Silver Chips Online

Silver thinks gold: Oscar predictions 2009

SCO experts reveal their "curious" choices

By Lucas Alvarado-Farrar, Online Features Editor, Monica Wei, Online Entertainment Editor and Julia Wynn, Online Connections and Food Editor
February 20, 2009
The Oscar judges, and Oscar himself. Lauren Poor
The Oscar judges, and Oscar himself.
With only a few days until the 81st Annual Academy Awards, Mr. Oscar is busy tidying up to look his finest for Sunday night's show. Meanwhile, the rest of us gabber in grocery lines, make clamor in the classroom and raise hullabaloo in the hallways over who will take home the bronze statues. Will "Slumdog Millionaire" have the Oscar shocker its producers are praying for? Can the late Heath Ledger even win an Oscar? And exactly how curious will this case of "Benjamin Button" get?

Well, wonder no more! Silver Chips Online has assembled a crack team of silver screeners to alleviate your worries. In a bum-rush to find out exactly which films will become legend, we have examined, frame-by-frame, every movie ever nominated and come up with an exact formula to predict the winners. But in the name of honor, tradition and downright suspenseful jitters, we decided to cast mathematics aside and hash out our expert opinions instead. And without further adieu, the Oscar goes to...

Best animated feature
And the nominees are... "Bolt," "Kung Fu Panda" and "WALL-E"

Lucas says: With "WALL-E" stuck in the animated picture category despite its deserved shot at Best Picture, this winner is pretty clear-cut. Lost in a world of trash, "WALL-E," another Pixar masterpiece, is a genuine tale of friendship and awakening. The film's beautiful cinematography uniquely combines live-action and animation in the underwater-like world of space. If Pixar's past success is any indicator, this year's little engine that could is most definitely everyone's favorite Waste Allocator Load Lifter - EarthClass, "WALL-E."

Monica says: Po's transformation in "Kung Fu Panda" was priceless and funny, and the film was packed with great characters and funny mishaps along the way. "Bolt" dazzled audiences with its adventure and fun. But neither of these films are quite on the same "wow!" level as "WALL-E." Never before have binoculars been so cute, and audiences (and the Academy) surely couldn't help but fall in love. Pixar will get gold with this touching and adventurous movie that blends romance and a worthwhile political message.

Julia says: Only the geniuses at Pixar could transform an animated clump of metal into a lovable robot able to express a full range of emotions. With meaningful binocular eyes and remarkably cute mechanical utterances, WALL-E the robot immediately draws viewers into his story of romance and adventure in space. The makers of "Kung Fu Panda" and "Bolt" don't come close to demonstrating the ingenuity and talent required of its animators, who made a charming film despite its general lack of spoken words. Creative and engaging animation keeps viewers captivated throughout the film. The futuristic setting allows for additional imagination that is the cherry on top of an already Oscar-worthy film.

Best actress
And the nominees are... Meryl Streep ("Doubt"), Angelina Jolie ("Changeling"), Kate Winslet ("The Reader"), Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married") and Melissa Leo ("Frozen River")

Lucas says: Anne Hathaway could not get her first nomination for a more perfect role. Playing a drug-addicted sister coming home for a family wedding, Hathaway manages to pull off a challenging part that connects with the audience. Meryl Streep may have the name-brand recognition at the Oscars, but Hathaway's unique performance in a multi-dimensional role and movie should garner her victory.

Monica says: This category was less about one performance standing out than it was about catching flaws in the rest. Angelina Jolie just didn't feel quite right in "Changeling" - she's too perfect and composed to be a convincing harried mother. Meryl Streep dazzled as usual in "Doubt," but her role seemed repetitive. I feel like Anne Hathaway doesn't quite have the age for the Academy to vote her Best Actress - she'll wait her turn. So, I have to say that Kate Winslet - who has already won a Golden Globe and a Bafta for her harrowing performance as the confused yet seductive Hanna Schmitz in "The Reader" - will grab the Oscar.

Julia says: I'm going to go with Kate Winslet in "The Reader." Admittedly, Meryl Streep was fabulous - isn't she always? - as the stony nun, but her portrayal was at times too exaggerated for the solemn story of the alleged abuse of a young black boy. Angelina Jolie, no doubt drawing from her own motherly experiences, was also believable as a desperate mother who lost her child in "Changeling." However, her performance revealed neither the range of emotions nor maturity of Winslet's character, Hanna. Faced with the challenge of depicting both young and aged versions of her character, Winslet masterfully distinguishes between the two while maintaining the stern yet still passionate demeanor of a prison camp guard. It's no wonder Winslet already won a British Academy Award for this role.

Best supporting actress
And the nominees are... Amy Adams ("Doubt"), Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), Viola Davis ("Doubt"), Taraji P. Henson ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") and Marisa Tomei ("The Wrestler")

Lucas says: Another quirky Woody Allen film has another quirky role, this time fit for an Oscar. Avoiding the pigeonholing that Hollywood can inflict on its drop-dead-gorgeous women, Penelope Cruz has managed to stay relevant. True to her Spanish roots, Cruz is full of the flair and passion that captivate audiences around the globe; she is nothing short of glamorous in "Vicky Christina Barcelona." This two-time nominee will soon be a first-time trophy winner.

Monica says: All the ladies nominated here are Oscar-worthy. Viola Davis's performance of the mother of a student implicated in a sex scandal was strong and clear, with emotion dominating the screen. But at the same time, Penelope Cruz's delightful portrayal of an unstable and imbalanced woman was enchanting and funny and always kept the audience guessing. Cruz's beautiful Maria Elena was full of emotion and passion, but at the same time broke through the mold, so she'll take the Oscar.

Julia says: The rightful recipient of this Oscar is not as clear-cut for me. All the supporting ladies up for this award shine in their respective roles. However, the performance of Viola Davis, the mother of a supposedly abused boy in "Doubt," is most deserving of an Oscar. The raw emotion of the role made such an impact despite the mere one scene for which Davis was onscreen. In those few minutes, Davis wowed viewers with the monologue she gave, voicing her deep love for her son and concern for his safety. Such an unquestionably heart-wrenching performance delivered in just one scene should be recognized.

Best actor
And the nominees are... Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor"), Frank Langella ("Frost/Nixon"), Sean Penn ("Milk"), Brad Pitt ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") and Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler")

Lucas says: With a stack of nominations for Best Actor and only a single trophy to show for it, Sean Penn sure has some bones to pick with the Academy. Sadly for Penn, 2009 will add another performance to his list of "almosts." This year's prestigious award will be handed to Frank Langella, whose uncanny representation of our nation's 37th executive was, well, what they call Oscar-worthy. It's a shame for Penn, whose depiction of the first major openly gay American politician surely would have netted him an Oscar in another year, but then again, he has no reason to cry over spilt "Milk."

Monica says: Everyone loves a comeback. In this dreary economy amongst stimulus packages that just don't cut it, the Academy would love to tell people that redemption and hope are still here! Mickey Rourke's character, Randy "The Ram" Robinson sports a tale of redemption rivaled only by Rourke's own story - nearly two decades of bad reputation and drugs, only to come back and score an Oscar nom. Sean Penn may dazzle with his talent and versatility in "Milk," but the Oscar goes to Mickey Rourke, who - just maybe - shows that fairy tales do come true, even when you're winning an Oscar at age 56.

Julia says: This is tricky because all five nominees showcased outstanding acting in each of these movies. Sean Penn deserves major praise, though, for tackling the role of Harvey Milk, a pioneering gay politician. Without excessive stereotyping, Penn completely embodied his character with a consistently phenomenal performance, even though Milk is a deviation from the usual characters that Penn portrays. Looks like Oscar-winning quality to me.

Best supporting actor
And the nominees are... Josh Brolin ("Milk"), Robert Downey Jr. ("Tropic Thunder"), Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Doubt"), Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight") and Michael Shannon ("Revolutionary Road")

Lucas says: An untimely death can have a profound effect on an actor's fame. Some actors, getting mixed up in drugs or beef, meet a death surrounded by mystery and intrigue. Others, powerful and dignified, are remembered with nostalgia, but for Heath Ledger - the only actor ever to be nominated post-mortem - an untimely death could soon have a whole new meaning. Who would give his speech? Would there be applause and shouts or would there be a moment of silence? The only certainty seems to be that his deranged performance as The Joker will be added to the lore of Oscar winners.

Monica says: Insanity dominates in the Supporting Actor category this year. Robert Downey Jr.'s performance was hilarious as Kirk Lazarus, an eccentric actor who tries so hard to become his characters that he loses himself. Michael Shannon's portrayal of insanity born into wealth was less humorous but equally enjoyable. However, Heath Ledger's Joker absolutely takes the cake. He exudes an inner creepiness and just lets it all out, complete with sinister laughter that surely made the audience's hair stand on end. His motions were unnatural and just not right - but in a perfect way. Ledger found the Joker of our nightmares as he whispered, "You complete me," in a chilling, almost intimate manner. After "The Dark Knight" was shamelessly snubbed in the Best Picture category, Heath Ledger had better win this one.

Julia says: Heath Ledger, hands down. The deranged and creepy Joker is all too real thanks to Ledger's outstanding acting in "The Dark Knight." His frighteningly memorable expressions and idiosyncrasies, like the spine-chilling licking of his lips, are so effective that the eerie painted clown face is arguably unnecessary. Similarly crazy is Michael Shannon's character John, the insane son of a rich neighbor in "Revolutionary Road." John's penchant for blurting harsh truths provides great contrast to the transparency of the film's other characters, but still fails to reach the heights of Ledger's mesmerizing performance. If not purely for his acting abilities - which should be grounds for the Oscar anyway - then Ledger should be selected to commemorate his stellar acting career that was so regrettably cut short.

Best picture
And the nominees are... "Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon," "Milk," "The Reader," and "Slumdog Millionaire"

Lucas says: Every time I look, I am still astounded that "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" made the Best Picture list. Lengthy, boring and frankly, devoid of charm, "Benjamin Button" is a long climb from the Academy high, despite its commercial hype. Instead, the romantic rags-to-riches story, "Slumdog Millionaire," told a la "City of God," is sure to take home the coveted statue. Danny Boyle's intriguing fable set in modern India has wowed audiences, slung them to the edge of their seats and still kept their hearts high. Speaking to its authenticity, "Slumdog" was able to do all this without a single household name in the cast. I guess that "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" has finally gone cold.

Monica says: "Frost/Nixon" and "Milk" were, without doubt, exceptional films. Nixon's tale, told through a series of interviews, was truly compelling, as was the rise of Harvey Milk through his career as he grappled with his personal life. I found "Benjamin Button" so touching that I cried through half of the movie. But even so I'd have to say that "Slumdog Millionaire" wins the little gold man. Director Danny Boyle's seamless weaving between past and present depicted Jamal's life in a touching yet poignantly discordant manner. The film's elements of violence were balanced out with sentimentality, weaving a story sweet enough to yearn for and rough enough to believe.

Julia says: With seamless cinematographic transitions from past to present, beautiful visual appeal and a fluid screenplay, "Slumdog Millionaire" takes the Oscar cake. The uplifting story of an orphan boy, Jamal, who has the opportunity to participate in the Indian version of the TV game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" taps into sweet romance and the harsh fight for survival. What pulls the whole film together is the masterful screenplay, which draws connections between events in Jamal's life - shown with incredible camerawork and proportioning of colors - and the answers to questions on the game show. It's a stunning film for as many senses as movies can affect.


If you are feeling ambitious, you can access your own official ballot from ABC here.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/8947