It’s time for me to put on my movie critic hat and share with you all my expectations for the Academy Awards for 2008.
Let’s preface this by saying that this is yet another year in which the movies that get nominated for Oscars and the movies that Hollywood make its money on have nothing to do with each other. Of the Best Picture nominees, only one of them actually qualifies as a “hit” — Juno, which should top $100 million in box office in the next couple of weeks; it’s currently at $85 million. None of the rest are above $50 million in box office. Meanwhile, of the top 10 grossing films of 2007, only one of them, Ratatouille, has a nomination in a major Oscar category (original screenplay). The rest have to settle for nominations in the technical categories, like sound editing and visual effects.
Philosophically I have no issue with the fact that Hollywood nominates films that aren’t making money, and makes money off of films it won’t nominate for its top awards, but I don’t think it’s very healthy for the film industry that there’s such a wide disconnect between its art and commerce that its most financially successful Best Picture nominee is #31 on the list of top grossing films of 2007, according to boxofficemojo.com, and the next most successful is at #51. Compare this to, say, a quarter century ago, when four of the five Best Picture nominees (ET, Tootsie, The Verdict, Gandhi) finished in the top twelve of movie grosses. At least this year a Best Documentary nominee isn’t outgrossing all the Best Picture nominees, as was the case in 2005.
Now, here are my Oscar picks:
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
Honestly, I have no idea. Here’s the thing: Three of the films are intensely depressing flicks with middle-aged men in a crisis of one sort or another, one is a depressing romance, and one is a comedy about teen pregnancy. How do you choose? Normally, I’d throw Juno overboard first, because it’s a comedy, and comedies rarely win Best Picture, but given the absolute dread of the other four films, voters might rebel. Likewise, Atonement should also be thrown overboard, on account that its director wasn’t nominated for Best Director, and it’s extremely rare for a movie to get Best Picture without at least a director nod. But if any year was designed for a “split the baby” vote, this is it, and I think Atonement is still in the hunt. Michael Clayton is the only one I suspect doesn’t have a chance, which leaves Old Men and Blood. And here’s what I think about that: I don’t know if either of these is going to win Best Picture, but I’m pretty damn certain that the Coen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson are going to get either Best Director or Best Adapted Screenplay, and whichever gets one, the other will get the other. This is the kind of vote splittery, incidentally, that leaves the door open for Atonement and Juno.
Prediction: If you put a gun to my head: No Country for Old Men. But words cannot describe my lack of confidence in that prediction.
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jason Reitman, Juno
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Julian Schnabel plays the role of the director whose film was not nominated for Best Picture, which means he doesn’t have a chance. Tony Gilroy is hoping to go the Paul Haggis route (i.e., former screenwriter turned director), but it’s worth noting that it didn’t work for Haggis (he lost to Ang Lee), and it’s not likely to work with Gilroy, either. Jason Reitman should be happy to be here, and to have done something his dad (Ivan Reitman) never managed; i.e., to get an Oscar nod. This category is going to come down to the Coens and Paul Thomas Anderson. My suspicion is that the Coens will nab this and Anderson will get Best Adapted Screenplay, on the following very lame rationale: The Coens already have screenplay Oscars (for Fargo), so they’ll be upgraded to director, while Anderson, three-time Screenplay nominee, will get the nod there. Hey, it’s the Oscar Orson Welles won. You could do worse. That said, it could flip and go the other way. But either way, it’s the Coens or Anderson.
Prediction: The Coens
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
Hey, Viggo! That’s awesome. I seriously doubt he’s going to win, but it’s a well-deserved nod. Likewise, the Tommy Lee Jones nomination is not the obvious one (that would have been for Old Men), and because of it, Jones is likely to suffer. Johnny Depp’s nomination is residue of the affection people in Hollywood have for him; I don’t think it’ll be enough to get him over the line, but it’s possible. Clooney has a shot, but he also recently garnered an Oscar for Syriana, and I suspect folks in Hollywood think he’ll be around for another shot. So my money’s on Day-Lewis, who is magnetically monstrous in Blood, and who does films so rarely these days that any appearance is an event.
Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away from Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno
Julie Christie has the old school vote, but she’s already got an Oscar and she’s not thrilled about having to do the work to get another one, so this will probably pass her by. Laura Linney is like Meryl Streep: A safe nomination because she’s so good at what she does. Unlike Streep, however, she hasn’t won, and is unlikely to here. Marion Cotillard: Enjoy the nomination, hon. So it comes down to Cate Blanchett and Ellen Page. Hollywood loves Blanchett because she’s old-time movie star glamorous, but Golden Age was kind of dreck, and that Blanchett got this nomination speaks to both the affection Blanchett generates and the general weakness of the category. She could still win it, but I think that Ellen Page is going to end up the standard bearer for Juno, and this will be the category in which the Academy chooses to honor the film as a whole.
Prediction: Ellen Page
Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
Casey Affleck is nominated for the wrong role (see: Gone Baby Gone), but this will still get him a nice salary bump the next time he goes out for something. Not going to win. Also not winning: Tom Wilkinson, because I suspect generally it’s just not happening for Michael Clayton. Philip Seymour Hoffman has a Best Actor Oscar statue; there’s no rush to give him this one. Hal Holbrook is older than God and has never won an Oscar, so he has a really good chance at what would essentially be a career nod. But in the end, come on. Javier Bardem with a pneumatic gun and a funky haircut? That’s Oscar gold, man.
Prediction: Javier Bardem
Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
Chuck Amy Ryan and Saoirse Ronan over the side, first off; neither has a chance given the competition. I adore Tilda Swinton and have since Orlando, and I’m delighted she has a nod here. There’s a chance this might be the one Oscar that will accrue to Michael Clayton. In the end I don’t think so, but I will be thrilled to be wrong. But I think this race come down to a choice between whether the Academy wants to honor Blanchett, one its current favorites, or give Dee a career nod. Given that Dee is also an important figure in the history of American civil rights and has led a generally admirable life, I expect the nod will tip her way.
Prediction: Ruby Dee
Other Predictions: As noted, I expect either the Coens or Paul Thomas Anderson to win adapted screenplay; I expect Diablo Cody will win original screenplay for Juno. For animation, I figure it to be Ratatouille, although Persepolis will make the Pixar folks nervous right up until the award is announced. Sicko is the likely frontrunner for Documentary Feature, and I bet there are fewer boos when Michael Moore inevitably tears into George Bush.