Much to my surprise, I actually predicted better than last year. It's still not great but out of 40 nominees (in the major races) I correctly predicted 32; beating last year's number, 29. The host for this year's show is Ellen DeGeneres. Yes, an out lesbian will be hosting the show which will be broadcast to a billion people around the world. She's proved herself time and time again to be funny, sharp, current and witty without being vulgar.
With that, I'll break down the nominees:
Adapted Screenplay- Borat is the only one of the five I did not correctly predict. The rest of the nominees are not surprising. Dreamgirls and Thank You For Smoking were shut out of this race.
Original Screenplay- No surprises here either. Shut out of this race were The Good Shepherd and Stranger Than Fiction (a terrific film that should be seen on video if missed at the theater).
Supporting Actor- I was surprised by the nominees of Alan Arkin and yes, Mr. Underwear model himself, Mark Wahlberg. In fact, Wahlberg, Eddie Murphy, and Jackie Earle Haley all score their first nomination. Djimon Hounsou scores his second nod and Arkin was last nominated for the 1968 film The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter but lost to Cliff Robertson. This is his third nod. Shut out of this race were Ben Affleck (Hollywoodland), Michael Sheen (The Queen), Brad Pitt (Babel) and Academy darling Jack Nicholson (The Departed) who almost seems to get nominated for just about any movie he does anymore. One other actor I think it would have been nice to see in this category is Kazunari Ninomiya. Who????? Kazunari Ninomiya. He gave a touching performance in the film Letters From Iwo Jima as Saigo, a young soldier who just wants to get back home to his wife and newborn.
Supporting Actress- The only veteran in this race is Cate Blanchett who scores her third nomination. Everyone else is a first-timer. Abigail Breslin, Jennifer Hudson, Rinko Kikuchi, and Adriana Barraza. Shut out were Catherine O'Hara (For Your Consideration) and Emma Thompson (Stranger Than Fiction) both of whom got some Oscar whispers when their films came out. And for the record I correctly predicted all five.
Actor- I didn't do too bad on this category but I should have known Ryan Gosling would get a nod, his first. Another first is Forest Whitaker. Will Smith gets his second nod and Leonardo DiCaprio gets his second lead actor nod and his third total. He was nominated for Blood Diamond which I was surprised about because his performance in The Departed was much more layered and didn't have an annoying accent tied to it which I actually thought detracted from his performance in Diamond. It just didn't make sense for him to get a nod for this film. The other nominee is Peter O'Toole who scores his eighth nod. The last time he was nominated was for the 1982 film My Favorite Year; he lost to Ben Kingsley. Shut out of this race were Edward Norton (The Painted Veil), Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat), and Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine).
Actress- Another category in which I correctly predicted all five. Penelope Cruz is the only newbie in this category. Kate Winslet gets her third lead nomination and her fifth overall; Helen Mirren scores her first lead nomination and her third overall; Judi Dench gets her fourth lead nod and her sixth overall; and the veteran is Meryl Streep who scores her fourteenth nod; that's two more than Katherine Hepburn ever got. Shut out were Maggie Gyllenhaal (Sherrybaby) which I was actually surprised by but still did not predict she would be in the race, Annette Bening (Running With Scissors) not a surprise she was shut out, however, and Naomi Watts (The Painted Veil).
Picture- The only surprise here is the inclusion of the one film I did not correctly predict; Letters From Iwo Jima. Dreamgirls, the winner of the comedy/musical Golden Globe did not score a nod which probably elicited dropped jaws all over Hollywood. Shut outs were Little Children (was nominated for a Globe) and United 93 (which I thought was the best picture of last year). Thankfully the director got a nod. Which brings us to....
Director- There are two newbies: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Paul Greengrass who both get nods for their films. Stephen Frears scores his second nod. The last time he was nominated was for the 1990 film The Grifters; he lost to Kevin Costner. Clint Eastwood scores his fourth nomination for directing and the man currently tied with Alfred Hitchcock for most nominations and no wins, Martin Scorsese, scores his sixth nod. If he loses this one, he'll be setting another record for the night. Shut out Pedro Almodovar for Volver and, of course, Bill Condon was shut out for Dreamgirls.
Totally shut out of the major races were Bobby (early on considered a favorite for some nods), The Good German (which I've yet to see because it hasn't opened in my area yet), and The Painted Veil (a film I actually liked).
It will be interesting to see what happens come Feb. 25. The best picture race is actually wide open at this point thanks to the omission of Dreamgirls. I've got my pick for who should win and with a little bit more watching, I'll make predictions of who will win.
One final thought: In 2005, two of the acting races scored wins for black actors. In 2007, that number could increase by one. Forest Whitaker seems a lock to win the best actor race; Jennifer Hudson is the favorite to win the supporting actress race; and, buzzworthy Eddie Murphy seems poised to win supporting actor. That would leave only one white winner come Feb. 25; Helen Mirren who seems a lock to win best actress. This could be a history making year.