Yay! It’s Christmas…well, it’s my Christmas, anyway: Oscar season. And this year we actually have some deserving movies and actors. The other thing that is interesting about the 81st annual Academy Award nominations is that in almost every category, it’s anyone’s statue. The only actor who has consistently won in every preceding contest is Heath Ledger, who not only passed away last year but also gave the performance of a career as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Rather than make an official ‘prediction,’ I prefer to just say who I would have voted for were I an Academy member. So, without further ado…
Performance by an actor in a leading role:
Richard Jenkins in The Visitor
Frank Langella in Frost/ Nixon
Sean Penn in Milk
Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler
This is a fascinating category because there are four men who could easily win. I think it’s safe to say that Jenkins has already gotten his award simply by being nominated for this little-seen movie. Mickey Rourke is the comeback kid, but everyone who was cheering for him after his Golden Globe win may have remembered why he fell out of favor to begin with, he’s a tad rough around the edges and his horrid plastic surgery debacle only adds to his crudeness. Brad Pitt is official Hollywood royalty, but his performance was much subtler than Sean Penn’s or Frank Langella’s. He hasn’t won yet, but if I were voting I would vote for Langella stirring up a complex performance as Richard Nixon.
Performance by an actor in a supporting role:
Josh Brolin in Milk
Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road
While Shannon and Downey must be tickled just to be nominated, Josh Brolin and Philip Seymour Hoffman might have had a decent chance had Heath Ledger’s life not ended so tragically. Moreover, his death has been inextricably linked to the role that consumed him. This category is a no-contest.
Performance by an actress in a leading role:
Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie in The Changeling
Melissa Leo in Frozen River
Meryl Streep in Doubt
Kate Winslet in The Reader
This is another wide-open category. Kate Winslet won the Golden Globe for this performance, but in the Supporting Actress category. Meryl Streep won the SAG award. Anne Hathaway has also won for her performance, and Angelina Jolie was a force in the widely underrated Changeling. My vote would go to Kate Winslet if for no other reason than because her phenomenal performance in Revolutionary Road was overlooked.
Performance by an actress in a supporting role:
Amy Adams in Doubt
Penelope Cruz in Vicky Christina Barcelona
Viola Davis in Doubt
Taraji Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler
There is a longstanding rumor in Hollywood that Marissa Tomei’s Oscar win for My Cousin Vinny was a mistake. The rumor goes that the presenter opened the envelope and saw the ‘Mir’ and blurted out Tomei’s name when the actual name on the card was Miranda Richardson. Long story short, it puts a slight damper on her future Oscar hopes. I think this is Amy Adams’ year, it’s her second nomination and she gave a terrific performance.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Wow, what a year. There are at least five other films that could have made the list without the slightest raise of an eyebrow. So far, Slumdog Millionaire is the award show favorite and is the odds-on favorite to go home with Oscar. I have to say, however, I preferred another nominee. It’s just an opinion, I loved all five of these films, but I would have voted for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
The Academy Awards will be held Feb. 22 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.