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  • Oscars 2009: Who Will Win vs. Who Should Win

    Thu, 19 Feb 2009 14:20:11

    Oscars 2009: Who Will Win vs. Who Should Win - Who will take home the little gold man come Sunday? Read on for our predictions and editorial picks.

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    Slumdog or Button? Penn or Rourke? Find out who will take home Oscar gold this Sunday, February 22, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out statuettes to 2008's darlings of the silver screen. Read on to find out who ARTISTdirect deems worthy of the prize at stake, plus our calculated predictions as to who will actually snag the coveted honor in main categories.

    Slumdog Millionaire
    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    The Reader

    WILL WIN: Slumdog Millionaire
    SHOULD WIN: Frost/Nixon

    Already dubbed "Slam-Dunk Millionaire" because it seems like such a sure-thing for the Best Picture award—especially after taking the top prize from the Producers Guild—Slumdog Millionaire is colorful, entertaining, and inventive enough to be the obvious audience favorite. But where the melodramatic Slumdog Millionaire is an almost guilty-pleasure visual treat, Frost/Nixon is the more satisfying complete meal, with a fascinating screenplay, masterful direction, and not one but two truly great performances (by Michael Sheen and Frank Langella).

    Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
    Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
    David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    Gus Van Sant, Milk
    Stephen Daldry, The Reader

    WILL WIN: Danny Boyle
    SHOULD WIN: Ron Howard

    Danny Boyle's stylish, entertaining, and creative directing on Slumdog Millionaire makes the movie a delight to watch from start to finish, in a wildly colorful movie that lent itself to dazzling bravura. But Ron Howard captured two truly great performances in Frost/Nixon, in addition to making some anything-but-eye-candy subject matter visually interesting and emotionally compelling. Howard had the more difficult task as a director, and he succeeded brilliantly.

    Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
    Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
    Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
    Sean Penn, Milk

    WILL WIN: Sean Penn
    SHOULD WIN: Mickey Rourke

    Odds-on favorite Sean Penn already won the Screen Actors Guild award for his portrayal of slain gay politician Harvey Milk, the kind of role that famously liberal Hollywood is predisposed to champion. But Mickey Rourke's heartbreakingly believable creation of a wholly original character is a performance that not only should get him the Oscar, it should have made The Wrestler a Best Picture contender. Oscar voters may take into account the fact that Penn already has won a Best Actor Oscar (for 2003's Mystic River), while the Oscar-less Rourke has a career-comeback story that deserves a Cinderella happy ending.

    Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
    Angelina Jolie, Changeling
    Meryl Streep, Doubt
    Kate Winslet, The Reader
    Melissa Leo, Frozen River

    WILL WIN: Kate Winslet
    SHOULD WIN: Kate Winslet

    Bafflingly, Meryl Streep won the Screen Actors Guild prize in this category, for a persnickety-nun performance in Doubt that was so strident and artificial it bordered on parody. That doesn't guarantee her a win on Oscar night, though, because Oscars are voted on by the entire membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, not by actors alone. While The Reader had a plot that was like high melodrama masquerading as great literature, Kate Winslet nevertheless managed to play a tragic former-Nazi war criminal with genuine credibility. Also, Oscar voters may find it hard to ignore the fact that Streep already has won two Best Actress Oscars (for 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer and 1982's Sophie's Choice). Although Winslet has been nominated four times in this category and once for Supporting Actress, she never has won an Oscar in either category.

    Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
    Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
    Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
    Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
    Josh Brolin, Milk

    WILL WIN: Heath Ledger
    SHOULD WIN: Michael Shannon

    The merits of Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight are beside the point, because his death ensured that this Oscar will be regarded as an unofficial honorary award acknowledging a brilliant career cut tragically short. That's a shame, because Michael Shannon's jarringly disturbing performance as a mentally disturbed, brutally honest house guest in Revolutionary Road is unforgettable.

    Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
    Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
    Amy Adams, Doubt
    Viola Davis, Doubt
    Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

    WILL WIN: Penelope Cruz
    SHOULD WIN: Penelope Cruz

    Penelope Cruz was so brash, crude, funny, and vivacious in Vicky Cristina Barcelona that she helped make that movie Woody Allen's most satisfying comedy in years, if not in decades. Her only serious competition for the Oscar is Doubt's Viola Davis, who was thoroughly believable in a tiny but moving role as a "see-no-evil" mother. Doubt fans may end up splitting their votes between Davis and Amy Adams, however, which will harm Davis' chances. Marisa Tomei was excellent in The Wrestler, but she is the only nominee in this category who already has an Oscar—one that some Oscar fans still regard as a bizarre glitch, considering that Tomei won it for the less-than-prestigious My Cousin Vinny.

    Kung Fu Panda


    The human-free first act of WALL-E was so interesting, touching, creative, and downright beautiful that it set the bar impossibly high for the rest of the movie, when cartoonishly porcine Pixar people changed the overall tone from sublime to something more unsubtle. Still, WALL-E was so ambitious and unusual that it can't help but triumph over a pair of talking-animal flicks.

    "Jai Ho," Music by A.R. Rahman; Lyric by Gulzar, from Slumdog Millionaire
    "O Saya," Music by A.R. Rahman; Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam, from Slumdog Millionaire
    "Down to Earth," Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman; Lyric by Peter Gabriel, from WALL-E

    WILL WIN: "Down to Earth"
    SHOULD WIN: "Jai Ho"

    Yes, it's hard to get over the fact that Bruce Springsteen was robbed, robbed, robbed. The fact that the Boss was not nominated for his excellent song "The Wrestler" is almost as big a tragedy as the fact that the movie itself didn't get a Best Picture nod. Having said that, the likely winner here is "Down to Earth," if only because Slumdog Millionaire fans will split their votes between that movie's two nominated tunes (including the joyously exuberant "Jai Ho"). Also, voters may want to throw Peter Gabriel and Best Score nominee Thomas Newman a bone by giving them this Best Song Oscar, considering that Slumdog Millionaire is guaranteed to win Best Score.

    Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    James Newton Howard, Defiance
    Danny Elfman, Milk
    A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
    Thomas Newman, WALL-E

    WILL WIN: Slumdog Millionaire
    SHOULD WIN: Slumdog Millionaire

    Slumdog Millionaire could sweep every award for which it is nominated—but even if it doesn't, this is one category it can't possibly lose. The exotic, energetic, and electrifying score by Indian composer/producer/musician A.R. Rahman (aka the "Mozart of Madras") is the beating and often racing heartbeat that gives this film life. Compared to Rahman's dizzyingly delicious score, everything else in this category is only background music.

    For additional awards coverage, visit ARTISTdirect's Oscar page, where you can vote for your favorites in key categories. Don't forget to grab our exclusive Oscar vortex for up-to-date news as it breaks.

    —James Dawson

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    Tags: Kate Winslet, Ron Howard, Mickey Rourke, Sean Penn, Danny Boyle, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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