Share this article

print logo

Critical thinking It's time to put the year's movies into focus and choose the winners at Sunday night's Oscars

If award season is right up there with flu season in your house, there's good news: It's almost over. But if the SAG Awards pick you up and you welcome the guidance of the Director's Guild, well then you're probably revved up for Oscar night.

So why should the Academy have all the fun? Take five minutes to fill out the ballot below, then keep it handy during Sunday night's broadcast to track how you're doing. While presenters plod through some bad jokes, you can see how you stack up against our panel of critics and your fellow readers, who have been casting their votes all week at www.buffalonews.com.

If you haven't seen all the nominated films, you still have some time to cram for Hollywood's equivalent of final exams. If you haven't been keeping up with your "homework" all year, here's a hint that may save you some time: See "Slumdog Millionaire" first. Or, just use the notes below as a sort of cinematic Cliffs Notes.

>BEST PICTURE

JEFF SIMON
WILL WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: If the winner isn't "Slumdog," it will be proof that the whole town has gone nuts and ought to be quarantined.

LARRY HANEBERG
WILL WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: Everyone loves an underdog.

BOB STILSON
WILL WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: Funny, dramatic, romantic, exciting and colorful. "Slumdog" serves up just about everything I go to the movies for. Hopefully, the Academy won't see being an audience-pleaser as a sin.

-----

>BEST ACTOR

JEFF SIMON
WILL WIN: Sean Penn
SHOULD WIN: Mickey Rourke
COMMENTS: Brad Pitt, Frank Langella and Richard Jenkins, worthy as they are, are lucky to be in the category.

LARRY HANEBERG
WILL WIN: Mickey Rourke
SHOULD WIN: Mickey Rourke
COMMENTS: Ya gotta love a comeback.

BOB STILSON
WILL WIN: Mickey Rourke
SHOULD WIN: Mickey Rourke
COMMENTS: While all the other nominees putter away in fussy "Oscar Bait" films, Rourke delivers a gritty, memorable and true performance. The fact that Rourke has crawled back from "Jerry Springer-ville" and become a real actor again adds a nice touch of hope to this year's proceedings.

-----

>BEST ACTRESS

JEFF SIMON
WILL WIN: Anne Hathaway
SHOULD WIN: Anne Hathaway
COMMENTS: I'm guessing Hathaway's personal story will win her a lot of pity votes from older, wiser Academy types.

LARRY HANEBERG
WILL WIN: Kate Winslet
SHOULD WIN: Angelina Jolie
COMMENTS: This seems to be Winslet's year, but Jolie's performance was stunning.

BOB STILSON
WILL WIN: Anne Hathaway
SHOULD WIN: Kate Winslet
COMMENTS: Probably the weakest best-actress group in some time. I'm having a hard time gathering Oscar-worthy enthusiasm for any of these performances.

-----

>BEST DIRECTOR

JEFF SIMON
WILL WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: Danny Boyle is even odds to accept the prize with a lot of eloquent blarney or startling pub wit you don't expect.

LARRY HANEBERG
WILL WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: Even the Academy should be able to recognize this as the best of the best.

BOB STILSON
WILL WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: Hopefully, the Academy will resist the temptation to give maverick director Gus Van Sant an Oscar for his most mainstream film in 20 years.

-----

>BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

JEFF SIMON
WILL WIN: Heath Ledger
SHOULD WIN: Heath Ledger
COMMENTS: Pay careful attention to whomever is allowed to accept it for him.

LARRY HANEBERG
WILL WIN: Heath Ledger
SHOULD WIN: Heath Ledger
COMMENTS: The only performance close to Ledger's was Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road."

BOB STILSON
WILL WIN: Heath Ledger
SHOULD WIN: Duh
COMMENTS: I'm thrilled to see Downey Jr. nominated, but Ledger's work as the Joker is simply on a level that is above and beyond the nominees in all the other categories. Simply stunning.

-----

>BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

JEFF SIMON
WILL WIN: Penelope Cruz
SHOULD WIN: Viola Davis
COMMENTS: The best category of the entire night. An equal case of award affection could be made for anyone in it.

LARRY HANEBERG
WILL WIN: Penelope Cruz
SHOULD WIN: Viola Davis
COMMENTS: Cruz's popularity will trump Davis' superior performance.

BOB STILSON
WILL WIN: Viola Davis
SHOULD WIN: Marisa Tomei
COMMENTS: Davis delivered a few honest and emotional moments to an otherwise talky and staid filmed play.

-----

>BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

JEFF SIMON
WILL WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: "Slumdog's" vibrant visual style changes the whole category.

LARRY HANEBERG
WILL WIN: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
SHOULD WIN: "The Changeling"
COMMENTS: Even though "The Changeling's" cinematography was haunting, the Academy will feel compelled to give "Benjamin Button" something.

BOB STILSON
WILL WIN: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
SHOULD WIN: "The Dark Knight"
COMMENTS: I'd love to see "The Dark Knight" awarded for its dynamic visuals, but "Button" will likely be awarded for its intricate and artsy tableaux.

-----

>BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

JEFF SIMON
WILL WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: Danny Elfman for "Milk" has an outside shot.

LARRY HANEBERG
WILL WIN: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
SHOULD WIN: "Wall-E"
COMMENTS: I don't find a real standout in this category, but I thought the use of music in "Wall-E" was charming

BOB STILSON
WILL WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: Hopefully, the exciting and lively soundtrack of "Slumdog" will stand apart from its more traditional competition.

-----

>BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

JEFF SIMON
WILL WIN: "Milk"
SHOULD WIN: "Milk"
COMMENTS: There are just too many reasons, aesthetic, political and otherwise, to opt for "Milk."

LARRY HANEBERG
WILL WIN: "Milk"
SHOULD WIN: "In Bruges"
COMMENTS: I think the script for "In Bruges" was so darkly funny as to deserve the award, I'm sure the Academy will go for the biopic

BOB STILSON
WILL WIN: "Milk"
SHOULD WIN: "In Bruges"
COMMENTS: Not only should "In Bruges" win this category, but Colin Farrell should have also received a best actor nomination for the film.

-----

>BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

JEFF SIMON
WILL WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: Simon Beaufoy's screenplay is both wonderful and wildly unusual.

LARRY HANEBERG
WILL WIN: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: The Academy won't be able to resist the attempt at adapting F. Scott Fitzgerald.

BOB STILSON
WILL WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
SHOULD WIN: "Slumdog Millionaire"
COMMENTS: Perhaps "Benjamin Button" should be given special attention for taking a 23-page story and turning it into an incredibly long three-hour film.

-----

>BIGGEST UPSET YOU COULD SEE

JEFF SIMON: If Anne Hathaway actually does win the Oscar instead of Winslet or Streep, it will be more than upset enough for any Oscar night.

LARRY HANEBERG: "Slumdog Millionaire" loses best picture to "Benjamin Button" -- though "Slumdog" is one of those films that just utterly deserves the honors.

BOB STILSON: When Jerry Lewis takes the stage to accept the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, anything might happen. While Lewis has been wildly praised for his film work (and film technology advancements) in Europe, he has been consistently ignored and/or ridiculed here in the States. Will the often mercurial Lewis speak his mind once he has the stage to himself on live TV? Probably not, but you can never be quite sure with Jerry.

There are no comments - be the first to comment