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Bob Garver's Oscar picks

February 12, 2009|By BOB GARVER / Special to The Herald-Mail

The 81st Annual Academy Awards air Sunday, Feb. 22, at 8 p.m. on ABC. Here is a guide to the major races, along with predictions and my personal picks.

As always, I list the first two categories together as I see no reason to separate art from its artist. The Academy seems to agree with me this year, as the nominees match up perfectly.

Best Picture and Best Director:

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and director David Fincher

"Frost/Nixon" and director Ron Howard

"Milk" and director Gus Van Sant

"The Reader" and director Stephen Daldry

"Slumdog Millionaire" and director Danny Boyle

Will Win: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and David Fincher. With 13 total nominations, the Academy clearly fancies the film, although support seems to have shifted lately to "Slumdog Millionaire" with 11.

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Should Win: "Frost/Nixon" and Ron Howard. It is one of only two films from 2008 that I would call "great." Unfortunately, "The Dark Knight" is not nominated here. "Frost/Nixon" has just as much intensity, but only the tempers explode.

Best Actor:

Richard Jenkins for "The Visitor"

Frank Langella for "Frost/Nixon"

Sean Penn for "Milk"

Brad Pitt for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Mickey Rourke for "The Wrestler"

Will Win: Frank Langella. The Academy loves "heavy-is-the-head-that-wears-the-crown" performances and Langella managed to bring a new level of complexity to an already-complex former President.

Should Win: Mickey Rourke. Although I think "Frost/Nixon" is the superior film overall, there's no way I cannot root for Rourke's performance. He nails every second of the role, and this is coming from someone who is a huge fan of pro wrestling and would be quick to point out inaccuracies.

By the way, if any of you get a chance to see "The Wrestler", watch closely in the scene where Rourke's character goes to a show in Rahway, NJ. Try to catch a glimpse of a guy in the crowd wearing a tie-dye T-shirt. It's yours truly.

Best Actress:

Anne Hathaway for "Rachel Getting Married"

Angelina Jolie for "Changeling"

Melissa Leo for "Frozen River"

Meryl Streep for "Doubt"

Kate Winslet for "The Reader"

Will Win: Meryl Streep. The Academy loves her. This role marks her 15th nomination and voters are likely to decide that she's due for another award.

Should Win: Kate Winslet. She pulled off in about ten minutes what Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett couldn't do in about two hours of "Benjamin Button" and that's make a convincing old person. She's great in the scenes where she's young, too.

Best Supporting Actor:

Josh Brolin for "Milk"

Robert Downey Jr. for "Tropic Thunder"

Philip Seymour Hoffman for "Doubt"

Heath Ledger for "The Dark Knight"

Michael Shannon for "Revolutionary Road"

Should, Will, and Must Win: Heath Ledger. The Academy isn't going to pass up the chance to honor the late actor. He's been a shoo-in for this award since last year's Oscars, and the fact that his version of The Joker was one of the most iconic performances of the decade is just icing on the cake.

Best Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams for "Doubt"

Penelope Cruz for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

Viola Davis for "Doubt"

Taraji P. Henson for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Marisa Tomei for "The Wrestler"

Will Win: Taraji P. Henson. There's no real front-runner in this race, so we go to a process of elimination. The two "Doubt" actresses will cancel each other out, Cruz's film has been out of theaters for too long, and Tomei is an Oscar punchline for winning what many consider an undeserved award in 1992 for "My Cousin Vinny". This leave Henson to ride "Button's" momentum all the way to the awards podium.

Should Win: Amy Adams. Her scared naf was a much-needed balance for Streep's constant bellowing. Plus I really want to see her win an Oscar for yelling "You don't like it that he likes 'Frosty the Snowman'!" at Streep.

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.

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