Box office

Our film reviewer handicaps the 80th annual Academy Awards

You’ll be able to watch the Oscar ceremonies come Feb. 24 because the writers’ strike is over. That’s about four hours you’ll get to spend watching super-rich, successful people congratulating themselves while wearing diamonds the size of your head. It’s a relief really because I would’ve hated to see eggs getting thrown at the Coen brothers as they attempted to cross picket lines to get their little golden boy. On second thought, that would’ve been kind of cool.

And (I think) the Oscar goes to…
Some very nice nominations this year and, while their film was only my second favorite of 2007, I’m looking for the Coen brothers to receive some long-deserved love Sunday night. The makers of Barton Fink, Fargo and Raising Arizona should finally get the top prize for No Country for Old Men, and it was a long time coming.

As for snubs, there were a few noticeable ones. I’ll discuss them in the categories below. As for my predictions, I generally guess about 80 percent correct. Please understand that this is only an estimate of my guessing powers, and when it comes to estimating, I’m usually only about 57 percent right. Wrap your head around that one.

Best Picture
I don’t expect any big upsets in these categories. While I liked Juno and Michael Clayton, I don’t think they deserved nominations in this category. As for snubs, Sean Penn’s Into the Wild and Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd got ignored here, and that’s a shame. Burton made his best film to date, and Wild qualifies as Penn’s first masterpiece.

There’s talk of a Juno upset, but I’m thinking the Coen brothers and No Country for Old Men get the big prize. Even so, my favorite film of 2007 was There Will Be Blood, narrowly edging out Men, so an award for that film would make me happy. You won’t see me crying if No Country wins, though. I’ve matured a lot in the last five or six months.

Atonement, once considered the favorite, hasn’t gotten many prizes during awards season and seems to have fallen out of favor. It’s a great movie, but it’s not the year’s best. Overall, I’d say this is a decent crop of nominees. None of these films got me close to vomiting unless, of course, that was their intention.

Should Win: There Will Be Blood; Will Win: No Country for Old Men.

Best Director
As for Best Director, this will be a night for the Coens. Due to my liking Paul Thomas Anderson’s Blood a little more, he would be the director I find most deserving. However, I will be just as happy to see the Coens triumph over the competition, which includes Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton), Jason Reitman (Juno) and Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly).

Should Win: Anderson; Will Win: The Coen brothers

Best Actor
There’s no real point discussing anybody other than Daniel Day-Lewis in this category. I’ve heard some rumblings that Johnny Depp could take home his first Oscar for his brilliant performance in Sweeney Todd, but I truly doubt that will happen.

I love me some George Clooney (Michael Clayton) and Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises), yet I deem them least-deserving of nominations here and least likely to win. Tommy Lee Jones was superb in In the Valley of Ellah, but he was better in No Country for Old Men, for which he was ignored.

Snubs include Emile Hirsch for his breakthrough work in Penn’s Into the Wild. If more voters had seen Sam Riley channeling Ian Curtis of Joy Division in Control, I think we could’ve seen his name on this list. Philip Seymour Hoffman scared the piss out of me in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, yet he was not recognized.

Like I said, no real point discussing the other nominees. This will be a night for Day-Lewis and his second Oscar.

Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis; Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress
This year’s worst nomination goes to Cate Blanchett for her career-worst work in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Her work in E:TGA is tiresome, abrasive and obnoxious. I love Blanchett, but her acting here is akin to the crap, screaming banshee performance Sean Penn turned in for All the King’s Men in 2006.

Helena Bonham Carter deserved Blanchett’s slot in the nominees. Ignoring her brilliant work in Sweeney Todd qualifies as one of the year’s most unfortunate snubs. As for the rest of the field, it’s pretty impressive.

Ellen Page’s sweet, sarcastic turn in Juno has elevated her status in the film world but won’t net her an Oscar just yet. Also losing will be Laura Linney for her career-best work in The Savages. Both deserve their nominations, as does Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose, but this year’s Oscar seems destined for another.

Julie Christie’s beautiful, sad performance as a luminous woman facing Alzheimer’s in Away from Her has Oscar written all over it. While there’s some fine work in this category, Christie outshines them all. It would be a crime if she were denied.

Should Win: Julie Christie; Will Win: Julie Christie

Best Supporting Actor
Were I a movie-politics force to be reckoned with, I wouldn’t have nominated Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson’s War). It’s a real good performance in an average movie, and I just think there were those more deserving. Tom Wilkinson was awesome in Michael Clayton, but that would probably be my next one to drop from the list.

I absolutely loved Hal Holbrook in Into the Wild and think he has a decent chance of scoring a sentimental win. The favorite here would probably be Javier Bardem for playing one of the greatest screen villains since Hannibal Lecter in No County for Old Men.

Those missing include John Travolta for his magical working of a fat suit in Hairspray. In fact, his omission from this category might qualify as my personal most surprising snub. While he didn’t have a chance in hell, Michael Cera was perfect as an awkward teen in Superbad.

My favorite in this category would be Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. While I don’t think he’ll win, I was pleased to see his haunting work getting some recognition. Bardem will win here, and that’s just fine with me.

Should Win: Casey Affleck; Will Win: Javier Bardem

Best Supporting Actress
I dissed her a few paragraphs back, but Cate Blanchett deserves an Oscar for her work as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. It’s easily the best performance on this list, but I’m thinking Ruby Dee will edge her out for American Gangster due to the sentimentality factor. That would be a slight shame, because everybody in this category turned in better work than Dee, including Tilda Swinton as a sleazeball in Michael Clayton, Amy Ryan as another sleazeball in Gone Baby Gone, and Saoirse Ronan as a tragic liar in Atonement.

Should Win: Cate Blanchett; Will Win: Ruby Dee