"Shadows present, foreshadowing deeper shadows to come." -- Herman Melville

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February 21, 2005

I'm a little late this year, but I couldn't miss a chance to post my Oscars predictions. Looking at the nominations this year, there doesn't seem to be a juggernaut film to beat. Last year, it was clear that Return of the King was going to win a lot of awards (and it did). This year, it's more likely that awards will be shuffled around to all of the major nominees. Of course, there's still the chance that The Aviator or Million Dollar Baby could start running away with everything, but it seems less likely this year. Anyway, here goes.....

Academy Awards 2005

BEST PICTURE

--The Aviator - Michael Mann, Graham King
--Finding Neverland - Richard N. Gladstein, Nellie Bellflower
--Million Dollar Baby - Clint Eastwood, Albert S. Ruddy, Tom Rosenberg
--Ray - Taylor Hackford, Stuart Benjamin, Howard Baldwin
--Sideways - Michael London

Will Win: The Aviator
Could Win: Million Dollar Baby
Should Win: Sideways
Dark Horse: Sideways
Comments: A fairly open race and the potential for an upset remains high. Million Dollar Baby has been gathering momentum at a fast rate over the past two months, but it's also been cultivating political controversy, so I can't see it garnering enough votes to win the big prize. Sideways was the earlier critical darling, but critical acclaim doesn't equal Academy votes. It seems destined, like Baby, to pick up a few smaller awards instead. Ray may have the Ray Charles Memorial Vote going for it (see: The Grammy's), but its big prize is sure to be Jamie Foxx and Best Actor. Finding Neverland is an intriguing sleeper and would have a good chance at winning with lesser competition, but I think it'll actually end up being one of the bigger losers of the night. That leaves us with Martin Scorsese's latest epic, The Aviator. It's certainly not at the level of his earlier work, but the Academy is still trying to live down picking Ordinary People over Raging Bull for this award 24 years ago. It's received generally strong reviews, has an A-list cast, and Scorsese's clout--look for it to win this Sunday. My choice, easily, is Sideways. The other four are worth seeing, for sure, but none matches the warmth and humanity of Alexander Payne's latest.

BEST ACTOR

--Johnny Depp for Finding Neverland
--Don Cheadle for Hotel Rwanda
--Leonardo DiCaprio for The Aviator
--Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby
--Jamie Foxx for Ray

Will Win: Jamie Foxx
Could Win: Nobody else
Should Win: Jamie Foxx
Dark Horse: Anyone else
Comments: Jamie Foxx wins and it's not even close. It's the type of role that Oscar fawns over, it was a great year for Foxx (also nominated for Supporting Actor--the only chance he loses this is if he manages to split his own vote), and he's already got the Golden Globe for Ray (as well as a TV-perfect teary-eyed acceptance speech). Toss in the Ray Charles Memorial Vote and you've got the deadlock for this year (past Sure Things: Charlize Theron last year and Hilary Swank in 2000). I love Johnny Depp and am happy to see him nominated two years in a row, but Neverland isn't going to carry him this year. He'll be back and he'll get his award eventually--of that I'm certain. You could probably say the same for Don Cheadle and Leonardo DiCaprio, both talented actors who will hopefully be Oscar mainstays for years to come. Clint Eastwood is excellent as usual, but he has his awards already and has a better chance of picking up Director or Best Picture again this year. No one's derailing the Jamie Foxx train on Oscar night--it would easily be the upset of the night. Out of those five, he would be my pick, but for what's it's worth, here are my five Best Actor nominees: Jamie Foxx (Ray), Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), Paul Giamatti (Sideways), Sean Penn (The Assassination of Richard Nixon), and Kevin Bacon (The Woodsman). Now that's a hell of a group of actors and my pick would be Giamatti for his years of fantastic character work building up to his perfect role of Miles Raymond. Kevin Bacon would be a close second and then Jamie Foxx. Don't worry, though, no one's giving me a ballot any time soon.

BEST ACTRESS

--Annette Bening for Being Julia
--Catalina Sandino Moreno for Maria Full of Grace
--Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake
--Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby
--Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Will Win: Hilary Swank
Could Win: Imelda Staunton
Should Win: Imelda Staunton
Dark Horse: Kate Winslet
Comments: A tricky award this year (especially compared to last year). Hilary Swank would seem to have the inside track--she's brilliant again in another transformative role in a high-pedigree movie, but her performance doesn't match up with her breakthrough in Boys Don't Cry. I was ecstatic to see her win in 2000, but I think it's been a little too soon for her to pick up her second Best Actress Oscar. The problem is that no one else leaps to the forefront and this could be seen as Baby's big award if it loses out on Best Picture and Best Actor. Imelda Staunton is a distinct possibility for her heartbreaking work in Vera Drake--she's already won a handful of awards for Drake this year--but the film's abortionist subject matter may turn off some voters. Annette Bening also has a chance in her rematch against Swank (she was nominated against Swank for American Beauty in 2000). This is her third nomination and she deserves an Oscar, but Being Julia isn't nearly the movie American Beauty is. If she were up for Beauty this year, I think she'd win without a problem. Catalina Sandino Moreno is wonderful in Maria, but the nomination is her award here (like Keisha Castle-Hughes for Whale Rider last year). Lastly, there's Kate Winslet. Sunshine received surprisingly little Oscar recognition and a win here could be a sizable coup for the movie. This is Winslet's fourth nomination (with no wins), so she certainly seems due, but were voters able to make it through Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman's mindfuck? I think she slips through again here, though we haven't seen the last of her on Oscar nights. It's a tough choice for me, but I would pick Staunton for evoking so much sympathy in such a controversial role.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

--Alan Alda for The Aviator
--Thomas Haden Church for Sideways
--Jamie Foxx for Collateral
--Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby
--Clive Owen for Closer

Will Win: Clive Owen
Could Win: Morgan Freeman
Should Win: Clive Owen
Dark Horse: Thomas Haden Church
Comments: Wow, here's something I didn't know until right this minute: Morgan Freeman has never won an Oscar. Seems crazy, doesn't it? This is his fourth nomination, but doesn't it seem like he should have won a while ago? Knowing this now, he certainly has a strong chance at picking up the Oscar this year. I don't think it'll happen, though, since Swank and Eastwood are drawing away most of the Million Dollar Baby Oscar attention. But wow, he's really got to win at some point soon. Jamie Foxx is getting Best Actor, so he won't be a factor here. Thomas Haden Church is a sleeper for his career-rejuvenating role, but I think, again, the nomination is the award and I predict Virginia Madsen will be the acting award winner for Sideways. Alan Alda was certainly good in The Aviator, but wasn't a standout in a large and talented cast. That leaves us with Clive Owen, one of my personal favorite actors. He first caught my eye as The Croupier (1998) and followed that up as The Driver in the venerable "The Hire" series for BMW Films. A terrific actor with the most powerful performance in Closer, he should follow up his Golden Globe win with an Oscar here. Now he just needs to set his sights on a Best Actor trophy.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

--Cate Blanchett for The Aviator
--Laura Linney for Kinsey
--Virginia Madsen for Sideways
--Sophie Okonedo for Hotel Rwanda
--Natalie Portman for Closer

Will Win: Virginia Madsen
Could Win: Natalie Portman
Should Win: Virginia Madsen
Dark Horse: Cate Blanchett
Comments: Another category that could go a few different ways. Will the Academy go for the well-respected veteran actress who successfully revived her career (Virginia Madsen)? The fresh-faced Oscar first-timer who seems destined for long-term success (Natalie Portman)? Or how about two women nominated before for Best Actress (Laura Linney or Cate Blanchett)? Okonedo is the only name that won't factor in--not out of any slight to her work in Rwanda, but (need I say it again), the nomination and recognition is the award. Portman certainly has a strong chance after winning the Golden Globe and putting up a formidable one-two punch of Closer and Garden State last year, but I think her Oscar-winning role is still to come. Madsen is my pick since I think the Academy will want to award the Sideways emsemble is some way. She's well-liked within Hollywood and I think the Oscar would be the perfect capper for a great year. This is definitely an up-in-the-air award, though, and I wouldn't be surprised if any of those four won.

BEST DIRECTOR

--Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby
--Taylor Hackford for Ray
--Mike Leigh for Vera Drake
--Alexander Payne for Sideways
--Martin Scorsese for The Aviator

Will Win: Martin Scorsese
Could Win: Clint Eastwood
Should Win: Martin Scorsese
Dark Horse: Alexander Payne
Comments: It's been a long time coming, but it looks like 2005 could finally be Scorsese's year. Nominated four times before, he's never won and his continuing lack of an Oscar is a blemish to the award itself. I don't think Aviator is one of his best, but it is well-directed and is a more respectable movie to win for than, say, Gangs of New York. I think he's still got plenty more nominations left in him, but I think the Academy will take the chance to reward him now. His closest competitor is Eastwood, who has won the award before and could steal it away again. If Baby starts sweeping the awards, Eastwood would certainly pick this one up. I think it would be hard for the Academy to pick him for a second time, though, when Scorsese still doesn't have his first. I don't think anyone else has a chance, but if Eastwood and Scorsese split the vote, someone like Alexander Payne could sneak in.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

--The Aviator - John Logan
--Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth
--Hotel Rwanda - Terry George, Keir Pearson
--The Incredibles - Brad Bird
--Vera Drake - Mike Leigh

Will Win: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Could Win: The Aviator
Should Win: Hotel Rwanda
Dark Horse: The Incredibles
Comments: Assuming that Kate Winslet doesn't win Best Actress, this would likely be the best place to reward Eternal Sunshine. Charlie Kaufman has been nominated twice before, so he could be a pretty safe bet come Oscar night. However, The Aviator could easily take this as well if it looks like the big winner of the night. I'm not a huge John Logan fan (previous credits include Gladiator, The Time Machine, and The Last Samurai), but he's one of the big It-writers in Hollywood now and could definitely be in line for his first Oscar. For a sleeper, there's The Incredibles since you should never discount the latest Pixar movie. If Shrek 2 wins Best Animated Film, it would be nice for Incredibles to get some recognition here. My pick would be Hotel Rwanda because it sadly looks like it's going to miss out on any Oscars this year. I think it's the best of these five movies and deserves some attention.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

--Before Sunset - Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
--Finding Neverland - David Magee
--Million Dollar Baby - Paul Haggis
--The Motorcycle Diaries - Jose Rivera
--Sideways - Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

Will Win: Sideways
Could Win: Million Dollar Baby
Should Win: Sideways
Dark Horse: Finding Neverland
Comments: Alexander Payne and Sideways need to be rewarded at some point and this seems like the best place. He and writing partner Jim Taylor were nominated before for Election and they're the most deserving nominees here. Kudos to the Academy for recognizing Before Sunset, but I don't think it has a chance here. The other favorites are the familiar ones: Baby and Neverland. Neverland could sneak in if it looks like it's not going to win anything else and Baby could just follow the tide of its other nominations.

OTHER AWARDS

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

--The Chorus - France
--Downfall - Germany
--The Sea Inside - Spain
--As It Is In Heaven - Sweden
--Yesterday - South Africa

--Will Win: The Sea Inside
--Comments: Well, I frustratingly missed Sea Inside when it played here in December, The Chorus just opened here, and the others haven't gotten near Philly yet, but hell, here's my pick. The Sea Inside has pedigree (director Alejandro Amenabar and star Javier Bardem) and a Golden Globe and seems to be the one to beat. For what it's worth, I would have preferred if Spain had chosen to nominate Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education for this award instead.

BEST ANIMATED FILM

--The Incredibles - Brad Bird
--Shark Tale - Bill Damaschke
--Shrek 2 - Andrew Adamson

--Will Win: The Incredibles
--Comments: Another tricky one. Shrek 2 made crazy amounts of money, was critically well-received (unlike Shark Tale), and is the favorite for this award. It comes down to this, though: I just can't bet against Pixar. Their streak of superb animated films is extraordinary and The Incredibles continues the tradition admirably. I think Pixar pulls it off again, but I also think there's a good chance I'm going to get this one wrong. Shrek 2 made a shitload of money and The Incredibles, great as it is, doesn't have the momentum that Finding Nemo had last year when it won.