Movies: Welcome To The Academy

4 minute read
Richard Corliss

On Oscar nights of old, the big stars would thank “all the little people” who helped them win their Oscar. This year many of the big stars–Brad Pitt in Babel, Jack Nicholson in The Departed, Johnny Depp in the second Pirates of the Caribbean–are already out of the running, while little-known Japanese and Mexican actresses and a 10-year-old will have their names called as nominees. Another anomaly: Dreamgirls, which snagged the most nominations (eight), was shut out of Best Picture and Director. That leaves two old thoroughbreds, Clint and Marty, to fight it out against a field of dark horses. Here’s our take on what will happen on Feb. 25.

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NOMINEES WHO WILL WIN WHO SHOULD WIN WHO WAS ROBBED BEST PICTURE BABEL THE DEPARTED LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE THE QUEEN BABEL No sure shots here, but we’re guessing this panoramic epic will touch the same chords that Crash did last year. THE DEPARTED A gnarly plot, a pack of stars feasting on meaty roles, the Boston air stenchy with betrayal … that’s enough for us. UNITED 93 One of the few films to deal with the war on terrorism at its first flash point, this fine 9/11 docudrama merited a slot. BEST DIRECTOR CLINT EASTWOOD, Letters from Iwo Jima STEPHEN FREARS, The Queen ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ IÑARRITU, Babel PAUL GREENGRASS, United 93 MARTIN SCORSESE, The Departed MARTIN SCORSESE Surely this is the year the six-time nominee for Best Director gets the prize he has so richly deserved for more than three decades. MARTIN SCORSESE We’re talking Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York. So just give him the Oscar already! MEL GIBSON He’s flawed, but Apocalypto was still one of the year’s best foreign-language films made by an aging action star. BEST ACTOR LEONARDO DICAPRIO, Blood Diamond RYAN GOSLING, Half Nelson PETER O’TOOLE, Venus WILL SMITH, The Pursuit of Happyness FOREST WHITAKER, The Last King of Scotland FOREST WHITAKER He’s big, he’s bad, he’s Idi Amin Dada, the cannibal king. The soft-voiced Whitaker will win for his booming turn. LEONARDO DICAPRIO Right actor, not-quite-right movie. Leo was fine here as a diamond smuggler but even better in The Departed. SACHA BARON COHEN In the year’s most brilliant, surely ballsiest performance, the Borat star redefined film acting–and did it naked. BEST ACTRESS PENELOPE CRUZ, Volver JUDI DENCH, Notes on a Scandal HELEN MIRREN, The Queen MERYL STREEP, The Devil Wears Prada KATE WINSLET, Little Children HELEN MIRREN The thinking man’s sexpot is guaranteed an Oscar for bringing a frosty, baffled humanity to Queen Elizabeth. JUDI DENCH In any other year, Dame Judi would win for the acute malice she lends to Scandal. But Dame Helen has it. GONG LI For all-stops-out scheming, China’s foremost dragon lady should have been cited for Curse of the Golden Flower. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR ALAN ARKIN, Little Miss Sunshine JACKIE EARLE HALEY, Little Children DJIMON HOUNSOU, Blood Diamond EDDIE MURPHY, Dreamgirls MARK WAHLBERG, The Departed EDDIE MURPHY There’s nothing like revitalized talent for Oscar bait. Murphy shows some of his early-career thunder in a serious role. JACKIE EARLE HALEY A kid actor who was out of the biz for a decade, he’s poignant in the role of the child molester in Little Children. BRAD PITT O.K., he’s still got Angelina. But Pitt’s pro bono work as a grieving, angry husband in Babel merited an Oscar nod. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS ADRIANA BARRAZA, Babel CATE BLANCHETT, Notes on a Scandal ABIGAIL BRESLIN, Little Miss Sunshine JENNIFER HUDSON, Dreamgirls RINKO KIKUCHI, Babel JENNIFER HUDSON In the past two months, she has won every prize but the Nobel. This Dreamgirls dynamo is a shoo-in. CATE BLANCHETT Give it to her for her Notes on a Scandal victim or as thanks for her nifty turns in Babel and The Good German. MARIBEL VERDU As the quietly ferocious maid in Pan’s Labyrinth, she eats fascists for breakfast, then spits ’em out. All woman!

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