Make room on the mantle: Beacon Oscar picks

by Beacon Staff • February 21, 2007

Harry: In an exceptionally wide-open Best Picture category this year, each of the five nominees stands a chance of winning. Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood's latest WWII masterpiece, deserves the top prize more than any of the nominees, but The Departed appears to be overshadowing Clint's chances of pulling off another Million Dollar Baby.,Best Picture

Harry: In an exceptionally wide-open Best Picture category this year, each of the five nominees stands a chance of winning. Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood's latest WWII masterpiece, deserves the top prize more than any of the nominees, but The Departed appears to be overshadowing Clint's chances of pulling off another Million Dollar Baby. Still, the Boston-set crime thriller remains in tough competition with Babel, a Crash-like ensemble drama, and even The Queen, a sleeper hit that has recently been gaining momentum after winning Best Film at the British Academy of Film Television Arts awards. However, all four nominees should be wary of Little Miss Sunshine, a small indie dramedy that has gained an impressive four nominations and has just about everybody cheering for it. Expect an upset.

Will Win: Little Miss Sunshine

Should Win: Letters from Iwo Jima

Zach: Most years, it is clear who will and should win the award for Best Picture, but this year is much more difficult. This has been an incredibly strong year in cinema; so many seem to deserve these high honors. The awards offer little help but point to Little Miss Sunshine to be the dark-horse winner, as it took the top honors from the Producer's, Screen Actors and Writer's Guilds. However, none of the major critics voted this way, and the Golden Globes went to Babel and Dreamgirls (the latter failed to even get a nomination in this category). Is Sunshine the little comedy that could? In a year where no film truly stands out as the clear Best Picture, a strong film with an incredible cast, great script, good direction and no real flaws could overtake the pack.

Will Win: Little Miss Sunshine

Should Win: Little Miss Sunshine

Best Director

Harry: You can argue that Paul Greengrass (United 93) or Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Babel) could win in an upset, but really there's no question that Scorsese will finally snag the Oscar for The Departed. After six directing nominations and no wins, it's about time. Still, it'd be a pleasant surprise to see Innaritu win it for his ambitious and exhausting multi-lingual epic, Babel.

Will Win: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Should Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, Babel

Zach: The big question this year; will Scorsese's eighth Oscar nomination (two for writing) be the one to finally bring home the gold? It certainly seems like it, with Scorsese's Boston-based film The Departed taking not only the Golden Globe for directing but also the Director's Guild award. Unfortunately, Scorsese does not deserve to win this year. While he probably will get the pity Oscar from the voters, Eastwood's powerful war-epic Letters from Iwo Jima offers a much stronger overall experience. That is not to say that Departed is by any means not spectacular, but this is a contest pitting the best against the best. This year, Eastwood won the gun draw against Scorsese.

Will Win: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Should Win: Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima

Best Actor

Harry: Forest Whitaker has won almost every pre-Oscar award this season (including a Golden Globe and a SAG award) for his aggressive turn as Idi Amin. Older Academy members may vote for Peter O'Toole for his brave and heartbreaking portrayal of an aging actor in Venus, but Whitaker seems unstoppable at this point. It's too bad that O'Toole, at 75, won't make it to the podium this year: after being nominated eight times with only an Honorary Oscar to his name, a competitive win is long overdue, especially for his surprisingly youthful and energetic performance in Venus.

Will Win: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Should Win: Peter O'Toole, Venus

Zach: This year's best actor award should be going to a British Jew impersonating a Kazakh reporter in one of the best examples of character acting and comedic timing in years. It's much more difficult to make great comedy than great drama, but since Sacha Baron Cohen isn't nominated, the best-nominated actor is Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Pieces of his performance were so expressive as to evoke laughter, while at other points so dramatic, powerful and unquestionably real. Whitaker won the Golden Globe, Screen Actor's Guild and BAFTA awards, among many others in this category, and although Will Smith gave a fantastic performance in The Pursuit of Happyness, it would be difficult to unseat Whitaker.

Will Win: Forest Whitaker The Last King of Scotland

Should Win: Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Best Actress

Harry: In a year packed with terrific female performances, Helen Mirren prevails with her nuanced and fully realized turn as Britain's monarch in The Queen. Mirren not only nails the mannerisms of Elizabeth, she takes on and embodies her character with beautiful intensity and attention to detail. Winning the Oscar will be a well-deserved payoff for a performance as regal and refined as this one.

Will Win: Helen Mirren, The Queen

Should Win: Helen Mirren, The Queen

Zach: There is very little contest in this category. Helen Mirren's performance as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen was not only a strong and emotional performance, but seems to have won the heart of every voter. Mirren has taken nearly every major critic's award this year, as well as the Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG awards. The only thing Mirren has to be worried about this year is being typecast as a British queen (she also had an Emmy-award-winning performance as Elizabeth I in the television miniseries of the same name).

Will Win: Helen Mirren, The Queen

Should Win: Helen Mirren The Queen

Best Supporting Actor

Harry: He sings, he dances, he dies: sounds like all the right ingredients for an Oscar. So it'll be no surprise if Eddie Murphy triumphs on Oscar night for his versatile performance as the has-been James Early in Dreamgirls. Even with terrific competition coming from Alan Arkin and Mark Wahlberg, Murphy takes the cake with a terrific performance that goes far beyond the fat suits and farting of his usual work.

Will Win: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

Should Win: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

Zach: Who knows what to think of Eddie Murphy these days? Within a few weeks he wins a SAG award for his performance in Dreamgirls and then releases Norbit. Regardless, he certainly looks like he could win the Oscar for the former of the two come Feb. 25. However, Mark Wahlberg wowed in his performance in The Departed. His supporting role was one of many great performances and was overshadowed by the huge presence of Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and the other big names in the film.

Will Win: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

Should Win: Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

Best Supporting Actress

Harry: The Academy loves a comeback, even if the comeback happens to be an "American Idolquo

t; reject. Jennifer Hudson will walk away with an Oscar come Sunday night for her show-stopping vocals in Dreamgirls. Unfortunately, a quieter and finer performance will inevitably be overlooked. Adriana Barraza, so affective and devastating as a Mexican nanny in Babel, has little chance of overthrowing Hudson's seemingly unavoidable victory.

Will Win: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Should Win: Adriana Barraza, Babel

Zach: Seems losing "American Idol" may have been the best thing to ever happen to Jennifer Hudson, who looks poised to win the Oscar for supporting actress. After taking the SAG award as well as many critics' honors. Hudson looks to take a giant leap into Hollywood with her feature-film debut.

Will Win: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Should Win: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls