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The Academy Awards

Warner Brothers Pictures

When recruited to offer predictions on the Oscars for 2008 films I asked for the latest deadline I could get because of how non-aesthetic factors can influence the votes. Thus, Al Pacino in 1992 gets a long overdue Best Actor win for Scent of a Woman (Hoo hah! What a travesty!), when he should have won in 1974 for Godfather II, thereby denying Denzel Washington for Malcolm X and forcing him to finally catch up with Training Day in 2001, etc.

Or sometimes a sympathy vote impacts results, so John Wayne becomes Best Actor for True Grit, 1969, instead of either Jon Voight or Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy. (And if that’s how the Hollywood insiders want to play it, why couldn’t they have found some strategy to honor Alfred Hitchcock as Best Director? A horrible omission).

So, hedging some of my bets until the last possible minute, I’ll offer the following predictions in the more known races (technical awards are always a crapshoot because everyone in the roughly 6,000 member Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gets to vote for most categories so who knows what word of mouth will lead the majority bloc of actors to choose Best Sound Editing?). I’ve also added some personal preferences that may not match my actual predictions.

Given all of the accolades already racked up by Slumdog Millionaire from the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild, and many other awards and critics groups, it should be the easy favorite for Best Picture. I’m certainly impressed with it and won’t be disappointed to see its likely victory, but of the nominees I still favor Frost/Nixon, maybe because I can never get enough of Tricky Dick being undone (when does GW get his turn?), although my actual favorite is Revolutionary Road because I’m old enough to remember how truly miserable the 1950s really could be.

Danny Boyle should add to his trophy collection as Best Director, but based on my previous comments I’d go with Ron Howard (preferably Sam Mendes) because I don’t think that Best Pictures direct themselves despite the Academy’s occasional split between these categories.

Best Actress is a difficult pick because the Screen Actors Guild picked Meryl Streep for Doubt-and many of those same thespians are Oscars voters-but that’s compromised because they could vote for Kate Winslet in the supporting category. Head to head, I think the sympathy factor toward Winslet’s current lack of the gold guy statue will reward her for The Reader, satisfying enough for me because I support her for Revolutionary Road (although I wouldn’t complain if Streep had a win for all 15 of her nominations).

Best Actor is equally a toss-up because the SAG voters went with Sean Penn for Milk but Mickey Rourke’s back-from-the-professional-dead turn in The Wrestler is just too good a resurrection story not to favor, as many critics groups such as the Golden Globe voters have done. I’ll predict Rourke but will be happy with either one.

Best Supporting Actress is, like the other performances, a contest among a very strong group of contenders, but I’ll predict Penelope Cruz for Vicky Christina Barcelona, which for me just barely edges out Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler. Despite the other worthy contenders, there’s virtually no reason for anyone else to show up in the Best Supporting Actor category except for whoever accepts for Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight, my pick and my choice.

To wrap this up, I’ll predict Milk for Original Screenplay, Slumdog Millionaire for Adapted Screenplay, WallE for Animated Feature (all of which I’d agree with) and The Pig for Live Action Short Film (although I prefer Manon on the Asphalt, with this as the only one of the more specialized areas where I’ve seen all the nominees and could even chance a prediction). As for most of the other 14 categories, I imagine that the Slumdog and Dark Knight folks will be making a lot of trips up the aisle. But then, if I were really any good at predicting anything I’d have won a lottery and be retired by now.