This Year's Oscars: Predicting the Predictable

It's been fairly easy to predict the Oscars over the past few years. Who didn't think Philip Seymour Hoffman would win for Capote? Who didn't think Helen Mirren would strike gold for The Queen. Did anyone shriek with amazement at No Country For Old Men's win last year? Not likely.

Sadly, this year's contest seems to be no different. Slumdog Millionaire is going to take home at least five golden bald guys including a trio of top prizes (Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay), and let's face it, it deserves it. The movie lifts our spirits, and while it's not exactly the best film of the year (that distinction, in my book, goes to The Dark Knight or The Wrestler -- two films not even nominated), it's definitely worthy. Ditto for Kate Winslet and Heath Ledger, who will respectively win for The Reader and The Dark Knight.

Still, one hopes that the Oscars will provide some surprising thrills and throw us a Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan curveball or two. Can you imagine if Ledger didn't win this year? Neither can I, but if he doesn't and say Josh Brolin or Robert Downey, Jr. walk away with it, how stunned would you be? You'd certainly remember it forever. Don't worry. It won't happen, but I can picture Meryl Streep stunning Winslet although that too is not likely (the only surprise in my book is Cruz winning Best Supporting Actress, but that's not an "oh my God" shock either).

Any way you slice it, the telecast needs some more umph. Oscar ratings have been on a decline in recent years and deservedly so. The show goes on too long, the countless montages suck the life out of everyone, the acceptance speeches haven't been amazing, and the nominations and wins aren't half as interesting as the snubs: The Bourne Ultimatum deserved a nod last year, and the aforementioned Knight comes to mind for this year. And not for nothing, can we get some love for comedies? Am I the only one who had hoped Forgetting Sarah Marshall would get at least a Best Song nomination? Probably.

It stinks that mainstream and intelligent popcorn flicks have no place at the Oscars apparently unless there's a hobbit or Brad Pitt involved. OK, enough already. Here are my picks for the winners on Sunday night. Just about the only surprise of the night will come at the expense of fanboys from all over the world who will no doubt weep at the sight of seeing Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) singing and dancing like Fred Astaire on stage. Sorry guys. If you can get over Australia, this too shall pass.

Best Picture
Should and Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Dark Horse: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Director
Should and Will Win: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire (A Lock since Christopher Nolan was omitted altogether.)

Best Actor
Will Win: Sean Penn
Should Win: Mickey Rourke
Dark Horse: This is a battle between Penn and Rourke. I think Rourke is too quirky and outspoken to win - I hope I'm wrong. If he does win, it'll make for the night's most memorable speech that's for sure.

Best Actress
Should and Will Win: Kate Winslet
Dark Horse: It's been way too long since Streep won but with her new film about Julia Child coming out soon - it's clear she'll be back here next year.

Best Supporting Actor
Should and Will Win: Heath Ledger
Dark Horse: Brolin could shock here, but again, this has been Ledger's award since July.

Best Supporting Actress
Should and Will Win: Penelope Cruz
Dark Horse: Taraji P. Henson could, like Tilda Swinton, be honored for the film more than her performance.

Adapted screenplay
Should and Will Win: Slumdog
Dark Horse: The Reader. It's not going to win a lot of awards -- this could be a consolation prize.

Original screenplay
Should and Will Win: Milk
Dark Horse: Happy-Go-Lucky could earn Mike Leigh an overdo Oscar but I doubt it. His films are mostly improvised so there's not really a script to consider here.

Animated Feature
Will Win: WALL-E
Should Win: Kung Fu Panda
Dark Horse: No contest - WALL-E wins it.

Achievement in art direction
Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Should Win: The Dark Knight
Dark Horse: This could be Revolutionary Road's only Oscar win.

Achievement in cinematography
Will and Should Win: Slumdog
Dark Horse: The Academy may make good on The Dark Knight by awarding it a ton of tech awards to compensate for screwing it out of most major categories.

Achievement in costume design
Should and Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Dark Horse: Australia may have been a mess but the costumes were nice.

Achievement in film editing
Will and Should Win: Slumdog
Dark Horse: The Dark Knight

In brief:
Best documentary feature
Will Win: Man on a Wire

Best documentary short subject
Will Win: The Witness

Best foreign language film of the year
Will win: Waltz with Bashir

Achievement in makeup
Should and Will Win: Benjamin Button

Original score
Should and Will Win: Slumdog

Original song
Will Win: "Down to Earth," WALL-E
Should Win: "O Saya..." The Academy will go with the safe bet here canceling out the two Slumdog songs nominated. Still, if they go with Slumdog, "Jai Ho" wins over "O Saya."

Best animated short film
Will Win: Presto

Best live action short film
Will Win: New Boy

Achievement in sound editing
Will and Should Win: The Dark Knight

Achievement in sound mixing
Should and Will Win: The Dark Knight

Achievement in visual effects
Should and Will Win: Benjamin Button