Every year, I get calls and emails from people asking me to help them fill out their Oscar ballots for their office pools. This year is probably the easiest in some ways because Slumdog Millionaire-Danny Boyle’s Dickensian take on a Mumbai pauper’s rags-to-riches journey-is the clear frontrunner without a doubt, and it has a chance of taking every category it’s nominated in. The acting categories are a bit trickier, so expect surprises when the Academy Awards are unveiled on Sunday, February 22.
Nominees: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Frost/Nixon; Milk; The Reader; Slumdog Millionaire
My Pick: Slumdog‘s won every major award until now, including the Producers Guild of America Award. It has tapped into the zeitgeist of not just America, but the world.
Nominees: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire; Stephen Daldry, The Reader; David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon; Gus Van Sant, Milk
My Pick: Danny Boyle’s already won the Director’s Guild Award. The Oscar is his. He’s the wizard behind the kinetic and heartfelt concoction that is Slumdog.
Nominees: Richard Jenkins, The Visitor; Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Sean Penn, Milk; Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
My Pick: The biggest contest of the evening. Penn might take this, but my gut tells me it will be Rourke (and I always go with my gut feelings). Rourke winning would fit with our need to root for the underdog this year. Besides, his comeback performance already is legendary.
Nominees: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married; Angelina Jolie, Changeling; Melissa Leo, Frozen River; Meryl Streep, Doubt; Kate Winslet, The Reader
My Pick: With The Reader nominated for Best Director and Best Picture, the Academy obviously loves the film, and it’s Kate the Great’s year.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Josh Brolin, Milk; Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt; Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight; Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
My Pick: Heath Ledger’s posthumous and well-deserved Oscar is a lock.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Amy Adams, Doubt; Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Viola Davis, Doubt; Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
My Pick: Davis or Tomei may upset, but Cruz in a fiery Woody Allen role should give Spain its second consecutive Oscar for a supporting role.
Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: Dustin Lance Black, Milk; Courtney Hunt, Frozen River; Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky; Martin McDonagh, In Bruges; Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, and Pete Docter, Wall-E
My Pick: Black won the Writer’s Guild for Best Original Screenplay, so he’s the one.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; John Patrick Shanley, Doubt; Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon; David Hare, The Reader; Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
My Pick: Beaufoy won the Writer’s Guild Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Best Animated Feature
Nominees: Bolt; Kung Fu Panda; Wall-E
My Pick: Wall-E. Duh!!!
Best Foreign Film
Nominees: Der Baader Meinhof Komplex; The Class; Departures; Revanche; Waltz with Bashir
My Pick: Bashir has won the most awards leading up to this contest.
Best Documentary Feature
Nominees: The Betrayal; Encounters at the End of the World; The Garden; Man on Wire; Trouble the Water
My Pick: Man on Wire has won the most awards leading to this contest.
Best Original Score
Nominees: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Defiance; Milk; Slumdog Millionaire; Wall-E
My Pick: A.R. Rahman-the Bollywood genius on Slumdog-will win.
Best Original Song
Nominees: “Down to Earth,” Wall-E; “Jai Ho,” Slumdog Millionaire; “O Saya,” Slumdog Millionaire
My Pick: “Jai Ho.” Do you remember Slumdog‘s closing credits? Enough said.