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Howie’s Oscar picks for 2008

The 80th annual Academy Awards show airs this Sunday night from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Talk about cutting it close, though, huh? With the recent writers strike being settled, the Super Bowl of the film industry can proceed as planned.

At the helm for the second time is comedian Jon Stewart from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I feel, made the correct choice bringing back Stewart as host of this year’s Oscars ceremony. He’s political, and this being a political year, we could have some real surprises this time, especially those who decide to get controversial in their acceptance speech. Stewart may have toned down his trademark political humor back in 2006, but he could set a viewership record for the Oscar telecast, which hasn’t been doing stellar numbers like back when Billy Crystal ruled as host. No one has come close to hitting the 55 million who watched Crystal host back in 1998, when “Titanic” swept the awards.

The Oscars should turn out the viewers in full force, what with the strike over and people needing a break from the bad news that has been filling the airwaves, so get out your scorecards to pick the night’s big winners.



OK, let’s get right to it, shall we?

George Clooney, “Michael Clayton”



Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood”

Johnny Depp, “Sweeney Todd”

Tommy Lee Jones, “In the Valley of Elah”

Viggo Mortensen, “Eastern Promises”

Howie’s pick: I’m going with bad boy Daniel Day-Lewis. By far, this is one of his strongest performances ever. Tommy Lee Jones was impressive as well, but people didn’t seem to want to see movies about the war, and George Clooney already has an Oscar. Johnny Depp, while doing his best to sing throughout “Sweeney Todd,” just doesn’t do it. Musicals always get the snub in this category anyway. The one upset though could be Viggo Mortensen in the very engaging “Eastern Promises.”

Cate Blanchett, “Elizabeth”

Julie Christie, “Away From Her”

Marion Cotillard, “La Vie en Rose”

Laura Linney, “The Savages”

Ellen Page, “Juno”

Howie’s pick: Julie Christie. In “Away From Her,” based on Alice Munro’s short fiction about love and Alzheimer’s titled “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” Christie not only tackled with grace and brilliance the sensitive subject matter but also turned in one of year’s the most emotional and heartfelt acting performances. I liked Blanchett, but does she do nonperiod films? Laura Linney is one if the most underrated actresses ever, but nobody saw “The Savages,” did they? Marion Cotillard also is a great underrated gem, and I remembered her standout performance in Tim Burton’s “Big Fish.” Expect a possible upset in this category with newcomer Ellen Page for her excellent acting in “Juno.”

Casey Affleck, “The Assassination of Jesse James”

Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men”

Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Charlie Wilson’s War”

Hal Holbrook, “Into the Wild”

Tom Wilkinson, “Michael Clayton”

Howie’s pick: Javier Bardem. As in the Best Actor category, it’s the bad-boy thing once again that I think stands out. I am a huge fan of Tom Wilkinson’s work, and he shined in “Michael Clayton,” as did veteran actor Hal Holbrook, who might be the upset here since he’s been around for so long. Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War” was one of the highlights in that flick. Casey Affleck really has come into his own, eclipsing his older brother Ben when it comes to acting, but he’s still young and will get his due eventually.

Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There”

Ruby Dee, “American Gangster”

Saoirse Ronan, “Atonement”

Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”

Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”

Howie’s pick: Cate Blanchett. Playing not just a male figure, but an iconic one at that, how can you not give Cate the nod here, I ask you? Bob Dylan never was better represented. Besides, she’s nominated in the Best Actress category, so she’ll be rewarded here in a much more demanding role. Tilda Swinton gave a top-notch performance, and both Saoirse Ronan and Ruby Dee fared well in their ensemble outings. The one upset, though, could be Amy Ryan (from HBO’s “The Wire), who gave a memorable, gut-wrenching performance.

Julian Schnabel, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (“Le Scaphandre et le papillon”)

Jason Reitman, “Juno”

Tony Gilroy, “Michael Clayton”

Joel and Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”

Paul Thomas Anderson, “There Will Be Blood”

Howie’s pick: The Coen brothers for “No Country for Old Men.” I’d like to see Paul Thomas Anderson pick up the statue for “There Will Be Blood,” but I think two heads are better than one and will prevail, even if Oscar hasn’t traditionally given a nod to co-directors. It still could go to Anderson. Wouldn’t that be an interesting upset?

“Atonement”

“Juno”

“Michael Clayton”

“No Country for Old Men”

“There Will Be Blood”

Howie’s pick: “No Country for Old Men.” A close second and third (maybe a tie?) would be “Michael Clayton” and “There Will Be Blood.” Although many felt that the Coen brothers’ ending was confusing (it was), I still felt it has a better chance than “Atonement,” which failed to get its director a nomination. The night’s upset? “Michael Clayton,” which would be wild if it did win.

Brad Bird, “Ratatouille”

Diablo Cody, “Juno”

Tony Gilroy, “Michael Clayton”

Tamara Jenkins, “The Savages”

Nancy Oliver, “Lars and the Real Girl”

Howie’s pick: Diablo Cody for “Juno.” While Tony Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton” is favored by many, I believe the writing for “Juno” will win because the film’s star, Ellen Page, will lose out to veteran Julie Christie’s incredible performance, so the film will get rewarded here instead.

Christopher Hampton, “Atonement”

Sarah Polley, “Away From Her”

Ronald Harwood, “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly” (“Le Scaphandre et le papillon”)

Joel and Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”

Paul Thomas Anderson, “There Will Be Blood”

Howie’s pick: “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly.” I know both Joel and Ethan Coen are favored as front-runners for “No Country for Old Men,” but Ronald Harwood’s adaptation from the Jean-Dominique Bauby novel was amazing, and, hey, I didn’t mind the subtitles. Could be the upset of the evening.

“No End in Sight”

“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience”

“Sicko”

“Taxi to the Dark Side”

“War/Dance”

Howie’s pick: Michael Moore’s “Sicko.” What’s ironic here is that Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs’ “No End in Sight” could be the upset here. Ironic, because this documentary explores those in the Bush administration and their shortsighted planning for orchestrating the war on Iraq in 2003 and its follow-up. Also ironic because they probably cite Moore as an influence, and here they are in the same category vying for the Oscar against him.

“12” (Russia)

“Die Fälscher” (Austria)

“Beaufort” (Israel)

“Mongol” (Kazakhstan)

“Katyn” (Poland)

Howie’s pick: “Beaufort” from Israel. The upset here could be Nikita Mikhalkov’s “12,” about Russian jurors deciding the fate of a young Chechen accused of murder, but the insanity of war is challenged in “Beaufort,” retelling the story leading up to Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon back in 2002. At what cost does one risk losing their life over a piece of real estate that soon will be abandoned anyway?

“Surf’s Up”

“Persepolis”

“Ratatouille”

Howie’s pick: “Ratatouille.” I could go all artsy and say that the the black-and-white French piece “Persepolis” would be the best and that “Surf’s Up” was a cool ride continuing the penguin motif, but hands down the one with soul (and food) must go with Pixar’s original main course of a feature.

“Falling Slowly” from “Once”

“Raise It Up” from “August Rush”

“Happy Working Song” from “Enchanted”

“So Close” from “Enchanted”

“That’s How You Know” from “Enchanted”

Howie’s pick: “Falling Slowly” from the movie “Once.” Even though “Enchanted” has three nominated songs in this category (“That’s How You Know” is my second choice), I think they’re going to cancel each other out and give “Falling Slowly” the statue.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout Northern California and Nevada, including Sirius Radio. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio, and you can see his film reviews on RSN. For past reviews, blogs, and audio clips, visit http://www.HowieNave.com.


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