The ballots have been cast and the lights have been dimmed, so it must be time for the Gauntlet's annual Academy Awards preview. This year, resident movie nerds Hoang-Mai Hong and Ryan Pike tackle Hollywood's tribute to itself. Who will win? Who will lose? More importantly, who will predict more winners-- Hoang-Mai or Ryan? [Editor's note: probably Hoang-Mai]
Richard Jenkins (The Visitor; first nomination)
Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon; first)
Sean Penn (Milk; fifth, one win)- Ryan's Pick
Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; second)
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler; first)- Hoang-Mai's Pick
Last five winners: Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Jamie Foxx (Ray), Penn (Mystic River)
Ryan's Pick: It's a two horse race between Penn and Mickey Rourke, and Rouke probably offended the Academy's delicate sensibilities by agreeing to appear at WrestleMania. Plus, Penn won the Screen Actors Guild award, indicating more actors think he was the best.
Hoang-Mai's Pick: I want to say don't count out Frank Langella, because he just might be this year's Marion Cotillard, but deep down I know it really is between Penn and Rourke. Rourke is my pick, mainly because he was so winsome as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, and who thought you could ever say that about Mickey Rourke? It's also still hard to believe-- but wonderful-- that he's actually a front runner.
Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married; first)
Angelina Jolie (Changeling; second, one win)
Melissa Leo (Frozen River; first)
Meryl Streep (Doubt; 15th nomination, two wins)
Kate Winslet (The Reader; sixth)- Ryan and Hoang-Mai's Pick
Last five winners: Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), Helen Mirren (The Queen), Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line), Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), Charlize Theron (Monster)
Ryan's Pick: This is a strange category. Meryl Streep won the SAG award against the same competitors, except that Winslet was nominated for Revolutionary Road. Winslet won the Golden Globe and the SAG awards for her role in The Reader-- except in the supporting category. Winslet's due for a win, so I guess she gets this one.
Hoang-Mai's Pick: I would just like to air a major grievance here, namely that Kate Winslet got nominated for the wrong movie. Never mind that Revolutionary Road was in many ways The Reader's superior. Winslet's role in the former was far more difficult, subtle and beautifully executed. It was for that performance that she should win the Oscar. She will win this year though, and there is some small justice in that, especially after she herself declared in an episode of Extras a couple of years back, "I've noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust, guaranteed an Oscar. I've been nominated four times. Never won." If that rings true, Winslet is indeed due for a win this sixth time around in her first role as a Nazi.
Josh Brolin (Milk; first)
Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder; second)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt; third, one win)
Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight; second)- Ryan and Hoang-Mai's Pick
Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road; first)
Last five winners: Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine), George Clooney (Syriana), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), Tim Robbins (Mystic River)
Ryan's Pick: Heath Ledger, in the one and only slam-dunk of the entire show.
Hoang-Mai's Pick: A Heath Ledger win is a sure thing. I think Michael Shannon's performance in Revolutionary Road is noteworthy though, because anyone who can nearly outperform Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet with only three scenes is one Hell of an actor.
Amy Adams (Doubt; second)- Ryan's Pick
Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona; second)- Hoang-Mai's Pick
Viola Davis (Doubt; first)
Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; first)
Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler; third, one win)
Last five winners: Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener), Cate Blanchett (The Aviator), Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain)
Ryan's Pick: Kate Winslet dominated the precursor awards in this category, but she's nominated as a lead so this is wide-open. I'm going with Amy Adams.
Hoang-Mai's Pick: If the Academy is a bit brave, Penelope Cruz will win for her comedic role. If it isn't, it's probably going to Taraji P. Henson. I don't mean to diss her performance, because it is commendable, but the Oscars can sometimes be too obvious and political, and since Benjamin Button was nominated for 13 awards, it has to win at least one non-technical award. Since all the other categories have obvious front-runners that aren't from Benjamin Button, the win for that movie will probably come in this category, if any. Then again, all the roles in Doubt were nominated in acting categories, so it could very well be Viola Davis for the similar reasons. I'm saying it's Penelope Cruz, though.
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire; first)- Ryan and Hoang-Mai's Pick
Stephen Daldry (The Reader; third)
David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; first)
Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon; fourth, two wins)
Gus Van Sant (Milk; second)
Last five winners: Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men), Martin Scorsese (The Departed), Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain), Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King)
Ryan's Pick: Assuming that Slumdog Millionaire wins Best Picture, I'm going with Danny Boyle. He won the Globe and the Directors' Guild awards, so momentum is on his side.
Hoang-Mai's Pick: Roger that. Danny Boyle deserves the win for Slumdog, and has pretty much won all the earlier awards.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire- Ryan and Hoang-Mai's Pick
Last five winners: No Country for Old Men, The Departed, Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Ryan's Pick: Slumdog Millionaire was great and has won a whole ton of awards. A rare shining light in a good, but depressing, year of film, I can't see it not winning.
Hoang-Mai's Pick: Slumdog Millionaire should and will win best picture. The other movies (with the exception of the slightly out of place The Reader) were pretty fantastic, but Slumdog has the most enormous heart to go along with its superb quality. Looking at previous best picture winners, it's about time a non-horribly depressing film won.