The 79th Academy Awards take place Sun., Feb. 25 in Hollywood, and the world prepares for a spectacle of celebrities in silly outfits, overwrought acceptance speeches and excessive door prizes. It is, in no uncertain terms, the motion picture industry's annual celebration of themselves. As usual, there's a lot of debate on who deserves it most, especially in a year with no obvious front-runners. The Oscar voting process is notoriously grandiose, complicated and political. As such, the Gauntlet's two staff film nerds have decided to use our vast knowledge of pop culture to predict who will win, rather than who deserves to.
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Leonardo DiCaprio - Kyle's Pick (Blood Diamond; third nomination)
Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson; first)
Peter O'Toole (Venus; eighth, holds honourary award)
Will Smith (Pursuit of Happyness; second)
Forest Whitaker - Ryan's Pick (Last King of Scotland; first)
Last five winners: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Jamie Foxx (Ray), Sean Penn (Mystic River), Adrien Brody (The Pianist), Denzel Washington (Training Day)
Ryan says: Front-runner Forest Whitaker and Canadian Ryan Gosling represent the only first-time nominees in this year's best actor race. Unfortunately, only Whitaker and Leonardo DiCaprio have a shot at taking home gold. The popular consensus is that DiCaprio was better in The Departed, O'Toole and Smith have both been nominated in the past for better performances-- O'Toole won an honourary Oscar in 2002--and nobody really saw Half Nelson. Despite a strong sentiment towards DiCaprio, Whitaker won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Awards for this category. It's in the bag for Whitaker.
Kyle says: While Whitaker's Globes--which are often accurate precursors to the Oscars--suggest his victory, it can't be ignored that the Academy has shown nothing but adoration for DiCaprio since he's become Scorsese's go-to-guy. So, while Blood Diamond might be the inferior film, and DiCaprio's is the inferior performance, he simply has too much clout within the organization to be snubbed completely.
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Penelope Cruz - Kyle's Pick (Volver; first)
Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal; sixth, one win)
Helen Mirren - Ryan's Pick (The Queen; third)
Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada; 14th nomination, two-time winner)
Kate Winslet (Little Children; fifth)
Last five winners: Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line), Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), Charlize Theron (Monster), Nicole Kidman (The Hours), Halle Berry (Monster's Ball)
Ryan says: Foreign language roles rarely do well in acting categories, which rules out Penelope Cruz. Nobody really saw Little Children, Streep and Dench have already won Oscars and Helen Mirren won the Golden Globe and the SAG Award in this category. The second no-contest.
Kyle Says: I'm just going to say it: Pedro Al ModÃ³var. Once again, the Academy loves the guy, and since Pan's Labyrinth got Mexico's nomination for best foreign language film this year, it's not an unreasonable prediction that they'd give Cruz the statue just to glad-hand the legendary director.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Alan Arkin - Kyle and Ryan's Pick (Little Miss Sunshine; third)
Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children; first)
Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond; second)
Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls; first)
Mark Wahlberg (The Departed; first)
Last five winners: George Clooney (Syriana), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), Tim Robbins (Mystic River), Chris Cooper (Adaptation), Jim Broadbent (Iris)
Ryan says: Discounting newcomer James Earle Haley's role in Little Children, everybody has a shot at winning. The key is to remember that everyone in the Academy votes for the awards. Despite Eddie Murphy winning both the Golden Globe and the SAG Award, his past indiscretions likely mean he won't win. Forced to choose between the oft-overlooked veterans Alan Arkin, Djimon Hounsou and Mark Wahlberg, the voters will choose to honour Arkin's first nomination in 38 years.
Kyle says: The Departed is definitely getting a lot of deserved love this year, which makes Wahlberg's hilarious performance as a hot-tempered New York investigator a pretty viable choice in this category. Unfortunately for the funky bunch, Little Miss Sunshine's only other winnable nomination is original screenplay, and the committee will hand the Sundance sweeper a higher profile award to maintain relevance within the indie crowd. With DiCaprio absorbing the one award they would let Blood Diamond have, Hounsou gets knocked out in favour of charismatic old- timer Arkin.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Adriana Barraza (Babel; first)
Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal; third, one win)
Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine; first)
Rinko Kikuchi (Babel; first)
Jennifer Hudson - Kyle and Ryan's pick (Dreamgirls; first)
Last five winners: Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener), Blanchett (The Aviator), Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago), Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind)
Ryan says: There are tons of first-time nominees here, with only Cate Blanchett having been nominated before. Jennifer Hudson won both the Golden Globe and the SAG Award against the same nominees, so there's almost zero chance anybody else wins.
Kyle says: Simply put, Dreamgirls has way too much critical buzz to go completely unnoticed, and with all it's other eligible categories sucked up by more apt candidates, it will get supporting actress thrown at it by way of appeasement. Also, everything Ryan said.
Clint Eastwood (Letters from Iwo Jima; ninth, four-time winner, along with Irving Thalberg Award in 1995)
Stephen Frears (The Queen; second)
Paul Greengrass (United 93; first)
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Babel; first)
Martin Scorsese - Kyle and Ryan's pick (The Departed; eighth)
Last five winners: Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain), Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), Peter Jackson (Return of the King), Roman Polanski (The Pianist), Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind)
Ryan says: It's not so much why Martin Scorsese will win this year, but rather why the other four nominees won't. Eastwood won't win because he won a couple years ago and repeat winners are rare. Greengrass, Gonzalez Innaritu and Frears are all experienced, but haven't paid their Oscar dues yet. Plus, Scorsese won both the Golden Globe and Directors Guild Award.
Kyle says: While Ryan's prediction that Scorsese will win by way of politik is fair, he's also the only real choice in terms of artistry. While past years have come down to Academy deference winning out over creative recognition, Scorsese, unlike the other directors, has both in abundance. In every respect, he's the only choice.
The Departed - Kyle and Ryan's pick
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Last five winners: Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Return of the King, Chicago, A Beautiful Mind
Ryan says: Letters is a no-go because Million Dollar Baby (and Clint Eastwood) won a couple years back and repeats are rare. Little Miss Sunshine is too indie to win. The Queen has strong acting, but the story has too many flaws. It's between Babel and The Departed. The theme for this year is "We're really sorry, Martin Scorsese," so the The Departed takes it
Kyle says: While Letters, Sunshine, The Queen and Babel all have lent credibility from their original screenplays, Ryan's right on almost all counts for their elimination. Babel's the only real competition for The Departed, as it hasn't snagged an award on this prediction list thus far, but Innaritu is simply too new to the game for a "best picture." With both directors on the producers' list for their films, Scorsese will take it by virtue of experience and the Academy's shame for robbing him in the past.