Well, here they are... my Oscar predictions. Maybe I should call them my "Oscar Hopes", since really, I'm no expert!. I won't claim to have seen all the films that are big contenders, but I promise that all my predictions come from movies that I have seen!
Best Supporting Actress... Marisa Tomei for "The Wrestler"
Why? Well, because I think it was an incredibly brave role for the 44 year-old actress to take on. Not that she doesn't look great, because let's face it, she does! But I was most impressed with they way that she layered the character with a combination of pride, regret, hope, and resignation. Did she want to be an exotic dancer forever? No. Had it always been her life's dream? Of course not. But did she beat herself up for doing what she had to do to support herself and her family? Nope. And did she have a plan for the future that included something other than exotic dancing? YES! The movie highlighted the fact that the other dancers she worked with were younger than her and that, according to many of the "patrons" of the club where she worked, she was "past her prime". But you never saw her feel sorry for herself. Instead, she pulled herself up by the bootstraps and made a life... and a plan... for herself. She played her character with a balance of compassion and detachment that I'd imagine you'd need in order to live the life she lived, and even in her own less-than-great situation, she made time to be kind and sweet toward Randy (Mickey Rourke's character). Her performance was heart-breakingly sweet, and, in my opinion, totally Oscar worthy.
As an aside I'll add, that while I did love her in "My Cousin Vinny", a role she won the Oscar for in the early 90s, I loved her infinitely more in "The Wrestler".
Best Actress in a Leading Role... Kate Winslet for "The Reader"
Why? She's absolutely amazing in this role. I read the book "The Reader" a number of years ago, and she does an amazing job of bringing out the subtleties of the character that I remember from the book. You see the genuine affection she has for young Michael, the tremendous desire she has for love and belonging. You see her deep sadness at having to give that up in order to protect her secret. You see her shame, her desperation to keep her secrets buried. You see her determination, and her acceptance of what her life was and is. I think this was an incredibly vulnerable role... and Winslet played it with a beautiful mix of strength and vulnerability.
Best Actor in a Leading Role... Mickey Rourke for "The Wreslter"
Why? Because I love him. And that should be enough! HA! But seriously, talk about vulnerable roles. This one takes the cake. A middle-aged pro-Wrestler at the end of his career, struggling to find a way to exist without the only thing he's ever known and depended on... a man, a father, an employee who's burned more bridges that he can count and has practically no one he can turn to who would care. Hits a bit close to home for Mickey Rourke, I imagine, which may be the reason he was able to play Randy "The Ram" Robinson with such grace. I can't say enough about this movie, this role, and about Mickey himself. I loved him in his older movies, and I love him even more in this one. I love the attitude with which he as re-appeared in Hollywood circles, accepting his part in the demise of his earlier career and being grateful for the second chance this movie has given him. He pulled out every trick from his acting arsenal for this role, but the most important thing he gave it was his heart. And it paid off. Oh, and did I mention that I love him?
Best Director... Stephen Daldry for "The Reader"
Why? Because it's a beautiful movie. Both in the "physical" sense and the emotional one. It accomplished what the book accomplished, creating a bittersweet story of love, secrets, and pride. From the beginning of the movie, you knew there was no way it could end well, no way it could all work out, but even knowing that, you couldn't imagine just how difficult the ending would be. However, even with the heart-breaking ending, there was also victory for Hanna and closure for Michael. This is my pick for best director because what played out on the screen was, in my opinion, what played out in my mind when I read the book. And it took some inspired directing to accomplish that.
Best Picture... "Slumdog Millionaire"
Why? Because it's a GREAT movie! And it ends happily! I hope I didn't just ruin it for any of you who haven't seen the film yet, but I'm so happy to see the Academy honoring a film that has a happy ending. Honestly, that doesn't happen very often. The movie made me angry as I watched what these characters endured as children, but then it made me cheer as I watched everything fall into place for Jamaal. Latika escaped her "prison". Salim redeemed himself. The bad guys all got what was coming to them. It was just an uplifting movie with beautiful cinematography and the kind of hope that you don't see that often in Oscar-nominated films. I was skeptical when I watched it, but once I did, I understood the hype. This is a fantastic movie!
Opinions? Please share! Especially if you've seen some of the nominated films that I haven't!