Pre-Oscar Season Skullduggery

It’s not even the end of the year yet, but it feels like the perfect time to start WAGing about which films are going to be up for what. To my mind, predicting nominations is way more fun than predicting the winners themselves, because it doesn’t involve quite as much direct comparison between inherently different pieces of art.

This is also an especially interesting year for Oscars, I think, because there are few absolutely monumental undeniable front-runners, and a sizable number of movies that could feasibly get nods (especially for Best Picture). And the pool is so diverse that there’s a lot to discuss based on personal preference, style, etc.

Here are my guesses; based less on personal preference (I haven’t seen many of the films) and more on buzz, cynicism and “what people are saying.” Add your own fuel to the fire below!

Best Picture Noms
(In order of inevitability)

Milk: Haven’t seen this one yet (really want to, but haven’t made it), but I can’t imagine a world where it doesn’t get a nomination. Probably the only absolute, rock-solid foregone conclusion on the list for me. Sean Penn’s performance, a social-minded progressive message, a biopic, and all the Prop 8 drama to boot means it’s perfect Oscar-bait.

The Dark Knight: Second most likely. In this, the Academy gets a fan favorite, a box-office smash, a fantastic movie, a dead leading actor, and even a bit of edgy street-cred for choosing a movie based on a comic-book. Maybe even a frontrunner for Best Picture, who knows. Will definitely be shocked if it’s not on the ticket.

Wall-E: More guaranteed viewers for the ceremony in this pick: It’s a cartoon! How novel! How shocking! Unprecedented! (Well, except for Beauty and the Beast, but that was before there was an Animation category.) Keep in mind that any movie can be nominated for Best Picture, despite the category, so feasibly Wall-E could get Best Animated Picture and Best Picture, on the same night. And in a perfect world, I’d like to see that happen; Wall-E is my pick for the best of the year. Sadly, I think a nomination will be as far as it gets, but I think it’s a pretty good bet that it’ll get that much (especially since the LA Critics Association named it their best picture of the year yesterday; talk about a PR boost).

So those are my top three picks, leaving two spots that I see boiling down to a fight between three pictures (none of which have opened yet, at least not widely):

The Wrestler: Mickey Rourke’s sure-thing Best Actor nom might cancel this one out, but it’s getting a HUGE amount of buzz and is supposed to be the bee’s knees. Very strong contender for the low-key/indie movie slot in the noms.

Frost/Nixon: Based on a hit play (so is Doubt, but I think this one has more of a cache), historical, edgy political story in edgy political times; this one has a lot going for it. I think its nomination will hinge on whether or not the film manages to chip its way into the mainstream, even a little.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: A good amount of buzz around it, but honestly at this point I feel like it’ll fall through the cracks a bit (probably with a best actor nom for Brad Pitt and some other costume/make-up type smaller wins). The movie might be the Next Big Thing once it opens, though, so again, we shall see.

All in all, my vote goes to The Wrestler and Frost/Nixon rounding out the noms.
Other Random-Ass Guesses In Other Categories

-Heath Ledger gets a posthumous Supporting Actor Nom, and probably wins. Oh, there will be tears.

-Charlie Kauffman gets nominated for Screenplay, but given that he won for Eternal Sunshine last go-round and his current one (Synecdoche, New York) didn’t really set the world on fire, I don’t think he’ll come away with it this time around (not sure what will).

-Best Actor comes down to Mickey Rourke, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and two other sacrificial lambs. Sean Penn takes it if Milk doesn’t win best picture; otherwise, probably Mickey.

-Baz Luhrmann gets Best Director nom for Australia, but doesn’t win. Probable other noms for The Wrestler and The Dark Knight and, off-chance, Wall-E.

-Doubt cleans up the Actress Awards (Best for Meryl, Best Supporting for Amy Adams). One of them might lose out, but both will be nominated and at least one will win.

And them’s what I’ve got right now; let the tomfoolery and unfounded debates commence!

I enjoy predicting nominations as well, and I like your list quite a lot. Having seen The Wrestler, I can agree that it is indeed “the bees knees.” Though w/o Mickey in it, it would be a pretty mundane and formulaic sports movie of its type.

Ok…so my guesses so far:

Best Picture: **
Milk (I hear it’s overrated but this is the year for this movie.)
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire (this year’s Little Miss Sunshine or Juno)
Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Revolutionary Road (DiCaprio, Winslet, directed by Sam Mendes… perfect formula)

Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
Sam Mendes
Jonathan Demme - Rachel Getting Married
Darren Aronofsky - The Wrestler (a bit of a comeback for him after The Fountain)

Mickey Rourke and Frank Langella will duke it out for this one. I think Sean Penn will get nominated but I’ve heard that he’s just ok in the role. Also in the running: Brad Pitt for the “man-child movie” as my fiancee calls it, Phillip Seymour Hoffman was great in Synecdoche, NY, and maybe DiCaprio for Revolutionary Road.

Streep will be tough to beat for Doubt, I imagine, but I believe Anne Hathaway will give her a run for the money with Rachel Getting Married. I’ve seen RGM and Hathaway gives an incredible performance. Not sure who else might be in this group.
Supporting Actor/ Actress:**

Phillip Seymour Hoffman could get a nod here for Doubt, but it’s Heath Ledger’s year. The guy that played the father in Rachel Getting Married deserves to be here as well. Not sure who else right now.

Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler, Amy Adams - Doubt, Kate Winslet (unless she’s in the Best Actress category), and Debra Winger for Rachel Getting Married. I expect Winger to be the favorite as it’s a big of a comeback for her.

Original Screenplay to Charlie Kaufman (as well as some Art Direction type noms), Rachel Getting Married should end up here as well. Lots of fodder for Adapted Screenplay including Doubt and Frost/Nixon.

Oooh, I forgot all about Revolutionary Road. Thanks for the reminder; it might take some re-thinking on my part. A new challenger appears!

Best Picture:

Milk - lock (overrated, but still a pretty decent movie)
The Dark Knight - lock
Frost Nixon - maybe nominated (but won’t win - it’s a REALLY good movie though)
Revolutionary Road - maybe but I haven’t seen it yet so I might upgrade it
Slumdog Millionaire - maybe (my favorite movie of the year but I dont’ think it’ll get the press it deserves)
Curious Case of Benjamin Button - maybe (I’ve heard some good things about this movie but it’s still early)
The Wrestler - outside shot (well see what the audience reaction is. I saw it at TIFF and loved it. It’s in my yearly top 5 and will probably stay there)
I’m lost on Best Picture, to be honest. I’ll probably have a better idea when a buzz gets going. I think the re-release on January 23 has more to do with the Academy Awards than getting $600 million. I’m not completely naive, I know money is a reasonably big factor, lol. Given the re-release, I’d say The Dark Knight is a pretty safe choice for the win.


See Best Picture - that’s usually sort of how it works out. I really hope Danny Boyle gets it for Slumdog though.


Langella and Rourke are your boys. Langella is in biopic so he, rightly or wrongly, gets the upper hand. He was REALLY good - especially in the final 2/3. I suspect Leo gets another nomination though.


Kate Winslett, Sally Hawkins, and Anne Hathaway are your girls. I think Sally Hawkins has the inside track (not having seen Kate yet, of course). She’s good. That being said, I’d love to have Kate FINALLY win one.


Heath’s a stone cold lock.

Original Score:

The Dark Knight is eligible (finally) and will therefore win. It’s good to see the academy get their heads out of their ass on this one. I suspect The Dark Knight sweeps technical awards as well - except for costume. That usually goes to a period piece (grumble grumble).

I have heard quite a bit about Clint Eastwood in* Gran Torino*. Don’t rule him out.

Wow, really? I know next to nothing about Gran Tornio, but I caught the trailer for it last weekend and it made it look like just a terrible, terrible film. Which was surprising and saddening, since Clint is usually so smart about choosing projects. Nice to know that it’s getting good buzz.

Gran Torino is getting RAVE reviews and has already been nominated for/won some major precursors. I don’t have time to look them up because I’m within seconds of going out the door to head to the theater to see…Gran Torino. I’ll report back later this evening or tomorrow. Tomorrow night I’ll be seeing a sneak preview of Frost/Nixon which I also assume will be a player at the Oscars.

I’ll read the whole thread when I get back. I’m a major awards slut and it’s getting very interesting.

Btw, count Valkyrie out for just about everything. It was ok, much better than I expected, but I would be shocked if it got nominated for anything except for maybe costumes and possibly Art Direction.

What will NOT get nominated for anything but should. The Fall, for Art Direction, Costumes, Cinematography, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor.

I’m pretty sure, like most years, it will consist of about a dozen “films” that I’ll never see, and one or two nods to the popular movies that people went to see.

Movies, for me, are escapist fantasy, that should have explosions and special effects and heroic individuals :D. I don’t go to see insights into the human condition, or other films that are supposed to expand your bourgeiois way of thinking.

I’d be happy if Dark Knight won something, and very happy if Heath Ledger won something. It was a beautiful acting job.

Gran Torino also has the fact that Eastwood has announced this will be his last acting role.

Virtual locks:
Slumdog Millionaire: This will probably be the film that wins the most critics’ Best Picture awards (it’s won 2 already) and will have a multicultural/independent street cred to fall back on. Plus, it’s genuinely uplifiting in a way most of its competitors aren’t.
Frost/Nixon: 70s history that plays it safe, both politically (does anyone like Nixon?) and aesthetically (directed by Ron Howard).
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: There’s almost always at least one film with big epic sweep that makes the final 5, and this is the most obvious candidate (especially since Australia is getting raked over the coals). I’m seeing it tonight so will report back soon, but the buzz is huge and epics often benefit from deep support from the craft/“technical” branches, so this seems the most likely candidate to gain the most nods overall as well.

Probably rounding the field:
The Dark Knight: It made a ton of money, got terrific reviews, and has a very Oscar-friendly cast (including 1 assured nominee). Of course, it is still a comic book movie (the Academy still has its genre prejudices) so it definitely won’t win, but the field is wide enough that it should make the final cut.
Milk: 70s history that’s more moving but also more controversial (let’s face it, anything gay-friendly will stoke some fires, even in Hollywood). Biopics have a pretty good track record of making the final 5, but a very bad record in recent years of taking the whole thing (Losers: Ray, Capote, The Queen, The Aviator, The Pianist, Good Night and Good Luck, etc.).

Other contenders:
Revolutionary Road: The Leo/Winslet/Mendes teaming is a force to be reckoned with, but will it find enough faithful fans to get the necessary #1 ballot votes, or come across as an extended episode of Mad Men?
Doubt: The film best poised to earn the most acting nominations (probably 3, possibly 4), so can’t be counted out, though buzz hasn’t been as strong.

Unlikely also-rans:
The Wrestler, Rachel Getting Married: Almost certain acting nominees (possibly in multiple categories) but probably not enough support to put them over the top, despite very strong notices. These both have better shots at Director, though.
WALL-E: Now that it’s got its own category (where it’s a mortal lock), I think enough people will be satisfied leaving it at that (though it will also likely pick up writing, sound, and music nominations, too). Animation is usually a second-class citizen with the Academy and this year probably won’t change that, regardless of how great the film is. People don’t remember that 1991 was an exceptionally soft year, so Beauty and the Beast was a fluke unlikely to be repeated for a long time.

Clint was quoted in an IMDB article today that says that report is a load of crap.

As for the OP, in a perfect world, The Dark Knight would sweep everything. I haven’t seen a better movie or a better film in a long time (probably since Cloverfield for the former and No Country For Old Men for the latter). But I am positive Heath Ledger will win Best Supporting. A posthumous payback Oscar is just too perfect to pass up.

I’m sure Milk will be up for a lot as I’ve read a pile of good reviews. But every single one talks about the movie in relation to Prop 8 and being gay in these times. If Prop 8 failed I’m convinced Milk wouldn’t be getting half as much Oscar talk as its getting.

Virtual Locks:
Frank Langella: Nixon’s been nominated before, but Langella comes off a Tony award for his Tricky Dick. This would be his first nod.
Clint Eastwood: 4 Oscars, but the man has never won for his acting. This could very well be the year. This would be his 3rd acting nod, the other two being for films that (like Grand Torino) he also directed.
Mickey Rourke: Probably the Bill Murray slot–getting a ton of critical cred, but battling his own prickly reputation within the industry.
Sean Penn: This will be his 5th nod, it’s a terrific performance but winning #2 might be tough so soon after #1 (he’s more respected than Tom Hanks, but probably not as well liked).

Rounding the field:
Leonardo DiCaprio: Almost completely dependent on how well RR is received. This would be his 4th nod.
Benicio del Toro: Supposedly an amazing, bravura Che performance, but will enough people sit out the whole 5 hours? Voters also might be suffering from biopic fatigue at this point as well. This would be his 3rd nod (but first as a lead).
Richard Jenkins: The Visitor was the little Indie that could this past summer, but will people’s memories be long enough? It helps that Jenkins is the classic, unassuming character actor given a shot at a lead and running with it (think David Strathairn, Don Cheadle or winners Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Forest Whitaker). This would be his 1st nod.
Brad Pitt: Completely dependent on a Button bandwagon. This would be his 2nd nod (first as lead).
Will Smith: Seven Pounds is his serious side, which has fared him well in the past with voters. This would be his 3rd nod.
Virtual locks:
Meryl Streep: After a huge summer (she’ll get a Globe nod for Mamma Mia!), she’ll almost certainly pick up her 15th nomination for Doubt.
Anne Hathaway: Meryl’s Prada co-star is a strong contender in a showy (but prickly) role.
Kate Winslet: They’ll probably campaign for her in Supporting for The Reader so she’ll almost certainly get a nod for RR (unless the film really tanks). If she does double dip this year, that will put her at 7 career nominations without a win–a record for actresses. This may be the year she takes it.

Rounding the field:
Cate Blanchett: They love giving her nods (this would be her 6th), but the jury’s still out on how big her Button role is.
Angelina Jolie: The film wasn’t universally well-received, but Clint is a magician in getting his actors attention, and the Academy might think she’s overdue for a nod (she hasn’t gotten one since her win almost a decade ago). Double teaming with Brad might prove irresistable, too.
Sally Hawkins: Will be dependent on how much notice she gets from the year-end awards. Another performance that irritates and ingratiates in equal measure, it doesn’t have the heft that Vera Drake had (the last Mike Leigh film to get some acting notice). This would be her 1st nod.
Melissa Leo: Frozen River’s a terrific film–and Leo is fantastic. She has no shot at winning but this could be the Indie unknown to fly in under the radar (see Catalina Sandino Moreno, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Janet McTeer, and Imelda Staunton). This would be her 1st nod.
Michelle Williams: Wendy and Lucy is getting tons of raves, and Ledger’s Oscar spectre may give her a leg up, both in visibility and sympathy. But they’ll have to see the film first (another little indie that could fall through the cracks). This would be her 2nd nod (but first as lead).
Nicole Kidman: Not great reviews for her performance, but the film is epic and she could scoot in on name recognition/familiarity if voters can’t be bothered with the small stuff (like the 3 names above). This would be her 3rd nod (and 2nd for Baz).
Kristin Scott Thomas: Supposed to be amazing in I’ve Loved You So Long, but the film’s in French and not well known. Still, her status as a former nominee means you can’t rule her out in a soft field (plus her language fluency highlights her range).

Any ideas on what might be nominated for Best Foreign Film? That’s always one of my favorite categories.

Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger: I’ve made the case before why Ledger isn’t a lock for the win. But as December comes around, there are few other serious, heavy-hitting competitors. He’s still got some obstacles (the comic book ghetto, his posthumous status), but it is a great performance in a blockbuster film.

Rounding the field
Josh Brolin/James Franco: The Milk boys, Brolin has the edge because of his turn as W this year, too. This would be the 1st nod for both.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman: This would his 3rd nod, though placing him in this category (for Doubt) might seem more strategic than honest.
Robert Downey, Jr.: The Comeback of the year, he’s be recognized for Tropic Thunder but coasting on a huge wave of Iron Man goodwill. This would be his 2nd nod.
Michael Shannon: Just based on buzz right now (Revolutionary Road), this would be his 1st nod.
Michael Sheen/Dev Patel: Pseudo-leads (they’re both title roles!) in likely Best Picture candidates, this would be the first nod for both.

This still gives plenty of breathing room for an underdog or two.
Supporting Actress
Virtual Locks
Penelope Cruz: Woody Allen films have yielded 8 nominees in this category. Cruz will probably be 9th. This will be her 2nd nod.
Rosemarie DeWitt: Based mostly on heavy buzz so far (Rachel Getting Married), this would be her 1st nod.
Viola Davis: Based mostly on heavy buzz so far (Doubt), this would be her 1st nod.

Rounding the field
Kate Winslet: Immensely popular, if they campaign for her here for The Reader, she’s got an excellent shot at a nod. This would be her 3rd in this category.
Amy Adams/Marisa Tomei/Debra Winger: They’re all in films with guaranteed lead acting nominations, so we know the films will be seen. Their status as previous nominees means the Academy is comfortable with them already. This would be nomination #2/#3/#4 (respectively).
Taraji P Henson: Lots of buzz for a likely Best Picture contender (Button) means visibility will be high. This would be her 1st nod.

This is the category that could yield the most surprises.

Here are the films submitted by each country. The French and Italian submissions were both big winners at Cannes and the Israeli nominee has a good shot of also being nominated for Animation feature, but in this category, it really is anybody’s guess.

To spice up the discussion - here are this year’s Golden Globe nominations:

Very little that deviates from my previous posts.

Biggest Winners: Revolutionary Road, which was getting lost in the shuffle, now is back on everybody’s radar with 4 nods. The Reader also has 4, but I’m betting it doesn’t get the same kind of traction. Still, this almost assures a double nod for Winslet, and probably puts her as the front-runner for the whole thing (though which category still is up in the air).

Kristin Scott Thomas also gets a big bump exactly when she needed it, though it’s still an uphill struggle for her. Sally Hawkins also got a boost by having her film be up for Best Film (Comedy or Musical), increasing her visibility and viability even more.

In Bruges also had a terrific showing (3 nods), and that may be the attention it needs to score a screenplay nod (its best shot) with the Academy. Woody Allen also benefits from the 4 nods for VCB, and while I was skeptical that he might score another screenplay nod from the Academy (the once-ubiquitous nominee has only garnered one in the last decade), he seems a safer bet now.

Biggest Losers: Milk and Batman only score 1 nod each. I don’t think this changes their long-term prospects for the Oscars, though. The Foreign Press has historically shown much more attention to films with international flavor than to films with uniquely American subjects (hence The Reader love), but there’s always a bit of disparity between the Globes and the Golden Man and these two films will probably exemplify that.

Australia, however, is toast. The Globes love Kidman (she’s been nominated 7 times by them, and won 3), and if they can’t find room for her and her big Aussie epic, than its prospects are dismal indeed.

Stable: Button cements its status as the likely nomination front-runner (which usually makes it a Best Picture favorite) and the fact that it, F/N & Slumdog all scored the trifecta (Pic/Director/Screenplay) bodes well for all 3.

Clint Eastwood didn’t score an actor nod, but he never has with the Globes, so that doesn’t say much. He did score 2 music nods, though.

Brangelina are loved by the Globes (they have a combined history of 7 nods and 4 wins), so they aren’t much of a surprise here, and I’d say this doesn’t improve their chances with the Academy dramatically. Ditto surprise nominee Tom Cruise, whom the Foreign Press also adores (6 nods and 3 wins total).

Ralph Fiennes is a bigger surprise (haven’t seen The Duchess myself) so hard to say whether his nomination is a one-off or portends something more.

Oh, and just announced: Jerry Lewis finally gets an Oscar.

I would have liked to see Fiennes get a supporting actor nomination for In Bruges. Really liked him in that.

I again don’t have time to go deeper into these awards/nominations at the moment, but I did want to say that Gran Torino is indeed a terrific film, worthy of the buzz it’s been getting. That said, I don’t know that it’s a Best Picture film, but I was glad to see that Eastwood was nominated for a Golden Globe and would be shocked if he’s snubbed at the Oscars. He was fantastic.

I saw Kristin Scott Thomas’s film the other day and was glad to see her GG nomination too. She won’t get an Oscar nom but I’m glad she’s getting some recognition.

And, yay that In Bruges is not being forgotten!