1. Babel (25%)
2. The Departed (25%)
3. The Queen (20%)
4. Little Miss Sunshine (20%)
5. Letters from Iwo Jima (10%)
I must confess that throughout the editing stages, every single film listed here was seated in the #1 position at some point. That should tell you something about the numerical rankings here - they're really not indicative of anything whatsoever (but have them, I must.) Letters from Iwo Jima is just as much a threat for the big prize as The Queen in this bizarre awards season we've been having. I really wish the Academy would release the voting stats after the ceremony, just this once - wouldn't it be wild to see how close the race was? I believe every film will receive sizable ballot support, and in the end, I don't think the winner will have won by an overwhelming majority. As for my analysis here, I will go through the list by the process of elimination:
Letters from Iwo Jima - In its favour, it managed to beat all odds (tiny box office, little precursor love, low buzz) and re-emerge full force during the nomination stages. Still, if the film is this year's Munich, then perhaps its greatest victory is that it even managed to get this far. And really, could it win the big prize and... nothing else aside one technical?
Little Miss Sunshine - Purportedly, the film that "everyone loves". Perhaps some of my own bias is colouring my dismissal of it, but is this really what everyone believes to be the Best Film of the Year? Yes, it has enjoyed considerable staying power throughout the last few months, and has even racked up some major guild prizes here and there (PGA, SAG & WGA). Nothing to scoff at for sure, but in a season like this, does any of that really even matter? Surely last year has taught us not to religiously embrace precedent in times of doubt. I remember a couple of years ago, many pundits had insisted that Moulin Rouge! was to be the upset of the night, citing the same strengths that the LMS supporters herald right now - "it's well loved, it has the PGA and it appeals to the actors' branch." We all know how that turned out... but again, it wouldn't shock me if the film does emerge victorious Sunday night. If Little Miss Sunshine is the movie success story of the year, perhaps voters will want to top it off with a fairy tale ending...
The Queen - British, safe and uncontroversial; perhaps those are exactly the factors that will give the Frears picture an edge in this race. In many ways, this feels very much like a Best Picture in the vein of Miramax productions during the 90s. It has been well-respected by critics from the get-go, it has a respectable box office take, and Helen Mirren's winning streak has people buzzing. The only thing working against it is the lack of a significant Best Picture prize during the season (even Crash had a smattering of citations here and there.) It may have won the BAFTA, but that organization rarely has any influence on the Oscar race (see The Pianist, etc.) Which leaves...
Babel vs. The Departed - Perhaps the Scorsese film caters to the macho, "man's man" members of the Academy as some have argued, but how did that help Goodfellas in its year? Saving Private Ryan? I don't think it's so much the "International Crash" label that has me leaning towards the Iñárritu film, specifically in regards to last year's historic upset. Mostly, it's that Scorsese has never been able to manage a Best Picture win or anything close to it (despite sizable support in other categories), and I feel that voters will feel like giving him the Director's prize will be enough. The Departed, I think, will be seen as too "genre" and perhaps not as weighty as the other nominees. My prediction for Babel also comes with personal baggage - throughout the last few months, I've been consistently underestimating the flick. Even after I saw it, I was utterly convinced that such a dark and critical film would never find favour with Academy voters. Because I've been wrong on so many different counts, perhaps this is a sign that I should get on the film's side? Either way, this race has been a blast to mull over. For once, the end of the telecast will be worth anticipating.
Will Win: Babel, with The Departed only a few votes behind (see, I'm already starting to doubt myself.)
Should Win: *The Departed
Will Win: *Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Spoiler: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Babel
Should Win: Marty
Whatever happens in the Best Picture race, this award can't go to anyone else. Just like Ang Lee last year, it's time for Marty to win. Otherwise, the universe will collapse upon itself.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Will Win: *Helen Mirren, The Queen
Spoiler: Kate Winslet, Little Children... but really now, as if.
Should Win: Penelope Cruz, Volver
As tedious as it has been for the past few months, kudos to Dame Helen. It's about time the 20-ish/30-ish streak was broken (I don't want to say "babe obsession", because she undoubtedly is one.)
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Will Win: *Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Spoiler: Peter O'Toole, Venus
Should Win: Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
The sentimental "owed" factor for O'Toole should not be underestimated, but Whitaker has won everything that counts. He's as much a lock as Helen Mirren, methinks (he can't be far behind in terms of overall awards.) Hopefully he's been working on his speech so we don't have to cringe and wince when he accepts his trophy.
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Will Win: *Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Spoiler: Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Should Win: Emily Blunt, The Dev- er.. Adriana Barraza, Babel
Unless the voters have been really bowled over with Abigail's cuteness, Hudson takes home the award that has been reserved in her name ever since the film was in the can. Moreover, if Breslin couldn't win the SAG, how much of a chance does she have in the Oscar race?
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Will Win: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Spoiler: *Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Should Win: If forced to choose, then Mark Wahlberg in The Departed
Norbit? The Mexican. That makes sense, I hope. What I mean is, Julia Roberts had that latter film release right before the big ceremony in March 2001. The rom-com got stinker reviews, but it still couldn't derail her awards sweep-age. Now, the supposed vileness of Norbit doesn't really compare to the material in The Mexican, but my point is that I doubt past/future projects have much sway over voting. If Murphy had beat the crap out of someone during voting time (like Russell Crowe in the year of A Beautiful Mind), then we'd have something to think about. Anyways, how often is it that an actor who has won GG + SAG has lost the Oscar (Lauren Bacall aside?)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will Win: *Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine
Spoiler: Peter Morgan, The Queen
Should Win: I'm not nuts about any of them, but I'd be fine with either Morgan or Yamashita, I suppose.
A three-way race between Arndt, Morgan and Guillermo Arriaga for Babel. I could see any of these men take the golden statuette, but I concede that Little Miss Sunshine needs to win something somewhere.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Will Win: *William Monahan, The Departed
Spoiler: Patrick Marber, Notes on a Scandal
Should Win: William Monahan, The Departed
I guess a Borat upset isn't out of the question either, but I think The Departed's status as a Best Picture frontrunner highly bolsters Monahan's chances here. I will tear out my hair should Marber win.
BEST ART DIRECTION
Will Win: *Pan's Labyrinth
Should Win: Pan's Labyrinth or The Prestige
The Good Shepherd could surprise everyone, seeing as set decorator Gretchen Rau passed away earlier this year. Dreamgirls is also a conceivable winner. Still, Pan's has the wow factor, and the fantasy sequences really leave a mark (despite the majority of the running time taking place in the "real world.")
Will Win: Emmanuel Lubezki, Children of Men
Spoiler: *Guillermo Navarro, Pan's Labyrinth
Should Win: I'd be thrilled with any winner here, but it's Lubezki's time.
The ASC doesn't always correlate with Oscar, but things look good for Lubezki on his fourth nomination. Everyone who has seen Children of Men always talks about that scene in the car, and that should definitely influence voters here.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Will Win: Sharen Davis, Dreamgirls
Spoiler: *Milena Cannonero, Marie Antoinette
Should Win: Milena Cannonero, Marie Antoinette
Gah, it's between these two gals in my estimation, but I'll be safe and go with Davis. I know that the CDGA went to Chung Man Yee for Curse of the Golden Flower, but that guild is a little... off (they looove Colleen Atwood a little too much, methinks, and they didn't even nominate Gladiator and Moulin Rouge! - eventual winners in this category.)
Will Win: Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione, Babel
Spoiler: Clare Douglas, Richard Pearson, Christopher Rouse, United 93
Should Win: *Thelma Schoonmaker, The Departed
Someone please remind me why Blood Diamond is included here? Sigh. The Departed's Thelma Schoonmaker would have a better chance had she not won for The Aviator two years ago. So I'm thinking that Babel dukes it out with the critical favourite United 93 here, but since the former film's construction is a lot more showy and geographically/temporally expansive than the 9/11 flick, Crise and Mirrione look likely to take the podium Sunday night.
Will Win: An easy get for *Pan's Labyrinth
Should Win: Pan's Labyrinth
If the sloppy work on the Chronicles of Narnia could win last year, then Pan's Labyrinth totally deserves this one.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Will Win: Javier Navarrete, Pan's Labyrinth
Spoiler: Thomas Newman, The Good German
Should Win: Alexandre Desplat for The Pain- oh, er, Clint Mansell for The Foun-... oh who cares?
Ack, another really difficult race to call. I think Newman could win a career prize, but The Good German doesn't really have the momentum that Navarrete's film presently does. If Desplat had got in the for the right movie, he'd totally be my pick here...
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Will Win: *"I Need to Wake Up", An Inconvenient Truth
Spoiler: "I Love You I Do", Dreamgirls
Should Win: "I Love You I Do", Dreamgirls
Acting on instinct, so no commentary here.
BEST SOUND MIXING
Will Win: *Dreamgirls
Should Win: Dreamgirls
I was quite impressed with the work on most films nominated here, and since there is no Best Picture nominee in the running, I could see any one of them as the winner. I suppose you can't count out Kevin O'Connell and company for Apocalypto, seeing the guy's being nominated eighteen times before this and never won.
BEST SOUND EFFECTS EDITING
Will Win: *Letters from Iwo Jima
Spoiler: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Should Win: Letters from Iwo Jima or Flags of Our Fathers
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Will Win: *Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Spoiler: Superman Returns
Should Win: Superman Returns
For the work on Davey Jones alone, the Pirates team has this in the bag.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Will Win: Cars
Spoiler: *Happy Feet
Should Win: Monster House
Why even bother having this category every year a new Pixar film is out?
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Will Win: *An Inconvenient Truth
Spoiler: Iraq in Fragments
Guggenheim's film is a cultural phenomenon. I have not seen the other documentaries, so I will refrain from making a personal choice.
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
Will Win: *The Lives of Others (Germany)
Spoiler: Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico)
Should Win: Pan's Labyrinth, out of the three I've seen.
If the popular and adored Amelie had five nods and still could not pull off a win here, what makes Pan's Labyrinth a lock? Having seen The Lives of Others, I would not be surprised if voters decided to shock us with many a vote in the German film's direction.
Dreamgirls - 4 (Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Costumes, Sound Mixing) - am INSANE for predicting this many?
Pan's Labyrinth - 3 (Art Direction, Makeup, Original Score)
Babel - 2 (Picture, Editing)
The Departed - 2 (Director, Adapted Screenplay)
An Inconvenient Truth - 2 (Documentary, Original Song)
Cars - 1 (Animated Film)
Children of Men - 1 (Cinematography)
The Last King of Scotland - 1 (Actor)
Letters from Iwo Jima - 1 (Sound Effects Editing)
Little Miss Sunshine - 1 (Original Screenplay)
The Lives of Others - 1 (Foreign Language Film)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - 1 (Visual Effects)
The Queen - 1 (Actress)
Score: 14/21 = 67%