An Academic Gamble

Presenting an Oscar Ballot for Office Pooling Film Fans

Freida Pinto in director Danny Boyle's <em>Slumdog Millionaire</em>.

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.

Roger Durling's<br/> Big Picture

Best Picture

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.

Best Director

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.

Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is <em>The Wrestler</em>.

Best Actor

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.

Kate Winslet (left) and Michael Kross (right) star in The Reader.

Best Actress

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.

<em>Vicky Cristina Barcelona</em>

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.

Pixar's WALL-E visually enchants and entertains.

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.


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