The Oscar goes to…

This year, a lot of new things will be happening with the annual Academy Awards ceremony. For the first time two established showmen, “Dreamgirls” creators Bill Condon and Laurence Mark, will be putting on the show. Also, first time and People Magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year Hugh Jackman host will be attempting to keep the shows running time under three hours. And last but not least, the order of the Award being presented will be shook up and the presenters will not be revealed until they step on stage.

In order to allow you to take these changes in and fully be concentrating on watching the show and not get too caught up with who wins, here is the list of this year’s Academy Award nominations along with predictions of who will win, but perhaps more importantly who should win. After seeing every single nominated film, the nominees were then ranked on a scale, one being the most likely to win/most deserving to win and five (or in some cases three) being the lowest meaning least likely to win/least deserving. This is also done to predict what the voter turnout looked like for each category, as the results are never revealed by the Academy except for who the winner is.

Best Picture-
Who will win?

1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. Milk
3. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
4. The Reader
5. Frost/Nixon
Why?: The only time “Slumdog” has really lost was in the case of the critics’ awards, but the Academy is not comprised of critics. It has won pretty much every single major award (Golden Globe, Producers Guild, Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild) in sight. Additionally, with actors accounting for the majority of the vote in the Academy, the SAG win for “Slumdog” is a good indicator of its future. Another thing to keep in mind is the Directors Guild awarding “Slumdog” director Dan Boyle best director. Rarely does the Academy choose a best picture without honoring the film’s director, and since the Academy also historically awards best director to whoever wins the Directors Guild award, it’s easy to cite this trend when predicting the winner.

Who should win?
1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. Milk
3. The Reader
4. Frost/Nixon
5. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Why?: It is a close contest between “Slumdog” and “Milk.” However, “Milk” doesn’t feel as though it is speaking to everyone until its final moments. At times “Milk” came across as though it wasn’t going to end with a purpose, but rather just end being a historical movie showing what happened instead of making it resonate with the viewer. “Slumdog” however appeals to everyone, puts an amazingly unique twist on a typical love story and overall just is well acted by a star-less cast. “The Reader” is a very good film, but its last half hour really drags on and its ending doesn’t satisfy. “Frost/Nixon” lacked enough suspense and tension to deserve a win. And just call “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” a longer version of “Forrest Gump.” It is too long for its own good, taking three hours to deliver the obvious message that life and love is precious, and just really unoriginal and not unique.

Best Director-
Who will win?:

1. Dan Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
2. David Fincher, Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. Gus Van Sant, Milk
4. Stephen Daldry, The Reader
5. Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
As previously stated, the winner of the Directors Guild almost always wins the Oscar for Best Director. Boyle won it this year, so he will be the victor. And his film being the frontrunner to win doesn’t hurt his chances either. If Fincher wins it will be because of his career achievements more than anything, as his resume is a little more impressive than Boyle’s. The same also apply for Daldry and Van Sant. No chance will Howard win, as he won already in 2001 and generally the Academy is not quick to hand out a second award to someone unless their name is Hilary Swank, Russell Crowe or Tom Hanks.

Who should win?:
1. Dan Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
2. Gus Van Sant, Milk
3. Stephen Daldry, The Reader
4. David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Why?: Looking at the way “Slumdog” is constructed, it is easy to see that no other director could have taken on this serious of a film and filmed it the way Boyle did. Those who have seen his previous work, most notably “Trainspotting,” understand what it means to make a serious yet visually crazy film and know that Boyle is the best in the business at doing this. For the rest of the nominees, it is likely that another director could have done just as good a job.

Best Actor-
Who will win:

1. Sean Penn, Milk
2. Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
3. Brad Pitt, Curious Case of Benjamin Button
4. Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
5. Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Langella plays historical Figure Richard Nixon, so his chances aren’t the most out there, but still unlikely. And Richard Jenkins, commonly thought of as a character actor, won’t get the win with all the fierce competition he is facing. So this year’s best actor race is coming down to Rourke and Penn. It is as simple as Penn having a lot more good going for him than Rourke. Rourke was racking up the awards early on, but Penn’s win at the Screen Actors Guild shows that a large portion of actors at least like him more than Rourke. With actors accounting for the majority of the Academy, it can’t hurt to have their support. Also, for the older members of the Academy, Rourke is too strange of a person to get their vote, as evident by his recent acceptance speeches. And historically, the Academy likes to award actors who portray historical figures over present day characters, and Penn plays historical figure Harvey Milk while Rourke plays a present day wrestler. And with Penn’s politics being liked overall by the Hollywood crowd, and a lot of voters wanting to send a message in the post-proposition eight California by awarding an actor who portrayed a homosexual the award, Penn is the pretty clear choice. However, if the two split the vote, look for Pitt to get the win as some may look to vote for his body of work over Penn, who already has won the award as recently as 2003, and over the renegade Rourke.

Who should win?:
1. Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
2. Sean Penn, Milk
3. Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
3. Brad Pitt, Curious Case of Benjamin Button
4. Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Why?: Langella’s performance is a little tainted by the fact that he played the role on Broadway for quite a while before actually having it filmed, and even then it seems like an imitation more than an actual embodiment of Nixon. Jenkins’ performance was great, but it is Rourke’s time. And I firmly believe anyone could have played Benjamin Button just as well as Pitt did. And with half of his performance only being his face plastered on another person, it is hard for me to choose him over people who physically did their roles in their entirety. Rourke’s performance is likely one of the best of the decades while Penn’s performance seeming like a mix between his performance in “I Am Sam” and “Mystic River.” Rourke’s performance however is nothing like what he used to do. Plus, Rourke had to fully become a wrestler in order to accurately portray the in the ring scenes. His physical transformation was astonishing and something not many actors could do, but his ability to weep and make the audience feel sympathy for him when perhaps he didn’t deserve it is something else altogether.

Best Actress-
Who will win?:

1. Kate Winslet, The Reader
2. Meryl Streep, Doubt
3. Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
4. Melissa Leo, Frozen River
5. Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Why?: Leo wasn’t in a big enough movie and doesn’t have the name her competititors have, and Jolie is facing too tough of competition and has already won an Oscar. Winslet has previously been nominated six times for an Oscar, losing every time, likely causing her to get sympathy votes this year. People may be quick to point out that Streep won the Screen Actors Guild award, meaning she would likely get half of the actor’s vote who account for the majority of the Academy. However, don’t forget that win came with Winslet’s role in “The Reader” not being nominated. Streep faced off against Winslet’s role in “Revolutionary Road.”. But with Winslet’s winless streak and Streep’s record 15 nominations and two wins, it is hard to see anyone rewarding her over someone who has never won. It is also notable that actress’ are more likely to win if the film they are in is nominated for best picture, which Winslet is the only one this year who can say that. And although people may think Winslet and Streep will split the vote, opening things for Hathaway, it is actually more likely that Streep and Hathaway will split voters who decide not to vote for Winslet, allowing Winslet to win easily.

Who should win?:
1. Kate Winslet, The Reader
2. Meryl Streep, Doubt
3. Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
4. Angelina Jolie, Changeling
5. Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Why?: Winslet has given some amazing performances, but her role in “The Reader” is likely one of her best. Although she does deserve to be in the best supporting actress category because her character wasn’t “The Reader’s” main character, she did a better job than any of the other nominees. Streep is fantastic, and created one of the better film villains of all time. Hathaway does an amazing job of making the once “Princess Diary” girl turn into a drug addict, but still it is no match for Streep or Winslet. The same can be said for the other two nominees.

Best Supporting Actress-
Who will win?:

1. Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
2. Viola Davis, Doubt
3. Amy Adams, Doubt
4. Taraji P. Henson, Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. Marissa Tomei, The Wrester
Why?: The Academy loves giving out Best Supporting Actress awards to women who star in Woody Allen films which Cruz did. Plus she has been nominated before and lost and is well liked in Hollywood. Davis doesn’t have much screen time, which will likely hurt her chances with voters. And she will also have to deal with her co-star Adams taking away some votes who thought her performance was more vital and overall just better. Henson is too much of a newcomer to have a chance, and Tomei has already won the award and likely won’t get many votes.

Who should win?:
1. Amy Adams, Doubt
2. Taraji P. Henson, Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. Marissa Tomei, The Wrester
4. Viola Davis, Doubt
5. Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Why? It will be a travesty if Cruz wins. She was good, yes, but in a comedy. You look at what her job in the film was, to be sexy and provide comic relief, she did it. Any sexy star could have played Cruz’s role, whereas not many people could be plugged in where Adams was. Henson really stole the whole movie from Pitt and showed amazing range as an actor. Tomei is essential to “The Wrestler” and its storyline, but really her ability is constricted by what the film allows her to do while onscreen. Another travesty will be if Davis wins. Davis is in “Doubt” for about eight minutes total. In my world we call that an extra. Her role is essential to the story, much like Tomei’s, but at the same time could be reduced to being mentioned but never shown and the film likely would have turned out the same.

Best Supporting Actor-
Who will win?:

1. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
2. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
3. Josh Brolin, Milk
4. Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
5. Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
Why?: Ledger has yet to lose any award this year, whether it is critic or major. The trend likely won’t end at the Oscars. The Academy knows that not giving Ledger the award posthumously would create an amazing outrage against the group, and voters likely do have that in their mind on that along with wanting to award Ledger’s body of work. Any other year, Hoffman would win, but with Ledger’s momentum and the fact that Hoffman already has an Oscar, it is unlikely he will win.

Who should win?:
1. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
2. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
3. Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
4. Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
5. Josh Brolin, Milk
Why?: Hoffman’s performance shouldn’t be overlooked and would be the most deserving any other year, yet at the same time he was the main character in his respective film yet somehow wound up in this category. Downey Jr.’s performance as a crazed method actor was one of the most brilliant comedic performances this decade. Shannon literally steals every scene he is in, but only three of those scenes occur and compared to his fellow nominees, his performance wasn’t as important. For me, Brolin never was able to come across as not being Brolin. But Ledger’s performance is one that will revolutionize the way many people look not only at comic book movies, but acting overall as an art. read the script of “The Dark Knight” knows how much of the character he himself created, and that is something none of the other nominees really can say. Plus it will go down as one of the greatest acting performances in the history of cinema, and there is no better way to recognize that than giving him the award.

Best Original Screenplay-
Who will win?:

1. Milk
2. Wall-E
3. Happy-Go-Lucky
4. In Bruge
5. Frozen River
Why?: Basically it comes down to “Milk” and “Wall-E.” First, the other nominees were not nominated for best picture. And although “Wall-E” wasn’t either, it got a lot more discussion about a possible best picture nomination than the other films and people will give it votes because they are bitter about the decision to snub it. However, the Writers Guild decided to choose “Milk” over “Wall-E,” and their pick generally is a solid indicator of who will win. What it mainly will come down to is “Milk” actually being nominated for best picture and having lots of dialogue, whereas “Wall-E” wasn’t and has a beginning half hour without dialogue. And when dialogue finally does come in, it mostly consists of beeps and other variations of robot noises.

Who should win?:
1. Milk
2. Wall-E
3. In Bruges
4. Frozen River
5. Happy-Go-Lucky.
Why?: “Frozen River” and “Happy-Go-Lucky” weren’t spectacular scripts. “In Bruge” did an amazing job of mixing comedy, drama and action but it is also something that has been seen before. And although “Wall-E” was an amazing film and snubbed of a best picture nomination, the fact that it just doesn’t have much dialogue makes its script a tad bit weaker than “Milk.”

Best Adapted Screenplay-
Who will win?:
1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. Frost/Nixon
4. The Reader
5. Doubt
Why?: Generally the Writers Guild is a good indicator of who will win this category as well, and “Slumdog” won it this year. Plus, Best Picture winners tend to win best screenplay, and since “Slumdog” will likely win best picture a win here is expected.

Who should win?:
1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. Doubt
3. The Reader
4. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. Frost/Nixon
Why? The movie that deserves Best Picture deserves to have this award as well, which means “Slumdog.” “Doubt” also did a great job, but seemed to make the film come across as a play like it is based off of and not really making a name for itself as a film. Next comes “The Reader” which was just a better film than “Benjamin Button.” And the only reason “Benjamin Button” is better than “Frost/Nixon” is because “Frost/Nixon” didn’t do an effective job of translating to screen things that would be suspenseful and powerful on a stage.

Best Cinematography-
Who will win:

1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. The Reader
4. The Dark Knight
5. Changeling
Why?: Although period pieces like “Benjamin Button” generally win this category, it will be hard to ignore how a better film like “Slumdog” was also able to put an inventive spin on cinematography while effectively using it to tell a love story. “The Reader” is too stationary of a movie to win. “Changeling” wasn’t a good enough movie to gather votes, and really no one in the Academy would like to admit a movie about Batman did the best in this category.

Who should win:
1. The Dark Knight
2. Slumdog Millionaire
3. Changeling
4. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. The Reader
Why?: “The Dark Knight” used the sort of cinematography generally used for independent movies and effectively implemented it in a big budget movie with lots of action sequences. It was also one of the first movies to use IMAX cameras to film, and managing to do this while keep the cinematography looking low budget should gather an award. With the other nominees, what was done in “Slumdog” was almost to be expected, while the look of “Changeling” was something that clearly been influenced by other films. “Benjamin Button” wasn’t a good enough film to earn this award, and again, “The Reader” didn’t have a lot of movement to warrant giving it an award in this category.

Best Editing-
Who will win?:

1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. The Dark Knight
3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
4. Frost/Nixon
5. Milk
Why?: Typically one would expect the longest movie to win the award. Add in flashbacks, and it would be a lock. But not this year for “Benjamin Button.” “Slumdog” almost has too many flashbacks for its own good, but the way it was executed and how well it worked means it will likely end up winning. However, “The Dark Knight” was full of suspense, filled with many cuts during its endless list of action sequences, and it also was a longer movie. “Benjamin Button” likely didn’t use its flashbacks effectively enough to gather enough votes, while “Frost/Nixon” beat to death the use of its flashbacks. And “Milk” just doesn’t have enough flashbacks to win the award.

Who should win?:
1. The Dark Knight
2. Slumdog Millionaire
3. Milk
4. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. Frost/Nixon
Why?: “The Dark Knight” was one of the, if not the, most suspenseful films of the year. This can be attributed to many things, but really it boils down to the editing setting up the rest of what tactics were used to create the suspense. “Slumdog” did a great job of editing, but doesn’t necessarily create a feel for the movie itself like “The Dark Knight” does. And just because a film uses flashbacks, like the other three nominees, that doesn’t mean it should be given the award. Nor does a film’s running time.

Best Art Direction-
Who will win?:

1. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
2. The Dark Knight
3. Revolutionary Road
4. Changeling
5. The Duchess
Why?: The Academy will want to reward “Benjamin Button” for something, and likely this will be one of the categories it will win. Besides “The Dark Knight,” the other nominated films were not really that well liked. And in what world would the Academy actually give an award with the word “art” in it to “The Dark Knight?”

Who should win?:
1. The Dark Knight
2. Changeling
3. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
4. Revolutionary Road
5. The Duchess
Why?: Everyone of the films is mediocre at best, so really the only logic behind this is that “The Dark Knight” is the better film out of the nominees.

Best Costume-
Who will win?:

1. The Duchess
2. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. Australia
4. Revolutionary Road
5. Milk
Why?: Out of the nominees, “The Duchess” is the movie that takes place the furthest back in history, making its costumes the more difficult to make. Additionally, historically the Academy likes to award the nominee who has the more lavish and overall just big costumes, which in this case is “The Duchess.” And it doesn’t hurt the film’s chances that Kiera Knightley wore most of the costumes.

Who should win?:
1. The Duchess
2. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. Australia
4. Revolutionary Road
5. Milk
Pretty much for all the reasons the Academy will likely vote for it, “The Duchess” deserves it.

Best Makeup-
Who will win?:
1. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
2. The Dark Knight
3. Hellboy II
Why?: If the Academy can choose a Best Picture nominee over a summer blockbuster it usually will, meaning both “Hellboy II” and “The Dark Knight” are out.

Who should win?:
1. Hellboy II
2. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. The Dark Knight
Why?: Other than The Joker, “The Dark Knight” didn’t have noticeable makeup. And although “Benjamin Button” had a lot of characters to cover in the stuff, and was even able to make it noticeable yet effective with the likes of Cate Blanchett, nothing really can compare to what was all done to create the crazy looking characters in “Hellboy II.”

Best Original Score-
Who will win?

1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. Milk
3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
4. Wall-E
5. Defiance
Why?: “Defiance” wasn’t nominated enough to win, and “Wall-E” composer Thomas Newman’s recent spat with the Academy over his planned performance during the actual telecast will cause him to lose votes. “Slumdog” will likely benefit from a split between “Benjamin Button” and “Milk” and will therefore earn a victory.

Who should win?:
1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. Wall-E
3. Defiance
4. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. Milk
Why?: The score for “Milk” was nearly non existent, only occurring in a couple scenes as a lot of the film’s sound revolved around silence or sounds from Harvey Milk’s atmosphere. “Benjamin Button” and “Defiance” had decent scores, but they just didn’t stick out. “Wall-E” should be considered because it had to carry much of what was a silent movie for the film’s first half hour. But ultimately “Slumdog Millionaire” has a score that fits the movie perfectly yet is catchy enough to listen to on a regular basis and remember long after the film ends.

Best Original Song-
Who will win?:
1. Jai Ho, Slumdog Millionaire
2. Down to Earth, Wall-E
3. O Saya, Slumdog Millionaire
Why?: Jai Ho was a catchy song that really captured the essence of “Slumdog Millionaire’s” ending beautifully. The song from “Wall-E” could benefit from a split vote between the two “Slumdog” songs, but ultimately popularity is the key and because Jai Ho is popular and the film is nominated for Best Picture, it will win.

Who should win?:
1. Jai Ho, Slumdog Millionaire
2. Down to Earth, Wall-E
3. O Saya, Slumdog Millionaire
Why?: For the reasons above, Jai Ho should get it. It is catchy, captured the film’s tone and is a better overall song than the other two.

Best Sound-
Who will win?:

1. The Dark Knight
2. Slumdog Millionaire
3. Wall-E
4. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. Wanted
Why?: “The Dark Knight” is loud enough and well liked enough to earn a victory here over “Slumdog.” “Wall-E” used too much silence to earn it the victory here, “Wanted” just wasn’t a good enough film to get the win, and when choosing between “Benjamin Button” and “The Dark Knight” over sound, “The Dark Knight” will always prevail.

Who should win?:
1. The Dark Knight
2. Slumdog Millionaire
3. Wall-E
4. Wanted
5. Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Why?: “Slumdog” did use some innovative sound, but you just can’t top what was created in “The Dark Knight.” Again, “Wall-E” had too much silence, and really the sound in both “Wanted” and “Benjamin Button” is typical.

Best Sound Editing-
Who will win?:

1. The Dark Knight
2. Iron Man
3. Slumdog Millionaire
4. Wall-E
5. Wanted
Why?: “The Dark Knight” again will take this category because of how well liked it was. The other blockbuster nominees “Iron Man” and “Wanted” just won’t be able to gather enough votes, “Slumdog” won’t really be considered because of its independent movie feel, and again “Wall-E” has too much silence

Who should win?:
1. The Dark Knight
2. Iron Man
3. Slumdog Millionaire
4. Wall-E
5. Wanted
Why?: Pretty much for the same reasons that are above.

Best Visual Effects-
Who will win?:

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
2. The Dark Knight
3. Iron Man
Why?: The Academy will likely will fall under the spell of over-rating “Benjamin Button’s” putting Brad Pitt’s face on another actor. Additionally, since it was nominated for so many things but won’t win a lot, the Academy will award it this time to show it some love.

Who should win?:
1. The Dark Knight
2. Iron Man
3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Why?: Putting Brad Pitt’s face on another actor isn’t as hard as everyone seems to be making it seem. However, actually making a plethora of scenes that, until extras are viewed on the DVD, look real despite being impossible to actually film in real life, that’s what should win this award. “The Dark Knight” does a little bit more of that than “Iron Man.”

Best Animated Feature-
Who will win?:

1. Wall-E
2. Kung Fu Panda
3. Bolt
Why?: Wall-E actually got nominated for other awards than this, so the Academy will vote for it with this category.

Who should win?:
1. Wall-E
2. Kung Fu Panda
3. Bolt
Why?: “Wall-E” was the best overall movie out of the bunch and had the better message. “Kung Fu Panda” had a good message, but just didn’t have a lot to say. And “Bolt” really had no impact on the viewer once it ended.