I don’t pretend to be a Hollywood insider. In fact, I don’t even watch movies anymore. I pretty much stopped watching movies/DVD's when Hollywood studios began trying to out “special effect” each other in order to overcompensate for bad writing and a lack of original ideas. Let’s just call this "the George Lucas syndrome."
So why the hell do I want to take a shot at predicting some of the major award winners at this year’s Oscars? As my four year old son would over enunciate, “I - don’t - know.”
Maybe it is a cross between arrogance and masochism. In any event, my formula for predicting this year's Oscar winners is based upon a combination of word of mouth, watching trailers/reading movie posters, and my own personal analysis of how Hollywood works. Shall I give this a shot? Yo soy!
This is a rather weak group in my mind. In spite of the buzz about the personalities and personal lives of some of the nominated actresses, I have not heard anybody talk about any of their specific performances. Accordingly, I am looking at this as more of a popularity contest.
This is kind of like a high school Homecoming Court. You end up nominating the most popular girl from each clique in school and let the masses sort it out. And let’s face it, many of these Hollywood types never went to conventional school to begin with, so these award shows really do serve as their homecoming dances and proms.
The "hottest girl in school" (Angelina Jolie) almost always gets nominated. While the "hottest girl in school" gets a lot of support just for being hot, everyone knows that she still has a lot of personality flaws and simply doesn't deserve to win the honor. The fact that she is not deep enough to win secretly devastates the "hottest girl in school," so she spends the next year overcompensating by getting tattoos, dating older men, and/or adopting children from all over the world.
The Homecoming Court also always nominates the prettiest girl from the academic/student council circle (Meryl Streep). While she has been an upstanding member of the school for years and really can do no wrong in the eyes of her peers, unless she did something before the big dance that just blew everyone away, like writing an article in the school paper exposing the gym coach for having a peep hole in the girls locker room, she simply is not going to win. And as far as I know, Meryl didn't break any significant stories about peep holes this year.
The “I really don’t know her, but she’s really kind of cool and hot girl” (Melissa Leo). This is the girl who probably deserves to win. The fact that she is nominated in spite of the fact that most people don’t know really who she is speaks volumes as to how respected she is. Even though only a small group of people really ever get to know her, the conviction of those who do is enough to get her a nomination. While many people secretly think about voting for her, they chicken out at the last second and go with the more talked about “mainstream” choice due to peer pressure, which has been sociologically proven to be stronger than The Force in the context of high school and Hollywood.
While a mainstream girl's world would collapse in the event that they don't win, the “secretly hot girl” can take everything in stride and continue to rock on with her bad-self because she doesn't need or even want the affirmation of popular crowd. Quite simply, this is the girl who will continue to get even hotter after she gets out high school (the Oscar nominated role in question), and you will never find her in the position where she continues to act like a diva after her two to three year run of popularity is over and she has gained a bunch of weight (think any cheerleader that you ever knew in high school or Russell Crowe).
The “perfect couple” girl (Kate Winslet) versus the “Cinderella story” (Anne Hathaway). Kate Winslet is the girl who has been dating the most popular guy in school (let’s call him “Leo”) forever, and has been a regular on the Homecoming Court since her freshman year. She is up against the girl who was held back by bad circumstances like an asshole boyfriend, but she cuts the baggage and wins everyone’s adoration and respect at exactly the right time.
The Winner – Anne Hathaway. Let’s just forget about the fact that everyone in the world knew or should have known that her fiance was crooked before he was formally indicted, and that it would have almost been impossible for her not to have known about his involvement in some shady shit. It’s downright politically incorrect to say anything bad about Anne Hathaway these days. She has become Hollywood's “it girl," and for that reason I cannot envision any scenario where she does not end up riding her present wave of popularity to an Oscar win for Best Actress.
As far as I can tell there are only three real contenders for this award. When it comes down to it, there are probably only two.
While I have heard people mention Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons, for every person that has told me that the movie was good, there have been two others that have told me that it was horrible. On top of that, I have heard people say that Pitt was not acting at all, but merely playing himself. Not that this disqualifies you from critical acclaim as an actor (see Robert Redford). So while I actually gained a great deal of respect for Brad Pitt after watching his performance as a gypsy in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons just wasn’t the right role for Pitt to win the Oscar for Best Actor.
I have heard nothing but great things about Sean Penn’s role as Harvey Milk in the movie Milk. I am currently reading the book And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts. Not only does that book make reference to Harvey Milk in a historical context, but it examines some of the social issues that he stood up for in a parallel look at that era from a public health perspective. Needless to say, the role of Harvey Milk was destined to be pure gold for whatever actor landed it.
It is no secret that one of the quickest ways for an actor to gain critical acclaim in Hollywood has been to play a character who is mentally retarded. Just look at Dustin Hoffman's role in Rainman, Leonardo Dicaprio’s role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Johnny Depp’s role in Benny and June, Tom Hank’s role in Forrest Gump, Billy Bob Thorton's role in Sling Blade, and Chris Burke's role as “Corky” on Life Goes On.
Ultimately, people figured out that playing someone who is mentally retarded may actually be one of the easiest roles that there is....that is, aside from actors like Tom Cruise and Robert Redford who play versions of themselves" in virtually every movie that they are in. So something had to give, right? I mean there are only so many compelling stories that can be told about the mentally challenged, right? Well it has already happened….Gay is the new retard in Hollywood right now.
A straight actor who takes on the role of a homosexual is almost guaranteed to receive critical acclaim. It's like when the purportedly caucasian C. Thomas Howell played an African-American in Soul Man, only completely the opposite in terms of respect and perceptions of biggotry. Just look at Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain, Mathew Broderick in Bonfire of the Vanities, and Tom Hanks in Philadelphia.
I would like to note that Hanks won back to back Oscars in 1993 and 1994 for playing someone who is gay (Philadelphia) and someone who is mentally retarded (Forrest Gump). So here is some food for thought....is Tom Hanks really that great of an actor, or was his agent just ahead of the curve on Hollywood's formula for success?).
Of course, this formula only works for seemingly STRAIGHT actors. If Alexis Arquette, Neil Patrick Harris, Orlando Bloom, or Tim Robbins were to play a gay character they would not receive any sort of critical acclaim unless they outperformed their personal lives in terms of their acting.
That scenario would be akin to Tom Cruise playing a version of himself in movies like All the Right Moves, Cocktail, Top Gun and, well, every other movie that he's ever been in. Were those roles enjoyable? Yes. Did I like watching to Cruise dance around the house in his underwear? Yes (secretly). Were any of those performances Oscar worthy? Of course not.
So with all this being said, Sean Penn’s career will be positively impacted by his role in Milk regardless of whether or not he gets the Oscar, and he's a definite contender for this year's award for Best Actor.
People loved the movie Rocky. In fact, it even won as Oscar. It is about a white fighter who seemingly squandered his talent, but realizes his true potential and puts it all together at the end of his career. Essentially, based upon his performance in the movie The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke is a REAL LIFE version of Rocky.
Despite a wealth of potential and talent early in his film career, Rourke seemingly squandered it by chasing booze and women, taking on soft-core porn like roles, and walking away from acting in order to become a mediocre semi-pro boxer. Then, just when you think he is old and washed-up, he sells his soul and body in order to come back for his role in The Wrestler.
From what I have heard from people in the pro wrestling industry, Rourke completely bought into the lifestyle (think performance enhancing drugs, pain pills and plastic surgery). In fact, you can argue that Mickey Rourke has lived his entire life in preparation for his role in The Wrestler.
The Winner – Mickey Rourke for his role in The Wrestler. Not only was he the only guy who could have convincingly played that character, but he also completely bought into his role in terms of mind and body. Think of De Niro's weight gains/lossess for films, but with long term health risks.
While Sean Penn purportedly nailed his role as Harvey Milk, Mickey Rourke actually BECAME The Wrestler. I don't know if the fact that Rourke has subsequently been asked to perform at one of pro wrestling's bigger events shows that he nailed the role so well that he has been accepted as brethren, or whether it cheapens his success. I'm going with a combination of both.
In any event, Rourke delivered the acting performance of his lifetime in becoming The Wrestler, while Sean Penn will eventually find other roles like those that he landed in I am Sam and Milk. In fact, I am pretty certain that he and Tom Hanks have the same agent. On the other hand, this was a once in a lifetime chance for Mickey Rourke, which he promptly capitalized on by by challenging Bai Ling to a race to see who could give the other a sexually transmitted disease first.
I think it will come down to Milk against Slumdog Millionaire for the Best Picture award. I hear that Slumdog was amazing. It had so much "feel good" buzz about it that it was my original choice to win the award for Best Picture.
My biggest problem with Slumdog is that everyone involved with that film appears content just to have received a nomination. For example, when your leading male actor uses a Best Picture nomination in his first real film as a forum to assert that his career goal is to one day "be in a Will Smith movie," even if it is "just a small role," then I just can't take you seriously.
I mean, what if Slumdog won Best Picture and Dev Patel got on stage and said something to that effect during the acceptance speech? Would the Academy even allow that to become even a remote possibility? I'm pretty sure that they would pay D.J. Jazzy Jeff to pull Dev aside as the cast walked to the stage and say, "I know exactly how you feel, but I'm sorry kid, I can't let you go up there." You simply can't have one of your high profile performers lobbying for a Golden Globe type role at the Oscars.
There is simply no chance in hell that Slumdog prevails over an outstanding performance from an established actor like Sean Penn in an incredibly well done film from director Gus Van Sant. Especially not when the Academy knows that their biggest risk is that Sean Penn will give a speech about how happy he is that Barrack Obama is rectifying the human rights abuses that were committed by the Bush Administration. In fact, they love that kind of stuff.
The Winner - Milk.