By Roger Moore
I don’t care what the odds are, how the winds are blowing or what the obsessed online Oscar watchers say about his chances. I’m pulling for Richard Jenkins (“The Visitor”) to win the best actor Oscar.
That’s what I do every Oscar night. I pull for underdogs. Here are my picks:
Sean Penn’s (“Milk”) has been the favorite until recent days. Mickey Rourke (”The Wrestler”) will give a better, funnier speech, and I now think he’ll win, in a mild upset. Frank Langella (”Frost/Nixon”), Jenkins and Brad Pitt (”The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) will have to be happy just to be there. But I’m rooting for Richard.
Kate Winslet’s the odds-on favorite for best actress; she just broke my heart in “The Reader.” She’s the eternal underdog, having multiple nominations and no wins. She really wants it, and should win, despite filmdom’s reservations about the Nazi she plays in the film. But I think I’ll root for Melissa Leo in “Frozen River.” Not Meryl Streep (”Doubt”), Angelina Jolie (”Changeling”) or Anne Hathaway (”Rachel Getting Married”). It’s been a long awards’ season. The same folks have won, time and again. Serve me up some surprises, Hollywood.
Except for Danny Boyle and “Slumdog Millionaire.” It totally deserves best director, best editing, best cinematography and best adapted screenplay.
Best supporting actor
Can anybody even remember who will lose to Heath Ledger (”The Dark Knight”) in the best supporting actor race? It’s Josh Brolin (”Milk”), Robert Downey Jr. (”Tropic Thunder”), Philip Seymour Hoffman (”Doubt”) and Michael Shannon (”Revolutionary Road”). It’s tough to root against the dead guy, and the dead guy is considered a lock for best supporting actor when the Academy Awards are handed out Sunday night on ABC. But wouldn’t it be cool if a nearly-died-but-didn’t Robert Downey Jr. won? That would be moving, funny and appropriate. I want the Iron Man to beat The Joker.
Best supporting actress
Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) has been sexy-charming her way to best supporting actress wins all awards season. She’ll win. But I’m rooting for Marisa Tomei (“The Wrestler”). Amy Adams and Viola Davis (both in “Doubt”) and Taraji P. Henson (“Benjamin Button”) seem like even longer shots in this category.
Best animated film
The in-touch-with-our-times message and Pixar gloss of “WALL-E” make it another Oscar sure thing, for best animated film. But the funny and sweet “Bolt,” from Disney’s non-Pixar animators, is already winning the “Can we see that again?” contest in my house. Might those two Disney products split the vote and give “Kung Fu Panda” a chance? No. “WALL-E,” all the way, a Heath Ledger lock.
“Milk’s” Dustin Lance Black will win best original screenplay, but Courtney Hunt (“Frozen River”) or Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”) ought to. Simon Beaufoy (”Slumdog Millionaire”) should win and will win the adapted script honors.
Best overall loser
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” could break the record for most nominated picture to come away empty-handed. If “Dark Knight” beats it in visual effects, art direction and makeup, it could go 0-for-13.
Best documentary, foreign film
“Man on Wire” is the best documentary favorite, unless the Academy got around to seeing equally acclaimed “Trouble the Water.” An upset? Give it to the legendary Werner Herzog for his lightweight “Encounters and the End of the World.” “Waltz With Bashir” should and will win best foreign language film.
Best everything, part 2
“Slumdog” should have the best night, with real shots at winning best score and best original song, too.
Best picture? The longest of long shots at the beginning of this awards season, the dark and sentimental, exotic and familiar “Slumdog Millionaire” will win the biggest prize of all this Oscar night. And it deserves it.
Why? The script put it best: because “it is written.”