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The Recorder’s Oscar Picks

The dust has cleared and the curtain has dropped: it’s finally time to acknowledge the best of the big screen. 2008 was another exceptional year for films and on February 22 we’ll find out who takes home the big prizes for their hard effort.

After seeing every film on this list here I have consulted with my Magic 8-Ball and have chosen who I think should win and who will win each of the major awards along with a few quick picks for other notable awards. I’m leaving “Achievement in sound mixing” to the experts.

Best Picture Nominees:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Frost/Nixon

Milk

The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire

Who should win: Slumdog Millionaire

Who will win: Slumdog Millionaire

If you read my gushing review a few weeks back of Slumdog Millionaire you’ll find this selection comes as no surprise. Slumdog seems to be leading the way with everyone. A potential upset can be had with Milk thanks for Sean Penn’s terrific performance. Frost/Nixon is a deserving dark horse candidate but it didn’t make an impact like Milk did. Benjamin Button and The Reader, both good films, don’t deserve to be on the list when exceptional films like The Wrestler and Doubt are nowhere to be found. Slumdog takes this.

Actor in a Leading Role Nominees:

Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon

Sean Penn, Milk

Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Who should win: Mickey Rourke

Who will win: Mickey Rourke

I know who should win, I just don’t know if the Academy does. Mickey Rourke’s performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler was above and beyond most performances in 2008. Rourke took this brooding wrestler character and made it his own. On the other hand, Sean Penn practically channeled Harvey Milk and it might have hit soft political spots among voters who value sentimental films about human rights movements over wrestlers. Toss Brad Pitt’s name off this list, he doesn’t deserve to be there. Langella, once again, falls into the upset category with his intense portrayal of Richard Nixon. Jenkin’s film was too little seen and known to get the respect it deserves. In the end I think the Academy sympathizes with Rourke’s remarkable comeback. This is his shot.

Actress in a Leading Role Nominees:

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married

Angelina Jolie, Changeling

Melissa Leo, Frozen River

Meryl Streep, Doubt

Kate Winslet, The Reader

Who should win: Melissa Leo

Who will win: Kate Winslet

This was a tough one. Consider me a fan of the underdogs, but I would love to see Leo win this award. Her performance in Frozen River is what the film hinges on. She, like Rourke, also put herself into the character. When a film is over and you realize no other actor or actress would fit that role you just know something special was accomplished. That’s the way I felt about both Rourke and Leo. Unfortunately she has no chance with Streep and Winslet on the ballot. While both terrific performances, neither struck me the way Leo’s did. Streep would be winning for being one of the best cold-hearted nuns in film history and Winslet would win for taking off her clothes lots and lots of times and making love to an 18-year-old kid lots and lots of times. I think Winslet wins it by a hair. And yes she will cry if she wins.

Actor in a Supporting Role Nominees:

Josh Brolin, Milk

Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Who should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Who will win: Heath Ledger

This list is stacked. I have no doubts that Heath Ledger will pick up another well deserved posthumous award for his terrifying rendition of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Call it a matter of taste or credit it to my biased love for him, but I was amazed by Hoffman’s performance as a priest in question in Doubt. He’s one of the greatest actors of our time and definitely deserves to pick up his second Oscar this year. Both Brolin and Shannon excelled in their roles but will probably fall short which shows credit to the strength of this list. Ledger wins, don’t rip my head off for wishing Hoffman to get it instead.

Actress in a Supporting Role Nominees:

Amy Adams, Doubt

Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Viola Davis, Doubt

Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Who should win: Viola Davis

Who will win: Penélope Cruz

Deciding on best supporting actress is tough. All five women were good and deserving of the nomination they received, but none of them absolute stuck out as the clear winner. Viola Davis had the most powerful 12 minutes on film this year in Doubt, but will probably lose out for only being in the film for such a short time. In the end this award will probably come down to Tomei’s counterpart performance to Rourke’s wrestler and Cruz’s crazy ex-girlfriend portrayal in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I suspect Cruz ends up taking the award home and I’m not really sure why. If I had my way Davis would walk away with this prize but I’m not feeling too sure about it. Call it a hunch.

Quick Picks:

Best animated feature film of the year: Wall-E

Best documentary feature: Man on Wire

Best foreign language film of the year: Waltz with Bashir

Achievement in cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in directing: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score): A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song): A.R. Rahman, “Jai Ho” Adapted screenplay: Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire

Original screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for Milk

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment Editor