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February 24, 2005

The Down Low:
And the Oscar goes to...

BY
DAVID VIGGIANO

Last year I kicked some major Oscar butt, predicting 8 of the 9 winners in the top categories of the Academy Awards.
This year is another story.
Last year had clear front runners in every category and the voters gave us no upsets.
This year only one race has a clear frontrunner, and I suspect we’re going to see a few surprises, just because I think the Academy likes to shake things up when things start getting too predictable.

So, after much agony and few coin tosses, here are my predictions for this year’s winners.

And the Oscar goes to...
Lest start with the obvious. Jamie Foxx has the Best Actor Award in the bag. The Academy loves breakthrough roles for actors who just a few years back were doing schlock like “Booty Call”. Besides, it’s almost eerie how Foxx transformed himself into Ray Charles both in body and spirit. This one’s a no-brainer.

The Best Actress category has some heavy hitters. Imelda Staunton is heart breaking in the title role of “Vera Drake”, and Catalina Sandino-Moreno is a revelation in “Maria Full of Grace”. But let’s face it, how many voters have seen those movies and these actresses are relatively unknown in America.
It breaks my heart to see Annette Bening have to square off against Hilary Swank again as they did six years ago. And it breaks my heart that once again, Hilary has a meatier, more substantial and well-rounded role. I do think this rematch will win Annette some sympathy votes, and I do think there are a number of voters who don’t want to escalate Hilary to the level of actress that has two Best Actress awards on her shelf at the young age of 30. But Hilary’s taking off the gloves and coming out punching in what I think will be a narrow win. But margins are of no consequence in this race. Hilary Swank goes home with the gold.

The supporting actor categories are a little trickier to predict. Will the Academy go for two veterans who always give terrific performances, but have been overlooked in the past (Morgan Freeman & Cate Blanchett) or do they go with audience favorites with roles that have revived two dead careers in the little movie that became the sleeper hit of the year? (Thomas Hayden Church and Virginia Madsen who both co-star in “Sideways”)
The only reason I’m predicting the vets will win is because the votes swayed younger for the Best Actor and Actress categories. The Academy likes to spread the wealth.
I’m going for Morgan Freeman in “Million Dollar Baby” and Cate Blanchett in “The Aviator” for the wins.

The Best Picture and Best Director category are 50-50 splits in my book. Martin Scorsese certainly has sentiment on his side. After years of being cheated, dating all the way back to 1980’s “Raging Bull”, this just may be his year. But “The Aviator” is not one of his best films and people thought it was just too long and cumbersome.
Clint Eastwood, on the other hand, has become a favorite because “Million Dollar Baby” has surprised so many viewers with the emotional punch it packs, and Eastwood has been showing his skill consistently, year after year, with amazingly powerful films. He did, however, win both director and picture Oscars in 1992 for “Unforgiven”. Will voters do the same this year and elevate Eastwood to legendary status?
I predict the win will be split. Many are saying Scorsese will win director for sentimental reasons and “Million Dollar Baby” will win picture for being such a popular favorite. But I’m going out on a limb and saying it will go the opposite way. Eastwood will win director because he hands down did the best job in this category. “The Aviator” is one of those sweeping epics that the Academy loves to give technical awards too as well as Best Picture, even though it is clearly flawed. But if “out of Africa” and “The English Patient” can win Best Picture Oscars, so can “The Aviator”.

No doubt, the consolation prize for “Sideways” will be winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Award.

I Think “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” will edge out “The Aviator” for Best Original Screenplay because it is just that: Original.

Best Animated Feature will hands down go to “The Incredibles”. The category is too young for a sequel (“Shrek 2”) to a movie that already won the award, to win again.

So there you have it. I spent way too many hours agonizing over this list. Check back on Monday and see how I did.

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Watch the Oscars with the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus this Sunday at Sidetrack. Where Hollywood Meets Halsted

Photo courtesy: Universal Studios

 
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