If you want to get into dichotimies, I suspect that there are computer mechanics and car mechanics. There are people who understand and appreciate comics and there are people who don’t. And when it comes to yearly televised fluff (that is, if we have to choose one), there are Oscar people and there are Super Bowl people. (And if you haven’t guessed already, I’m one of the former.)
Some folks in the know say that Chris Rock’s career is on the line. And they may be right. David Letterman was about as close as mainstream acceptance got to quirky and not even he could cut the mustard. And isn’t this the kind of sacrifice that fluff is all about? If you’re a running back who blows a reception in the Super Bowl, sure, the fans are going to kick your ass for a month or so and there’s a good chance you’re going to get traded. But if it’s the Oscars, not only can you not come back (unless, like Billy Crystal, your win-loss record is good), but you could end up thrown into coach. (Case in point: It may have been a fait accompli, but was it Oscar that fueled Whoopi’s sad slide into the mediocre world of Hollywood Squares?)
But if you really want to know what keeps me coming, it’s the gambling pools. I don’t bet on football anymore, but with Oscar bets, at least you can create some modest illusion that you’re throwing around money for something quasi-cultural.
With this in mind, I unveil my Oscar predictions. This is not a measure of who should win, but rather who will win. I’ve been wrong before, but let it not be said that I didn’t have flaunt around a crystal ball every now and then.
BEST PICTURE: The Aviator
Last year was Eastwood’s year. And Million Dollar Baby has had this weird tendency to alienate every female film geek I’ve talked with. Sideways is too character-based to win. Which leaves Finding Neverland, Ray and The Aviator vying for pure spectacle. And since The Aviator has planes, pathos and explosions (always a firm bet with Academy voters) and this is the second of the Harvey-Marty pairup pictures, my guess is that Marty will win after being denied so many years.
BEST DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
I’m fairly confident this one’s in the bag. But if Taylor Hackford wins, then the universe is indeed cruel and without integrity.
BEST ACTOR: Jamie Foxx
He may have extended range, but they won’t give it to Leo. Million Dollar Baby was more about Swank than Eastwood. And Depp needs one more nomination before they give him a Sean Penn. Which leaves Jamie Foxx and Don Cheadle. Foxx will win for Ray because the Academy likes a depressing role, though up to a point.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Thomas Haden Church
This one’s tough to call. But I don’t think the Academy has it in them to give Foxx two Oscars the same year. Nor do I believe that Alan Alda pulls his weight in with the geriatric vote as much as he used to. (And, besides, his performance was too spastic.) Freeman’s role in Million Dollar Baby was a far cry from Street Smart and, as much as I like Freeman, let’s face the facts that it was pretty much the same performance he’s been giving us since The Shawhsank Redemption. Clive Owen is only a recent find. But Church has the Paul Giamatti guilt factor going for him, which will have the irony of making Giamatti feel worse for being snubbed if Church wins. Plus, there’s always at least one supporting winner that turns out weird.
BEST ACTRESS: Hilary Swank
Moreno and Staunton have no chance. Nobody remembers Being Julia. Eternal Sunshine is too abstract for the major Oscar nominations. But Hilary Swank has the Tom Hanks thing going. Everybody likes her. Plus, there’s the whole getting-in-shape-for-the-role thing. Plus, she’s a solid actor being molded by Eastwood.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett
Never mind that Madsen, Linney and Okonedo all deserve the award. Blanchett will win by way of giving the crowd-pleasing performance. And Portman will learn the hard way that taking off her clothes may win points with Internet downloaders, but doesn’t factor in at all with the Academy.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Because only in the writing categories does originality shine.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Sideways
Because Daddy always said, “Runner up, son, is Best Screenplay.”