Academy Award Predictions, Part I

Usually by the time the Screen Actors Guild Award nominations are released, there is a handful of films and performances that we know will receive nominations – but this year it is still a wide open race.

The SAG awards didn’t really clear anything up, either. Into the Wild, Sean Penn’s thought-to-be-out drama received the most nominations with four. Meanwhile two films that were considered front-runners, Atonement and There Will Be Blood struggled to receive a combined single nomination – for Blood‘s Daniel Day-Lewis, which brings me to my Best Actor predictions.

Best Actor:
There are a handful of names that are certain to be announced on January 22, one of them being Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood. It seems that Day-Lewis has been the front runner for the Best Actor trophy long before the film was even completed, and with a Golden Globe nomination to go along with his SAG nod, he will continue to be the one to beat in this category.

The only other person I’d consider a sure-bet for a Best Actor nod is Michael Clayton‘s George Clooney, who has been going strong since his surprise Broadcast Film Critics Best Actor win.

It’s a tight battle for the final three spots: Atonement‘s James McAvoy won a Golden Globe nomination, but the film is quickly losing its hype to the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men. Ryan Gosling could earn his second nomination in as many years for his performance in Lars and the Real Girl, which he received Golden Globe and SAG nominations for.

Former Lord of the Ringer, Viggo Mortensen has also emerged as a possible nominee for his daring performance in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, which may be the film’s best chance for a nomination. Cronenberg’s last film, A History of Violence, received two nominations, so Academy members do not appear to be turned off by Cronenberg’s dark storytelling.

However, I’m betting that Academy members are more likely to take a liking to a different dark performance: that of Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s newly-released musical, Sweeney Todd. Depp missed out on SAG nomination, but I’m still betting that he will beat some strong competition at the Globes and secure his spot.

I’m also betting that the love for Emile Hirsch and Into the Wild will heat up over the next couple months – a leading four SAG nominations is a good start. His dramatic weight-loss and draining performance as Christopher McCandless is one of the finest performances I’ve seen all year.

Best Supporting Actor:

Fortunately, the Best Supporting Actor race is a bit more clear, which may allow people like me to look smarter than we actually are when nominations are announced.

Javier Bardem is certain to find that Academy members are his ‘friendo’ when his name is announced on January 22, for giving the most chilling villain performance since Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.

Three other SAG-nominated performances will also likely get Academy nominations: Tom Wilkinson for Michael Clayton, rising star Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild. The first two received nominations from the Globes and Screen Actors’ Guild; Holbrook was passed up on the Globes for John Travolta (Hairspray) and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson’s War).

If the love for Charlie Wilson’s War begins to heat up, Phillip Seymour Hoffman could receive a nod for one of his many performances in the past year. However, the film continues to slip. Travolta also could get in, for his cross-dressing role as Tracy’s mom in Adam Shankman’s energetic musical, Hairspray. Last year’s Little Miss Sunshine breakout Paul Dano was an early front-runner for There Will Be Blood, but his early absence from critics’ awards has nearly disappeared him from the picture. Unless There Will Be Blood really heats up, he’s out of the picture. Ditto for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly‘s Max Von Sydow, who will only sneak in if Diving Bell gets several nominations.

Instead, I’m betting the final spot goes to recent SAG nominee Tommy Lee Jones, who gives a strong performance in the most acclaimed film of the year, No Country for Old Men.

Coming Soon: Best Actress, Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Director and Best Picture predictions

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