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January 2, 2009 |

By Ted Boynton | Boozehound Cinephile | January 2, 2009 |

As we await the annual tradition of Academy Award fuck-wittery known as the nominations announcement, cinephiles have the opportunity, and some might say the duty, to clamor from the rooftops to celebrate their own choices for excellence in film, as well as to condemn the ridiculous nonsense that all too often passes for actual achievement in cinema. What better way to start than with some early Oscar predictions, prefaced by the Boozehound’s picks for what should be nominated (but mostly won’t), followed by predictions for what will be nominated. We’re only focusing on the major awards here, though in order to get celery to stop picketing on my driveway over writer recognition, I’ve included adapted and original screenplay. For his her punishment, however, I have lazily neglected to print the writers’ names.

Should Be Nominated: My preferences for the winners are marked with an asterisk.

Best Picture: Despite all the moaning about a perceived fall-off in quality from 2007’s dramatic riches, 2008 had no shortage of top-shelf films - you just had to look beyond traditional notions of “prestige” films. Iron Man clearly will not be nominated - good heavens, no, we can’t possibly have two comic book movies - though it’s just as clearly superior to most of the films the Academy typically selects. Tell No One also will not be nominated - no foreign language film has ever won Best Picture, despite the statistical unlikelihood of English language films being the best every single year - but it was the most gripping and emotionally devastating film released this year.

Iron Man
The Dark Knight
Tell No One*
Rachel Getting Married
The Wackness

Best Director: In my ideal world, the director nominees in this category could overlap with Best Picture but typically would not; otherwise, why have two separate awards? Too often the Academy views the two categories as the same award - last year four out of five Best Picture nominees were also nominated for Best Director - instead of going to the effort of identifying directors who accomplished something special or rare, even though they may not have produced the best film of the year. Each of my preferred nominees created something beautiful, with a distinctive tone and feel for which the director should be recognized.

Gus Van Sant, Paranoid Park*
Guillaume Canet, Tell No One
Charlie Kaufman, Synechdoche, New York
Jon Favreau, Iron Man
Laurent Cantet, The Class

Best Actor: Sean Penn was fantastic as Harvey Milk, and I think he’s a shoo-in for the actual award, but my pick is Richard Jenkins, who captured the very essence of world-weariness while delivering a restrained but uplifting performance about recovering from the vagaries of life. Let’s not forget Robert Downey, Jr., who singlehandedly carried Iron Man to a higher place with his unique combination of irreverent humor and oddly infectious gravitas. And Josh Peck was perfect as a directionless slacker - we’ll see if he has any range for other roles, but he was pitch perfect in The Wackness.

Sean Penn, Milk
Robert Downey, Jr., Iron Man
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor*
François Cluzet, Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One)
Josh Peck, The Wackness

Best Actress: I doubt Melissa Leo has a shot at a nomination; very few people saw Frozen River despite its recognition at Sundance. For the same reason, Kristen Scott Thomas probably has little chance, though her name recognition gives her more hope than Leo. I’m still not completely sold on Anne Hathaway, but she was fantastic in Rachel Getting Married, and I think she’ll actually be nominated. I had my issues with Alan Ball’s Towelhead, but Summer Bishil’s performance as a sexually awakening teen was one of the best I saw in 2008.

Melissa Leo, Frozen River*
Kristen Scott Thomas, I’ve Loved You So Long
Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Summer Bishil, Towelhead

Best Supporting Actor: Brendan Gleeson actually has a shot at being nominated here, and he was wonderful in the otherwise disappointing In Bruges. It’s highly doubtful that Macdissi will be nominated, but he was excellent in Towelhead, funny and horrifying at the same time.

Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges*
Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Peter Macdissi, Towelhead
Ralph Fiennes, The Reader

Best Supporting Actress: The rest of the field seemed a little thin, so maybe Patricia Clarkson finally has a shot at a nomination. Hiam Abbass didn’t have a tremendous amount of screen time in The Visitor, but her role provided the emotional pivot for the film, and she was fantastic. Out of all the “names” in the cast of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, relative unknown Rebecca Hall did the best work. (Note: Hall’s performance, as well as Marissa Tomei’s turn in the The Wrestler, may qualify as a lead role.)

Marissa Tomei, The Wrestler
Hiam Abbass, The Visitor
Patricia Clarkson, Elegy*
Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Elsa Zylberstein, I’ve Loved You So Long

Best Original Screenplay:

The Wackness*
Towelhead Witless Protection
Frozen River
Synechdoche, New York
Flash of Genius Milk

(Are you happy now, celery? Somewhere, Greg Kinnear and Philip Railsback are crying. Crying!)

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Milk Doubt
The Reader
Revolutionary Road Towelhead

Will Be Nominated: Predicted winners are marked with an asterisk.

Best Picture:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button*
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director:

David Fincher, The Curious Case of Bejamin Button*
Gus Van Sant, Milk
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

Best Actor:

Sean Penn, Milk*
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Bejamin Button
Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Best Actress:

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married*
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Bejamin Button
Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy
Meryl Streep, Doubt

Best Supporting Actor:

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Josh Brolin, Milk*
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
James Franco, Milk
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder

Best Supporting Actress:

Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona*
Viola Davis, Doubt
Amy Adams, Doubt
Marissa Tomei, The Wrestler
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Original Screenplay:

Synechdoche, New York
Doubt Rachel Getting Married
Che Milk
The Wrestler

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Milk Elegy
Elegy Doubt
The Reader*
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

(Benicio Del Toro is weeping because of you, celery. Weeping! On the other hand, Philip Roth is tickled shitless.)

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