By no means does this list represent what I think should win, but what I think will win. That being said, some of these picks totally deserve to take home the golden statue.
Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
I predict a big night for “Slumdog Millionaire” because it’s the obvious choice and the academy almost always goes for the obvious choice. I’ve seen three of the five films in competition this year and I liked “Slumdog” the most, but that isn’t saying much. It’s more like I hated it the least. I’ll save the juicy details for the review I plan on writing if and when it comes out in South Korea.
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke for “The Wrestler”
You know an actor did a good job when you can’t imagine anyone else in the same role. Mickey Rourke, the washed up has-been in real life makes a stunning comeback with his first big lead in years as, well, a washed up has-been. Of this year’s choices, he is the only other actor besides Heath Ledger who successfully managed to make the movie he starred in all about him.
Best Actress: Kate Winslet for “The Reader”
It pretty much comes down to first-time nominee Anne Hathaway and seasoned Academy Award veteran Kate Winslet (currently running 0 for 5). This year’s competition for “Best Actress” pits a fresh face vs. experience, indie vs. studio. Regardless of who gave the best performance, Winslet will probably win because she’s paid her dues while Hathaway is still too wet behind the ears.
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight”
The dude died just a few months after breathing new life into a character that will forever be remembered as one of cinema’s most colorful villains. He’ll win.
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis for “Doubt”
This is the toughest one to predict because there is no frontrunner. I’m betting on Viola Davis to be this year’s “token black actress” pick.
Best Director: Danny Boyle for “Slumdog Millionaire”
Danny Boyle is a respectable director. He’s made a handful of decent movies (”Millions,” “The Beach,” “28 Days Later”), but a lot of his work is very hit (”Trainspotting) or miss (”Sunshine”). As I mentioned earlier, “Slumdog Millionaire” fits more in the miss column. I suppose it isn’t the end of the world if Boyle wins an Oscar when so many talentless hacks have before him. It’s just a shame to award a good filmmaker for one of his bad movies. This seems to be a tradition at the Academy Awards - two years ago Martin Scorsese won for “The Departed” (a solid film but not his best by a long shot) and last year the Coen brothers took the trophy home for “No Country for Old Men” (again, a commendable effort but rather minor compared to “Fargo” or “The Big Lebowski”). David Fincher and Gus Van Sant, two capable directors, are also nominated for some of their poorest contributions to cinema: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Milk.” Perhaps it’s just a testament to how often the academy fails to get it right. After all, they left the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Luis Bunuel, and Ingmar Bergman completely empty-handed.
Best Original Screenplay: “WALL-E”
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding Dustin Lance Black’s screenplay for “Milk,” but I’m following my heart on this one. Andrew Stanton merits more than just a pat on the back for creating two main characters whose combined vocabulary is limited to “WALL-EEEEEEEE” and “EEEEEEEEVE,” and still make a film that works wonders. But the odds are against him. If “WALL-E” wins, he will go down in history as the first person to be awarded an Oscar for writing the script of an animated feature.
Best Adapted Screenplay: “Slumdog Millionaire”
The “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” and “Best Screenplay” (Original or Adapted) often go together, and as the French say “jamais deux sans trois.”
Best Animated Film: “WALL-E”
“WALL-E” single-handedly quadrupled my respect for Pixar. It’s not that I disliked “Toy Story” (1995) or “Finding Nemo” (2003), I’ve just never been so swept off my feet by a cartoon. If I’d had it my way, this computer generated gem would be a shoe-in for “Best Picture” and “Best Director,” but because it doesn’t quite fit the academy-award mold, it was unjustly robbed of nominations in the more prestigious categories. “WALL-E” is not only the best animated film of the year, but arguably of all time - if it doesn’t win, I’ll teleport myself to Los Angeles and bomb the Kodak Theatre (in case the CIA/FBI is tracking this, that’s a joke).
Best Foreign Film: “The Class”
Palme d’Or winners rarely do very well at the Oscars, especially in the foreign film category. Yet, this French docudrama has what it takes to pull off an upset over “Waltz with Bashir” - an interesting technique, realistic performances, and most importantly, a taut but always politically correct examination of a weighty subject (the ethnic diversity of a Parisian high school).