Well, better the last minute than never.
As usual, here are my Oscar picks…
Best Performance by an actor in a leading role
Leonardo DiCaprio – Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling – Half Nelson
Peter O’Toole – Venus
Will Smith – The Pursuit Of Happyness
Forest Whitaker – The Last King Of Scotland
My pick: I would sincerely love for O’Toole to finally get the just desserts he’s been
ignored for so many decades. He’s a film legend and the fact that he hasn’t won cinema’s highest honor is appalling. Despite my thoughts and feelings on this matter, seniority matters not to the Academy. Playing the game is what it’s all about and O’Toole doesn’t do that sort of thing. He’s his own person and won’t be confined by the societal norms the Academy likes its nominees to adhere to.
Will win: Forest Whitaker. A great actor will still take home the trophy.
Best Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Alan Arkin – Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley – Little Children
Djimon Hounsou – Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy – Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg – The Departed
My pick: Alan Arkin was fantastic as the no-nonsense grandfather in Little Miss Sunshine. But in my mind, Jackie Earle Haley’s performance in Little Children is a revelation. He gives that character depth and personality; a lesser actor would have gone into the wrong areas with it but Haley embues Ronnie with a sadness and fragility that is haunting and tragic. Not only is his acting phenomenal, Haley’s own life story is Cinderella all the way. He richly deserves this award and to see him on stage winning tonight would be awe-inspiring and wonderful.
Will win: Eddie Murphy. While Dreamgirls was a good film, Murphy’s performance was not the tour-de-force many have proclaimed it. Since the film was shut out in the major categories at this year’s Academy Awards, they’ll throw the film a bone here. Murphy is talented, no doubt about it, but this performance was nothing merit-worthy, in my humble opinion.
Best Performance by an actress in a leading role
Penélope Cruz – Volver
Judi Dench – Notes On A Scandal
Helen Mirren – The Queen
Meryl Streep – The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet – Little Children
My pick: For years now, Pedro Almodovar has been crafting heartfelt stories of love and loss centering around strong, empowering female characters. While she has not made huge strides in America cinema, Penelope Cruz comes alive in Spanish cinema and a win here would be a validation for her strength in the craft and for Almodovar’s ability to draw terrific performances from his lead actress.
Will win: I could be a millionaire tomorrow if I were to place this bet tonight, as there’s no contest. Helen Mirren’s frosty, aloof, and brilliant performance in The Queen will win here.
Best Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Adriana Barraza – Babel
Cate Blanchett – Notes On A Scandal
Abigail Breslin – Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi – Babel
My pick: Adriana Barraza was incredible in Babel. Her harried housekeeper breaks your heart in several places. Rinko Kikuchi was a revelation in Babel as the sexually confused deaf mute with no self-esteem whatsoever. But my pick is Abigail Breslin. Olive is a terrific character and Breslin did a remarkable job conveying the uncertainty and wonder that children always provide. The transformation the character goes through is a joy to watch and Breslin makes the role her own.
Will win: Jennifer Hudson will win this. Her performance was great but again, I hate American Idol and thought Dreamgirls was not an award-worthy film.
Best animated feature film of the year
My pick: Please. No other animated film this year matched the intelligence and creativity of Monster House. Read my review of it here. The film harkens back to ’80s films like The Goonies and Cloak and Dagger. It doesn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence or play to the small fry; instead it seeks to entertain all and it does with a refreshing sense of dark mischief and heart.
Will win: While George Miller’s Happy Feet raked in the dough, Pixar is loved by the Academy and this year will be no exception. Cars, Pixar’s least entertaining and most vapid of all of their releases, will very undeservedly take home the award here.
Achievement in cinematography
The Black Dahlia
Children of Men
My pick: Children Of Men was the best science fiction film in many, many years. A large part of that film’s success was Emmanuel Lubezki’s expert lens. While the film starts out with a conventional approach, by the end of it Lubezki’s camera throws us into the film as the cinematography grows increasingly frenzied and chaotic. A top-notch job by one of the best in the business.
Will win: Wally Pfister. He did a great job with Nolan’s Batman Begins and the Academy will honor him for his work on this crafty magician tale.
Achievement in costume design
Curse Of The Golden Flower
The Devil Wears Prada
My pick: Marie Antoinette. Sofia Coppola’s film was a decadent look at the opulance and apathy of a government too in love with itself to rule properly. Some called this film a vapid truffle; I adored it and it would not have been able to show the incredible lavishness of the ruling class had Milena Canonero’s costumes not been a part of the equation.
Will win: Marie Antoinette. The costuming in this film takes on a life of its own.
Achievement in directing
Babel – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
The Departed – Martin Scorsese
Letters From Iwo Jima – Clint Eastwood
The Queen – Stephen Frears
United 93 – Paul Greengrass
My pick: All films here were directed by masters of the craft. That being said, Paul Greengrass’ United 93 was a harrowing experience and his ratchet-the-tension direction is the cause of that.
Will win: Martin Scorsese will finally take home his long-deserved Oscar gold here.
Best documentary feature
Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq In Pieces
My Country, My Country
My pick: Jesus Camp. This was scarier than any horror film and showed the world the dangers of any type of religious fanaticism.
Will win: An Inconvenient Truth. Al Gore has committed his life to educating others about global warming and this terrific documentary does an excellent job of letting us know what we’re doing to our planet and how we can all pitch in to make this planet cleaner and keep it that way. A win here will be deserved, and to clinch that win on stage I’d love to hear him announce his candidacy for President in 2008, as would alot of Americans.
Achievement in film editing
Babel – Stephen Mirrione and Douglas Crise
Blood Diamond – Steven Rosenblum
Children Of Men – Alex Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón
The Departed – Thelma Schoonmaker
United 93 – Clare Douglas, Christopher Rouse and Richard Pearson
My pick: United 93. The noose-tightening experience of that film would not have happened if it were not for the editing.
Will win: Babel. Oscar voters love an expansive, layered tale that folds in on itself and editing is a big part of that puzzle.
Best foreign language film of the year
After The Wedding (Denmark)
Days Of Glory (Indigènes) (Algeria)
The Lives Of Others (Germany)
Pan’s Labyrinth (Mexico)
My pick: I’ve been a fan of Guillermo del Toro’s since his first film, the unique vampire tale Cronos in 1992, and Pan’s Labyrinth is his masterwork, blending the fantastic imagination of youth with the harsh and unforgiving darkness of human nature and potential other worlds.
Will win: Pan’s Labyrinth. The film is a dark and disturbing fairytale and one worth rewarding.
Achievement in makeup
Apocalypto – Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
Click – Kazuhiro Tsuji and Bill Corso
Pan’s Labyrinth – David Martí and Montse Ribé
My pick: David Martí and Montsse Ribé made the labyrinth come alive in Pan’s Labyrinth, with creations normally found only in the darkest recesses. A superb makeup job was done here and these two deserve all the accolades they can get.
Will win: Much like Marie Antoinette in the costume design category, Pan’s Labyrinth is the only film in this category whose makeup designs are elaborate and thorough. As I stated above, these designs are magnificently creepy and will be rewarded for the craftsmanship and time they took to construct.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
Babel – Gustavo Santaolalla
The Good German – Thomas Newman
Notes On A Scandal – Philip Glass
Pan’s Labyrinth – Javier Navarrete
The Queen – Alexandre Desplat
My pick: Javier Navarrete’s moody and evocative score for Pan’s Labyrinth expertly treaded the fine line between the real and the surreal and is a towering composition.
Will win: The Queen. Alexandre Desplat is a great composer and his brilliant score was a note-perfect reflection of the isolation and insulation of the main character.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“I Need To Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth
Music and Lyrics by Melissa Etheridge
“Listen” from Dreamgirls
Music by Henry Krieger and Scott Cutler
Lyric by Anne Preven
“Love You I Do” from Dreamgirls
Music by Henry Krieger
Lyric by Siedah Garrett
“Our Town” from Cars
Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Patience” from Dreamgirls
Music by Henry Krieger
Lyric by Willie Reale
My pick: “I Need To Wake Up”. Melissa Etheridge’s song is a powerful plea for the world to pay closer attention to the world around them and to start taking action to preserve the environment. A brilliant song that does a terrific job reflecting the themes of the film it was written for.
Will win: “Love You I Do”. Dreamgirls will pick up yet another undeserved win here.
Best motion picture of the year
Babel – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik and Steve Golin, Producers
The Departed – Graham King, Producer
Letters From Iwo Jima – Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz, Producers
Little Miss Sunshine – David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf and Marc Turtletaub, Producers
The Queen – Andy Harries, Christine Langan and Tracey Seaward, Producers
My pick: Little Miss Sunshine. Some have moaned and groaned that this film is a boring cliche, a typical dysfunctional family film that offers nothing new. They’re wrong. The performances in this film hit every note of Michael Arndt’s amazing script perfectly, from Paul Dano’s insular teen to Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear’s harried yet doting parents to Steve Carell’s quiet relative who becomes more than he thought he was capable of. Others can call this whatever they want; I saw this in the theater upon release. I loved it then, I love it now, and it’s sad that now that it’s garnering awards and kudos, others are tearing it down. Well, so be it. A great film is a great film. I’ve long been a fan of husband and wife directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who’ve directed some of the most significant music videos of the past 20 years, and with their first feature they didn’t go Michael Bay. They went Hal Ashby and the result is a wonderful motion picture that is a testament to the family dynamic, however dysfunctional it might be.
Will win: Last week I would have said Babel. The week before that, The Departed. But serious, serious buzz has been building these last few weeks and sometimes Oscar wins are decided at the very end of ballot casting, so I think that Little Miss Sunshine will be the surprise win here and take home the Academy Award.
Achievement in sound editing
Apocalypto – Sean McCormack and Kami Asgar
Blood Diamond – Lon Bender
Flags Of Our Fathers – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
Letters From Iwo Jima – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Christopher Boyes and George Watters II
My pick: In war films, sound is everything and this Letters From Iwo Jima, the more praised of Eastwood’s two WWII films, deserves the win here.
Will win: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Yet another undeserved win from a very overrated movie.
Achievement in sound mixing
Apocalypto – Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell and Fernando Cámara
Blood Diamond – Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer and Ivan Sharrock
Dreamgirls – Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer and Willie Burton
Flags Of Our Fathers – John Reitz, Dave Campbell, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Paul Massey, Christopher Boyes and Lee Orloff
My pick: Blood Diamond.
Will win: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Achievement in visual effects
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and Allen Hall
Poseidon – Boyd Shermis, Kim Libreri, Chas Jarrett and John Frazier
Superman Returns – Mark Stetson, Neil Corbould, Richard R. Hoover and Jon Thum
My pick: Superman Returns. Technology has come a long way in making us believe a man can fly, and the visual effects team on this film outdid themselves. The visual effects in Superman Returns are a tremendous technical tour de force and deserve to be rewarded.
Will win: Here’s an award that will be given to another film that isn’t very good, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The effects were dark, muddled, and unimaginative yet because of the extent of them, the Johnny Depp film will win here. Yawn.
Borat Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Peter Baynham & Dan Mazer
Story by Sacha Baron Cohen & Peter Baynham & Anthony Hines & Todd Phillips
Children Of Men
Screenplay by Alfonso Cuarón & Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby
Screenplay by William Monahan
Screenplay by Todd Field & Tom Perrotta
Notes On A Scandal
Screenplay by Patrick Marber
My pick: I would have picked Little Children, but the ending was changed for the film. While not ruining the film, it shifts the dynamic in a lessening way. That being said, I think Children Of Men really stands above the rest. It is a truly excellent and mesmerizing science fiction tale and one deserving this award.
Will win: The Departed. A great movie and a great screenplay full of twists and turns, Boston native William Monahan will win the award here.
Written by Guillermo Arriaga
Letters From Iwo Jima
Screenplay by Iris Yamashita
Story by Iris Yamashita & Paul Haggis
Little Miss Sunshine
Written by Michael Arndt
Written by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Peter Morgan
My pick: As I stated earlier, Michael Arndt’s excellent screenplay displays a family trying to stay on the mend, relationship-wise, yet not able to do so until they come to grips with each other, good or bad. Arndt’s writing isn’t showy or full of lame posturing — it’s the real deal — and a triumphant piece of writing that should definitely win the Oscar here. I can’t wait to see his next film (Toy Story 3) and what else he has in store for us moviegoers in the future.
Will win: Peter Morgan’s masterful definition of a noblewoman uncertain of her place in the world and how others react to her and that position will definitely win this award.