2007 Oscars Preview, Oscars predictions, Oscars picks

Bullz-Eye's Holiday Movie Preview

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Let's just go out and say it: this year's Academy Awards show might be the most uneventful show you will ever see. This has nothing to do with Ellen Degeneres or the Q factor of the nominees, but rather the fact that the general public will know the winners of nearly every award weeks, if not months, before they're announced. The Hollywood Foreign Press gave their Golden Globes to the very people we expected them to ("Babel" excepted). When the Screen Actors' Guild had to pare down the Golden Globes categories from two to one, they chose the very people that everyone expected them to. In fact, some of the best performances these actors and actresses have given in the last year have been their acceptance speeches, since they had to act surprised and honored to win, when they all knew well beforehand that it was a done deal.

So, do we know what the hell we're talking about? Or is Sacha Baron Cohen going to defy the odds and wave a giant black bar-omitted penis in our face and say "Niiiiiice!" as he walks up to accept his award for Best "Adapted" Screenplay? Bullz-Eye's two main critics, David Medsker and Jason Zingale, lay their cards on the table, in hopes that they come nowhere near Cohen's black bar.

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Jackie Earl Haley, "Little Children"
Djimon Hounsou, "Blood Diamond"
Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"
Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed"

This is a two-horse race. It's thrilling to see the former Kelly Leak get a nomination for his work in "Little Children," but sex offenders do not win awards. The nomination of Hounsou, frankly, is the most surprising, since he did little but yell at Leonardo DiCaprio and dodge gunfire. To some, Wahlberg's nomination appeared to be one of those Jack Palance moments, where the presenter simply said the name of one of Jack Nicholson's castmates from "The Departed" instead of Nicholson's. That leaves Arkin and Murphy, and while Murphy has won every award from Langley Park to Memphis, Arkin is in a prime position to pull an upset of Michael Caine/James Coburn proportions. Having said that, we're loath to bet against the house.

And the Oscar goes to... Eddie Murphy
And the Oscar belongs to... Eddie Murphy
Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, "Babel"
Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"
Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"

Much like the Best Actor category, the race for Best Supporting Actress was over long before it even began. Cate Blanchett has received an obligatory nomination for her work in "Notes on a Scandal," but the film has been so low-profile up until now that it seems foolish to think she has a shot. Likewise, while we absolutely love that tiny toy Abigail Breslin has been honored with her performance in the Little Indie That Could, we just don't see the Academy giving an award to a ten-year-old girl. That leaves us with three nominees: Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi and "American Idol" finalist Jennifer Hudson. Unfortunately, seeing as both Barraza and Kikuchi are representing the same film, it's likely that they'll split votes among "Babel" supporters (which is a crying shame, since Kikuchi's breakthrough performance is certainly Oscar-worthy), which makes Hudson's chances of taking home the top prize more or less guaranteed.

And the Oscar goes to... Jennifer Hudson
And the Oscar belongs to... Rinko Kikuchi (Jason),
Jennifer Hudson (David)
Best Screenplay (Original)
"Babel," Guillermo Arriaga
"Letters from Iwo Jima," Iris Yamashita
"Little Miss Sunshine," Michael Arndt
"Pan's Labyrinth," Guillermo del Toro
"The Queen," Peter Morgan

Best Original Screenplay is the one category where the Academy loosens its tie and acknowledges the "edgy" new generation of talent that will no doubt write a part that will save their sorry asses a few years from now (case in point: John Travolta in "Pulp Fiction"). Here are some of the winners from the last 15 years: "The Crying Game," "Pulp Fiction," "The Usual Suspects," "Fargo," "Good Will Hunting" (case in point #2: Robin Williams), "American Beauty," "Almost Famous," and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Do you see a pattern? It's one of those ‘Ah, throw the kid a bone' categories that the voters don't have to feel any shame over when some complete unknown wins. There is only one movie in this list that belongs with the others, and I hope the writer is holding copies of the congratulatory speeches of his castmates, because he will be the only one who makes it to the podium.

And the Oscar goes to... "The Queen" (Jason),
"Little Miss Sunshine" (David)
And the Oscar belongs to... Michael Arndt,
"Little Miss Sunshine"
Best Screenplay (Adapted)
"Borat," Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer
"Children of Men," Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby
"The Departed," William Monahan
"Little Children," Todd Field and Tom Perrotta
"Notes on a Scandal," Patrick Marber

These writing awards are always so damn unpredictable, and this year's litter for Best Adapted Screenplay isn't any different. Four nominees – all wonderful adaptations of their literary counterparts – and one oddball selection make up this group of potential Oscar winners, without a single front-runner to be found. Nominating "Borat" for any kind of writing award seems strange enough, let alone as an adaptation. Sure, the film was more scripted than many are led to believe, but wouldn't it be better off in the Original Screenplay category, or is the Academy considering this an adaptation of a pre-existing character? Whatever their reasoning, we find it hard to imagine that Sacha Baron Cohen and Co. will be walking away with another golden statue, especially for such a controversial decision. Instead, look for either Alfonso Cuarón ("Children of Men"), William Monahan ("The Departed"), or Patrick Marber ("Notes on a Scandal") to walk away a winner when the night is over, and we have our money on the latter.

And the Oscar goes to... "Notes on a Scandal" (Jason), "The Departed" (David)
And the Oscar belongs to... "Children of Men"
Best Foreign Language Film
"After the Wedding" (Denmark)
"Days of Glory" (Algeria)
"The Lives of Others" (Germany)
"Pan's Labyrinth" (Mexico)
"Water" (Canada)

Let's be perfectly honest: of the five films nominated in this category, we had only actually heard of three of them prior to the announcement. We've heard good things about Germany's "The Lives of Others" and Denmark's "After the Wedding," but the utter lack of exposure for both of these films seems to indicate that a nominee is about all they should be expecting come awards night. And with the peculiar absence of Pedro Almodovar's "Volver" from the list, it almost seems a given that Guillermo del Toro's fantasy-horror flick, "Pan's Labyrinth," will walk away the victor. Mexico's official entry is not only one of the best reviewed films of the year, but it's also doing very well at the box office (about $22 million at press time) and has garnered an astonishing six nominates (tied with "The Queen," of all films, with the third most). Between del Toro, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Babel") and Alfonso Cuarón ("Children of Men"), it looks like we might be witnessing the Golden Age of Mexican filmmaking.

And the Oscar goes to... "Pan's Labyrinth"
And the Oscar belongs to... "Pan's Labyrinth"
Best Animated Film

By our count, there were about 326 animated movies released last year, but only three of them deserved recognition by the Academy? In defense to the voters, they have a point. Most of the movies were, well, junk. ("The Wild," "Barnyard," "Open Season," "Everyone's Hero," "The Ant Bully," etc.) However, there are two glaring omissions that must be addressed: "Over the Hedge" (this writer's favorite DreamWorks Animation movie to date) and "Flushed Away," which bombed so poorly that DreamWorks dissolved their relationship with Brit claymation giants Aardman Animation. Box office expectations aside – even "Over the Hedge" was considered a disappointment, despite its $155 million domestic haul and $331 million take worldwide – both of these movies were far more entertaining than "Cars," the weakest movie the otherwise bulletproof Pixar has made to date. Still, that lameness has not stopped "Cars" from winning every award on the planet, and neither will we, even though there is a much more worthy candidate sitting directly in front of them.

And the Oscar goes to... "Cars"
And the Oscar belongs to... "Monster House"
Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"
Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson"
Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"
Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

Is there even any point in nominating four other actors in this category? As far as we know, Forest Whitaker already has the Oscar sitting on his mantelpiece back home. Let's just hope that he's more prepared this time when delivering his acceptance speech – that stammering at the Golden Globes was beyond ridiculous. Seriously, though, have you ever seen a more ill-fated group of actors than the ones that appear in this category? Peter O'Toole seems to have the best shot at stealing the award as a dark horse candidate, but only because he's friends with many of the voters. Leonardo DiCaprio deserves a nomination, sure, but it's for the wrong freaking movie. He was good in "Blood Diamond," but he was amazing in "The Departed." How did the Academy manage to muck that up? And then there's Ryan Gosling and Will Smith. One of these men will win an Oscar within the next decade, while the other doesn't even deserve to be on this list. Can you guess which one is which? We'll give you a hint: the unworthy nominee should be "Happy" he was even nominated for a second time.

And the Oscar goes to... Forest Whitaker
And the Oscar belongs to... Forest Whitaker
Best Actress
Penelope Cruz, "Volver"
Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"
Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Kate Winslet, "Little Children"

You'll forgive us if we don't waste too much space on this category, since it's Helen Mirren's Oscar to lose. Unlike the past few Best Actress ballots, however, this is not a lopsided contest. All of the nominees turned in fabulous performances, which is why we find it so odd that the award has gone to Mirren in every single awards show up to this point. This is not to say Mirren hasn't earned it; we just thought that Meryl Streep would have scared up at least a couple of awards by now. Sorry, Ms. Priestly: we suppose you're just not the fashionable pick this year.

And the Oscar goes to... Helen Mirren
And the Oscar belongs to... Meryl Streep (Jason),
Helen Mirren (David)
Best Director
Clint Eastwood, "Letters from Iwo Jima"
Stephen Frears, "The Queen"
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"
Paul Greengrass, "United 93"
Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"

This is certainly one of the most difficult races to call, with the oft-snubbed Martin Scorsese leading the pack of hopefuls with his remake of the popular Hong Kong thriller, "Infernal Affairs." Perhaps best known in the Oscar world as losing out to Kevin Costner's "Dances with Wolves" at the 1990 Academy Awards, Scorsese is back again with his best film since "Goodfellas." And if that doesn't haunt Academy voters, we don't know what will. Then again, there's still plenty of room for disappointment. Clint Eastwood has long been a favorite of the Academy (nominated four times, and won twice) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Babel" will probably win Best Picture. Then again, if last year's outcome is any indication, picking up the Best Picture trophy will probably only hurt his chances of winning for Director. The dark horse in this giant mess of talent is Paul Greengrass – who wasn't even expected to be nominated for this 9/11 drama, "United 93" – and could very well earn enough votes for his unflinching portrait of American heroism to make the difference.

And the Oscar goes to... Martin Scorsese
And the Oscar belongs to... Martin Scorsese
Best Picture
"Babel"
"The Departed"
"Letters from Iwo Jima"
"Little Miss Sunshine"
"The Queen"

Easily the best list of Best Picture candidates the Academy has compiled in years, though we say that as if the blame for the dismal crops of years past falls in the laps of the voters and not that of the studios that make the movies in the first place. If there is a big surprise here, it is the inclusion of "The Queen" which, while a thoroughly enjoyable film, has no business whatsoever stealing the slot that rightfully belongs to "Children of Men" (the omission of "Dreamgirls" was also surprising, though not as surprising as "Children"). That makes this a three-horse race between "The Departed," "Little Miss Sunshine," and "Babel," the surprise winner of the Golden Globe. "Babel" certainly seems poised to pull a "Crash"-style upset, but that would mean that two movies about seemingly unrelated people brought together by seemingly unrelated events would win the Oscar back to back. A dangerous precedent to set, to be sure. Fox Searchlight has gone all Miramax in its promotion of "Little Miss Sunshine," but isn't it a tad ironic to see the makers of the movie that deflates the importance of winning suddenly become so obsessed with winning? Clint Eastwood's movie, for a change, is not going to get in the way of Martin Scorsese's movie. Does that mean that Marty's flick finally takes the prize?

Sadly, no. The message movie wins, again.

And the Oscar goes to... "Babel"
And the Oscar belongs to... "The Departed"

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