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2009 Oscar Predictions: Who Should Win & Who Will Win

Andrew Payne Andrew Payne
February 20th, 2009 10:42am EST
OscarsAfter months of speculation, it's finally time to man up and throw down with some hardcore Oscar predictions. But before we tell you who will and should win the Oscar on Sunday night, let's address the whole secrecy notion surrounding this year's event.

You may not have heard (which is probably part of the point) but the Academy has decided to surround this year's ceremony in mystery. Mainly, they've refused to reveal who will be presenting Oscars this year and have gone so far as to forbid its presenters from appearing on the red carpet. Why? Because they think fashionistas will be forced to tune into the actual show in order to see what styles the stars have on parade.

This strategy really doesn't make any sense for the sheer fact that those concerned with fashion are the same type of people who would watch the Oscars if everybody showed up in jeans and t-shirts. It's not like you're going to lure a large new group into the telecast by monopolizing its fashion aspect, because movie awards and fashion appeal to a largely overlapped demographic.

It's far more likely, especially in a year in which no Best Picture nominee cracked the top 15 at the box office, that you'd lure casual viewers by promising them specific big stars at the awards show. For example, if you guaranteed Sean Connery would be on hand to present an award or Will Ferrell and Jack Black would team up at the podium wouldn't more casual fans be compelled to tune in? Probably so.

That isn't the case with this year's awards - leading us to the first prediction: This will be the lowest-rated Academy Awards in history.

Now, on to everybody's favorite game - who should and who will win an Oscar!

Sean PennBest Actor

The Nominees:
- Richard Jenkins -"The Visitor"
- Frank Langella - "Frost-Nixon"
- Sean Penn - "Milk"
- Brad Pitt - "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
- Mickey Rourke - "The Wrestler"

Who Should Win:

There are three monstrous performances at the top of this list with Langella, Penn and Rourke all carrying films in ways that would win an Oscar any year. So whom to choose? The edge goes to Rourke for a delicately layered performance that is far more subtle than those who haven't seen the film would expect. That and the fact that the script for "The Wrestler" is actually very formulaic and the realism of Rourke's performance never allows any clich├ęs to show through. Rourke had the toughest role and pulled it off with the greatest ease.

Who Will Win:

Another margin as thin as the razor The Ram uses to cut his head open. Rourke and Penn have been splitting awards all season, and this is likely to come down to the last ballot. So who will win? The very slight edge goes to Penn if for nothing more than a hunch. Rourke has the comeback story going for him, but his bizarre behavior has seen his star fade just far enough to make Penn the likely winner. It's very close though.

Meryl StreepBest Actress

The Nominees:

- Anne Hathaway - "Rachel Getting Married"
- Angelina Jolie - "Changeling"
- Melissa Leo - "Frozen River"
- Meryl Streep - "Doubt"
- Kate Winslet - "The Reader"

Who Should Win:

The strength of the Best Actor category has been the focus of countless articles this Oscar season, but Best Actress nominees may be even stronger. The fact that Angelina Jolie's brilliantly tortured mother is probably the worst of the group speaks to that strength. So whom to choose from this elite collection? Anne Hathaway, of course, because she was in the worst movie.

Why does this make a difference? Because it's so much harder to give a good performance with a dull script and a director who seemed more concerned with showing how in touch he was with hip music than telling a story. Hathaway overcame those ancillary obstacles to create a narcissistic wonder of a character where everything down to the slightest shift in focus was done with a purpose.

Who Will Win:

Kate Winslet is the odds-on favorite, but we don't like any of that nonsense here. We give you winners, and this year that winner will be none other than Meryl Streep.

Winslet has a lot to overcome since she switched categories, the least of which being that her performance is actually in a supporting role. The more daunting detriments to her campaign are the backlash being felt against Harvey Weinstein supposedly pulling another fast one with the film's being nominated for Best Picture and the tremendous controversy coming with the assertion that Winslet's role actually apologizes for the Nazi's heinous crimes. Doesn't seem like the latter will play well at all with the Academy's sizable elderly Jewish population.

So that leaves Streep to claim her third Oscar and first in 26 years. The buzz went away too quickly for Hathaway and Jolie and Leo's films are too small. Looks like Streep will finally tie a different Kate (Hepburn).

Heath LedgerBest Supporting Actor

The Nominees:

- Josh Brolin - "Milk"
- Robert Downey Jr. - "Tropic Thunder"
- Philip Seymour Hoffman - "Doubt"
- Heath Ledger - "The Dark Knight"
- Michael Shannon - "Revolutionary Road"

Who Will and Should Win:

There's not much to debate here, Ledger is a lock and gave one of the five best performances of the year across all categories. The one thing to comment on is all the nonsensical rumbling that "Ledger would never have won if he hadn't died." Anyone who says that is ridiculous - this was a towering performance about which people were raving for months prior to his passing. He might not have been an absolute cinch to win had he not died, but he would have been a pretty good bet were he still alive.

Taraji HensonBest Supporting Actress

The 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"

Who Should Win:

It's incredibly hard to play crazy and complex. To be insane without losing control. Penelope Cruz pulls that off flawlessly in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona". Plus her perfect attachment to the thematic structure of the film through her performance puts her on a level all her own. Another of the five best performances of the year.

Who Will Win:

This pick was teased in the Oscar betting column a few weeks ago when Henson seemed like the best bet in the world with 10-1 odds against her winning. Those odds have shrunk recently, down to 7.5-1, but she's still a good bet because she's going to win. And here's why:

Viola Davis seemed like an early favorite but the buzz on her has faded and she will likely split a lot of votes with Amy Adams. Fans of "The Wrestler" are likely to cast all their votes for Mickey Rourke, ignoring Maris Tomei. Cruz is supposedly the favorite, but "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" seems like an afterthought at this point and the buzz plateaued for her weeks ago.

So that leaves Henson almost by default. Plus, she has the fact that "Button" lovers have no other spot amongst the major categories in which to cast their vote. Pitt isn't going to win, "Slumdog" will beat it for Screenplay, Picture and Director, so Henson is really the only shot at its winning any major award, so expect a ton of support her way.

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees:

- Frozen River
- Happy-Go-Lucky
- In Bruges
- Milk
- Wall-E

What Should Win:

It's hard for something with little dialogue to win an Oscar in what many think is a line-writing contest, but Wall-E should take home this prize with a gorgeously funny story that had a real theme it explored with the perfect amount of subtlety. As good as film writing gets.

What Will Win:

With Penn and Rourke so close in the Best Actor race, this may be the only shot that voters have to honor the greatly beloved "Milk". It also seems that in recent years the Academy loves giving out prizes to first-time screenwriters and Dustin Lance Black certainly fits that bill.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees:

- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Doubt
- Frost/Nixon
- The Reader
- Slumdog Millionaire

What Should Win:

"Doubt" may have been one of the worst-directed good films in recent memory, but its screenplay was nearly as strong as the multi-award-winning play on which it was based. Brilliantly layered, a theme that grabs you at the beginning, and characters so richly drawn that Viola Davis got an Oscar nomination for appearing in one scene. This is not a very strong category, but "Doubt" is certainly worthy of an Oscar.

What Will Win:

Our first chance to get into the "Slumdog" lovefest. This is an easy win for Simon Beaufoy. This movie just isn't going to lose any of its three major nominees.

Best Director

The 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"

Who Will and Should Win:

The unrelenting energy he injected into this film combined with an incredibly deft touch at dealing with its human aspects confirmed what we've known since "Trainspotting": Danny Boyle is a genius. He'll notch his first Oscar with this film and be able to write his own ticket for the next decade.

Best Picture

The Nominees:

- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Frost/Nixon
- Milk
- The Reader
- Slumdog Millionaire

Should Win:

"Milk" is really the only film that even deserves a nomination in this category. Gus Van Sant's sweepingly small epic perfectly captures the times and passion of Harvey Milk in a way that neither deifies nor hails the former city supervisor. This is an excellent film delivered at the perfect time and one that may outlast any other in this category.

Will Win:

Let's just say A.R. Rahman's performance of "Jai Ho" won't be the only time we see the cast of "Slumdog" dancing in exultation. Maybe the surest Best Picture bet since "Titanic".

And now, the Lighting Round, where we pick every smaller category!

Best Foreign Language Film

- Revanche
- The Class
- The Baader Meinhof Complex
- Departures
- Waltz with Bashir

Will and Should: Waltz with Bashir

Best Animated Feature

- Bolt
- Kung Fu Panda
- Wall-E

Will and Should: Wall-E - though Kung Fu Panda did sweep the Annie Awards, so it's not a slam dunk.

Best Original Song

- "Down to Earth" by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman
- "Jai Ho" by A.R. Rahman and Gulzar
- "O. . .Saya" by A.R. Rahman and M.I.A.

Will: "Jai Ho"
Should: "The Wrestler" by Bruce Springsteen - not nominated in the worst Oscar snub of the year. Maybe one of the ten worst ever. How a song can not be nominated when it recently left a sold out show of "The Wrestler" at the Arclight Sherman Oaks seated throughout the entire closing credits in complete silence as they let its brilliant haunting melody wash over them. This is somehow better than a silly Bollywood dance song and a Peter Gabriel song that sounds like all others? Okay, "O. . .Saya" is a pretty good tune - so that should win of those nominated.

Best Art Direction

- Changeling
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- The Duchess
- Revolutionary Road

Will: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Should: Changeling

Best Cinematography

- Changeling
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- The Reader
- Slumdog Millionaire

Will: Slumdog Millionaire
Should: The Dark Knight

Best Costume Design

- Australia
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Duchess
- Milk
- Revolutionary Road

Will: The Duchess
Should: Revolutionary Road

Best Documentary Feature

- Nerakhoon
- Encounters at the End of the World
- The Garden
- Man on Wire
- Trouble the Water

Will and Should: Man on Wire

Best Film Editing

- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- Frost/Nixon
- Milk
- Slumdog Millionaire

Will: Slumdog Millionaire
Should: Milk

Best Makeup

- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Will: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Should: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Best Original Score

- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Defiance
- Milk
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Wall-E

Will: Slumdog Millionaire
Should: Defiance

Best Sound Editing

- The Dark Knight
- Iron Man
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Wall-E
- Wanted

Will: The Dark Knight
Should: Wall-E

Best Sound Mixing

- The Curios Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Wall-E
- Wanted

Will and Should: The Dark Knight

Best Visual Effects

- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- Iron Man

Will and Should: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Animated Short

- La Maison En Petits Cubes
- Lavatory - Lovestory
- Oktapodi
- Presto
- This Way Up

Will and Should: Presto (It was on before Wall-E for cryin' out loud!)

Best Documentary Short

- The Conscience of Nhem En
- The Final Inch
- Smile Pinki
- The Witness - From Balcony of Room 306

Will: The Witness - From Balcony of Room 306 (About MLK Assassination)
Should: The Conscience of Nhem En (About Khmer Rouge Victims)

Best Live Action Short

- On the Line
- Manon on the Asphalt
- New Boy
- The Pig
- Toyland

Will and Should: On the Line (Not the Lance Bass movie)

That's it for this year. Check back on Monday when we wrap up the Oscars with a Mega Oscar Diary, complete with prediction success rates.


Andrew Payne
Story by Andrew Payne

Starpulse contributing writer