Oh, Sure, I'll Play Along
I have only realized in recent years that I am not as good at the whole game of Oscar nomination predicting as I used to think I was. I lose my head for which studio is backing what movies, I expect more dark horses and more sharing of the wealth than ever actually transpires, and I project my feelings onto the AMPAS voters, of whom I have very little sense, apart from what's reflected in their past choices. But hey, everyone else is doing it, and it's not like I haven't been thinking about it. My own choices, foolhardy as they doubtless are, about whom I expect to be running in front of the pack for major nom's, who's waiting in the wings to snatch a slot, and who's at least still in the hunt, if only distantly:
BEST PICTURE: Brokeback Mountain; The Constant Gardener; Crash; Good Night, and Good Luck.; Match Point
In the Wings: King Kong; Munich
In the Hunt: Cinderella Man; Syriana; Walk the Line; The New World
Brokeback and GNGL have clear shots. Gardener and Crash strike me as having too many hotly devoted fans to miss out, and I expect Match Point to be a popular cause during balloting season, while I'm banking on Munich to flop about like Amistad, looking for someone to love it, and mostly failing at same.
BEST DIRECTOR: Woody Allen/Match; David Cronenberg/A History of Violence; Peter Jackson/King Kong; Ang Lee/Brokeback; Fernando Meirelles/C.Gardener
In the Wings: George Clooney/GNGL; Steven Spielberg/Munich
In the Hunt: Terrence Malick/The New World; James Mangold/Walk the Line; Ron Howard/C.Man; Paul Haggis/Crash
I know people are calling Clooney a lock, and maybe even a winner, but rather than pull a Redford or a Costner, I think he's more likely to go the route of Rob Reiner in '92 and Ron Howard in '95: the Academy will like his movie, but the directors will hold back. One of the big guns who sailed through the precursors always falls at the end. Meanwhile, Cronenberg looks perfectly situated for the standard auteur giveaway, and Jackson, if he hasn't exhausted the directors with his brand of big spectacle, should get a lot of support from the helmers who wish they were he.
BEST ACTRESS: Joan Allen/The Upside of Anger; Judi Dench/Mrs. Henderson Presents; Felicity Huffman/TransAmerica; Laura Linney/The Squid and the Whale; Reese Witherspoon/Walk the Line
In the Wings: Naomi Watts/King Kong; Keira Knightley/Pride & Prejudice
In the Hunt: Charlize Theron/North Country; Zhang Ziyi/Memoirs of a Geisha; Maria Bello/AHOV; Vera Farmiga/Down to the Bone
Yes, my Allen fandom is prejudicing me, but SAG could put her right back in the hunt, and if so, I still think she could win, even though Witherspoon is a clear front-runner. Speaking of, how clear is it by now that if Mrs. Harris had gotten any kind of theatrical run, this trophy would have hot-footed its way straight to the Oscar-cursed Annette Bening? I bet that is one mad chick. Meanwhile, to fill out the category, I'm assuming some likeable face will get bumped up from supporting, and Linney is much more endeared to AMPAS than Weisz or Bello.
BEST ACTOR: Ralph Fiennes/C.Gardener; Philip Seymour Hoffman/Capote; Terrence Dashon Howard/Hustle & Flow; Heath Ledger/Brokeback; David Strathairn/GNGL
In the Wings: Jeff Daniels/Squid; Joaquin Phoenix/Walk the Line
In the Hunt: Russell Crowe/C.Man
Hoffman, Ledger, and Strathairn are comfortable, with the former two duking it out for the win. As you can see, I'm expecting a major Gardener surge, and I expect Howard to be first on lots of ballots while Daniels is running behind some of the others. (He and Phoenix both have a much tougher climb ahead than their leading ladies.)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Scarlett Johansson/Match; Shirley MacLaine/In Her Shoes; Emily Mortimer/Match Point; Rachel Weisz/C.Gardener; Michelle Williams/Brokeback
In the Wings: Gong Li/Geisha; Maria Bello/AHOV
In the Hunt: Laura Linney/Squid; Amy Adams/Junebug; Catherine Keener/Capote; Frances McDormand/N.Country
In every acting race, I'm expecting a rebound from someone who missed at the Globes, and since this is Woody Allen's lightning-rod category, and I'm expecting Match Point to be cresting at just the right time, I'm taking a wild bet on Mortimer to join her more famous costar. Weisz and Williams are in popular films, and MacLaine pockets the older crowd. Category questions abound, which could help Gong sneak in.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: George Clooney/Syriana; Clifton Collins Jr./Capote; Matt Dillon/Crash; Paul Giamatti/C.Man; Bob Hoskins/Mrs. Henderson Presents
In the Wings: Jake Gyllenhaal/Brokeback; Oliver Platt/Casanova
In the Hunt: Kevin Costner/Upside; Geoffrey Rush/Munich; Donald Sutherland/P&P; Frank Langella/GNGL; Will Ferrell/The Producers; William Hurt/AHOV
Still the widest spectrum of possibilities, all of their fortunes dependent on the popularity and nomination tallies of their films. I'm looking for Collins to pop up at SAG and make the leap from there.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Cinderella Man; Crash; Good Night, and Good Luck.; Match Point; The Squid and the Whale
In the Wings: Mrs. Henderson Presents; Munich
Three sure things, plus Squid feeling right up the alley of this category, and the two self-serious dramas desperate to be loved duking it out for spot #5but only because the Munich team has been waffling for months on the question about how closely it's based on the Vengeance book. If it all starts feeling too heavy, Mrs. Henderson could lighten the mood.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Brokeback Mountain; Capote; The Constant Gardener; Munich; Syriana
In the Wings: A History of Violence; Walk the Line
In the Hunt: King Kong; Pride & Prejudice
It's almost creepy how tidily this category stacks up at the moment, which surely means that nomination day will roll around and introduce some totally alien interloper. But for the time being, these sure look like the five.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Brokeback Mountain; Capote; The Constant Gardener; Good Night, and Good Luck.; The New World
In the Wings: The White Countess; Memoirs of a Geisha
In the Hunt: Munich; Jarhead; 2046
The White Countess, despite its low buzz, could finally get Christopher Doyle into the Oscar mix, but with much bigger guns trying to rack up those nomination tallies, it'll have an upward climb. Black & white, no matter how resplendent, tends to have a tough time here, so GNGL is less of a sure thing than it should be. Meanwhile, The New World has its best and perhaps only chance of an award hereand if you ask me, Emmanuel Lubezki has waited quite long enough.
Tallies of Above: Brokeback, C.Gardener: 6; Match Point: 5; Capote, GNGL: 4; Crash: 3; Cinderella Man, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Squid, Syriana: 2