The 81st Academy Awards are on tonight at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
The main feature of the awards this year is that a lot of the major categories seem to be already decided.
Of the big 6 awards only Best Actor seems a difficult one to call.
Having said that, there can be surprises.
Here are the nominations and my predictions:
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Reader
- Slumdog Millionaire
Who will win: Slumdog Millionaire.
After dominating the awards season up to this point, it would be a major upset if Slumdog didn’t get Best Picture. The unlikely feelgood story of the film is mirrored by extraordinary journey of this production.
Just a few months ago it was low budget drama with no stars that looked to be in major trouble after the closure of Warner Independent.
But after early buzz at festivals, it was acquired by Fox Searchlight (one of the savviest studios at marketing lower budget films) and has ridden an amazing wave of critical acclaim and word of mouth success.
In some ways it is the Barack Obama of this Oscar season – an unlikely outsider who has trumped much better funded and more favoured early candidates like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon.
- Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
- David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
- Stephen Daldry, The Reader
- Gus Van Sant, Milk
Who Will Win: Danny Boyle.
It is often the case that the director of Best Picture wins Best Director and that trend is almost certain to happen this year.
Given the visual style of Slumdog and the fact that he has also scooped the DGA award, it would be a major shock if Boyle didn’t win.
- Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
- Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
- Sean Penn, Milk
- Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Who Will Win: Sean Penn.
This is the hardest major category to predict even if it is essentially a two horse race between Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn.
Both have won key awards but I slightly favour Sean Penn because he won the SAG Award (often an indicator for Oscar) and because his performance is showier than Rourke’s.
Another possible reason Rourke won’t win is because The Wrestler is the kind of gritty, contemporary film that puts off older members of the academy.
Whilst my heart is rooting for Rourke, as a win would be an extraordinary comeback, my head says Penn.
- Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
- Angelina Jolie, Changeling
- Melissa Leo, Frozen River
- Meryl Streep, Doubt
- Kate Winslet, The Reader
Who Will Win: Kate Winslet.
Having been nominated 5 times, it is almost certainly Winslet’s time.
Although The Reader is a film that wasn’t universally embraced, her performance (allied to her turn in Revolutionary Road, for which she could have also been nominated) is up to her usual high standards and exactly the kind that older Academy members love (remember her Extras speech?).
Some feel that Meryl Streep or even Melissa Leo could pull an upset but that looks highly unlikely.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
- Josh Brolin, Milk
- Robert Downey Jr, Tropic Thunder
- Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
- Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
- Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
Who Will Win: Heath Ledger.
This is the easiest category of all to predict. Ever since the film came out last summer the talk has been of Ledger being a lock for this category.
Not only will it be a tribute to the late actor’s career but it will also be an acknowledgement that The Dark Knight was more than just another blockbuster. (Some studio execs were upset that The Dark Knight was snubbed in the bigger categories).
Director Christopher Nolan looks likely to collect on Ledger’s behalf.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- Amy Adams, Doubt
- Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- Viola Davis, Doubt
- Taraji P. Hensen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Who Will Win: Penelope Cruz.
Although there is room here for an upset, it would be a shock if Penelope Cruz didn’t win for her sparkling turn in Woody Allen’s latest film.
If there is to be an upset then Viola Davis or Marisa Tomei are an outside possbility.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
- Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
- Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky
- Dustin Lance Black, Milk
- Martin McDonough, In Bruges
- Andrew Stanton, Wall-E
Who Will Win: Dustin Lance Black.
Although this is something of a two horse race between Milk and WALL-E, I think Dustin Lance Black is going to win for the former.
Andrew Stanton is just as deserving, but the fact that his innovative screenplay is for an animated film (albeit a masterful one) may count against him.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
- Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
- Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
- David Hare, The Reader
- Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Who Will Win: Simon Beaufoy.
The Slumdog train will keep on rolling with Beaufoy almost certain to collect the award for his bold and clever adaptation of Vikas Sawrup’s novel.
If there is an upset here then Peter Morgan would be my pick, but I don’t see that happening.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
- Kung Fu Panda
Who Will Win: WALL-E.
Arguably this masterpiece should have been nominated for Best Picture, but it looks certain to continue Pixar’s amazing run in this category.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
- The Baader Meinhof Complex
- The Class
- Waltz With Bashir
Who Will Win: Waltz With Bashir.
This looks like a two horse race between Waltz With Bashir and The Class.
I slightly favour Ari Folman’s remarkable film about his experiences as an Israeli soldier, which is a sadly prescient tale about the effects of war.
The Class is a more accessible film with a more feelgood vibe, so it could also win.
- The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
- Encounters at the End of the World
- The Garden
- Man on Wire
- Trouble the Water
Who Will Win: Man On Wire.
James Marsh’s outstanding documentary about Philippe Petit’s astounding wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 is the clear front runner.
It the most accessible of the nominees and has the added bonus of playing like a thrilling, existential heist movie.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
- “Down To Earth” (WALL-E)
- “Jai Ho” (Slumdog Millionaire)
- “O Saya” (Slumdog Millionaire)
Who Will Win: Jai Ho.
Although Peter Gabriel’s song for WALL-E is a strong contender, I think the final song from Slumdog has the edge, especially given the fact that it accompanies the final song and dance number of the film.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Alexandre Desplat
- Defiance, James Newton Howard
- Milk, Danny Elfman
- Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman
- WALL-E, Thomas Newman
Who Will Win: A.R. Rahman
Although I think Thomas Newman did some fantastic work on the WALL-E soundtrack, the exotic joy of A.R. Rahman’s score for Slumdog played a large part in why its proved such a hit. So, another win for the Dog.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
- Australia, Catherine Martin
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Jacqueline West
- The Duchess, Michael O’Connor
- Milk, Danny Glicker
- Revolutionary Road, Albert Wolsky
Who Will Win: Jacqueline West
There is a depressing logic that dictates that period dramas with big dresses always scoop this award – if this is the case then The Duchess will win.
However, given that the Academy has got a little smarter in recent years I’m hoping they will recognise the considerable achievement of Jacqueline West’s costumes in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which impressively span a number of decades.
BEST FILM EDITING
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall
- The Dark Knight, Lee Smith
- Frost/Nixon, Mike Hill & Dan Hanley
- Milk, Elliot Graham
- Slumdog Millionaire, Chris Dickens
Who Will Win: Chris Dickens.
It is very often the case that the Best Picture will also win Best Editing, so this will be another victory in this year of the Slumdog.
- Changeling, Tom Stern
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Claudio Miranda
- The Dark Knight, Wally Pfister
- The Reader, Chris Menges & Roger Deakins
- Slumdog Millionaire, Anthony Dod Mantle
Who Will Win: Anthony Dod Mantle.
The Slumdog bandwagon will roll on with Anthony Dod Mantle, but even if it was the projected big winner of the night, he would still be a strong contender for his imaginative and stylish shooting of Mumbai.
If there is to be an upset here, then look out for Claudio Miranda, who did some sterling work on Benjamin Button.
BEST ART DIRECTION
- Changeling, James J. Murakami, Gary Fettis
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Donald Graham Burt & Victor J. Zolfo
- The Dark Knight, Nathan Crowley, Peter Lando
- The Duchess, Michael Carlin, Rebecca Alleway
- Revolutionary Road, Kristi Zea, Debra Schutt
Who Will Win: Donald Graham Burt & Victor J. Zolfo
Given that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button had a ton of marketing money spent on it, expect some of that to stick when it comes to the technical categories.
In any case, it is probably a deserving winner as the art direction was highly impressive. The main competition here is from The Dark Knight, which could also do well in the technical categories.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron
- The Dark Knight, Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber, Paul Franklin
- Iron Man, John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick, Shane Mahan
Who Will Win: Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron.
It is hard to see Benjamin Button not winning here for the groundbreaking work by Digital Domain in ageing Brad Pitt backwards.
The main contender here would be The Dark Knight, but the deliberate lack of obvious CGI for that film may not have helped its chances (even though that’s what made it look so good).
BEST SOUND EDITING
- The Dark Knight, Richard King
- Iron Man, Frank Eulner, Christopher Boyes
- Slumdog Millionaire, Tom Sayers
- WALL-E, Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood
- Wanted, Wylie Stateman
Who Will Win: Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood
The sound work on WALL-E was simply extraordinary and it will be a scandal if it doesn’t win in both categories.
The Dark Knight is its main rival, so expect it to win if the Pixar film doesn’t.
BEST SOUND MIXING
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, Mark Weingarten
- The Dark Knight, Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick
- Slumdog Millionaire, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty
- WALL-E, Tom Myers, Michael Semanick, Ben Burtt
- Wanted, Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño, Petr Forejt
Who Will Win: Tom Myers, Michael Semanick, Ben Burtt.
See above as to why WALL-E should win.
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Greg Cannom
- The Dark Knight, John Caglione, Jr., Conor O’Sullivan
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Mike Elizalde, Thom Floutz
Who Will Win: Greg Cannom
A slam dunk win for Benjamin Button as its makeup effects were quite remarkable.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
- The Conscience of Nhem En, Steven Okazaki
- The Final Inch, Irene Taylor Brodsky, Tom Grant
- Smile Pinki, Megan Mylan
- The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306, Adam Petofsky, Margaret Hyde
Who Will Win: The Conscience of Nhem En
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
- La Maison de Petits Cubes, Kunio Kato
- Lavatory – Lovestory, Konstantin Bronzit
- Oktapodi, Emud Mokhberi, Thierry Marchand
- Presto, Doug Sweetland
- This Way Up, Alan Smith, Adam Foulkes
Who Will Win: Presto
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
- Auf der Strecke (On the Line), Reto Caffi
- Manon on the Asphalt, Elizabeth Marre, Olivier Pont
- New Boy, Steph Green, Tamara Anghie
- The Pig, Tivi Magnusson, Dorte Høgh
- Spielzeugland (Toyland), Jochen Alexander Freydan
Who Will Win: Spielzeugland (Toyland)
If you have any predictions then leave them in the comments below.