Go Oscar wild!

The beautiful people are gearing up to walk down that 78-year-old red carpet. RNR’s resident film critic peers into his buttery popcorn-smudged crystal ball for some Oscar-night predictions.

The Oscars are coming, so it’s time for me to bitch. Although I didn’t think it had a chance, King Kong deserved a spot in the Best Picture nominations, and I’m not backing off that proclamation no matter how disappointing the box office was.

With the exception of that glaring omission, the nominations aren’t all that bad this year. While a couple of Best Actress nominations shoved aside those who were much more deserving, the categories are looking pretty good.

Here’s a run-through of the major categories with my predictions and preferences. I’ll also throw in anything I consider a glaring omission, just in case I appear content with what Oscar is doing. Contentment in this sort of article would be very boring. They’re listed in the order of best chance through least likely to win. For example, if Munich were to win Best Picture, that would make me a major idiot.

Best Picture
Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck

Will and should win: Brokeback Mountain

It would be a remarkable thing for Brokeback to lose in this category. The film has more momentum then Heath Ledger’s pelvis during his late-night tent rendezvous with Jake. Oh crap, I just jumped on the cheap Brokeback humor bandwagon.

As mentioned above, Kong deserved a spot in the top five, although all of the above are damned strong movies. Not a stinker in the lot, although Crash is a little overrated. Come to think of it, Crash better not win. That would suck.

Best Director
Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck)
Paul Haggis (Crash)
Steven Spielberg (Munich)
Bennett Miller (Capote)

Will and should win: Lee

Lee made a beautiful movie, and it’s time for him to finally take home this award. If there’s any chance for an upset, Clooney or Haggis have an equal chance of being spoilers.

I’m happy to see all of the Best Picture nominations get Best Director noms as well. It only stands to reason that a Best Picture contender should consequently be nominated for its director, but nominations are rarely this consistent. That said, I would’ve liked Peter Jackson to be in the running, or even Shane Black to be nominated for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Make sure to rent that one when it hits DVD. You’ll be stunned by how good it is.

Best Actor
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line)
Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain)
David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck)
Terrence Howard (Hustle and Flow)

Will win: Hoffman

Should Win: Phoenix

I’m thinking Phoenix was too stone-cold-killer good as Johnny Cash to get shafted here, but all signs point to Hoffman getting it for his portrayal of Truman Capote. Not that Hoffman winning will be an altogether bad thing. The guy nailed Capote, and it’s nice to see him getting the recognition he’s long deserved.

As for omissions, a nomination for Eric Bana in Munich would’ve made some sense, although, once again, this is a very strong field. Don’t worry … I’m gonna get nasty in the next category.

From left, Hoffman transformed as Capote; Witherspoon falls for The Man in Black.

Best Actress
Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)
Charlize Theron (North Country)
Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents)
Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice)

Should and will win: Witherspoon

This is the year’s worst category. Keira Knightley in a corset? Judi Dench playing herself? Theron was great in North Country, but other actresses put up some far more adventurous work.

Witherspoon will take home the golden boy for her spirited portrayal of the late June Carter Cash. This role gave her a chance to finally show her true acting chops—something she hadn’t really done since Election.

Naomi Watts deserved a spot for her astonishing performance in Kong, as did Gwyneth Paltrow for career-best work in Proof. Although they trumpeted her for a Best Supporting Actress nod (which she didn’t get), Maria Bello should’ve been nominated for A History of Violence. I say, dump Theron, Dench and Knightley, replace them with my suggestions, and this category would’ve been perfect.

Best Supporting Actor
George Clooney (Syriana)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain)
Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man)
Matt Dillon (Crash)
William Hurt (A History of Violence)

Should win: Gyllenhaal
Will win: Clooney

Gyllenhaal clearly had the best performance in this lot, but I’m thinking the Academy is sweet on Clooney this year. He’s not going to win Best Director, and he’s a long shot for screenplay, so this is where he’s likely to take home his first Oscar.

I would’ve loved to see Val Kilmer nominated for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. His was the comeback performance of the year (even more impressive than Hurt’s comeback in Violence).

Best Supporting Actress
Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)
Amy Adams (Junebug)
Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)
Frances McDormand (North Country)
Catherine Keener (Capote)

Should win: Adams
Will win: Weisz

George Clooney hasn’t shied from the topical or political this year. The Academy may be sweet enough on him for his work in Good Night, and Good Luck, and Syriana to give him at least one little gold man.

I thought Weisz was very good in an OK movie. Adams was masterfully brilliant as the pregnant wife who stays happy whilst surrounded by malaise in Junebug. It would be a very cool award if she were to take it home here, but Weisz seems to be this year’s critical darling.

As for the ignored, I loved Michelle Monaghan in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. There I go, getting all agitated over Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Heck, that film should’ve been nominated in every darn category. It really is very good.

Best Animated Movie
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit
The Corpse Bride
Howl’s Moving Castle

Should and will win: Were Rabbit

Oscar loves Wallace & Gromit. They won for three short films in the 1990s, and they’ll win again for their first full-length feature. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride was great, but it’s probably a little too weird for most Academy voters.

Say, where’s all the crappy CGI movies? Looks like Academy voters are trying to make a statement for old-school animation techniques this year. Madagascar got snubbed!

All that other stuff
To keep you entertained, I’m providing a list of other predictions in the smaller categories so you can keep score and discover just how incompetent I am in the field of guessing. Enjoy host Jon Stewart, who will hopefully far outshine Billy Crystal’s past performances. I never want to see that idiot host the show again.

On an unusual note, King Kong has a good chance of winning more Oscars than anybody for all of its tech awards. That would be interesting.

Best Original Screenplay: Crash

Best Adapted Screenplay: Brokeback Mountain

Art Direction: King Kong

Cinematography: Brokeback Mountain

Costume Design: Memoirs of a Geisha

Documentary: March of the Penguins

Film Editing: Crash

Foreign Language Film: Paradise Now

Make-Up: The Chronicles of Narnia

Best Original Score: Brokeback Mountain

Best Original Song: “Travelin’ Thru” by Dolly Parton (Transamerica)

Sound Editing: King Kong

Sound Mixing: King Kong

Visual Effects: King Kong