Last night I watched Forrest Gump and How Green Was My Valley back to back. This experiment in terror was held to prepare for the next edition of Best Pictures From the Outside In, which will be posted soon after this year's Oscars ceremony. But for the next week here at the site and blog, it's all current Oscars (and film bitch awards) all the time. Last night's
Which is to say that AMPAS's collective lapses in judgment can be so extreme that in proper historical context it's crazy to get overly worked up about next Sunday's coronation of Slumdog Millionaire. I don't think that highly of the film but the whole Best Picture list is excitement-averse and I also don't "hate" it. There are many Best Pictures winners from year's past that are far more deserving of spitballs.
I'm predicting a clean sweep for Slumdog Millionaire. You read that right. The momentum for the picture seems unstoppable and ever growing. Backlash hasn't hurt it. It keeps handily winning or being nominated for things you'd think it would have no business getting anywhere near (acting prizes and the like). And awards season keeps clearing the way for it in strange ways: think of the Springsteen snub in Best Song or the Best Picture snubs for the only other movies with comparably nutso passionate fanbases (The Dark Knight and WALL•E) either and especially both of which could have made the Oscar's a real smackdown had they been included. But in regards to the projected sweep: I am very much hoping to be proven wrong. I find it tough to stomach sweeps even in years when I love the movie that's sweeping. Virtually no movie contains the Best Achievement in Everything.
If you're joining an Oscar pool or contest I'll try to help you out right here by delving into the only categories that seem up in the air... which are...
Sound Mixing & Sound Editing
It might sound odd to say but I believe these are the key categories of the night. If they announce them early and they both go to Slumdog Millionaire we have a sweeper on our hands and you'll watch it win all 9 of its categories. If it loses both it will likely be a more traditional night when several film get a couple of statues each. But these two categories are clearly where Slumdog is most vulnerable to defeat. Voters could also opt to improve WALL•E or The Dark Knight's statue total since they both have fine sound work and this would make a lot of people happy since both films are in danger of emerging from the big night with only one trophy to show for it. That doesn't seem representative of their enormous reach this year ...everywhere outside of the Kodak, that is. If WALL•E wins both, it was probably in 6th place for Best Picture and it might upset elsewhere too (Score or Screenplay?). But I don't think it will. Animated films rarely win these prizes despite a good nomination record (The Incredibles won Sound editing though so who knows...). I thought about predicting The Dark Knight in both categories (my preference is WALL•E) and if the Batman movie takes both of these I could see it upsetting Benjamin Button or Slumdog for a 4th prize, too (MakeUp, Cinematography... or even Editing). The biggest problem for both the robot and the batman is, I fear, each other. Which might have also been the case in the best picture nomination battle.
Best Actress ~ Some people feel this one is a 50/50 race between Meryl Streep in Doubt and Kate Winslet in The Reader. Both are seen as overdue but trying to judge by sentiment (who is most overdue: Kate who has never won or Meryl who hasn't won since '82?) doesn't help since both are beloved. It'd be different if Kate was only seen as overdue but not an endearing cultural figure ... then it would be Streep for the win. But Kate has her own passionate fans and the Best Picture nomination for The Reader cinches it for the future Dame I suspect.
Best Actor ~ Now this one is a truly 50/50 scenario. I change my mind everyday. Sean Penn in Milk has the 'actor's idolize him' advantage and the biopic advantage and he's in a topical Best Picture nominee. All of which say: sure thing! But he won five years ago. I hear what you're saying "That doesn't matter!" And yes, Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) and Sally Field (Places in the Heart) both managed their second win in that same time span. But here is the key difference. Both Swank and Field were up against a field of competitors that were splitting the counter programming vote. Swank was up against two members of Hollywood's elite that were seen as overdue (Bening & Winslet) AND a momentum building powerhouse turn from a lesser known (Staunton). In other words, though it was said at the time to be a rematch between Swank and Bening, wasn't it really a contest between Swank and Staunton, with Bening die hards and passionate Winslet fans unwilling to abandon ship? In a divided field Swank took it on the strength of her sympathetic character and the no small matter of being in the Best Picture winner. Field was up against a field of three women who, like herself, were already Oscar winners (Redgrave, Lange, Spacek) and one subtle performance by a newbie (Judy Davis in A Passage to India). Davis never had the support to win and giving it to anyone else was giving a second statue away, which negates the 'do we want them to have a second Oscar factor?' in awards decisions.
Which brings us to Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. He's the only true competition for Penn (it's tough to imagine that Pitt, Langella or Jenkins are pulling significant numbers) so the 'Not Sean Again' votes aren't being split. Plus Rourke has an extremely compelling "story" in his comeback and the role fits him like a glove. Of all of the Best Actor nominees his is the performance that most carries his film. Even Penn in Milk has a huge cast of actors and an important topic pulling some of the weight of the film's appeal. The Wrestler IS the Mickey Rourke show essentially. Both actors have been gracious and publicly supportive of each other so I think the still growing fanbase of The Wrestler (which might have been in more categories if Fox Searchlight had given it more attention and opened it earlier to let it grow naturally with the public) wins this for Mickey in a squeaker. Either one of them would be a dream winner and truly deserving. Every once in a while the Oscar frontrunners are truly the best of the year.
Long story not made short: I think the safer bet is still Penn (the biopic / best picture factor) but I'm going to predict Rourke.
For a few more tossups and the complete predictions...
click on over to the Oscar category index page.
Polls on which contestants you're rooting for will be open until Saturday and results published here.