So, there’s an Oscar pool at A’s office this year, and short of rigging it — don’t think I didn’t consider it either — I’ve pulled out all the stops to win it. (I’m still steamed about losing his office’s college bowl game pool by just a couple of points last month, and I’m seeking vindication.) And since I’ve got money riding on these picks, I’ve put far more time analyzing this year’s contests than they ever required. I swear you can take what follows to the bank. (However, if I’m wrong, don’t throw tomatoes at me. To quote that ever-prescient sage Dan Rather, some of these races are hotter than a Times Square Rolex.)



  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk
  • The Reader
  • Slumdog Millionaire


Entertainment Weekly ran a ludicrous story last week claiming that Harvey Weinstein is drumming up a last-minute surge of support for The Reader, a la the stunning upset he pulled off with Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan a decade ago. Don’t believe it for a second: wholly notwithstanding the fact that it’s not even that great a film (although A will probably dispute that in tomorrow night’s live blog here on the Buzz), this one is an easy victory for the Slumdog express. Frost/Nixon is compelling but ultimately quite slight, and though it’s phenomenally well-acted, Milk is entirely too dry and staccato for its own good. (I’ve not been able to drag A to either Ben Button or The Reader, but no matter: no film in recent memory has swept through all the precursor awards as thoroughly as Slumdog just has. It’s in the cards.)


SHOULD WIN: Umm, none of the above?


WILL WIN: Slumdog Millionaire



  • Danny Boyle Slumdog Millionaire
  • Stephen Daldry The Reader
  • David Fincher The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Ron Howard Frost/Nixon
  • Gus Van Sant Milk


Fincher is this generation’s Scorsese: incredibly well-respected within the community, and overdue for Academy recognition. But however visually marvelous, he has no chance to win for what is more or less a refried Forrest Gump. And though Van Sant has proven himself a bravura filmmaker in the past and will have many other shots at this trophy, Milk is essentially a re-enacted news reel when boiled down to its essence. Get ready for a Slumdog sweep tonight, boys and girls.


SHOULD WIN: Umm, err….





  • Richard Jenkins The Visitor
  • Frank Langella Frost/Nixon
  • Sean Penn Milk
  • Brad Pitt The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Mickey Rourke The Wrestler


Three of the four acting races this year are hotly-contested dogfights — stay tuned for Best Supporting Actor to see the one that was decided months ago — and I’ve got a sneaky little sneaky that at least one of those races is going to result in a vote split, allowing a dark horse to crawl up the middle and slink off with the little golden man. There’s a strong possibility it could happen here: Penn and Rourke are running neck and neck, and since Frost/Nixon has little chance of winning any of the other four trophies it’s up for tonight, and since Langella is deeply respected within the acting community, he could well take it for his portrait of Richard Nixon. I don’t see it though: personally, I thought Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Tricky Dick — which also earned a nod — a decade and a half ago was much more riveting and credible, and it is outrageous that Michael Sheen’s brilliant (and equally substantial) work as David Frost was completely shut out. Much as he was in that wretchedly dull piece of movie trash The Queen a couple of years back, Sheen was the best thing about F/N and deserved his own share of recognition. Which brings us back to Penn and Rourke, and the crucial difference between them and their performances is this: Penn starts from the outside, eerily replicating the peculiar look, sound, and feel of Harvey Milk as he works his way inside the man’s mind. And Rourke begins from the rock hard bottom of his soul as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, layering a punished sheen of muscle atop the peculiar pain that he and his character seem to share. Penn’s face is all doe-eyed naivete and wonder, while Rourke’s is nothing but bruised poetry, breathtaking in its ruined, pocked beauty.


SHOULD WIN: Penn is terrific in a middling movie. But Rourke is transcendent in a great one.


WILL WIN: it’s just a hunch, but I think the Academy really wants Rourke to win.



  • Anne Hathaway Rachel Getting Married
  • Angelina Jolie Changeling
  • Melissa Leo Frozen River
  • Meryl Streep Doubt
  • Kate Winslet The Reader


It’s Streep vs. Winslet in this corner, but I say watch out for Hathaway, who was heartstoppingly good in Rachel, a film that has the oddest energy and rhythm in recent motion picture memory. It’s Winslet’s sixth nomination without a win, and it would finally seem to be her year. I cast a vote for her in the office pool, but just between you and me, I have the strongest hunch that aforementioned vote split is gonna happen here, and that Hathaway’s gonna pull off a squeaker. We’ll see.


SHOULD WIN: Hathaway, the spark plug in a meandering family drama


WILL WIN: Winslet, probably. But maybe not.



  • Josh Brolin Milk
  • Robert Downey, Jr. Tropic Thunder
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman Doubt
  • Heath Ledger The Dark Knight
  • Michael Shannon Revolutionary Road

The night’s most bankable no-brainer. Brolin seriously ought to be ashamed of himself for stealing his devastatingly subtle co-star James Franco’s nomination here. (Brolin was sensational in last year’s overhyped gutterball No Country for Old Men, but, even though he was the catalyst for Milk‘s tragic climax, he didn’t do anything in this movie! Seriously, he’s in, like, three scenes!) And nobody else here has a shot in hell of catching Ledger. The Academy is notoriously opposed to posthumously awarding their highest honor, but Ledger’s blatant mastery of his craft in a role that could have been laughable in lesser hands is too undeniable to ignore.

SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Ledger. Mark it.


  • Amy Adams Doubt
  • Penelope Cruz Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Viola Davis Doubt
  • Taraji P. Henson The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Marisa Tomei The Wrestler

Cruz has been the front-runner for months now, but as more and more voters catch up with Doubt, they’re knocked out by Davis’ small — she only has two scenes, but she makes the most of both of ’em — but significant role. In the office pool, I went with Davis, because 1) this category always contains a stunner, and 2) Miss Penelope irritates me, ferociously. However, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see that pesky vote split to happen here, in which case Marisa Tomei could sneak into the winners’ circle for the magnificent work she does in grounding The Wrestler. Just try to tell me your heart doesn’t shatter right along with hers during that film’s wrenching final scene.


WILL WIN: On nothing more than a gut feeling, I’m going with Davis.

(Don’t forget: A, Sherry Ann, and I are live-blogging the Academy Awards, beginning with the official ABC pre-show at 8pm EST!)


1 response to “the 2009 academy awards:
a journey inside brandon’s buzz‘s crystal ball”

  1. the buzz from Damon L. Jacobs:

    Thank you Brandon! Although I don’t believe in “shoulds,” your well researched and thought-out approach to picking the winners are what I’m bringing with me to my neighbor’s party tonight. Best picture truly is a toss-up, but I sense the conservative academy will pick something more predictable such as “The Reader” over something more innovative as “Slumdog.” But we will soon see!