Oscar predictions

Who will get a nod... and who should

by Mary F. Pols

Contra Costa Times (MCT)

18 January 2008


No matter what happens with the Oscar ceremony by Tuesday morning, at least we’ll still have nominations to mull over. Here’s a look at who should be nominated and then—reality check—who most likely will get a nod from the Academy.

Max von Sydow

Max von Sydow

Who should be nominated:

1. Paul Dano, “There Will be Blood”: As an oily, scheming evangelist, he really got under Daniel Day-Lewis’ character’s skin, and mine as well. I don’t think he’ll get a nomination, but the role signifies a great future for the “Little Miss Sunshine” actor.

2. Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men”: All the actors in this film are supporting players, and they are all worthy. But Bardem was particularly magnificent as the film’s chillingly efficient hit man.

3. Tom Wilkinson, “Michael Clayton”: A veteran actor, Wilkinson always makes the most of his opportunities, but he brought something unexpected to this small supporting role: staying power. Long after his brilliant, loony lawyer was gone, the memory of him lent the movie its melancholy heart.

4. Robert Downey Jr., “Zodiac”: Downey navigates this complex movie like an expert tightrope walker. He brings such light to this film that when his character’s story arc turns dark, the tragedy resonates.

5. Max von Sydow, “The Diving Bell and Butterfly”: His role as the housebound father of a paralyzed stroke victim is small but deeply significant. I’d be shocked if he got the nod, although after director Julian Schnabel win at the Globes, the movie has momentum.

Tom Wilkinson

Tom Wilkinson

Who will be nominated:

1. Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Charlie Wilson’s War”: Because my guy will be overlooked for best actor for “The Savages,” he’ll likely pick up a supporting nomination for this thoroughly Hollywood production. And fact is, he was fantastic as a fast-talking CIA agent.

2. Tom Wilkinson, “Michael Clayton”: The buzz has been strong for him all along, and even if the movie didn’t generate the kind of box office it should have, it’s an industry darling.

3. Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men”: He’s picked up enough awards, including the Golden Globe, to be virtually assured of a nomination.

4. Casey Affleck, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”: He was so good as the weasel Bob Ford that he taught me all I needed to know about the character in five minutes. Everything after that was overkill. But the Academy loves a buzzed-about performance.

5. Hal Holbrook, “Into the Wild”: Holbrook’s gentle retiree spoke for all of us when he begged Emile Hirsch’s young wanderer not to vanish into the wild. This is a sentimental choice, but there was true beauty in Holbrook’s performance. Plus, he’s got Entertainment Weekly lobbying on his behalf.

Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron

Who should be nominated:

1. Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There”: The best Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ strange and captivating film. She truly is Cate the Great, and I feel more strongly about her in this category than anyone else.

2. Charlize Theron, “In the Valley of Elah”: No one is talking about Theron’s quietly fierce work as a diligent, undervalued detective, but then, no one is talking about Paul Haggis’ somber, smart movie. Strange, especially after the way they fell on the less worthy “Crash.”

3. Jennifer Garner, “Juno”: I’d never have predicted that I’d be nominating Garner for anything but best dimples or biceps. But she faces the biggest challenge of her career, convincing us that an uptight career woman—the kind of character movies love to mock—deserves a shot at motherhood just as much as the coolest girl in school.

4. Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”: Oh, the way this woman pulls off sweaty fear and insecurity! Her hatchet woman was her most mainstream role to date, but she made it uniquely Swinton.

5. Lauren Ambrose, “Starting Out in the Evening”: I went back and forth on this because Lili Taylor was also outstanding as a famous writer’s (Frank Langella) daughter. But Ambrose, playing a grad student intent on becoming his muse, all gleaming, eager eyes but with a me-first attitude, haunts me.

Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett

Who will be nominated:

1. Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There.” As it should be.

2. Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”: Everyone seemed to love Ryan’s trashy Boston mother. It seemed a little too familiar to me, too showy and predictable.

3. Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”: They’re all in awe of her.

4. Catherine Keener, “Into the Wild”: She picked up a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild, she’s always a favorite, and it seems like industry insiders loved this film.

5. Julia Roberts, “Charlie Wilson’s War”: It’s her worst performance in years, but I think the Academy is that lame and Roberts that well-loved.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis

Who should be nominated:

1. Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will be Blood”: This acting genius has never been better than he is as early 20th-century oil prospector Daniel Plainview: greedy, witty, misanthropic, yet oddly endearing.

2. Tommy Lee Jones, “In the Valley of Elah”: Playing a career military man looking for an explanation for his soldier son’s mysterious murder, Jones was so honest and powerful he made it possible for writer/director Paul Haggis leave his customary self-importance behind for something actually important.

3. Christian Bale, “Rescue Dawn”: Like Day-Lewis, Bale dove into a meaty, eccentric with complete dedication. His portrait of Dieter Dengler, a Laotian prisoner of war in the early days of the Vietnam War, was intimate and inspirational, but without a trace of false sentiment.

4. Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Savages”: Any of Hoffman’s three major roles this year could earn him a nomination, but this was my favorite. As a son facing his father’s decline, his Jon Savage was alternately tender and cutting as he desperately tried, and failed, to stay detached.

5. Brad Pitt, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”: The movie was ultimately a failure, but Pitt was at his level best playing the titular outlaw: intelligent, mature and completely believable.

George Clooney

George Clooney

Who will be nominated:

1. Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood”: The Academy might not give him the award, but they can’t ignore such greatness at nomination time.

2. Denzel Washington, “American Gangster”: In this slot it’s either this perennial favorite or Johnny Depp (“Sweeney Todd”), and I’m guessing the serious nature of Washington’s performance gives him the edge.

3. George Clooney, “Michael Clayton”: Who can resist the smooth charms of Clooney, even lending his elegance to a rather forlorn rogue? The only reason Clooney didn’t make my list of shoulds is that I wanted to highlight Bale, far less likely to get nominated.

4. Frank Langella, “Starting Out in the Evening”: Very fine as an aging writer trying to compete in today’s culture, Langella is likely to be recognized because his is a classy, mature performance from a member of the Old Guard (which a lot of Academy voters happen to be).

5. Viggo Mortensen, “Eastern Promises”: The only major actor to bare all and from all angles this year, Mortensen would fulfill the Academy’s need for an edgy nominee in this category.

Marion Cotillard

Marion Cotillard

Who should be nominated:

1. Marion Cotillard, “La Vie en Rose”: Cotillard gave the only lead performance that could rival Daniel Day-Lewis’. She WAS Edith Piaf.

2. Amy Adams, “Enchanted”: In the midst of sweet fluff, Adams’ portrayal stood out as something far beyond cute or adorable (even though it was both). Her fairy-tale character was meticulously, lovingly and intelligently crafted, with a light-as-air physicality that only looks easy.

3. Laura Linney, “The Savages”: The sweet sourness of her Wendy Savage, insecure, naughty, prone to lying, yet at the same time always striving to do better, rivaled even her work in “You Can Count on Me.”

4. Belen Rueda, “The Orphanage”: Because she moved me so tremendously. At the beginning of this Spanish horror film I thought she was just another pretty face; in the end, her bereft mother was unforgettable.

5. Nicole Kidman, “Margot at the Wedding”: I know, it’s kind of boring to fall all over Kidman. But she almost always deserves it. She’s fascinatingly awful as a self-centered mother in this quirky, imperfect but always sharp and smart movie from writer/director Noah Baumbach.

Julie Christie

Julie Christie

Who will be nominated:

1. Julie Christie, “Away From Her”: With grace and beauty, she capably captured the frustrating mercurial nature of an Alzheimer’s patient. And her Golden Globe victory pretty much seals her nomination.

2. Marion Cotillard, “La Vie en Rose”: The movie was off-putting to some, because of its confusing timeline and transitions, but the Academy loves a mind-blowing transformation and this was that.

3. Keira Knightley, “Atonement”: The Academy likes to have a pretty young thing around and Knightley has been nominated before, when she deserved it less (for “Pride and Prejudice”). I think that gives her the edge over “Juno’s” Ellen Page, even though Juno MacGuff will linger longer in the public’s mind.

4. Jodie Foster, “The Brave One”: A safe nomination with plenty of studio support. Foster is Hollywood royalty, and it was a good performance even though the movie was foolish.

5. Angelina Jolie, “A Mighty Heart”: I’m not sure they particularly like the jet-setting do-gooder, but I think Academy members respect Jolie. And her work as Daniel Pearl’s devastated widow Marianne was nothing if not respectable.


Who should be nominated:

1. Joel and Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”: These guys are so smart and consistent and no one makes movies quite the way they do.

2. Tamara Jenkins, “The Savages”: She wrote and directed this gem about families, bringing a unique vision and a ton of heart to the project. Women directors rarely get nominated; this one deserves it.

3. David Fincher, “Zodiac”: His chilling and masterful movie seemingly wandered all over the place but Fincher bound it into a coherent whole that made you think you time-traveled back to the days when the Zodiac prowled the Bay Area.

4. Julian Schnabel, “The Diving Bell and Butterfly”: He’s a visual artist, a painter by trade, but he kept careful control over difficult material, translating words into indelible, poignant images.

5. Paul Thomas Anderson, “There Will Be Blood”: No other director who could have come up with a movie this brilliantly strange. Even when it falters, it still captivates.

Who will be nominated:

1. Joel and Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men.” I think they’ll get the nomination, but I bet the whole duo thing throws voters off; they want to know exactly who was in charge of what when they pick a winner.

2. Julian Schnabel, “The Diving Bell and Butterfly”: He seems as though he’d be unbearably arrogant and, thus, turn off his peers, but that Golden Globe win should give him a push.

3. Sean Penn, “Into the Wild”: Yes, he has a history of grumpy Oscar speeches, but my hunch is his peers still respect him for his great acting versatility and will embrace his passionate adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book.

4. Joe Wright, “Atonement”: The movie is complicated and tricky, but it works because of Wright. Plus, that incredibly long tracking shot on the beach at Dunkirk is the stuff of legend.

5. Tony Gilroy, “Michael Clayton”: He made the movie as smooth and slick as that black sedan Clooney drives in it. I’m taking a risk here on my prediction because Gilroy, who also wrote the film, likely only nabs this nomination if “Michael Clayton” is also up for best picture.


What should be nominated:

1. “No Country for Old Men”: Just a perfect film, filled with breathtakingly good writing, editing and directing decisions. And don’t even get me started on the acting (Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Bardem—it doesn’t get any better).

2. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”: It didn’t qualify for foreign language film, even though it’s in French, so it belongs in the best picture race. Apparently, it’s a divisive film, but from the first frame I was hooked on Schnabel’s artistry and the script’s humor and heartbreak.

3. “There Will Be Blood”: I think this is an imperfect film, but so are a lot of great classics. What makes it a best-picture nominee is its unforgettable nature, its boldness and its dramatic power.

4. “The Savages”: I loved Tamara Jenkins’ talky tale of siblings struggling with their father’s dementia so much that I watched it twice. Leavened with humor, it’s nonetheless vivid and true.

5. “Zodiac”: We critics are desperate to get the message across about David Fincher’s extraordinary portrait of time and place. So we’ll keep beating the drum. But who will listen? Rent the DVD!

What will be nominated:

1. “No Country for Old Men”: I’d be shocked if it won, but the Coen Brothers’ film seems like a sure bet for a nomination.

2. “Atonement”: This year’s “English Patient,” a film people either love or hate. But everyone agrees it looks beautiful (and classy) and having just won a Golden Globe makes it a shoo-in for a nomination.

3. “Michael Clayton”: It’s a very strong movie, with a lot of industry fans and a winning pedigree. Besides, who doesn’t want George Clooney at the party?

4. “American Gangster”: I’m actually putting this one in because the rule on the best-picture nominees is that they always include at least one glossy, macho movie I would never have voted for.

5. “Juno”: Remember last year when the beloved “Little Miss Sunshine” surprised us all and got nominated? I think “Juno” will get that spot this year.

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