Of course, it’s impossible for me to not be influenced by the columns I’ve already seen published. My predictions will hardly be original. Who wins or doesn’t win an Oscar is dictated more by studio campaigning than by the actual quality of the films or performances. Because of this, it’s impossible to predict what will win without paying attention to other award ceremonies and what people are saying, so most critics end up making many of the same predictions. But like I said before, they aren’t always right. Usually, when one outguesses the others, it’s because he or she went with their gut instead of conventional wisdom.
With all that said, this is a very unusual year for the Oscars. Sunday won’t hold many surprises in the top categories because the acting awards have been more or less locked up since the fall. However, the most anticipated award, Best Picture, is still (according to most) up for grabs. Most years, there is a clear front-runner, but not so with 2006.
So here goes. I will list the nominees in the top six categories and try my best to predict the winners, as well as provide my own opinion. In past years, I had stronger opinions because I saw almost all the nominated films. This year, I haven’t gotten to see as many because I’m quite a bit busier than I was as a college student. In fact, as I look over the top six categories, I notice that there are six movies I haven’t seen versus the eight I have. This handicaps me a bit, but not in predicting the actual winners.
Leonardo DiCaprio for “Blood Diamond”
Ryan Gosling for “Half Nelson”
Peter O’Toole for “Venus”
Will Smith for “The Pursuit of Happyness”
Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland”
Will Win: Whitaker is almost sure bet. I haven’t seen the movie, but I hear it isn’t quite as good as his central performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Either way, he’s already collected numerous awards for his role, which is supposedly scary and chilling, yet human. I’m looking forward to checking it out on DVD. It’s possible, though, that the Academy will get Whitaker fatigue and honor the veteran O’Toole for his role as a proverbial “dirty old man.” This would be quite interesting.
Should Win: The only film of the five I’ve seen is “Half Nelson,” which most people have never heard of. Gosling is a great young actor, and will probably be honored in the distant future. I haven’t seen “Blood Diamond” either, but I think DiCaprio probably should have been nominated for “The Departed” instead.
Penélope Cruz for “Volver”
Judi Dench for “Notes on a Scandal”
Helen Mirren for “The Queen”
Meryl Streep for “The Devil Wears Prada”
Kate Winslet for “Little Children”
Will Win: This one has pretty much been settled since the early fall. Mirren will most certainly become Oscar royalty on Sunday.
Should Win: I won’t begrudge Mirren one bit when she wins this. She did a fantastic job of bringing depth and humanity to Queen Elizabeth II, a character we’ve never known before as a mere woman.
Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin for “Little Miss Sunshine”
Jackie Earle Haley for “Little Children”
Djimon Hounsou for “Blood Diamond”
Eddie Murphy for “Dreamgirls”
Mark Wahlberg for “The Departed”
Will Win: Of the predictable acting categories this year, this is the one I’m not completely certain of, but I think Murphy should still take it, especially since his character is partly modeled on the recently deceased James Brown. Voters might, however, be turned off by his current film, “Norbit,” with its reliance on fat suits and broad comedy. They may choose to honor the veteran Arkin, who was hilarious and touching as the grandfather in “Little Miss Sunshine.” He’s been nominated before, but he’s always been under the radar.
Should Win: My vote is with Murphy. In a movie that just makes you smile, his performance is perhaps the most enjoyable.
Best supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza for “Babel”
Cate Blanchett for “Notes on a Scandal”
Abigail Breslin for “Little Miss Sunshine”
Jennifer Hudson for “Dreamgirls”
Rinko Kikuchi for “Babel”
Will Win: Hudson. There’s nothing like a stunning debut performance to get Academy voters excited, and Hudson’s been giving almost as many acceptance speeches as Mirren and Whitaker. Her rendition of her character’s signature song, “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” caused audiences all around the country to burst into applause, and Hudson will likely meet the same reception on Oscar night.
Should Win: I haven’t seen “Notes on a Scandal,” but Blanchett is always excellent and I’m sure she’s as worthy as the rest of them. My vote would definitely go to Hudson, partly because I think her film deserves all the recognition it can get.
“Letters From Iwo Jima”
“Little Miss Sunshine”
Will Win: This is definitely the hardest call of the evening, but I think “The Departed” will probably win unless the Academy decides to go with lighter fare and hand it to “Little Miss Sunshine.” “Sunshine” fits the bill as this year’s sleeper hit, but ‘The Departed” made more money than the other nominees, which should help its prospects too. I also wouldn’t be shocked if “The Queen” turned out to score the biggest surprise of the night.
Should Win: If the Academy wanted to honor the year’s true sleeper hit, they would have recognized “Borat,” which did get a nod for Best Adapted Screenplay, even though its dialogue is mostly improvised. That movie made a killing at the box office, but it’s a bit too edgy for the Academy’s tastes, I suppose. Also, I should add that it is a crime that “Dreamgirls” didn’t get nominated, but I’ve had more than a month to get over my shock. Of these five (I’ve managed to catch them all), I would choose “The Departed” as the strongest of the bunch. It’s darkly funny, has great characters, a suspenseful plot and is incredibly stylish.
Alejandro González Iñárritu for “Babel”
Martin Scorsese for “The Departed”
Clint Eastwood for “Letters From Iwo Jima”
Stephen Frears for “The Queen”
Paul Greengrass for “United 93”
Will Win: I predicted that Scorsese would finally get his due two years ago for directing “The Aviator,” but Eastwood got a statue for the powerful “Million Dollar Baby.” This year, I think Eastwood is again his strongest competition, but there’s no way he’s going to score another upset. I seriously doubt anything is going to get in Scorsese’s way this year, especially since “The Departed” is a gangster movie, a genre he has perfected. Either way, I’ll be biting my nails before this one is announced. If anyone else wins, I’ll be shocked, but it will still be amazing to watch since Scorsese had been repeatedly denied in the past.
Should Win: Although I think I would vote for Scorsese if I were an Academy member, I think “United 93” is better than any of the Best Picture nominees, which is due as much to Greengrass as it is to the unknown cast. Although it would be impossible to know exactly how the passengers on that doomed September 11 flight felt, Greengrass took us about as close as one could imagine. This is probably why the movie didn’t get more recognition, since many found it hard to watch and even questioned the need for its existence. I, however, found it to be one of the most rewarding and cathartic movies to be released in a long time.