- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

Best Picture

Heart says: It wasn’t a great year for movies, but it was an even worse year for Oscar nominations. Slumdog Millionaire is the only transcendent film in a field of “Forrest Gump” knockoffs like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” cliched biopics like “Milk” and glorified TV movies like “Frost/Nixon.” “Slumdog” should take home the gold.

Head says: And the bookies agree: Slumdog Millionaire is running as the heavy favorite at this point, running at 1 to 3 at SportsBook.com. (In gambling terms, that means you would have to bet $3 on “Slumdog” to win $1.)

Best Director

Heart says: Danny Boyle imbued Slumdog Millionaire with the frenetic energy that has driven it to box-office and critical success; it’s hard to see anyone else having made this film.

Head says: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire. David Fincher might pull off an upset based on love of his past work (“Seven,” “Zodiac,” “Fight Club”) and the technical accomplishments of “Benjamin Button,” but it’s a very long shot.

Best Actor

Heart says: Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of a broken-down wrestler looking for redemption in The Wrestler is a graduate seminar in acting, something to be studied for years to come a la Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy and Robert De Niro’s Jake LaMotta.

Head says: Unfortunately, that probably won’t be enough, because Sean Penn, an academy favorite, is playing a role tailor-made for award-season plaudits in Milk.


Who’s taking home Oscar gold?

Best Actress

Heart says: Meryl Streep, Doubt? I guess? I wasn’t terribly in love with any of the nominated performances this year; none was as good as Michelle Williams in “Wendy and Lucy.”

Head says: Kate Winslet. She’ll win for The Reader even though she should have been nominated for “Revolutionary Road,” as she was far better in it.

Best Supporting Actor

Heart says: Though I dearly loved Robert Downey Jr.’s “dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude” in “Tropic Thunder,” Heath Ledger’s turn in The Dark Knight has left a searing impression in the national consciousness, one that has completely obliterated every previous on-screen incarnation of the Joker. There aren’t too many actors who can outperform Jack Nicholson. Unfortunately, there are even fewer now.

Head says: Remember those odds for “Slumdog”? Heath Ledger is running at 1 to 20 for The Dark Knight. So yeah, he’s about as close to an absolute lock as you’ll ever find.

Best Supporting Actress

Heart says: A tough choice. While Marisa Tomei’s performance in The Wrestler was almost as soul-baringly intense as Mr. Rourke’s, Viola Davis’ heartbroken mother in “Doubt” remains one of the year’s highlights. It’s hard to award someone who was on-screen less than 10 minutes, however.

Head says: Neither will win. Look for Penelope Cruz to take home the trophy for her work in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Best Original Screenplay

Heart says: Martin McDonagh. In Bruges was the most original screenplay of the year, certainly; what other film could have combined Irish hit men, Belgian tourist traps and midgets on horse tranquilizers with such aplomb?

Head says: Dustin Lance Black. Milk is the only one of these films also to have nabbed a best-picture nomination, never a good sign for the competition.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Heart says: Anything but “The Reader,” please. No film that suggests illiteracy is more shameful than the murder of hundreds of innocents deserves to be taken as seriously as the academy has taken this pile of middlebrow dreck. Forced to make a pick, I’d choose Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire.

Head says: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire. Not quite a no-brainer, but close.

One unpardonable omission

As mentioned above, it wasn’t an amazing year for film. Still, it was a better one than the list of best-picture nominees suggests, and the omission of two brilliant, genre-busting films — The Dark Knight and Wall•E — is unconscionable. Of course, the academy wouldn’t want to lower itself by honoring something like a comic-book movie or a cartoon, would it? There are always illiterate Nazis to reward.

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