We're in the midst of the movie award season that leads up to the Academy Awards, so here's my predictions on how the Oscar race will play out. Keep in mind that a) this is looking like the most wide-open race in years and b) I'm not that bright.
Dreamgirls, The Departed, The Queen and probably Letters From Iwo Jima are looking like the four locks for nominations, with Dreamgirls or Iwo Jima the current favourites to take the trophy home. Nobody really got behind Flags of our Fathers, but Letters seems to be getting a stronger critical reception, and it's possibly the Academy will want to award Clint for his rather ambitious double-movie project. The fifth spot is wide-open, and will likely go to either Babel, Children of Men, United 93, Little Miss Sunshine or Volver, but the fifth picture slot has gone to a lot of crazy choices in the past. In a perfect world, my second-favourite movie of the year (The Prestige) would get in, but that one dropped off the map seemingly as soon as it was released. Boo-urns.
There are a number of well-known actresses in the running, but this looks like Helen (The Queen) Mirren's Oscar to lose. She is cleaning house in the various critics' awards, has a couple of unsuccessful nominations to her name and everyone loves and respects her. The only competition could come if Jennifer Hudson's momentum continues and she gets a lead nomination instead of supporting. My picks are Mirren, Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, though this one might also be supporting), Kate Winslet (Little Children), Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal) and either Annette Bening (Running With Scissors) or Maggie Gyllenhaal (Sherrybaby).
The critics have favoured London's own Ryan Gosling (Half-Nelson) and Forest (The King of Scotland) Whitaker, but I'm not sure if either of these two can break out of their indie surroundings to win. Like the Actress race, there are lots of big names in the mix, but they're all hampered by a lack of a real buzz over their performances. Leo DiCaprio and Matt Damon were both great in Departed, but could also be considered as supporting in that film, and are competing against themselves with their starring roles in Blood Diamond and the Good Shepherd. Will Smith seems like a lock nominee, but nobody is talking about him for a win. It's also possible that legend Peter O'Toole (Venus) will be nominated, giving him a chance to win his first Oscar after seven unsuccessful nominations. If he gets in and loses, however, he will officially become the biggest losing actor in Academy history with an 0-for-8 record. It's very possible, however, that O'Toole will be too drunk to care.
My predictions are for Whitaker, Smith, O'Toole, Gosling and -- in the biggest shocker in Oscar history -- Sacha Baron Cohen for Borat. Don't laugh. He has actually won a few major critics awards, and he has more buzz than any of the other nominees. Given the lack of a big name in this year's race, he might actually have a shot to win, which would be easily the zaniest decision in Academy history. Ok, it's far more likely that someone like Damon gets the last slot and then Whitaker or O'Toole wins, but man, what I wouldn't give to see a Borat acceptance speech.
Just give it to Martin Scorsese. For fuck's sake, what else does the man have to do at this point? The Departed is the best movie I've seen this year, but it won't win Best Picture due to the violence, but there seems to be a consensus building that this is finally Scorsese's year. It would be nice for the Academy to finally erase one of the all-time embarrassing names from the "inexplicably hasn't won" list, especially in a year where Robert Altman (another name on that list) passed away. The one big wrench facing Scorsese is Clint Eastwood, who the Academy is ga-ga over like a frat boy over porn. If Letters builds momentum, Scorsese might get screwed over against by an actor-turned-director -- three of Marty's previous Oscar losses have come against Robert Redford, Kevin Costner (gag), and Clint himself.
Anyway, I'll predict the nominees to be Scorsese, Eastwood, Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) and Stephen Frears (The Queen). Much like the Best Picture race, the fifth spot is totally up for grabs. I'll say that one of the directors of the Best Pic contenders gets the final nod here, but his movie doesn't get the final Best Pic slot. I'll guess Paul Greengrass (United 93).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) will easily win if she ends up in this category, and it seems likelier than the studio would promote her for an Oscar win, rather than a probable loss to Helen Mirren. Hopefully this doesn't start a trend of American Idols in high-profile roles, since I don't think anyone wants to see Clay Aiken in the Liberace Story. Hudson will be joined by Catherine O'Hara (For Your Consideration, if the Academy can get past the fact that the movie savages them), Rinko Kikuchi (Babel), Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal)and either Abigail Breslin or Toni Collette from Little Miss Sunshine, or Lily Tomlin (A Prairie Home Companion), as a way of honouring Altman.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
This category will be greatly impacted by the Departed. It's possible that Damon, DiCaprio, or Jack Nicholson will fall to this category, and there's also Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin (who actually supported in the movie) to contend with. I think Jack gets nominated somewhere, which would give him a male actor-leading 13 Oscar nominations for his career. As to who will actually win, I'd say it's between Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) or Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls) at this stage. The nominees will end up being Hounsou, Murphy, Nicholson, Michael Sheen (The Queen) and Adam Beach (Flags of our Fathers).