As the date for the 80th Annual Academy Awards grows closer, so does the race for the top honours. Daniel Day Lewis seems to be the best bet for the Oscar nomination for the Lead Actor, owing to his brilliant performance and a host of pre-Oscar awards that culminated with the Screen Actors Guild’s huge thumbs-up. Johnny Depp is almost out of the race and the only actor who may challenge Lewis is George Clooney, whose performance in the taut political thriller Michael Clayton has been making big news. This coupled with the Academy’s love for the film may be the only hiccup in Lewis’ path. Another factor that might cultivate in the minds of the people voting for the Oscars is that both Lewis and Clooney have been winners of this prestigious award previously (Lewis for My Left Foot and Clooney for Syriana), which might sway them to vote for either Depp or maybe even Viggo Mortensen, who has a sufficient list of good performances to deserve it.
On the female actors’ scenario, there seems to be a straight fight between veteran Julie Christie and novice Marion Cotillard. Even though Christie has gone ahead, thanks to a big boost from the Actors’ Guild, the fact that her film has suffered from a lack of publicity (as compared to Cotillard’s La Vie en Rose) has hindered her chances of winning the Oscar. Another reason for this could be that it is up against big studio films which might tilt the balance in favour of Cotillard. Christie has the support of the actors (they love their veterans) and her win in the Screen Actors Guild just reflects the same, but will the Academy have the same feeling as well? Cotillard, on the other hand, is aiming to become the third actor to win an acting Oscar for a Foreign Language film. If she does so, then she will join an elite group of artistes, with Sophia Loren and Roberto Bengini for her company. Her performance as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose has been acclaimed the world over and has strong support from the studio lobby. The dark horse in this category would be Ellen Page, who might just come in as a surprise at the upcoming Oscar night, for her role in the teenage pregnancy drama Juno. However, since the actors themselves constitute a large proportion of the voters, one can’t ignore them, so as of now Julie Christie’s role her performance in Away From Her is the frontrunner.
The race for the best film and the best director is being lead by the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan. Their film, No Country for Old Men has won most of the pre-Oscar awards and industry insiders feel that the time has come to honour the brothers for their work. Their nearest competitor is director Paul Thomas Anderson, whose film There Will Be Blood has been a critical hit. However, relying on the Directors Guild Award for the Coen duo (the Guild has a history of correctly predicting Oscar winners), the going only seems to be getting tougher for Anderson. Early frontrunner, British drama Atonement seems to have lost all its punch and, as I had earlier predicted, has been reduced to a film that appeals mostly to the British and the European sensibilities.
The race for the Supporting Actors’ Awards seems quite clear as well. Javier Bardem and Cate Blanchett are certainly the firm favourites to win these. Bardem has already won a host of other awards and Blanchett’s unusual interpretation of Bob Dylan is likely to fetch her a second Oscar for the Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role, though one might not ignore Ruby Dee’s surprise Screen Actors Guild win as a sentimental win for a long time veteran. The other real race is for the Best Adapted Screenplay. All the five nominated i.e., Christopher Hampton for Atonement, Sarah Polley for Away From Her, Ronald Harwood for The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, Coen Brothers for No Country for Old Men and Paul Anderson for There Will Be Blood have identical chances of winning the award. However, the Writer Guild’s snub to Polley and Hampton may affect their chances for the Oscars.
Thus, all seems set then for yet another exciting Oscar countdown. We eagerly await the 24th of February for a gala event and a thrilling evening.
[image by DonnaGrayson]