Salma Hayek and Sid Ganis (the Academy President) announced this year's Oscar nominees early this morning.
Mexico has obtained 16 nominations in total - represented in part by Babel (Adrian Barraza, up for Best Supporting Actress, Alejandro Gonzalez IÃ±arritu up for Best Director, Guillermo Arriaga for Best Screenplay Written directly for the Screen and Gustavo Santaolalla for Best Original Score), El Laberinto del Fauno (Representing Mexico's official entry for Best Foreign Film, and scoring nominations for: Guillermo del Toro for Best Screenplay Written directly for the Screen, Guillermo Navarro for Cinematography, Javier Navarrete for Original Score as well as nominations for Best Achievement in Makeup and Art Direction).
The following will detail my predictions for each of the major nominations (Pictures from IMDB):
Best Motion Picture
Nominees: Babel, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen
Should Win: Babel.
Babel is this year's breakthrough movie, and the most representative and deserving in this yearâ€™s repartee of movies. It is a true participant of the global motion picture industry â€“ thus representing not only American Film, but also Worldwide Film. It has broken barriers, and successfully narrated a gripping story, intertwining different cultures, nationalities and people â€“ uniting all as one.
Will win: Babel.
Although The Departed, The Queen and Letters from Iwo Jima have enough pull with Academy voters to secure a win, it might not be enough given Babel's current popularity.
Underdog: Little Miss Sunshine
As deserving as it may be, the movie will definitely be a shocker if it wins.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: Leonardo di Caprio (Blood Diamond), Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson), Peter O' Toole (Venus), Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)
Should Win: Leonardo Di Caprio or Forest Whitaker
Both actors are deserving of the Oscar, one for so accurately depicting the infamous Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, and the other for representing a forcive element in the blood diamond trade â€“ a smuggler â€“ who fights tooth and nail in the effort to get the prize. Di Caprioâ€™s role in The Departed is somewhat more deserving of an acting award, making his odds of winning less certain.
Will win: Forest Whitaker
Although the odds for Di Caprio to win are now higher than in the Golden Globes (his two nominations for the golden globe most likely cut his votes in half, securing the win for Whitaker), Whitaker will take it away.
Underdog: Peter Oâ€™ Toole
Oâ€™Toole will set the record for most nominations without a win â€“ if snubbed this year â€“ making Academy voters sympathetic to his cause. Although already given an Honorary Oscar â€“ which could also work against him â€“ Oâ€™Toole had his eyes set on an Oscar long ago, originally having refused the honorary Oscar, having stated he was offended, and how he still deserved a shot to win the real thing.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Nominees: Penelope Cruz (Volver), Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal), Helen Mirren (The Queen), Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), Kate Winslet (Little Children)
Should Win: Helen Mirren
Given her breakthrough year as Elizabeth I (a role that won her both the Emmy Award and Golden Globe) and Elizabeth II, it would come as no surprise if Mirren ends up being this yearâ€™s favorite. Her competition is varied, yet for the moment being, sheâ€™s still on top.
Will Win: Helen Mirren
Meryl Streep can take on a role in a rainforest documentary where she gets to act as a tree, and still make it an Oscar Winning performance â€“ but she wonâ€™t win for a comedy, not this year at least. Penelope Cruz is a foreigner â€“ whom starred in a film that domestically (speaking in U.S. terms) has been seen by almost no one. Thereâ€™s also something that makes me thing that she got incredibly lucky. Judi Dench and Kate Winslet pose the biggest threat. Supposing the votes are divided amongst those two, it then safely secures a sure win for Mirren.
Underdog: Meryl Streep
The real underdog is Meryl Streep â€“ she would be an underdog that could win and really get away with it. Judi Dench and Kate Winslet could also be considered underdogs, given that their films are critically acclaimed, but audience wise are weakâ€“ they took part in relatively unknown performances in little-seen pictures.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine), Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children), Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond), Eddie Murphy (DreamGirls), Mark Wahlberg (The Departed).
Will win: Alan Arkin
The supporting actor and actress categories are the most difficult to predict. Given this yearâ€™s hype, Eddie Murphy could be the one to win. His sympathetic character and natural likeability make him a safe choice to vote for. Alan Arkin could win for the same reason.
Should Win: Alan Arkin.
If Little Miss Sunshine goes home with only one award, it should be this one. Arkin has not been nominated since 1969. Honsou and Arkin are also the only actors who have been previously nominated in this yearâ€™s supporting actor nominee group. Wahlbergâ€™s surprise nomination is an award in itself, and the same goes for Jackie Earle Haley. Arkin, the only acting veteran in the category, could very well secure a win and be a cause for celebration.
Underdog: Jackie Earle Haley
Mark Wahlberg is the real underdog here, with no one more surprised by his nomination than him. Although he does deserve it, he wonâ€™t win. The Underdog win will go to Jackie Earle Haley, for his notable role as a lowly sex offender. He has now been put on the radar, (many people didnâ€™t have a clue who he was) making his surprise win all the sweeter.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Adriana Barraza (Babel), Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal), Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), Rinko Kikuchi (Babel)
Will win: Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson is the favorite so far. Everyone loves a success story and Hudson has done well in making herself one. Hudson owes her rise to fame to American Idol, where she was a finalist. After landing the role of Effie in Dreamgirls, she made it her own, and most recently won a golden globe for her work. Her current standing as favorite can shift and trade places quickly, making her likelihood of winning less secure.
Should win: Abigail Breslin
Itâ€™s been a long time since a young contender has won the supporting actress Oscar (the last being Anna Paquin for the Piano â€“ but in Breslinâ€™s age group only Tatum Oâ€™ Neal has held the honor), and it might be time for it to happen. Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi will cause a rift in voting â€“ both having great performances under their belt, and both being equally deserving â€“ but making a win for either of them, difficult. Cate Blanchett has a strong screen presence in Notes on a Scandal, so undermining her chances are not a option.
Underdog: Abigail Breslin.
The youngest in the group â€“ the shining newcomer (although less of a newcomer to acting than Hudson, still a newcomer), the cute one, the surprise inside a surprise and the actress everybody would love to see win â€“ but know wonâ€™t. Which is exactly why she might win.
Best Achievement in Directing
Nominees: Clint Eastwood (Letters from Iwo Jima), Stephen Frears (The Queen), Paul Greengrass (United 93), Alejandro Gonzalez IÃ±arritu (Babel), Martin Scorsese (The Departed)
Will Win: Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese has been snubbed too many times- enough so that the Academy Voters should be feeling some remorse. This alone could guarantee a win. Alejandro Gonzalez IÃ±arritu might provoke the Academy to fail to acknowledge Scorsese once more, but voters might deem an impending Best Picture win for Gonzalez IÃ±arritu enough for the Babel team and thus leave it at that.
Should Win: Scorsese.
Even I would feel guilty if he was deprived of the award.
Underdog: Stephen Frears
Babelâ€™s director could be the underdog, but he doesnâ€™t fit the underdog stereotype â€“ heâ€™s too much of a contender now. Paul Greengrass for United 93 â€“ although praiseworthy â€“ should be happy with the praise and nomination alone. Clint Eastwood has two directing Oscars already â€“ and one might hope there wonâ€™t be a third. Stephen Frears is left as the only obvious choice for underdog, and deservedly so. He has done great work in the past (Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters) and the momentum coming from it could culminate into including him in this yearâ€™s win.
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Nominees: Guillermo Arriaga (Babel), Letters from Iwo Jima (Iris Yamashita, Paul Haggis), Little Miss Sunshine (Michael Arndt), El Laberinto del Fauno (Guillermo del Toro), Peter Morgan (The Queen)
Will Win: El Laberinto del Fauno
The best original screenplay Oscar is always one of the toughest nominations to predict. Little Miss Sunshine is a strong nominee, but Babel will definitely hold its own. The Queen, although written directly for the screen, might as well have been an adaptation and the same goes for Letters from Iwo Jima. Even though El Laberinto del Fauno draws upon the post-Spanish Civil War era, no one can deny its pure creative intent. When it comes to rewarding a prize for the best story written directly for the screen, Iâ€™d have to go with El Laberinto del Fauno.
Should Win: El Laberinto Del Fauno
Little Miss Sunshine has a great story â€“ and would make a good win. However, a movie like El Laberinto del Fauno doesnâ€™t come along very often, and the voters will recognize that.
Underdog: Letters from Iwo Jima
Letters from Iwo Jima. Paul Haggis has proven heâ€™s mighty with the pen before (Crash, Million Dollar Baby), and this year could be no different.
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen and Company (Borat), Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron and Company), The Departed (William Monahan), Little Children (Todd Field, Tom Perrotta), Notes on a Scandal (Patrick Marber)
Will Win: Notes on a Scandal
Somehow, Borat had to be nominated for an award this year. Itâ€™s a film -that like a few others â€“ developed into an unlikely high grossing cultural phenomenon (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, for example) but nonetheless these types of films always fail to be awarded. Also â€“ Cohenâ€™s movie was heavily improvised, making its nomination somewhat dubious. The four other nominees are strong contenders. The fight for the top spot will most likely be between Little Children and Notes on a Scandal â€“ two films that have caused a sensation this year.
Should Win: Children of Men/Borat
Either Borat or Children of Men for their painstaking originality in bringing a previously produced story into life.
I think itâ€™s self explanatory.
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Nominees: Efter brylluppet (Denmark), Indigenes(Algeria), El Laberinto del Fauno (Mexico), Leben der Anderen, Das (Germany), Water (Canada)
Will/Should Win: El Laberinto del Fauno
I admit I am heavily biased. El Laberinto del Fauno deserves the Academy Award. It would be the first one for Mexico, and would set the pace for more to come.
Underdog: Let there be no underdog.