Screenwriter William Goldman ( Butch Cassidy, Princess Bride ) once summed up the movie business with the phrase "nobody knows anything."  Talent, money, marketing --


Oscar Nominations: Taking the Guesswork Out of Guessing


Screenwriter William Goldman (Butch Cassidy, Princess Bride) once summed up the movie business with the phrase "nobody knows anything."  Talent, money, marketing -- these ingredients are nice, but in the end movie success is largely a crap shoot.  Roll your dice and move your mice.

Oscar watchers, a group of which I am a proud member, have adopted Goldman's line as their mantra (the terrific site Awards Daily used it as their motto at one time). As the nomination announcement grows closer, we tend to amend the quote:  "Nobody knows anything -- except, of course, everyone knows that..." 

This is followed by a list of supposed certainties, lead pipe cinches and the dreaded 'locks,' those nominees that couldn't possibly be snubbed by the Academy.  For me, the word 'lock' is a jinx.  It's like the play-by-play guy telling us that the field goal kicker never misses from inside the 30.

Still, if you know your awards history and trivia, you can improve your prognosticating skills.  For example, diligent Oscar watchers have had Slumdog Millionaire cemented into the Best Picture category for what seems like ages now.  Why?  Because Slumdog won the National Board of Review's Best Film award, and since 2000, every single Best Film winner went on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.  Stop.  Check, please.  Slumdog is in.  It's loc...dammit, you almost got me.

This is our mania.  We devour bits of information like that.  It's really all we have to go on.  We're not industry insiders; we're film fans who follow the Oscars like sports fans follow March Madness.  And like any seasoned bracketologist, we feel have this whole Oscar nonsense down to an exact science.

Naturally, Oscar Nomination Morning dawns (this Thursday at 5:30am, check your local listings) and with it brings surprises and snubs, much to the delight and frustration of Oscar fans -- delighted that the nominations weren't obvious and boring, and frustrated that our calculations were all wrong and, once again, Mr. Goldman was right.

My predictions for the major awards after the jump...

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Andrew Stanton, WALL-E
Gus Van Sant, Milk

The Producers Guild and Directors Guild nominations rarely match the Best Picture and Director categories exactly, so I'm going out on a WALL-E limb in Director.  This wouldn't be such a wild pick if the Academy voters remembered that they don't have to leave animated movies out of the main categories.

Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

It's probably a toss-up between Jenkins and Brad Pitt (Benjamin Button)  for the final spot here.

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road

Another toss-up between Leo and Angelina Jolie (Changeling).  Will the celebrity universe explode if both Pitt and Jolie are snubbed?  One can only hope...

Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin,  Milk
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire

Category Fraud Alert:  Patel played the lead/starring/the-movie-is-all-about-him character in Slumdog, and yet Supporting Actor is his best chance for a nomination.  A Patel nod would greatly help Slumdog's chances of winning Best Picture; movies without at least one acting nomination rarely win the big prize.

Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Amy Adams, quickly becoming an Oscar darling, could steal a spot for Doubt.  But is Doubt really going to get four acting nominations and no Best Picture love?  I'm going to say no and give her spot to Henson.

Also:  look for The Dark Knight to have the most nominations, Clint Eastwood to get a Best Song nod for Gran Torino, and Waltz with Bashir to achieve the strangest triple play ever:  nominations in Animated Feature, Documentary and Foreign Language Film.

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