Predictable – The 2008 Oscar Winners

Picking who will win the Oscars each year is like taking a trip directly into a fool’s paradise. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on who will win, the wacky members of AMPAS step in and screw everything up all over again. They’ve been known to make a mistake or two, and their decisions rarely have much to do with art or classicism. Still, if you’ve watched the talent train wreck for long enough, you learn a few lessons about forecasting the unfathomable. So while SE&L prepares its own annual Academy tie-in, here’s our shot are determining who walks away with gold come Sunday. We won’t confess if we get it wrong, but we sure will gloat if we get it right. Keeping score is optional. Let’s begin with:

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Atonement (Focus Features) A Working Title Production: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers

Juno (Fox Searchlight) A Dancing Elk Pictures, LLC Production: Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers

Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.) A Clayton Productions, LLC Production: Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers

No Country for Old Men (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production: Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers

There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers

What Will Win: Atonement

What Should Win: No Country for Old Men

This is the stretch, the pick that goes against the established thinking’s grain and suggests that Oscar has learned nothing over its last 20 years. Smacking of a Crash/Brokeback MountainShakespeare in Love/Saving Private Ryan fiascos, this could very well be the old guards response to the Coen’s dark, desperate vision. Remember, the voting Academy is made up of aging ex-nominees, and the mock Merchant/Ivory quality of this British period piece fits right into their cinematic comfort zone.

Performance By an Actor in a Leading Role

George Clooney in Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)

Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)

Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)

Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of Elah (Warner Independent)

Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises (Focus Features)

Who Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Who Should Win: Johnny Depp

Call it a case of wishful thinking, but maybe, just maybe, Oscar will overlook Day-Lewis’ complete domination of the year end Best of’s (and abundant award show anointing) and chose the actor who actually did the best job of bringing his character to life. There’s no doubt that Daniel Plainview is a piece of work, but Depp took a huge chance by playing the overdone bravado of the Broadway legend as a small, sinister shell. It remains the most daring turn by any actor in 2007.

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Warner Bros.)

Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson’s War (Universal)

Hal Holbrook in Into the Wild (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)

Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)

Who Will Win: Hal Holbrook

Who Should Win: Javier Bardem

Just like the Supporting Actress category, the Academy has set up this contest to be about age, experience, and career accomplishment. Holbrook holds all the cards, especially when you consider that he’s just entered his 80s and is still going somewhat strong. Bardem may be the presumptive favorite (winning every other award imaginable will do that to one’s chances) but don’t be surprised if Monday’s headlines reflect a ‘happy trails’ vs. ‘what’s happening’ mentality.

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Universal)

Julie Christie in Away from Her (Lionsgate)

Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose (Picturehouse)

Laura Linney in The Savages (Fox Searchlight)

Ellen Page in Juno (Fox Searchlight)

Who Will Win: Ellen Page

Who Should Win: No One

The choices here are all suspect at best. Of the five, only one has any real buzz, and the backlash has already started to eat into Juno’s junk culture likeability. Page will probably pull it off, proving that previous statues to Helen Hunt, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Julia Roberts haven’t shamed the frequently misguided voters back to their senses. As for the lack of a “should”, see tomorrow’s SE&L awards for some guidance.

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There (The Weinstein Company)

Ruby Dee in American Gangster (Universal)

Saoirse Ronan in Atonement (Focus Features)

Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone (Miramax)

Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)

Who Will Win: Ruby Dee

Who Should Win: Cate Blanchett

Dee’s blink and you’ll miss it turn paired up with Gangster’s lack of Oscar love could confuse this category even more than it already is, but long term talent plus tragedy (Ossie Davis died three years ago this month) usually means a little gold statue. And let’s not forget the overriding issue of race. One classic African American face up against a group of youthful Caucasians spells trouble for everyone else’s chances. If it was a question of real merit, Blanchett blows everyone else away.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Persepolis (Sony Pictures Classics): Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud

Ratatouille (Walt Disney): Brad Bird

Surf’s Up (Sony Pictures Releasing): Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

What Will Win: Persepolis

What Should Win: Ratatouille

With the political poison of Iraq still thick in the air, anything dealing with the Middle East is bound to get undue attention. This doesn’t mean Persepolis is undeserving, just that it speaks directly to the Academy’s apologist mentality. And since Pixar has picked up a few of these babies along the way, the fascination French film has a very good chance of walking away with the win. The dudes from Surf’s Up should save some money and just stay home.

Achievement in Directing

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Julian Schnabel

Juno (Fox Searchlight), Jason Reitman

Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.), Tony Gilroy

No Country for Old Men (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Paul Thomas Anderson

Who Will Win: Joel and Ethan Coen

Who Should Win: Paul Thomas Anderson

Here’s the deal – if Atonement takes home the top prize, it will be because voters figured this award was enough for the sibling auteurs. They’ve got the DGA, the critic’s polls, and the forward momentum, so all seems ripe for a return to glory. But what Paul Thomas Anderson did was so brave, so beyond his typical ’80s artifice as deconstruction that it’s hard to believe he actually made the movie. Just for that feat alone, he deserves the nod.

Achievement in Cinematography

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Warner Bros.): Roger Deakins

Atonement (Focus Features): Seamus McGarvey

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Janusz Kaminski

No Country for Old Men (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Roger Deakins

There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Robert Elswit

Who Will Win: Roger Deakins – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Who Should Win: Robert Elswit – There Will Be Blood

Elswit has the Cinematographer’s Society Award, while Deakins has the pretty pictures. Neither has one before, but the latter has the best chance, if only because he’s nominated twice. If he splits the vote, Blood will win. But Oscar is desperate to find a way of rewarding Andrew Dominik’s overlong character study, so don’t be phased if Deakins bucks the trend and takes home a trophy for bringing the Wild West back to beautiful life.

Best Documentary Feature

No End in Sight (Magnolia Pictures) A Representational Pictures Production: Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (The Documentary Group) A Documentary Group Production: Richard E. Robbins

SiCKO (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company) A Dog Eat Dog Films Production: Michael Moore and Meghan O’Hara

Taxi to the Dark Side (THINKFilm) An X-Ray Production: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner

War/Dance (THINKFilm) A Shine Global and Fine Films Production: Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine

What Will Win: No End in Sight

What Should Win: SiCKO

Bush bashing has become a tradition at the Academy Awards, like Cher wearing bad Bob Mackie and facelift scars. While Michael Moore (previous President pariah) made the most important film of the year, No End is a playbook of bad policy decisions by the sitting Commander in Chief. It’s a wonderful film, and devastating in its message, so clearly it takes the night. But the wounded health care system – and those looking to take it down – could really use an Oscar boost.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Beaufort Israel

The Counterfeiters Austria

Katyn Poland

Mongol Kazakhstan

12 Russia

What Will Win: Who Knows

What Should Win: Who Cares

Under the arcane system applied by the Academy, the best foreign films of the year didn’t even make it into the running. Therefore, we withhold a prediction out of protest.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Atonement (Focus Features), Screenplay by Christopher Hampton

Away from Her (Lionsgate), Written by Sarah Polley

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Screenplay by Ronald Harwood

No Country for Old Men (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Who Will Win: No Country for Old Men

Who Should Win: No Country for Old Men

In keeping with our Atonement trajectory, the brothers will have to be happy with a double dose of Academy appreciation come the end of the evening. Taking home statues for directing and script will just have to suffice. Granted, they are without a doubt the best writers for film currently working, and their screenplays are always good for a quotable line or 20. And since they already own a similar accolade for Fargo, this will be further proof of their way with words.

Best Original Screenplay

Juno (Fox Searchlight), Written by Diablo Cody

Lars and the Real Girl (MGM), Written by Nancy Oliver

Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.), Written by Tony Gilroy

Ratatouille (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird

The Savages (Fox Searchlight), Written by Tamara Jenkins

Who Will Win: Diablo Cody

Who Should Win: Brad Bird

Anyone who knows the story behind the Pixar hit would instantly jump to Brad Bird and company’s defense. Far beyond Cody’s stripper to scribe sentiment, the mind behind The Incredibles raised what was, in essence, a dead project from the cinematic grave. Taking the incomplete material left behind, he refashioned the film into one of 2007’s best. Cody will always be the Callie Khouri of this year’s model – Bird is the tested timeless talent.

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