The New Year has given a new impulse to the race for the top prize in International films. And hot on a huge thumb up from the Actor’s Guild is Sean Penn’s directorial debut, Into The Wild. Based on the true-life adventure of Christopher MaCandless, a graduate from the Emory University, who abandoned his possessions and gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. The film was recognized by the Screen Actor’s Guild by nominations in four categories including the lead actor nomination for Emile Hirsch and supporting acting nominations for Hal Holbrook and Catherine Keener. This, plus a nod for the Best Ensemble Cast, makes it a keen contender for the Best Picture nomination, a category which I have already predicted would be a straight fight between the Coen Brothers’ critics’ darling, No Country For Old Men and British Director Joe Wright’s Atonement.
But the Screen Actor Guild’s nominations have given a clear picture on the acting categories. Daniel Day Lewis seems all set for a second Oscar for his act as the greedy and vicious turn-of-the-century Texas prospector in director Paul Thomas Anderson’s grim take on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil, There Will Be Blood. The role has been dubbed, as ‘too-bloody’ by many Oscar watchers and the much deserving Johnny Depp seems a far safer choice. Depp has already earned a lot of critical acclaim for his role as the evil barber in director Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd. The others running for a Best Actor nod, come January, are George Clooney for Michael Clayton and Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises. Both are likely to be nominated, but their chances of winning are very slim. Of course, all this excludes another Adrien Brody effect ( anyone remember Adrien Brody’s shocking win over Jack Nicholson in 2002?). The lead actress nominations seem almost fixed with veteran Julie Christie, newcomer Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard. These are the ladies who will apparently fight it out for the top prize. As of now, Angelina Jolie seems a safe bet considering the lack of star power in this category. The last place will be decided between Amy Adams (Enchanted), Laura Linney (The Savages) and Keira Knightly (Atonement). Cate Blanchett, though widely praised for her work in Elizabeth-The Golden Age is more likely to be nominated (and I predict even win) in the Best Supporting Actress category for her brilliant performance in Bob Dylan’s I’m Not There. Her main rivals in this category are Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) and Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton). Also likely to be nominated in this category include 83-year old Ruby Dee for her performance in Ridley Scott’s American Gangster. But my dark horse for this award is another veteran Marisa Tomei for director Sidney Lumet’s Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead. The directing award seems far easier as the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan winning most of the pre-Oscar awards. Also Belgian director Julian Schnabel is likely to be nominated for his brilliant film (which sadly is not up for the Best Foreign Language Film) The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. The Academy loves good actors when they do a great job behind the camera as well, and as such Sean Penn is likely to be nominated. Sidney Lumet is the dark horse in this category for his comeback film Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead. But all will be clear when the producers and directors guild finally announce their nominations. The first major award is the Golden Globes, which will be given out on January 15. Till then we cross our fingers. Anupam Dhar