Here we go again. As always, I'm only playing with the first eight categories, as I really have bad luck with the tech races (so why even try?) I've limited myself to only two runner-ups per category (hey, it's hard!) * = correct prediction
BEST PICTURE (3/5)
1. *The Departed - Warner Brothers
2. Dreamgirls – Dreamworks SKG and Paramount
3. *The Queen - Pathé/The Weinstein Company
4. *Little Miss Sunshine - Fox Searchlight
5. United 93- Universal, Studio Canal
6. *Babel - Paramount Vantage
7. *Letters from Iwo Jima - Dreamworks SKG, WB
As many others have predicted, these first four plus Babel look to constitute our final five. The Queen is the only film that has failed to win a big precursor (BFCA, GG and PGA have all been distributed to the other four), but the critical support and prestige factors (acclaimed lead performance, respected director, popular) cemented its position here months ago. Yet contrary to what the consensus suggests and my own safe predicting habits, United 93 definitely could be a spoiler in this race. Critics have been just as vocal about their admiration for it in their year-end citations, and I feel that enough love exists to propel it onto #1 status on many ballots. I wouldn't count it out, and furthermore at the expense of Babel, as both fit that "timely" world affairs label. Because of all these factors, I'm still wavering on that last spot, especially since Babel's Golden Globe win occurred after ballots were due. Don't be surprised if I change the order at the last hour though... Letters from Iwo Jima is next in line, and despite its wins at NBR and L.A., I think the release timing worked against it here. Despite Eastwood's name attached here, I don't think enough voters have seen it by this point, and the foreign language obstacle is certainly a problem. This could potentially rebound like Munich did last year, but I think the film has a better chance with the Directors' branch than with the overall voting community.
BEST DIRECTOR (5/5; I am amazing.)
1. *Martin Scorsese, The Departed
2. *Stephen Frears, The Queen
3. *Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel
4. *Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
5. *Paul Greengrass, United 93
6. Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine
7. Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth
This race may feel obligatory since everyone thinks it's going to Marty, but if precedent has shown us anything, voters aren't afraid to stick it to the man when it counts. I'll be wary when this category is called on Oscar night. Meanwhile, I'd say the first two are locks, while Iñárritu looks very likely considering the GG/DGA nods, even if I think his film will be passed over in the main race. Similarly, I think Letters from Iwo Jima will fare best with the directors' branch, as it's unlikely that Eastwood will be ignored for his double whammy this year. He gets the votes on the respect factor alone. After those four, I think the last spot is very much up for grabs - Greengrass would be my primary pick, for obvious reasons. Dayton and Faris get a boost from the DGA mention, but I think the film's likely appearance in other categories will make something like this overkill for the directors. It's not the kind of film that screams genius in this department (the cast and screenplay are seen as doing most of the work.) One must also mention del Toro and the apparent love for Pan's Labyrinth; because of Peter Jackson and his team, fantasy is no longer the dreaded genre to avoid. As for the Dreamgirls' beloved leader, I think that film's momentum towards gold gets a flat tire here first.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE (5/5)
1. *Helen Mirren, The Queen
2. *Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
3. *Penélope Cruz, Volver
4. *Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
5. *Kate Winslet, Little Children
6. Annette Bening, Running with Scissors
7. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sherrybaby
No comments necessary, I presume. Winslet is probably most vulnerable here because her film is little-seen, but if that argument holds any water, then Gyllenhaal is a definite "no". A surprise Bening nod is entirely possible, but if SAG (a crowd that apparently liked Running with Scissors) could not be moved, then how can we expect the same for Academy voters? I can't think of anyone else with much of a chance... Miller or Zellweger? You can never underestimate the power of the Weinsteins.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE (4/5)
1. *Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
2. *Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
3. *Peter O'Toole, Venus
4. *Ryan Gosling, Half-Nelson
5. Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America...
6. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
7. *Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
First three actors can rest easy. Normally, Gosling would not be this secure, but considering the weak year and the vote splitting likelihood I see happening with DiCaprio, I think his chances are decent. The last time I predicted a Leo snub with SAG, he ended up getting three; as such, this is probably a very stupid move (even if the category fraud helped matters significantly there.) Plus, I can't imagine Cohen's shannanigans are popular with everyone. Still, if you're going to be gutsy...
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE (5/5)
1. *Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
2. *Adriana Barraza, Babel
3. *Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
4. *Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
5. *Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
6. Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada
7. Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine
Standard five here, but I really can't find anyone to eliminate. I don't understand why Blanchett's mediocre work in Notes on a Scandal is so consistently rewarded, but I suppose you can't argue with the combined power of GG, SAG and BAFTA. I love Blanchett, and always thought each successive nomination would be cause for elation, but I'm pretty apathetic right now. That said, I think Blunt and Collette easily could break into this race due to starring in extremely popular crowdpleasers. I'm tempted to change the order to factor in Toni, but I'll stick with my first picks.
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE (4/5)
1. *Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
2. *Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
3. Jack Nicholson, The Departed
4. *Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
5. *Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
6. *Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
7. Michael Sheen, The Queen
This category has me tearing out my hair. Not to mention the fact that I've done pretty poorly with this lot (see SAG - 1/5.) Why does no one look secure to me besides Murphy and Arkin? Besides those two, this list could feature any combo of names, even ones that I haven't mentioned (Affleck, Carrell, DiCaprio even.) In danger? Hounsou, but I'm holding onto the fact that NBR has shockingly good accuracy with predicting nominees. He also managed to get a SAG mention when the film looked like a dead duck floating in the water. Then again, Earle Haley also got a mention from the same group, suggesting that Little Children has an audience after all (probably mostly through screeners.) Ugh. I'm wavering back and forth on these two, and it's going to drive me insane when the one I don't pick gets mentioned tomorrow. Just watch it happen now.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY (4/5)
1. *Peter Morgan, The Queen
2. *Guillermo Arriaga, Babel
3. *Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine
4. Paul Greengrass, United 93
5. *Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth
6. Zach Helm, Stranger than Fiction
7. Pedro Almodovar, Volver
Missed: Iris Yamashita, Paul Haggis, Letters from Iwo Jima
I'm thinking that Helm is dismissed as Kaufman-lite, while Pedro has already received love here recently. The WGA mention for Greengrass indicates support for the seemingly little-seen film.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY (3/5)
1. *William Monahan, The Departed
2. *Patrick Marber, Notes on a Scandal
3. Peter Morgan, Jeremy Brock, The Last King of Scotland
4. *Todd Field, Tom Perrotta, Little Children
5. Jason Reitman, Thank You For Smoking
6. *Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, et al., Children of Men
7. Aline Brosh McKenna, The Devil Wears Prada
Missed: Sacha Baron Cohen, et al., Borat: Cultural Learnings...
I'm thinking that Prada is dismissed as too fluffy, even with WGA attention. Children of Men looks like a good bet, but I don't know what to trade it in for... the other children (little ones)?
* Note: I will likely be making some changes right up until tomorrow evening. The Cohen nod over DiCaprio is bothering me the most presently.
OVERALL: 33/40 = 83% (Big Eight Only.)