Oscar Picks

When nominations were announced last month, I knew I was in good shape. There were only seven films up for the acting, directing and best picture awards that I hadn’t seen. One of them was opening that weekend, three were already out on DVD and the other three were being released on disc before the ceremony. I finally saw Changeling this morning and now I do not have to refrain from commenting on any category, as opposed to last year when I could only comment on three.

First of all, let me say that this was tough. It was a very good year for movies and even the women’s acting categories, where in a usual year good roles for woman are scarce, featured ten strong performances. No matter who wins the acting and directing categories, I’ll be happy.

Secondly, these are not predictions. As I said last year there are plenty of people out there doing a far better job of predicting the winners than I ever could. Back when I was predicting, I would just pass along their picks, changing one or two, which I usually got wrong. It’s pointless and I won’t do it anymore. These are my favorites in each category.

On to my picks:

Animated Feature. WALL-E director Andrew Stanton truly expanded the art form with this one. The first third of the film is like a silent movie, telling the story with images and motion. The ecological theme of the rest of it is sophisticated and told with a deft touch.

Directing. I’m going with Gus Van Sant for Milk. Biopics are tough to do. You have to boil down a person’s life to those moments that define it and Milk does that brilliantly, making not only a statement about the life of an important figure in the history of this country, but also an entertaining film. The other directors here overcame similar challenges but I’m picking Van Sant.

Supporting Actress. Marisa Tomei turned in a poignant performance as Mickey Roarke’s foil in The Wrestler. She develops a real character, charting a course between the two cliches of the stripper with a heart of gold and the world weary stripper, who doesn’t care about anyone but herself. It stands out among the impressive performances in this category.

Supporting Actor. What kind of a geek would I be if I didn’t pick Heath Ledger for this? His joker is brilliantly twisted, unpredictable and Hannibal Lector scary. This is probably the weakest acting category and the only other performance that comes close is Philip Seymour Hoffman’s in Doubt. It’s the Joker, however.

Lead Actress. This is a very tough choice. Any of these ladies could win and I would be happy. My choice is Kate Winslet. She makes us sympathize with a very disagreeable character. This is the strongest acting category.

Lead Actor. Mickey Roarke winning this would be a wonderful story and I would celebrate it as much as anyone. But my choice for Lead Actor is Sean Penn. The way he physically, as well as emotionally submerged himself into the film was so impressive. I’ve never seen him do anything even remotely like this.

Best Picture. If I have my way it will be a big night for Milk. My reasons were probably best articulated in the director section. This is an inspiring film about a courageous man. That being said, Slumdog Millionaire has won every major pre-Oscar award. It is so favored that if it doesn’t win California will probably slide into the ocean.

So there you have them!  As always, pop some corn, don’t take it too seriously and have fun tomorrow night.

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