Best Picture: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Milk,” “The Reader,” “Slumdog Millionaire.” Of these, I've only seen Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire, but from what I gather, neither is the front-runner to win. The latter has the feel-good audience-pleasing advantage, but I suspect Milk will take the "not too many people saw this, but the Academy loved to love it" road to the Oscar.
Actor: Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”; Frank Langella, “Frost/Nixon”; Sean Penn, “Milk”; Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler.” It pleases me greatly that Jenkins got a nod, as I have been a fan of his from the first moment I saw him in the Six Feet Under series premiere, but I still haven't seen The Visitor. There's been a lot a lot of buzz for Langella and Penn, and Pitt has no chance, but my hope/wish is for Rourke. I was stunned by his performance in The Wrestler, but I wonder if voters might think the role was too much of himself? I don't think so.
Actress: Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”; Angelina Jolie, “Changeling”; Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”; Meryl Streep, “Doubt”; Kate Winslet, “The Reader.” I'm pretty surprised about the nomination for Hathaway, as I've heard she really shines in no more than one scene/monologue. But, I haven't seen any of these movies and so I really have nothing to say. I really want to see Changeling and Doubt, though.
Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, “Milk”; Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder”; Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Doubt”; Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”; Michael Shannon, “Revolutionary Road.” I would be over the moon if I thought that Downey had a chance, because his winning would totally make the Oscars for me. It seems like Heath Ledger will score the inevitable posthumous win, but love for Brolin in W might shift over to his performance in Milk, and the Academy loves a "whatshisname." As for me, you all know of my undying love for PSH, so that's where my heart lies.
Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, “Doubt”; Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”; Viola Davis, “Doubt”; Taraji P. Henson, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; Marisa Tomei, “The Wrestler.” I really want to say that Amy Adams should have won when she was nominated in this category for Junebug in 2006 because I love her, and I loved her in that film. But really, I think Michelle Williams should have won for Brokeback Mountain that year, instead of Rachel "my movie panders to voters' politics" Weisz. That said, I'm happy to cast my favor with her this year, sight unseen. Marisa Tomei was great in The Wrestler, but I don't think her role was that demanding, especially in comparison to Rourke's and even Evan Rachel Wood's.
Director: David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; Ron Howard, “Frost/Nixon”; Gus Van Sant, “Milk”; Stephen Daldry, “The Reader”; Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire.” I think Boyle might have a chance if his movie doesn't get Best Picture. I'm still upset with Van Sant for the two hours of my life he stole with Elephant, but I think he and Howard are in the lead. We all love David Fincher, and I enjoyed Benjamin Button more than most, but I don't think his movie met expectations that would snag it a win in this big of a category.
Foreign Film: “The Baader Meinhof Complex,” Germany; “The Class,” France; “Departures,” Japan; “Revanche,” Austria; “Waltz With Bashir,” Israel. I usually assume that the one everyone's heard of is the one that wins because everyone hears about the best product, so I'd vote on Waltz With Bashir in an office Oscar pool, knowing nothing about any of these movies.
Animated Feature Film: “Bolt”; “Kung Fu Panda”; “WALL-E.” Come on, now. WALL-E should have been nominated for Best Picture, so it's got to win this one.
Original Score: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Alexandre Desplat; “Defiance,” James Newton Howard; “Milk,” Danny Elfman; “Slumdog Millionaire,” A.R. Rahman; “WALL-E,” Thomas Newman. I think WALL-E had a great score, but (see next category) it will probably win for original song, so I really don't know what score is likely to win.
Original Song: “Down to Earth” from “WALL-E,” Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman; “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire,” A.R. Rahman and Gulzar; “O Saya” from “Slumdog Millionaire,” A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam. I think the Academy will hear Peter Gabriel's name and vote right there. I don't know why Springsteen didn't get a nod for "The Wrestler," because then there might have been some competition. Two songs from Slumdog Millionaire will split the vote ensuring that neither wins, anyway.
Costume: “Australia,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Duchess,” “Milk,” “Revolutionary Road.” My guess is that the extravagance of The Duchess will win out, but I really like the look of Revolutionary Road from what I've seen so far.
Documentary Feature: “The Betrayal (Nerakhoon),” “Encounters at the End of the World,” “The Garden,” “Man on Wire,” “Trouble the Water.” Same as with the foreign film, I've heard only good things about Man on Wire, and nothing about the other nominees.
When it comes to the tech categories and the short subjects, I'm afraid I don't know enough to say. I think WALL-E has an edge with sound mixing, and I imagine Benjamin Button will have astounded everyone when it comes to special effects and makeup, but it would be nice to see Hellboy II get a little respect. Also, I have no idea what category it would be in, or if this is even something that the Academy would pay attention to, but I believe that The Dark Knight altered its editing between action sequences and two-shots for the IMAX copies, and I think that's pretty cool, but I don't know if that actually has anything to do with the filmmaking process.
So, I am always atoning for my blog backup. I'm hoping to do some reviewing in my upcoming travels, and then wow everyone with a flurry of posting. Hopefully I'll have a chance to catch up with the award frontrunners in the next month or so!