e 2009 Academy Awards are this Sunday night (February 22), and promise to be, well, the typical three-plus hour extravaganza of high fashion and the giving of gold statues to moderately deserving films and filmmakers. I may sound a bit sour here, but I have to say: This year’s nominations were among the worst I’ve ever seen. My nomination list would probably have been upwards of 80 percent different than the one the Academy voters came up with. But whatever. I can accept that I am not and will probably never be a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Working with what we’ve got, here’s what I think will happen come Sunday night:
Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire. This little Bollywood-meets-Dickens feel-good romp is this year’s Little Miss Sunshine. Everyone loves it, gushes about how fun and sweet it is (me included), but no one really thinks it’s the most significant movie of the year. Nevertheless, in the most unfortunate best picture win since Crash, Slumdog will take home the big prize.
Best Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire). Though I think Woody Allen should somehow win.
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler). It’s between him and Sean Penn (who was great as Harvey Milk), and I think Mickey will pull out the victory. He’s the sort of unlikely, “pulled back from the edge” comeback story that people in Hollywood love. Maybe in a few years’ time we’ll be saying the same thing about Joaquin Phoenix.
Best Actress: Kate Winslet. She was better in Revolutionary Road, but still great in The Reader. And despite the fact that she’s naked for most of the first half of The Reader, Winslet is a class act. She deserves all the accolades she’s getting.
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight). This is the surest thing of all. And it will get a prolonged standing ovation.
Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Doubt). This might be wishful thinking, but it could happen. She’s been stealing scenes for years, and this one is the biggest theft of all. In a film in which Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams are all brilliant, Davis manages to stand out the most—and with the least screen time.
Best Documentary: Man on Wire. If you haven’t seen this film yet, move it to the top of your queue.
Best Foreign Film: The Class. Again, this is wishful thinking (I bet Waltz With Bashir will win), but The Class is a stunning French film and a revolution in filmmaking.
And now, here is a list of my gripes, beefs and “Where is Gran Torino?!” complaints about this year’s nominations:
* Where is Gran Torino?? Zero nominations?? Really??
* Worst Best Song nominations of all time. Why only three? Would it have killed the Academy to add Bruce Springsteen’s song from The Wrestler and the title song from Gran Torino to fill out the standard five spots?
No cinematography nomination for Revolutionary Road? Roger Deakins’ work in that film was the best of the year, in my opinion.
How did The Reader get a best picture, when all of these films were better?
How did Angelina Jolie (The Changeling) get a best actress nomination and not Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) or Kristin Scott Thomas (I Loved You So Long)?
Some other amazing acting performances that deserved nominations but were ignored:
Michelle Williams in Wendy & Lucy
Rebecca Hall in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Rosemarie DeWitt and Debra Winger in Rachel Getting Married
Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Synecdoche, New York
Juliette Binoche in Flight of the Red Balloon
Benicio Del Toro in Che
Josh Brolin in W.
Colin Farrell in In Bruges or Cassandra’s Dream
Tilda Swinton in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Brett McCracken is a Los Angeles-based writer and journalist. He is the author of Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty (Baker, 2013), Hipster Christianity (Baker, 2010) and has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNN.com, The Princeton Theological Review, Mediascape, Books & Culture, Christianity Today, RELEVANT magazine, IMAGE Journal, Q Ideas and Conversantlife.com. He speaks and lectures frequently at universities, churches & conferences, and is a regular blogger. You can also follow him on Twitter @BrettMcCracken.