Fearless Oscar Predictions

March 02, 2006
A thought by James Berardinelli

Making these predictions has become as annual a ritual as watching the Oscars. I do both with limited enthusiasm. Some people can't understand how I, a film critic, can dislike the Academy Awards. The reason is simple: they bore me. It's not an original complaint, I know, but I'm sure I would be less resentful of the Oscars if they were trimmed down and tightened up.

For the record, my predictions have been good the last two years: 86% in 2004 (missing three) and 81% in 2005 (missing four). Typically, I'm in the 60-70% range. My goal is to hit 67%. So here are some thoughts on the major awards, then a listing of what I think will win the rest. Keep in mind that these are guesses of what I think will win, not necessarily what I think should win.

Picture: I still believe that Brokeback Mountain is a lock. I know there has been a growing chorus touting an upset by Crash, but I don't see it. Every year, as the awards draw nigh, an attempt is made to inject a little excitement by talking about a "dark horse." The only recent occasion when an underdog has pulled off an upset is when Shakespeare in Love sunk Saving Private Ryan. So it could happen, but I don't think it will. I made a bet with Ian Kessinger to mention his theater, Park Plaza Cinemas in Hilton Head, if Crash wins. (If Brokeback Mountain wins, maybe I'll go back and delete the previous sentence.)

Director: Even the people who think Crash will win Best Picture concede that Ang Lee is the odds-on favorite for Best Director. Members of the Academy might like George Clooney, but that sentiment will not be enough to stem the tide in favor of Lee.

Actor: Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It's a strong field, comprised mainly of actors playing real (dead) people. My preference might have been David Strathairn, but I have no problem with Hoffman taking home the statue for playing Harper Lee's best pal. No one seems to be predicting any differently, so consider this another slam-dunk.

Actress: Reese Witherspoon. Some people think Felicity Huffman, because she's playing the kind of oddball that the Academy loves and because her TV show is hot. But my money's on Witherspoon. I think Witherspoon's likabilty and the good feeling for June Carter Cash will carry the day.

Supporting Actor: George Clooney. With apologies to Paul Giamatti, Clooney is just too popular not to win something. And this is his most likely category.

Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams or Rachel Weisz? I'm torn. How strong are Brokeback's coattails? Still, the closer my ear gets to the ground, the louder the whispers of Weisz's name sound. So I'll go with her, with the proviso that I won't be surprised if Williams usurps her spotlight. I will be surprised if Roger Ebert's favorite, Amy Adams, has a larger role than to sit, smile the "I'm happy for her" smile, and clap politely.

And the Rest… (As usual, I do not pick the short subjects)

Animated Feature: Wallace and Gromit
Art Direction: Good Night, and Good Luck
Cinematography: Good Night, and Good Luck
Costume Design: Pride & Prejudice
Documentary: March of the Penguins
Editing: Crash
Foreign Language Film: Tsotsi
Makeup: Cinderella Man
Musical Score: Brokeback Mountain
Music (Song): "In the Deep," Crash
Sound Editing: War of the Worlds
Sound Mixing: Walk the Line
Visual Effects: King Kong
Writing (Adapted): Brokeback Mountain
Writing (Original): Crash

So that's 21 predictions. I have to admit a few of them are shots in the dark, and a few others are based on intuition. So use these guesses in your Oscar pool at your own risk...