Meryl Streep, “Doubt”
Should win: Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”

Put it this way: who wants to be the guy who wins if it’s not Heath?

Will win: Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”
Could win: Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder”
Should win: Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”

Another sizzling race, this one can go any of four ways in some people’s minds.  I’m beginning to get the sense that Marisa Tomei is coming up from the back of the pack because there is a real danger of the “Doubt” ladies splitting votes.  Still, there was plenty of Viola Davis goodwill to go around this season.  I see no real reason to bet against BAFTA winner Penelope Cruz at this point, however.

Will win: Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Could win: Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Should win: Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”

Another race that has solidified into a sure thing.  Rightly so.

Will win: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Could win: “The Reader”
Should win: “Slumdog Millionaire”

I’m stunned, looking at this category in depth, how incredibly…weak it is.  The Best Picture nominee (and likely winner) is a by-the-numbers piece of work that hardly qualifies as creative, while the Pixar entry is the first in a while from the studio that really didn’t speak to me.  Only one of the films really got me thinking and it also irritated me to no end, but there we are.  Anyway, the big question is “Milk” vs. “WALL-E,” and I’m finally shifting my chips over to the former.  I’m anticipating some ignorance from the Academy regarding animated film scripts, something that may or may not change with “Up” next year.

Will win: “Milk”
Could win: “WALL-E”
Should win: “Happy-Go-Lucky”

I’ve been rather blindly going with the “Button” assumption here for some time, but I can’t help wondering if “Changeling” or “The Duchess” could slide in and surprise.  Most of us were banking on “There Will Be Blood” last year and “Sweeney Todd” ended up reigning over the field.  There just isn’t an extravagant design piece in the bunch this year, however, so the Best Picture contender makes as much sense as the next nominee.

Will win: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Could win: “Changeling”
Should win: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

My fingers are really crossed for Wally Pfister here.  The innovations with IMAX technology, not to mention his impressive streak of work, make him ripe for a first win.  I was just watching “Insomnia” on HBO last night and even that had wonderful photography.  This is one talented lenser, so I expect his day will come.  This year, however, is the year of the ‘Dog, and I think Anthony Dod Mantle, after over a decade of ground-breaking work, will waltz away with the trophy.  It’s difficult to argue with how visually exciting “Slumdog” is.

Will win: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Could win: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Should win: “The Dark Knight”

More and more I saw people finally turning to “The Duchess” for their prediction here, after some somewhat confusing picks for “Benjamin Button” came out of the nominations announcement (which I certainly think deserves it out of this weak field).  One need only look to last year’s victor to understand that “Best Costume Design” tends to mean “Most Costume Design” to the Academy, so chalk at least one award up for the dearly departed Paramount Vantage.

Will win: “The Duchess”
Could win: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Should win: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

No argument with the likely winner from me.  Chris Dickens cut “Slumdog Millionaire” together as a frenzied artistic work of purpose.  There is no other nominee in this category, if you ask me, and I expect Academy voters will see it that way, too.

Will win: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Could win: “The Dark Knight”
Should win: “Slumdog Millionaire”

This could be a category that surprises.  Most expect “Benjamin Button,” with it’s expert use of aging prosthetics, to take the trophy.  But “The Dark Knight” has iconography going for it, while “Hellyboy II” has a ton of makeup on display.  Nothing would surprise me here.

Will win: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Could win: “The Dark Knight”
Should win: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

This is the one category I will quickly admit has no business going to “Slumdog” over and over again.  To my mind, the best work in the field went largely winless this year: Alexandre Desplat’s beautiful compositions for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”  But watch out for “WALL-E,” in case the Academy wants to go a different route.

Will win: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Could win: “WALL-E”
Should win: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

For the longest time I was kind of expecting Peter Gabriel to take this award due to vote-splitting on the part of “Slumdog Millionaire”‘s two contenders.  But somehow I don’t think anyone voted for the best of the lot and “Jai Ho” still thumps in your brain long after you see the film, so perhaps the consensus pick is the correct one.

Will win: “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire”
Could win: “Down to Earth” from “WALL-E”
Should win: “O…Saya” from “Slumdog Millionaire”

I don’t think anyone could say it better than Guy, who told me in an exchange this morning, “I don’t think I’ve ever fretted so much over the sound categories.”  I agree 100%.  I went from one extreme to the other, including the “Slumdog” sweep that we’ve been talking about for two weeks.  Somehow I was talked out of it in the end and fell back on my initial gut instinct: “The Dark Knight” in both categories.  One thing is certain…the Academy at large doesn’t understand what “good” sound editing and mixing is, so it’s entirely possible they give both awards to their favorite film, “Slumdog.”  It’s also possible they will want to award populist entries “The Dark Knight” and “WALL-E” in more than one category.  However, I feel like one film will win both sound fields and there won’t be a split.  So why not the $500 million action extravaganza?  It’s worth noting, however, that prior to last year, the last time a Best Picture nominee was nominated in both sound categories and lost both was 1994, when “Forrest Gump” lost to “Speed.”

Will win: “The Dark Knight”
Could win: “WALL-E”
Should win: “WALL-E”

I don’t expect I could put it any more succinctly, so see Best Sound Editing.  However, IF there is a split, watch for “WALL-E” in the other field, since I hope at least the Academy knows the difference between the two fields.  Maybe they don’t…

Will win: “The Dark Knight”
Could win: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Should win: “WALL-E”

One film of the nominated three changed the game entirely.  Not sense “Jurassic Park” has digital effects taken such a massive leap, and I expect the Academy will recognize that with a vote for “Benjamin Button.”  If somehow it loses this award, however, I expect an 0-13 night.

Will win: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Could win: “Iron Man”
Should win: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

There’s no real expectation of a massive divergence here, regardless of the suspect Annie Awards.  However, there are those who point to a Pixar envy/backlash as of late, so you never know.  Much respect to the precious few who know the REAL best animated feature film will most certainly be a bridesmaid.

Will win: “WALL-E”
Could win: “Kung Fu Panda”
Should win: “Bolt”

…I might be making a mistake, but I sense an upset so I’m sticking my neck out for “Departures” after all.

Will win: “Departures”
Could win: “Waltz with Bashir”
Should win: “Waltz with Bashir”

I’ve talked at length about this already (and been taken out of context across the net), but I’m still betting the safe money, because I’ve become something of a predictions pussy the last few years.  And hey, it worked out last year when I led the field of prognosticators.  Anyway, while I still think “Trouble the Water” is a definite threat, there are aspects of the film — a rough, gloss-less quality, for instance — that will put off some voters.  I’ll stick with the frontrunner.

Will win: “Man on Wire”
Could win: “Trouble the Water”
Should win: “Trouble the Water”

Another field I’ve dug into elsewhere, I’m becoming more and more confused.  Most seem to be predicting “The Witness” (without having seen the four films, no doubt), largely because it is about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and this is the year of Obama.  A viewing of the nominees immediately reveals that the film is probably the least accomplished of the mix, but maybe accomplishment won’t matter.  I’m sticking with four-time nominee Steven Okazaki and the tight, powerful “The Conscience of Nhem En,” but “The Final Inch” could prove to be an attractive accompaniment to the “Slumdog” dominance (and it is also one of only two films nominated that can do some good in the world).

Will win: “The Conscience of Nhem En”
Could win: “The Final Inch”
Should win: “The Conscience of Nhem En”

The favorite has become Pixar’s “Presto” in this field and it may just come to pass.  “Lifted” and “Boundin'” have lost to more artistic entries recently, which is what leads me to believe “La Maison en Petits Cubes” or “This Way Up” could be the big winner.  It’s difficult to trust one’s own opinion in these cases, however.

Will win: “La Maison en Petits Cubes”
Could win: “Presto”
Should win: “La Maison en Petits Cubes”

The consensus has slowly become “Toyland” in this, the final category.  My favorite was “The Pig,” and I’ve already analyzed these things at length.  Sometimes you can’t beat a solid Holocaust yarn with this bunch, however.  “New Boy” could also be an attractive choice, while “On the Line” seems to be one of the more awarded short films of the bunch, so I guess it’s anyone’s guess.

Will win: “Toyland”
Could win: “The Pig”
Should win: “The Pig”

Nothing left to do now but watch the show and see what happens, right?  Onward!

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→ 14 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Off the Carpet

14 responses so far

  • 1 2-20-2009 at 11:43 am

    Speaking English said...

    What a great insult to Dustin Lance Black and “Milk” by saying what he accomplished was “a by-the-numbers piece of work that hardly qualifies as creative.” Just insulting.

    That “by-the-numbers piece of work” was incredibly moving, masterfully researched and developed, and written with the kind elegant, heartful flair that defines the empowering magnetism of the film. He will rightfully win this award.

  • 2 2-20-2009 at 11:48 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Presenting an opinion is insulting? So should I chalk up nearly every negative view of this film or that you’ve offered all year to be “insulting?”

    Give me a break, English. And relax. The funny thing is that I totally agree the film is “moving” and has “heartful flair,” but that doesn’t mean it’s a case study in interesting storytelling. It is, quite simply, the Wikipedia entry stretched into a film. Nothing wrong with that in the final analysis but don’t pretend this is a unique criticism of the film.

  • 3 2-20-2009 at 1:03 pm

    N8 said...

    I won’t waste any more energy disparaging your distaste for WALL-E, but I will say “smart move!” in changing your animated short prediction to La Maison. Like I keep saying, the longest and artsiest nominee will win.

    As for those sound categories, I’m loosing sleep! Officially, I’ve decided to go with a Slumdog sweep, but for the purposes of gambling I’ve decided to choose Slumdog for mixing and Dark Knight for editing, thus increasing the chances that I’ll get at least one of the two right. Just playing the odds. Why does it have to be so tough? AMPAS doesn’t know shit about good sound design. If they did, WALL-E would win both awards by a country mile.

    As for original score, I’d be happier with anyone but Rahman winning. Newman, Elfman, and Howard are way overdue, and Desplat simply deserves it more (at least he won with IFMCA).

  • 4 2-20-2009 at 1:29 pm

    THE Diego Ortiz said...

    According to the AMPAS rules it is, but to me, bio-pics are not “original”. You are adapting a real person’s life and times.

    Also, there needs to be a “Best Stunt Work” awards. (so TDK can have one more nom and locked-in win)

  • 5 2-20-2009 at 1:33 pm

    Matt said...

    The REAL Best Animated Film is WALL-E, period.

  • 6 2-20-2009 at 1:38 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Yes, we gathered that from your consistent linking to the “WALL-E” forum, Matt. Thanks for clarifying, though forgive me if I push your period off a cliff.

  • 7 2-20-2009 at 2:11 pm

    Brian Kinsley said...

    When I read the sentence “push your period off a cliff”, I literally guffawed in the work place.

    Victory Tapley!

  • 8 2-20-2009 at 2:54 pm

    Daniel said...


  • 9 2-20-2009 at 3:27 pm

    HBK said...

    And so it ends , this wonderful season .


    Predictions :

    Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
    Director, Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
    Actor: Sean Penn, Milk
    Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
    Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
    Supporting Actress: PenГ©lope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
    Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, Milk
    Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
    Animated Film: Wall-E
    Foreign-Language Film: The Class
    Documentary: Man On Wire
    Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
    Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
    Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    Costume Design: The Duchess
    Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    Score: Slumdog Millionaire
    Song: “Jai Ho,” Slumdog Millionaire
    Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    Sound: The Dark Knight
    Sound Mixing: The Dark Knight
    Short: Spielzugland (Toyland)
    Animated Short: Presto
    Documentary Short: The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306


    I Think i’ll miss reading your thoughtful & intelligent articles .

    Just wanted to say a big Thank you for keeping it so interesting .
    Awesome job this year .
    Keep up the good work .

  • 10 2-20-2009 at 4:15 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    We’ll be around in the off-season, for sure.

  • 11 2-21-2009 at 2:15 am

    Brian said...

    So then you and I match 24 for 24. Way to change those picks at the last minute. This should make for an interesting InContention pool.