And forging onwards... Click here to see the first part of this post, specifically the predix for Picture, Director, Actress and Actor.
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
1. Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
2. Juliette Binoche, Breaking and Entering
3. Anika Noni Rose, Dreamgirls
4. Angelina Jolie, The Good Shepherd
5. Carmen Maura, Volver
6. Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
7. Diane Lane, Hollywoodland
8. Sharon Stone, Bobby
9. Jennifer Connelly, Little Children
10. Maggie Gyllenhaal, World Trade Center
Any shortlist that does not begin with Jennifer Hudson is problematic - it's as simple as that. The Dreamgirls star will likely lock up this category for the majority of the season in the popular award shows (SAG + GG [depends on placement] + BFCA, etc)... although it is way too early to be talking about winners (getting ahead of myself.) I've been hearing fantastic things about Juliette Binoche in Breaking and Entering; she plays a Serbian immigrant who becomes tangled up with Jude Law's character. The Academy clearly loves her; they handed her an Oscar when she wasn't the frontrunner in a now-famous upset, and then another nomination that even she seemed to question.) Perhaps there is still leftover guilt about snubbing her for Bleu back in '94 (as they should be!) I also see another Dreamgirls cast member getting pulled into the mix, in a repeat of Chicago's acting nod takeover. Plus, Supporting Actress often makes room for two nominees from the same film (Almost Famous, Gosford Park and Chicago.) Since Noni Rose shares her scenes with likely nominee Eddie Murphy, I can see her getting great notices too. Then there's Angelina Jolie, who could see herself strolling the red carpet with boyfriend and potential Best Actor nominee Brad Pitt. Although she's taken a hit for the whole tabloid craze, people do genuinely love her, and she's been getting good press for her humanitarian efforts. All that in addition to being in a likely Best Picture nominee (+ playing stressed-out wife supporting secretive husband role?) bodes well for her second nomination in this category. My fifth pick is a little "out there", considering any actor from #6 - #10 would make a lot more sense, but it's not completely ludicrous. From what I've heard (or what has been spoiled for me, thanks Roger Ebert), Maura has a tasty role in Almodóvar's drama. If Volver ends up a bigger success than many have predicted, both Cruz and she could find themselves tipped as contenders. Hey, this early in the game, anything's possible.
Never bet against Judi Dench either (in addition to Clint Eastwood); the woman was nominated for Mrs. Henderson Presents last year despite the fact that she didn't bother to campaign (or even seem to care, for that matter.) Notes on a Scandal has her playing against Cate Blanchett (now there's a duo I cannot wait to see on-screen), but I'm leaving her out because, like her co-star, it may be too soon after so much attention. Meanwhile, Diane Lane is finally appearing in a film that is not Must Love Dogs; how exciting. It would be nice to see her attending the Oscars again, considering she keeps such a low profile otherwise, but will this September turn be memorable enough to last through the season? As for Bobby's multi-star cast, it would make sense that one actor would feature on a supporting category (like Matt Dillon represented his fellow Crash thespians last year.) Sharon Stone has been getting some attention around the blogosphere lately, although will voters be able to overlook her other "film" released earlier this year? If not. there's always Jennifer Connelly in Little Children; she always gets great reviews, although will Winslet completely overshadow her? While that remains to be seen, I am most interested to see how Maggie Gyllenhaal fares this winter; her Sherrybaby performance has been discussed a lot lately, but it's probably too small to compete in the overstuffed Best Actress slate. So World Trade Center it is... although will that be enough? She's solid in the film, but Oscar nom-worthy?
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
1. Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
2. Ben Affleck, Hollywoodland
3. Tobey Maguire, The Good German
4. Robert Downey Jr., Fur
5. Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
6. Jack Nicholson, The Departed
7. James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland
8. Brian Cox, Running with Scissors
9. Michael Sheen, The Queen
10. Gael Garcia Bernal, Babel
Like everyone has been saying, Eddie Murphy will undoubtedly pick up his first-ever nomination (if his work in Dreamgirls is as good as rumoured.) And since Oscar loves comeback and image reinventions, Ben Affleck looks tortured and focused enough as the disturbed George Reeves in Hollywoodland to be taken seriously again. Tobey Maguire may seem like an odd choice, but like Derek Luke, he seems the right age and at the right point in his career to win a nomination. Steven Soderbergh has been gushing about his actor's work in The Good German, which gives Maguire an opportunity to shed his "awshuks", non-threatening Spider-Man persona. Soderbergh has led his actors to Oscar success before, so Maguire could follow in that path. Robert Downey Jr. looks to have a very exciting role in Fur, and if voters can see his acting through the costuming/makeup/whatever, he may linger in their minds. Trick is that the Academy sometimes gets fussy about performances like this, where the "acting" is obstructed/filtered in some way (Andy Serkis in The Two Towers.) Either way, it looks like a fresh page for Downey Jr. to be taken seriously as a great actor again. Then there's Little Children's Jackie Earle Haley, which is kind of a risky prediction (considering the nature of the role), but it may pay off. There's always room for newcomers in the Oscar process... and Field has talked about how the actor really had to reach far to access this character. If the film does not completely scare away voters, there's no reason why Haley's name won't be discussed in Academy circles.
Many people seem gung-ho on Jack Nicholson for The Departed, but I'm not sure that the film will be Oscar's cup-of-tea. Yet giving him a record 13th nomination in the same year Meryl Streep gets her 14th will be press the Academy will probably not want to forego. James McAvoy has been become a hot property following his scene-stealing performance in The Chronicles of Narnia, and that could bolster his chances for acknowledgment. His role in the fairy tale-like romance Penelope opposite Christina Ricci and Reese Witherspoon this November may also give him more traction. If Brian Cox is able to stand out in the mammoth cast of Running for Scissors, the underrated and owed actor could certainly be handed a nod of appreciation. His body of work in 2002 worked against him - he nailed all of those characters, but vote splitting undoubtedly killed his chances. In The Queen, Michael Sheen plays Tony Blair; like with Erin Brockovich and The Contender, we could have a lead actress - supporting actor combo (strong female lead - male authority figure) nominated together from the same film. And Gael Garcia Bernal has been building quite the impressive resume in the last few years since Amores perros. Could re-teaming with that film's director finally lead him to major Hollywood kudos?
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
1. Emilio Estevez, Bobby
2. Guillermo Arriaga, Babel
3. Eric Roth, The Good Shepherd
4. Anthony Minghella, Breaking and Entering
5. Christopher Guest, For Your Consideration
6. Paul Greengrass, United 93
7. Pedro Almodovar, Volver
8. Shawn Slovo, Catch a Fire
9. Peter Morgan, The Queen
10. Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine
The writing categories are always difficult, mostly because (unlike the acting shortlists) they are so dependant on the Picture nominees. Because I sense a lot of those films will be adapted from prior source material, this field for original scripts seems like a free-for-all. First, Estevez and Arriaga have the most heat right now; the former will be rewarded for branching out, while the latter seems ready for his first nod after several high-profile films. Forrest Gump scribe Eric Roth could be swept into a Good German sweep if the film is especially loved by AMPAS (which would count as his fourth nomination, and a consecutive one after Munich last year.) Anthony Minghella is a magnificient writer, especially talented at adapting complex novels; will his second time writing from scratch prove equally magnetic? Then there's Christopher Guest, who has never earned an Oscar nomination for any of his witty mockumentaries (criminal!); perhaps this playful jab at the Academy will prove successful? Let's pray that they have a sense of humour about For Your Consideration.
Paul Greengrass is likely to pick up another nomination for his well-respected United 93; however, on watching the film, will writing seem like one of its better strengths to voters? Conversely, Pedro's screenplays are always celebrated as novel and absorbing, but has the Academy had its full with the man's rapid output in the last few years? Catch a Fire could mirror last year's The Constant Gardener; voters might consider giving the film love here if they find it too controversial for a Best Picture mention. The Queen has been discussed as a fascinating enactment of many documented statements about the royal family's reaction to Princess Diana's death. Along with an Actress nod, AMPAS could throw more respect its way with a placement here. And as much as it pains me to say it, I'm sure Little Miss Sunshine will win Arndt several prizes ("First Best Screenplay", many ISA accolades, etc) this coming awards season. The unsatisfying feature is the sleeper hit of the late summer, and the Academy does love small success stories for the independents (2002's My Big Fat Greek Wedding.)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
1. Paul Haggis, Flags of Our Fathers
2. Bill Condon, Dreamgirls
3. Jeremy Brock, The Last King of Scotland
4. Todd Field, Little Children
5. Patrick Marber, Notes on a Scandal
6. Paul Attanasio, The Good German
7. Ryan Murphy, Running with Scissors
8. Alan Bennett, The History Boys
9. Josh Friedman, The Black Dahlia
10. Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan, The Prestige
It may be unbearable to consider Paul Haggis in the running for the third time in a row, but he's clearly the industry's "it" boy at the moment. His involvement in this World War II epic directed by Eastwood, with the added exposure of writing the Zack Braff vehicle The Last Kiss, bodes well for the Canadian talent. Bill Condon was included in this category the last time he tailor-fit a beloved musical for the silver screen (and won here a few years before that too), so there is no reason to believe he will miss out this time around either. Another potential Best Picture nominee's writer, Scotland's Jeremy Brock, will surely be a major player in the next few months; he also has Driving Lessons out this year. Todd Field may get consolation votes here for Little Children - this is a category that sometimes accomodates films they may not embrace wholly (read: no Best Picture love.) Finally, Patrick Marber was snubbed almost two years ago for adapting his own Closer for the screen; maybe this time around, he will be luckier?
If The Good German enjoys some critical love, it could build buzz towards another mention for two-time nominee Paul Attanasio (both of his nods also in this category.) Ditto for the family dysfunction dramedy Running for Scissors by Ryan Murphy, which could make like Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums. Stage plays often do not make a big impression with Oscar, but Alan Bennett's smash hit The History Boys recently swept the 2006 Tonys and Drama Desk Awards. The film version is hitting screens just at the right moment. Can it repeat its theatrical reception with the filmy AMPAS? Josh Friedman's The Black Dahlia adaptation could make an impact, considering the novel's twisty material and De Palma's name behind it. Then the Nolan Brothers have a chance to aim for nomination #2 with The Prestige, a seemingly dark tale of magic and rivalry on the stage.
BTW, I know I said I wouldn't be touching on the tech categories, but I must quickly put in a word for Dick Pope's phenomenal work as D.P. on The Illusionist. It will probably be forgotten by the year's end, but this Mike Leigh favourite does some truly memorable work here. I don't think the film overall is quite at that high level, but I recommend a watch for some gorgeous shots and a solid Paul Giamatti performance.