Saturday, February 24, 2007

Oscar's most likely

With the campaigning process over for the Academy Awards, and the results being counted by a few accountants who rented tuxedos for the occasion, it's time to talk about the nature of the sure thing.

I've decided to rank the 21 frontrunners of the feature-length categories in order of likelihood to win. (Unless I disagreed, these frontrunners came from In Contention or Entertainment Weekly.) Not having lived in Vegas long enough to be considered any kind of oddsmaker, this is mostly guesswork. And please bear in mind that none of this has much to do with my own personal preferences.

Update: with the ceremony over, how did the frontrunners do?

1. Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen

She's due, she's playing a real person, her film is nominated for Best Picture... the reasons go on and on. The only possible spoiler is Penélope Cruz, and her film doesn't have that kind of traction.

2. Best Adapted Screenplay: William Monahan, The Departed

The only Best Picture nominee in this category. It's a rarity: a well-received, money-making, intelligent remake. And it's not like previous screenwriting winners have abstained from swearing.

3. Best Makeup: Pan's Labyrinth

Haven't seen it, but the competition (Click and Apocalypto) is less than formidable.

4. Best Visual FX: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

I don't think Poseidon or Superman Returns stood out in any way. But the slithery suction-cuppiness of Davy Jones and the Kraken still creeps me out.

5. Best Animated Feature: Cars
LOSER! The Oscar goes to... Happy Feet.

It's the Pixar juggernaut. I didn't really like this film, but I don't think that Monster House and Happy Feet have what it takes to upset. Put in Over the Hedge and we'd have a contest.

6. Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

As I said before, white ingenues win this award all the time. Even the voters who don't choose Eddie Murphy will vote for her.

7. Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine

Less of a sure thing because four of the nominees are also in the Best Picture race. But it's won the big precursors and is the film's best opportunity for a win.

8. Best Documentary Feature: An Inconvenient Truth

I suppose they could spread the wealth by letting this film win in the Song category, but liberal voters can't resist Al Gore up on stage with the filmmakers, saying just enough to suggest that a 2008 run isn't out of the question.

9. Best Original Song: "Listen," Dreamgirls
LOSER! The Oscar goes to... Melissa Etheridge.

Its competition: a Melissa Etheridge anthem, yet another Randy Newman song, and
two more Dreamgirls tunes. Since that film was about the music, the most prominent of the three will win.

10. Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

After the nominations, I think I said that Alejandro González Iñárritu was the main competition, and Scorsese would probably still win if Babel won Best Picture. Maybe some voters will think he's due, but The Departed is probably the tightest work he's ever done. It's a worthy directorial feat. Of course, other voters hate him on principle, so he's not much of a sure thing.

11. Best Cinematography: Children of Men
LOSER! The Oscar goes to... Pan's Labyrinth.

I've heard the camera work is amazing here. And 4-time nominee Emmanuel Lubezki is due. But I'm not sure that any film was more dependent on its cinematography than The Illusionist.

12. Best Film Editing: United 93
LOSER! The Oscar goes to... The Departed.

I was one of many who chickened out of watching this film. But its high regard as a filmmaking achievement translated into the two most likely categories (Editing and Director), and this is where it will get honored. I see Babel as a possible spoiler, and a bad choice.

13. Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Why so low? The precursors have him as much of a sure thing as Helen Mirren, but none of those precursors have Oscar's history with Peter O'Toole. I still think the Venus actor is going to win.

14. Best Art Direction: Dreamgirls
LOSER! The Oscar goes to... Pan's Labyrinth.

It's not just the costumes that make Dreamgirls look incredible. But Pan's Labyrinth creates another world, so it could spoil.

15. Best Original Score: The Queen
LOSER! The Oscar goes to... Babel.

I usually don't pay much attention to musical scores when I watch a movie, but I notice that only two of the nominated films are up for Best Picture, and the Babel composer won last year.

16. Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
LOSER! The Oscar goes to... Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine.

Why wouldn't he win? Well, there's Norbit. And his reclusive, media-unfriendly nature. And Alan Arkin. I could see him or Mark Wahlberg sneaking in with their Best Picture hype.

17. Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth
LOSER! The Oscar goes to... The Lives of Others.

With 6 nominations, it's the fave. On the other hand, there are 5 other ways to award it. I understand that it's a two-film race, with Germany's The Lives of Others headed for an upset.

18. Best Costume Design: Marie Antoinette

Two nominees use definite period costume (this and Curse of the Golden Flower) and two are modern: The Devil Wears Prada and The Queen. Any of them could win. But the fifth nominee, Dreamgirls, is the best of both worlds. And the upset victor.

19. Best Sound Editing: Letters from Iwo Jima
20. Best Sound Mixing: Dreamgirls

Even if I knew the difference, how do I listen for greatness? It's not like the local cineplex has ideal sound conditions. And how is the clarity of a singer's voice better than the sound of soldiers walking on black sand? I plead ignorance.

21. Best Picture: Babel
LOSER! The Oscar goes to... The Departed.

This competition is all over the place, with every nominee but The Queen receiving strong support. I consider Babel the frontrunner because it has the most nominations of any film in this category, won the Golden Globe for Best Drama, and for whatever reason is perceived as modern and important. But the Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild chose Little Miss Sunshine, while
EW picked The Departed, and In Contention had Letters from Iwo Jima.


Mainline Mom said...

So far you missed on Art Direction. Or "they" missed. Whatever. There was NO contest on makeup, holy cow.

Neel Mehta said...

Thus the high placement on my list. I was wondering if you were going to liveblog in the comments section.

With the ceremony over, I think I'll just update this page to include the actual winners than try to recap the ceremony, which was lacking in shock value.

K-Lyn said...

You needed shock value? I was quite happy with the show itself. I'll take Ellen vacuuming under Penelope’s haute couture any day...

Neel Mehta said...

I didn't NEED shock value, but a surprise or unscripted moment is always nice.

For a ceremony with two honorary awards, it wasn't that long. But it would have been nice to see them trim the excess pageantry and keep things briefer. Celine Dion? The montage with no real theme?

Ellen was fine, if forgettable. Her bits in the audience were better than anything she did on stage.

I'll take Ellen vacuuming under Penelope’s haute couture any day...

Well said! I couldn't make that sound more lesbianic if I tried.

Quinn said...

I thought it was a nice show. Nice.

Quinn said...

Oh, and Helen Mirren is a stone cold FOX!

slskenyon said...

Well done there on the guesses you made--and especially on the categories that are watched with the most intent by viewers. I am consistently disappointed by movies, and it seems, with a few exceptions, that "mediocre" is the new "fabulous."

Mainline Mom said...

The ONLY thing I really laughed at was the Al Gore bit and the Will Ferrell/Jack Black song. Jack Black makes me laugh almost every time. Except for Nacho Libre...ew. Yeah I would have liveblogged in your comments if I wasn't the only one! But the ceremony was so boring to me, it wasn't worth it.

Ookami Snow said...

Pan's Labyrinth was good movie but not a great movie. I can see if you are the type, that you would get all caught up in the foreign-ness of the movie and make it out to be better than it is.

It was a half fairy tale, half war-time movie. It was good, but not a classic.