Oscars: 79th Annual Academy AwardsPredictions

The Academy Awards, in its 79th year, recognizes the films that have inspired, entertained, and awed us, and those select individuals dedicating their lives to this artistic craft. The following are our predictions for the nominated candidates, selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for this years ceremony.

Best Picture “Babel” has been a favorite among many critics, especially after its Golden Globe win in the same category. Sundance Film Festival darling “Little Miss Sunshine” has the potential to be a surprise winner, with the growing popularity of independent films. “The Queen,” which debuted as a controversial film, could possibly prove to be a dominating force in this category because of its numerous nominations in past award shows. “Letters From Iwo Jima” (FYI: although not in English, not considered in the foreign film category because of the direction by Clint Eastwood) and “The Departed” are not necessarily contenders in critics’ eyes, but have garnered enough praise for nominations.

Best Actor Forest Whitaker’s Golden Globe winning and compelling performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland” seems a sure bet for an Oscar win. Will Smith’s career-defining role as a struggling father in “The Pursuit of Happyness” could be a surprising and well-deserved win, despite critics’ doubts. The unexpected nomination of Leonardo DiCaprio in his role in “The Departed” (rather than “Blood Diamond”) may not live up to its subsequent hype.

Despite his Oscar nod, veteran actor Peter O’Toole’s performance in “Venus” may be overshadowed by his more publicized fellow nominees. Ryan Gosling’s dark role as a drug-addicted teacher in “Half Nelson” surprised many in the film industry, and could very possibly waylay his contenders.

Best Actress As Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Helen Mirren in “The Queen,” has already proven herself to be a monarch in past awards and will undoubtedly continue her reign. However, don’t underestimate Oscar royalty, Dame Judi Dench, as her role in “Notes on a Scandal” further proved the flexibility of her craft. Though a comedic role, Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” is not a nomination to be taken lightly. Streep has been omnipresent throughout the years. Kate Winslet’s diligent work has earned her recognition, including this year in “Little Children,” but the competition may prove problematic for a first win. Among these veteran actresses, Penelope Cruz in “Volver” is unlikely to bring about a stir.

Best Supporting Actor In “Dreamgirls” Eddie Murphy steals the show with his musical performance and with a Golden Globe under his belt, may do the same at the Oscars. Alan Arkin’s comedic role as the guru grandfather in “Little Miss Sunshine” is a potential win as well. Djimon Hounsou in “Blood Diamond,” Jackie Earle Haley in “Little Children” and Mark Wahlberg in “The Departed” all received nominations but are not projected winners.

Best Supporting Actress In her breakout role, Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls” is likely to go three-for-three after already winning a Golden Globe and SAG award. Yet, do not discount the touching performances by Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi in “Babel.” Newcomer Abigail Breslin’s lovable performance in “Little Miss Sunshine” could be a crowd-pleasing surprise win. Cate Blanchett in “Notes on a Scandal,” though a praiseworthy performance, may be overlooked.

Best Director Clint Eastwood has proven his directorial prowess in the past with Academy Award-winner “Million Dollar Baby;” therefore, this year’s nominee, “Letters From Iwo Jima,” has a good chance. Alejandro González I√±árritu as director of “Babel,” however, may stand in the way. Stephen Frears (“The Queen”) and Paul Greengrass (“United 93”) are not favored to win. Longtime nominee Martin Scorsese is long overdue for a win with “The Departed.”

Foreign Language Film “Pan’s Labyrinth” (Mexico), a gorgeous period fantasy, has created significant buzz in a category that is usually not highly publicized. The film, directed by Guillermo del Toro, has received five other nominations, creating a new sensation for international films. “Water” (Canada), which deals with widows of India, has received numerous praises and could be formidable competition. Germany’s “The Lives of Others” has already been honored with major awards all across Europe, even though the film not yet opened in the U.S. Other contenders include the WWII drama “Days of Glory” (Algeria), and Denmark’s story of a man and his daughter’s wedding, “After the Wedding.”

Cinematography “Pan’s Labyrinth” will be hard to beat in this category with its dark, unique and wonderful cinematography. “Children of Men,” based on the idea of an infertile human race, could be a surprise win. Crime thriller “The Black Dahlia,” filmed mostly in black-and-white, exhibited confident cinematography and is likely to be competition. Two films haunted by magic, “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist,” are also contenders.

Adapted and Original Screenplay The solid story line of “Notes on a Scandal” and the development of its characters make it a best bet for the Adapted Screenplay win. However, the convincingly imaginative and dystopian nature of “Children of Men” may prove a unique advantage. “The Departed” and “Little Children” deserve their Oscar nod, but perhaps lack the mettle to take home the gold. Don’t discount “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”-its provocative political (and risqu√©) humor may be its saving grace.

Original Screenplay Golden Globe-winner “The Queen” could seal a second and ultimate win. Yet the competition is incredibly close, with the compelling and emotional plot of “Babel” and the lovable and quirky comedy of “Little Miss Sunshine.” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” told from the viewpoint of Japanese soldiers preparing for the American attack, gives it a refreshingly new perspective. The intertwining plots of “Pan’s Labyrinth” make this eerily enchanting movie a tough contender as well.

Animated Feature Film The amusing antics of its characters. and the impressive CG work of “Monster House” delivered a wholesome and satisfying cinematic experience. “Happy Feet” was achingly adorable, and its admirable environmental awareness declared it anything but feathery flutter. Although both of these films are worthy mentions, “Cars” is hands-down the sure bet for an Oscar win. The proficiency of Pixar films has been a force to reckon with in past years. “Cars” is an all around superiorly inspirational, imaginative, and comedic adventure-simply put: laps ahead of its competition.

Watch the Oscars on February 25 and see if our predictions were correct.