COOP PICKS THE OSCARS: Your guide to the 2009 Academy Awards

Posted on February 20th, 2009
Posted on February 20th, 2009

As Hollywood gears up for the big event on Sunday, here’s your chance to participate in the biggest entertainment awards show of the year. Click Here to download and print Coop’s “Custom Oscar Ballot.” Fill out the ballot, tune in on February 22 at 5 Pacific/7 Central on ABC and follow along to see if you (or I) picked the correct winners. As always, there will be upsets, triumphs, spill, thrills and chills… So put out the cat, send the toddlers to bed, grab a pen and turn on the tube. It’s time to predict the winners of the 2009 Academy Awards:

LEADING ACTOR – Possibly the most competitive category of the evening, Sean Penn in “Milk” and Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” will duke it out to take home the award. Penn has already received an Oscar for “Mystic River” so perhaps Rourke has the best chance at a comeback considering he has swept all other award shows this year. A win by any of the other three nominees would result in a massive upset.

SUPPORTING ACTOR – No one will beat Heath Ledger as The Joker in “The Dark Knight.” I hear Vegas has set the odds at 1-35 in favor of him winning. Considering the other, far weaker nominees, only fan favorite Ledger has a chance. Expect the person who accepts the award on his behalf to give a lengthy tear-filled speech in honor of the deceased actor.

LEADING ACTRESS – Almost as competitive as the Lead Actor category, two favored actresses have narrowed the competition: Anne Hathaway in “Rachael Getting Married” and Kate Winslet’s performance in “The Reader.” This category stirred controversy at the Golden Globes this year due to the fact the Hollywood Foreign Press Association accidentally leaked a Hathaway win on their website days before the event….then Winslet actually ended up winning. Despite the alleged scandal, I can’t imagine Hathaway beating out Winslet’s solid and superb performance. Besides, the Leading Actress category usually favors a more seasoned actress, and Hathaway hasn’t paid her dues yet.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS – If the Leading Actress Award usually goes to veterans, the Supporting Actress Award more often rewards the fresh faces. The Academy often reserves this category for the up-and-comers who show the most potential. Amy Adams and Viola Davis (both co-star in “Doubt) didn’t have enough to work with to secure a win, although I hear a lot of vocal support for Davis. Despite acclaims by critics, Penelope Cruz in “Vicky Christina Barcelona” delivered an annoying and over the top performance that may turn off voters. I would prefer Taraji P. Henson as the sweet natured mother of “Benjamin Button,“ but I expect Marisa Tomei to receive the win for her turn as a troubled stripper in “The Wrestler.” This would vindicate her after the embarrassing rumor that her Supporting Actress win in 1992’s “My Cousin Vinnie” was a mistake made by confused presenter Jack Palance.

ANIMATED FEATURE – While most would expect “Wall-E” to sweep this category, “Kung Fu Panda” beat it in EVERY category at the Annies (animation industry awards). Apparently, the Annie voters favored more traditional and technically impressive animation techniques over story innovation and artistic appeal. Despite this fact, I still expect “Wall-E” to win the Oscar since the majority of the Academy voters do not work in the animation industry and will champion “Wall-E’s” other admirable qualities.

ART DIRECTION – The culmination of sets, costume, makeup, lighting and all the other aspects that merge to create the world of a particular film are all conceptualized, drawn and designed beforehand. That’s the craft of Art Direction. “The Dark Knight” and “Benjamin Button” are the definite frontrunners. Voters usually prefer period pieces like “Button,” and I expect it to win, but “The Dark Knight” could pull off an upset. “The Duchess” threatens an even bigger upset if the voters are in an 18th century mood.

CINEMATOGRAPHY – David Fincher built his reputation upon camera artistry, so expect “Benjamin Button” to lock this one down. Don’t count out “The Dark Knight” which also has exceptional work in this department.

COSTUME DESIGN – “The Duchess” will probably win since most voters seem to think nothing can trump bouffant wigs and quill pens. Keep in mind that “Button” and “Milk” are also strong entries in this category. You can’t ignore the fact that this is an industry-specific award and it might go to whomever the costume professionals see fit, regardless of mass appeal.

DIRECTING – No one deserves this award more than Danny Boyle for “Slumdog Millionaire.” Like “Button’s” Fincher, Boyle made a name for himself by developing a distinctive style and voice with films like “Trainspotting” and “28 Days Later.” “Slumdog” finally proved the genius many believed was bubbling under the surface of his previous films. After winning this category at the Golden Globes, the BAFTA’s (British Oscars) and many others, Boyle has the Best Director Oscar in the bag. It’s too bad David Fincher had to compete with Boyle this year. Any other year, he might’ve won.

VISUAL EFFECTS – While I’d love for “The Dark Knight” or “Iron Man” (especially) to take home an award for this category, voters prefer to honor the effects that create the illusion that there were no effects at all. “Benjamin Button” will surely win this category for the same reason Brad Pitt won’t win best actor… because other actors performed his part for the first half of the film. Computer effects technicians digitally superimposed Pitt’s face onto other actors. If that surprises you, then “Button” winning this category shouldn’t surprise at all.

SCREENPLAY, ADAPTED – While all other contenders (except “Doubt”) are undisputable examples of masterpieces in this category, none of them can compete with the deft pacing and brilliant scene management that made “Slumdog Millionaire” so exciting to watch. I expect it to win, but sometimes the voters think that scenes with dialog-heavy “talking heads” amount to good writing. If that train of thought prevails, “Frost/Nixon” could win this category.

SCREENPLAY, ORIGINAL – While some might leap immediately for “Wall-E,” you have to realize it’s a non-typical screenplay. It contains very little dialogue (which looks odd on the actual page) and drags a bit because of it. “Milk” would seem like the next logical choice but the obscure illegal immigrant-smuggling feature, “Frozen River(,)” had a phenomenally original and well-constructed screenplay. Sally Hawkins got snubbed for Best Actress in “Happy-Go-Lucky” so it’s a safe bet the cutesy screenplay will be ignored. “In Bruges” emerged as a dark horse favorite last year, but it has an uneven structure. I’d bet on “Milk” since the majority of voters consist of actors who’d rather vote for their favorite performances than reward flawless story structure (which “Milk” thankfully has).

BEST PICTURE – “Slumdog Millionaire” wins. Despite the lack of familiar faces, its Mumbai location, and America’s previous lack of interest in Bollywood; this film has a few unique qualities that sets it above the rest. First of all, it’s unanimously uplifting. All the other films range from bittersweet to depressing to smug (“Frost/Nixon!”) in their conclusions. Although it often journeyed into desperation and heartache, “Slumdog” achieved a crowd-pleasing, underdog-cheering climax, a rarity for a Best Picture nominee. I’ve chosen “Slumdog” as favorite film of 2008 and I believe the voters of the Academy will agree.

The foreign, shorts and documentary
categories are some of the least predictable to general audiences because 99.9999999% of even dedicated movie goers have not seen any of the nominees. Plus the more technical awards are either too dense for most laymen to penetrate, or the category is plagued by a members-only type mentality that shuns outside talent in favor of inner circle back-patting. I made my predictions for those categories based on either educated hunches or inside information.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – A notorious amount of nepotism and forced exclusion haunts this category. Most critics favored “Man on a Wire,” but no one outside the craft’s guarded community can accurately predict the winner.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT – The only critical acclaims I’ve heard for this category were for “The Final Inch,” a doc about the fight against polio in India.

FILM EDITING – “Slumdog” was put together the most artfully, so I’m betting on it.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – The revolutionary semi-animated film “Waltz with Bashir” has garnered the most praise so far. “Gomorrah” comes in a close second.

MAKEUP – “Hellboy II” should win. “Benjamin Button” will win.

ORIGINAL SCORE – Danny Boyle specializes in securing top-notch music for his films, and “Slumdog” is no exception.

ORIGINAL SONG – Slumdog Millionaire’s” rousing final song, “Jai Ho” provided the most memorable tune AND dance number of the year. Peter Gabriel has backed out of singing his song, “Down to Earth” from “Wall-E” during the Oscars to protest the 65 second time limit imposed upon the performances. More likely, he didn’t think he would win.

ANIMATED SHORT FILM – The short “Presto” that preceded the screenings of “Wall-E” has the rest of the nominees outclassed.

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM – Betting against “Toyland” would be unwise since its WWII/Holocaust subject matter often appeals to the Hollywood voters.

SOUND EDITING – Industry insiders suggest that Ben Burtt and Mathew Wood are locked in for “Wall-E.”

SOUND MIXING – “Wall-E” wins again.

I hope you venture from the comfort of your couch to see some of the winners in the theater (if available in your area) or rent them on DVD/Blu Ray or order them on “pay-per-view.” It’s unfortunate that many audience members watching the awards haven’t seen a single nominated film by the time the awards air. Hollywood is painfully aware of this problem. I predict the industry will come up with new strategies and innovations to make viewing the nominees more accessible to the general public in the future. Until then, start filling up your Netflix or Blockbuster Online queue with 2009 nominated films. Put “Slumdog” at the top of the list. You won’t regret it.


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