The 81st Annual Academy Awards are to be held in the early hours of Monday morning and yet again Britain has a strong contingent of Oscar hopefuls flying the flag for us film fans across the pond. However, forgetting how nice it would be to see Danny Boyle or Kate Winslet go home with a golden statuette, do they actually deserve to win them? Here’s a quick run down of the major awards that are up for grabs this weekend, who’s likely to take them home and who most deserves them (in my humble opinion).
After landing a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for his performance in The Wrestler, it seems tough to imagine anyone but comeback-king Mickey Rourke triumphing in this category. His strongest competition comes in the form of Sean Penn who was magnificent as Harvey Milk, also watch out for dark horse Richard Jenkins who deservedly crashed the nominations for his role in The Visitor. Frank Langella was a good Nixon but hardly extraordinary whilst his co-star Michael Sheen was sadly overlooked, he looks unlikely to mount a serious challenge. Forget about Brad Pitt too, his Benjamin Button was great when in his old man phase but weakened with every year the character lost.
Best Supporting Actor
It would be a very brave man who would bet against Heath Ledger being awarded a posthumous Oscar, and a very brave Academy who would not give it to him. Robert Downey Jr was a surprise nominee after ‘blacking up’ for the unfunny Tropic Thunder, not a chance of winning mind but still interesting to see his name there. Again it’s a Milk-man who provides the stiffest competition; Josh Brolin crafted an almost sympathetic murderer in his portrayal of Dan White and it seems only a matter of time until he wins a major gong. Michael Shannon may be an outside bet despite his role as a ‘truth-spouting mental’ in Revolutionary Road, the ever reliable Philip Seymour Hoffman this time unfortunately seems to be just making up the numbers.
This award isn’t as easy to call as you might think, despite the English press seemingly already having Kate Winsalot nailed on for her first Oscar (ironically for a holocaust film after her rant in Extras). She goes in as favourite but Angelina Jolie may throw a spanner in the works, her performance is Changeling was strong and (gasp) even better than Winslet’s. Melissa Leo has a nomination for Frozen River which hasn’t been released in the UK, Leo is good but the film as a whole is better than her performance. Meryl Streep is a strong contender for Doubt, but it’s Anne Hathaway who deserves to emerge triumphant. Shamefully ignored at the BAFTAs, Hathaway seems to have been forgotten but as Kym in Rachel Getting Married she reached a career-high with a performance that is a country mile better than any other on the list.
Best Supporting Actress
Unquestionably the most wide open of the major categories, Penelope Cruz may go in with the most confidence after landing a BAFTA but quite honestly anyone on the list could walk away with it. Marisa Tomei would be my pick, she turned the old cliche of a stripper with a heart of gold into a fully three-dimensional character that legitimised Rourke’s role. Viola Davis stole the show in Doubt in just one scene, the previously unknown actress is the more likely to win from that flick, co-star Amy Adams also having a nod. Finishing off the list of contenders is Taraji P. Henson who played Benjamin Button’s adoptive mother, there’s a chance she might win but it wouldn’t be deserved.
Please, please, please give this to Danny Boyle. Slumdog Millionaire was exquisitely put together and I really want to see Boyle (the nicest man in the world) win the Oscar he deserves. If he doesn’t David Fincher will, Button is wonderfully shot but it would be a shame for Fincher to win his first Academy Award for one of his weakest efforts since Alien3. Gus Van Sant and Stephen Daldry barely deserve their nominations for Milk and The Reader respectively, Sean Penn saved Milk from Van Sant’s dodgy direction and The Reader is possibly this year’s most overrated film. Ron Howard does deserve his nod however for Frost/Nixon, but the award would be a step too far.
Yes, it’s a travesty that The Dark Knight and Wall-E are not on the list of nominees, but there’s no chance to dwell on that now, Ive been dwelling on it for far too long anyway. The nominees correspond exactly with the directing nominees; Slumdog, Benjamin Button, Milk, The Reader and Frost/Nixon the contenders. Again Danny Boyle and Slumdog Millionaire should win and probably will. Watch out for the film’s youngest stars in the audience, all the way from Mumbai. Again Benjamin Button is the only real competition, but this self-indulgent award-baiter doesn’t deserve it, the film drags on too long and has little to say at the end of it. Frost/Nixon is the best of the rest, Milk and The Reader don’t deserve their place on the list when The Dark Knight and Wall-E were both ignored. Ok, I admit it, I am dwelling.
And the best of the rest…
Best Animated Film should belong to Wall-E, Best Documentary to Man On Wire, Foreign Language Film forgot to nominate Gomorrah so Waltz with Bashir deserves to triumph in it’s absence, Best Adapted Screenplay is Simon Beaufoy’s for Slumdog and Adapted Screenplay is Martin McDonagh’s for In Bruges. Those are my picks for who should win anyhow, who will win is anyone’s guess. Good luck to all the nominees and let’s all keep our fingers crossed for Danny Boyle (and in hope that Hugh Jackman isn’t too terrible a host).