Best Picture (Drama)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
My take: If there is a God, "Slumdog" is going to win this award. It's this year's Little Movie That Could, only unlike "Juno" last year, it's actually good. "Reader" looks like typical Oscar bait in every way, and the Weinstein Company still can't successfully release a movie to save their lives. "Frost/Nixon" will probably get more love in the acting categories. I saw an early showing of "Benjamin Button," and that was great too, but the one that could take it is "Revolutionary Road," because not only does it look great, but the power of Kate and Leo together for the first time since "Titanic" might be too much to deny. However, I can see one thing working against it: the same people who hated "American Beauty" because it hit too close to home will likely be cringing in their seats for this one.
Best Actress - Drama
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kristin Scott Thomas - I've Loved You So Long
Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road
My take: Too close to call. There's not one weak performance here. "I've Loved You So Long" doesn't have the same press machine behind it as the others, but Thomas is phenomenal. I honestly can't even speculate at this one.
Best Actor - Drama
Leonardo DiCaprio - Revolutionary Road
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler
My take: Now, Sean Penn is the master of commanding awards, especially with a movie that's as relevant as "Milk." Leo's due for an award, and Langella has honed his Nixon impression for years onstage before bringing it to screen. Rourke might get all the comeback goodwill that Robert Downey Jr. was robbed of in the best actor category, but I have to give the early nod to Pitt for playing a role that reminded me of Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump," and I hear he did okay.
Best Picture - Musical or Comedy
Burn After Reading
Happy Go Lucky
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
My take: What the hell? This is an extremely indie crop of movies save for "Mamma Mia!," which was not very good. I'll say that "Happy Go Lucky" is going to win it, just because that's the most critically lauded, though don't count out "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" or "In Bruges." I'm just elated to see the latter film nominated, because movies that come out in February are often forgotten, and this one is worth it.
Best Actress - Musical or Comedy
Rebecca Hall - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Sally Hawkins - Happy Go Lucky
Frances McDormand - Burn After Reading
Meryl Streep - Mamma Mia!
Emma Thompson - Last Chance Harvey
My take: I haven't even heard of the movie Thompson is nominated for. This is actually a weak crop save for Hawkins, who's excellent and has the most hype on her side.
Best Actor - Musical or Comedy
Javier Bardem – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Colin Farrell – In Bruges
James Franco – Pineapple Express
Brendan Gleeson – In Bruges
Dustin Hoffman – Last Chance Harvey
My take: Please let Franco win this award. Either of the "In Bruges" guys or Bardem would be fine, and I like Hoffman, but as far as an actor stretching, you can't get any further from type than Franco did here.
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler
Kate Winslet - The Reader
My take: Cruz has been getting buzz ever since the summer, but "Doubt" is the kind of actors' movie that award ceremonies love. Tough call.
Best Supporting Actor
Tom Cruise - Tropic Thunder
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Ralph Fiennes - The Reader
Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
My take: Now I'm conflicted. I want Ledger to win so badly, but I almost want to see Downey get it for what was the very definition of a scene-stealing role. I'm surprised Hoffman is in this category, and he'll be tough to beat. One final note, though: Am I the only one who didn't think Cruise was funny in "Tropic Thunder"? Apparently.