[20 February 2008]
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)
From the moment Daniel Day-Lewis fumed, “I drink your milkshake!” in “There Will Be Blood,” this year’s best actor Oscar die was cast. He’s been the Oscar favorite ever since.
No use crying over the other nominees - or spilt milkshakes. Day Lewis has that Oscar in the bag.
Likewise, Javier Bradem’s ugly wig and murderous intensity in “No Country for Old Men” made him the instant favorite for best supporting actor. Nobody will weep for him if Tinseltown turns mushy gives this one to 83-year-old Hal Holbrook for a lifetime of good work and a sweet turn in Into the Wild. Especially not me. But Bardem will win. It’s his time.
The Coen Brothers have a celebrated, violent film and memories of the directing Oscar they should have shared for “Fargo.” They’re best director favorites. And since best directors direct best pictures, well, “No Country” seems to have that sewn up as well.
So why watch the Oscars, Sunday night on ABC?
For the ladies.
There’s a real fight for best actress, with the ever-shifting tea leaves that say film legend Julie Christie is due one more Oscar (she won for “Darling” in 1966). No, nobody saw “Away From Her” or “La Vie en Rose,” which earned Marion Cotillard a nomination. But they split the drama/musical-comedy best actress honors at the Golden Globes, and Cotillard just won the British Oscar, the BAFTA. They’ve been co-favorites since last June.
Which is why I hope Ellen Page (“Juno”) wins. I’m tired of hearing about those two over-rated performances in over-rated films. Figure on Christie to take best actress, with Cotillard and Page splitting the “she’s still young, she’ll have other chances” vote.
Cate Blanchett has quietly become the “new Meryl Streep” - one great performance after another, always followed by an Oscar nomination. She’s a best actress long shot (“Elizabeth: The Golden Age”) and the best supporting actress favorite, playing an androgynous version of Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There.” Amy Ryan is on a lot of “my pick” lists because of her perfectly trashy turn in “Gone Baby Gone.” Tilda Swinton could escape her “she’s not quite Cate Blanchett” label with a deserved “Michael Clayton” win. But I kind of hope and believe that the largest voting block, the actors, will honor the legendary Ruby Dee for a lifetime of work. The Screen Actor’s Guild did just that a couple of weeks back, giving her a win for her brief “American Gangster” performance. I see a Ruby repeat Sunday night.
“Ratatouille” seems to have the best animated film Oscar in the bag, unless “Surf’s Up” steals enough kid-cartoon votes to let the far superior “Persepolis” in.
Figure “There Will Be Blood” will win for cinematography, “Juno” for original screenplay.
Foreign language films? Nobody cares this year. Nobody.
Best song could very well be “Falling Slowly,” from “Once.” But never bet against Alan Menken in this category. He has three songs from “Enchanted” nominated. I’m pulling for “Once,” but expect Menken to win for “That’s How You Know.”
All the war documentaries may open the way for another noisy Michael Moore (“Sicko”) acceptance speech. “No End in Sight” has been the favorite and will probably win. But “Taxi to the Dark Side,” about torturing an innocent man to death in Afghanistan, is the most recent and has lots of fresh buzz.
Surprises would be nice, but a sentimental night will make for good speeches and warm, fuzzy feelings on Monday morning. With the long writer’s strike, the longer Iraq War and the state of the economy, Hollywood owes us a memorable Oscar night. Let’s hope they deliver.