The Oscar Warrior’s 2009 Oscar Picks Part 1

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It’s that time of year again, time for the Weekend Warrior to put down his box office predicting hat for a few hours and use his semi-analytical mind on the upcoming awards season and specifically, the Oscar race. We’re running late this year, maybe because it feels like the awards season started later than normal with only a few awards-worthy movies appearing in the first half of 2008 and a handful premiering during the early fall film festivals. The latter did help clear up a few things, but unlike past years, where we had a Forest Whitaker or a Helen Mirren or a Jamie Foxx as the frontrunner out of the gate, everyone’s been taking their time this season to make it obvious who the winners will be, which is the excuse we’re using for why this year’s Oscar Warrior is also later than normal.

We’re running so late that the Broadcast Film Critics’ “Critics Choice Awards” and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s “Golden Globes” will be airing in the next few days, both which should make the race for the lead much clearer, but we still have a few weeks before the Oscar nominations are announced (January 22), so we’ll try to get to as many categories as possible.

The Men – Lead Actor

The leading actor category has often been jam-packed with literally dozens of actors in strong roles and big movies, and while this year might have been no different, by early December, there were three frontrunners who everyone had on their checklists who were almost guaranteed nominations. After that, there were maybe four or five actors vying for the remaining two slots, and that’s probably where this race will be the most interesting at least for the next few weeks.

The Frontrunner:

There are three actors who are guaranteed nominations in this category, having been on just about everyone’s list for their work, though Sean Penn has been getting the most overall attention for his performance as political activist Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant’s Milk (Focus). Right now, he’s probably the safest bet to win as well. Penn’s already won an Oscar for Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River and some might see this as a chance for the Academy to make-up to those who claimed homophobia when they snubbed Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture. Most importantly, Penn has won the most critics awards including the prestigious New York and L.A. Film Critics Circles, and he’s definitely changed his anti-awards tune since his win five years ago, where he’s out “working it.”

Close Behind:

Penn can’t rest on his laurels and just coast into the win as he did five years ago, because one performance this year that everyone agrees is absolutely amazing is Mickey Rourke’s comeback in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight), which is an even more transformative role for the ’80s star who was thought to be the next Robert De Niro back in the day. Rourke gave lots of great performances but sh*tted it all away with his bad behavior, and if there’s one thing the Academy loves, it’s a good comeback story. Rourke’s generally been splitting up the early critical nods with Penn, and it’ll probably come down to whether Rourke can win the Golden Globe or SAG award and gain ground on Penn. Kind of strange to think of two ’80s stars duking it out at this year’s Oscars (maybe even literally considering their reputations!), but Rourke is very much this year’s Marion Cotillard or Adrien Brody, who can sneak in and steal the Oscar even if Penn wins up to that point.

An equally riveting performance last year was given by veteran actor Frank Langella, revisiting the role of Richard Nixon which he played on stage in Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon (Universal), earning Langella a number of theater awards. Now that Frost/Nixon has been brought to the screen by director Ron Howard, it’s thought to be one of the contenders for Best Picture and Langella’s performance plays a large part in that. The fact that Langella has never been nominated for an Oscar will be a good motivation for his fellow actors to give him his due, even if it’s just a nomination.

The Others:

So that’s three guaranteed nominations above and two slots remaining:

Brad Pitt’s performance in David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount) has many fans, but there are just as many critics of what constitutes his performance, since a lot of it involves CG effects work with motion capture and make-up. Pitt’s performance has a strange and somewhat negative “Gollum factor” going for it with Pitt not even being on screen during the scenes of him as the older Button, something that might ultimately be a detriment to him getting into the Oscar race. Even so, those who love the movie REALLY love the movie, and it’ll be surprising if they don’t share the love for the movie’s lead actor.

The Academy loves Clint Eastwood, almost to a fault, having nominated three of his movies for Best Picture in the last five years, but they especially love when he acts in movies. Eastwood’s performance in Gran Torino has gotten a lot of attention, mainly because some think it might be his last time on screen, but it’s also a return to his heyday as “Dirty Harry.” There’s no denying that it’s a another strong role for Eastwood, maybe even stronger than Million Dollar Baby, when compared to the Oscar-winning performance by Hilary Swank, and the movie has been doing a lot of business, meaning that it’s well in the public consciousness when it comes to filling out ballots. Eastwood was snubbed by SAG and the Golden Globes, but he received one of the first awards from the NBR back in early December.

The one thing that might keep Eastwood from scoring a third Oscar nomination is the fact that just as many people love character actor Richard Jenkins’ first leading role in Thomas McCarthy’s The Visitor (Overture), a smaller indie released earlier this year. Jenkins has been making a name for himself as a supporting character actor for years but never been nominated for any awards, and many agree that he makes McCarthy’s movie what it is. Overture has certainly put the money and time into promoting the movie with screeners, and Jenkins is also more willing to do press and glad-hand than Eastwood.

The only other actors who have even a slight chance of slipping in are Leonardo DiCaprio for his performance in Sam Mendes’ dreary drama Revolutionary Road (Paramount Vantage), and Benicio Del Toro, who is pretty amazing as the guerilla leader in Steven Soderbergh’s Che (IFC Films). DiCaprio has been nominated three times before, but not for his strongest or biggest movies like Titanic, and people are generally taking greater notice of Winslet’s performance in this movie as well. Del Toro received his first Oscar nomination (and win) for his supporting role in Soderbergh’s Traffic so there’s something cool about them being reunited, but few Academy members will be able to get through the movie’s four and a half hour running time to make a proper judgment.

No Chance in Hell:

For all of the actors above who have received acclaim, there’s dozens more who’ve been bandied about for awards before people actually saw their movies.

Will Smith reunited with his The Pursuit of Happyness director Gabriel Muccino in Seven Pounds (Sony), but people just weren’t crazy enough about the movie to help Smith pull a repeat. Earlier in the season, some thought that Viggo Mortensen could follow last year’s nomination for Eastern Promises with his own repeat, but the chance of another nomination for the drama Good (THINKFilm) is doubtful considering the lack of any campaign for the indie studio’s last release. At one point, some might have thought that Daniel “James Bond” Craig had a chance of getting nominated for Edward Zwick’s Defiance (Paramount Vantage), because Zwick helped Leonardo DiCaprio get a nod for his previous movie Blood Diamond, but those thoughts petered out quickly. Likewise, Hugh Jackman might have gotten a nomination for Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (20th Century Fox) if there were more people who liked the movie, but he’ll have to settle for hosting the show instead. It’s been a long time since Dustin Hoffman has been considered an awards contender, and while people like his performance in the Brit rom-com Last Chance Harvey (Overture), enough for him to get a Golden Globe nomination, but even if he wins in the Comedy/Musical category, that probably won’t be enough to get him back in the Oscar race.

My Personal Pick: Michael (300) Fassbender put himself through a lot to deliver his performance as IRA leader Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen’s prison drama Hunger, including losing tons of weight, much like Sands did on his infamous hunger strike. After his performance wowed critics at various fall film festivals, IFC Films wisely gave the movie a week-long run in L.A. last month to make it eligible for awards, but sadly, his chances of getting any sort of awards attention at this point are fairly low, mainly since IFC have been spending so much more time and money on pushing Soderbergh’s Che. Fassbender’s performance will probably get noticed when the movie is released officially in March, and he’ll still be eligible for some critics awards next year, but his well-deserved chances at an Oscar are finished.

The Story So Far:

HFPA (The Hollywood Foreign Press a.k.a The Golden Globes): The drama roster includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Frank Langella, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, and Mickey Rourke; the comedy/musical category is a mixed bag but the possible winner will either be Javier Bardem for Vicky Cristina Barcelona or Dustin Hoffman for Last Chance Harvey.

BFCA (Broadcast Film Critics a.k.a. “Critics’ Choice”): Clint Eastwood, Richard Jenkins, Frank Langella, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Mickey Rourke (UPDATE: Sean Penn won this, moving him further into the lead)

SAG (Screen Actors Guild): Richard Jenkins, Frank Langella, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Mickey Rourke

NYFCC and LAFC (New York and L.A. Film Critics Circles): Sean Penn (LAFC Runner-up: Mickey Rourke)

NBR (National Board of Review): Clint Eastwood

Best Bets for Lead Actor: Sean Penn (Milk), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino) (Alternate: Richard Jenkins for The Visitor)


The Men – Supporting

The Frontrunner:

For the first time in over three decades, the Academy might award a posthumous Oscar, this one to actor Heath Ledger, whose sudden and tragic death last January happened before anyone had a chance to see his stirring portrayal of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.). It’s odd to think of an actor getting recognition for what is essentially a superhero genre flick, but when a movie makes over $500 million–and this is only the second movie to reach that amount–you have to look at why the movie was so popular and above and beyond anything else, it came down to Ledger’s performance and the somewhat morbid curiosity that brought so many people out to the theaters to see it.

Close Behind:

It’s often said that it’s an honor just to be nominated, but it’s an especially unenviable task this year for any actor who makes it into the other four slots of this category, because they’ll either be losing to the late Heath Ledger… or they’ll have to accept the award knowing that they beat a dead man to get it. (No one wants to state this obvious fact, but it’s the elephant in the room at this year’s Oscars for sure.)

The one living actor who continues to make waves in the pre-Oscar season is Josh Brolin, first for his portrayal of George W. Bush in Oliver Stone’s W., but more for playing Dan White in Gus Van Sant’s political biopic Milk (Focus). It’s another great supporting role for Brolin that helped make Sean Penn’s performance pop from the screen, and many thought the second generation actor should have been nominated last year for the Coens’ Oscar winning No Country for Old Men or Ridley Scott’s American Gangster. That might make this a “make-up nomination” but enough people loved this movie that it could set Brolin up for an upset.

Likewise, Philip Seymour Hoffman continues to impress everyone who sees his work, and his role as a Catholic priest in John Patrick Shanley’s drama Doubt (Miramax), and his high drama scenes opposite Meryl Streep, should get him back in the supporting race for a second year in a row. Having already won an Oscar for his leading role in Capote a few years back, many will see this as a slot filler rather than as a potential upset, but there’s no question that Hoffman is deserving of this nomination.

The Others:

The three above are almost guaranteed to get in, and barring a Ledger win, we’re likely to see Brolin or Hoffman take home the Oscar. The other two slots are likely to consist of two from the list below:

Few will argue that Robert Downey Jr. has been having an amazing year, and though Heath Ledger will get nominated for his turn in a superhero movie, Downey Jr. is more likely to get nominated (ironically enough) for his take on an Australian actor playing a black soldier in Ben Stiller’s comedy Tropic Thunder. Downey’s performance has so many layers–he’s not Australian or black for one thing–that you can watch the movie over and over and Downey’s character is always the one you remember the best. Downey added to the mythos behind his performance by doing the DVD commentary in character, showing how far he’ll go for a role, something his fellow actors can surely appreciate.

The last slot could go any number of ways, although Dev Patel’s performance in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) would fill the minimum quota for acting that most Best Picture candidates generally require to win. (Only The Lord of the Rings: Yhe Return of the King has won BP without having at least one acting nomination.) A supporting nod for Patel would put Slumdog in the same place as BP winners like Crash and The Departed and No Country for Old Men, although the latter was the only one to actually win in this category as well.

Others who’ve been recognized via prior nominations include Tom Cruise receiving a Golden Globe nod for his own role as studio head Les Grossman in Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, James Franco has gotten a few notices for his own performance in Van Sant’s Milk, though it’s not as impressive a role as Brolin’s. While Michael Shannon hasn’t received much attention for his performance in Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road (Paramount Vantage), there’s little question that he steals the movie from the two stars, and he’s an actor who’s been doing such good work in recent years it’s past time for his fellow actors to recognize his work.

My Personal Pick: Eddie Marsan for Happy-Go-Lucky (Miramax). Everyone’s talking about Sally Hawkins and her amazing performance in Mike Leigh’s pseudo-comedy, but few who’ve seen the movie can forget her driving scenes with the British actor who also appeared in Leigh’s previous movie Vera Drake. Marsan has been giving great performances for many years and if the Academy were more Brit-centric, they’d have recognized Marsan before now, though this role is one that few will forget.

The Story So Far:

HFPA: Tom Cruise (for Tropic Thunder<), Robert Downey Jr., Ralph Fiennes (for The Duchess), Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger

BFCA: Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, James Franco (UPDATE: Heath won this.)

SAG: Josh Brolin, Robert Downey, Jr., Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Dev Patel

NYFCC and LAFC: Josh Brolin / Heath Ledger (Runner-up: Eddie Marsan)

NBR: Josh Brolin

Best Bets for Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin (Milk), Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) (Alternate: Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road)


The Women – Lead Actress

This is a strange year to be an actress in a strong leading role, because there doesn’t seem to be a clear frontrunner this year or even two actresses vying for the lead, but a number of great performances and almost a dozen actresses vying for five measly nomination slots.

So far, most of the critics awards have been divided up between two women with the first actress to make waves in the pre-Oscar season being 23-year-old Anne Hathaway in Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married (Sony Pictures Classics), an ensemble drama in which she plays a young woman on leave from rehab to attend her sister’s wedding with funny and disastrous results. While Hathaway has a lot of competition for the win, she may very well be the spoiler in this category because a lot of people absolutely love this movie for her performance and she has so much going for her: she’s young, people and fellow actors generally like her, she’s had a rough year behind the scenes and this performance is very different from the character we’ve seen her play before. What’s odd is that Sony Pictures Classics has two other women in contention in this category, but when push comes to shove, Hathaway is the best bet for the studio to support and put their money behind. Like Clint Eastwood, she took the coveted NBR Award, though she was snubbed by two of the most prestigious critics groups.

The actress who did get recognized by both the New York and L.A. Film Critics Circles was Sally Hawkins for her bubbly performance in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky (Miramax). It’s rare that the two coastal groups agree on a leading actress and said actress doesn’t go on to at least get an Oscar nomination. Also, this wouldn’t be the first time Mike Leigh directed an actress to an Oscar nomination as both Brenda Blethyn (Secrets and Lies and Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) were nominated for their performances. What’s odd is that while Hawkins leads in the critics’ awards, she hasn’t been nominated in any of the other pre-Oscar groups, not the Golden Globes nor the SAG awards and not even the Broadcast Film Critics thought she was worthy of their Top 5. This puts Hawkins in a weaker position, although she stands a good chance at beating Meryl Streep for the Golden Globe in a Comedy/Musical this Sunday, which would give her a better shot at a nomination.

Then there’s Meryl Streep, an actress so beloved by the Academy that they’ve nominated her for 14 previous Oscars, most recently for her steely performance in The Devil Wears Prada opposite her prime Oscar competition, Anne Hathaway. Streep’s similarly stern role as Sister Aloysius in John Patrick Shanley’s play-turned-film Doubt (Miramax) makes that movie so memorable, and Streep is following in the footsteps of Cherry Jones, who won a Tony on Broadway for playing the same role. The question is whether the Academy is ready to give Streep a third Oscar at this moment and for this particular role, being that it’s been 25 years since she actually won one. While there are a lot of candidates vying for the five measly nominations, there isn’t one that can claim the lead at this point, nor is there one with nearly the credentials or acclaim or overwhelming support as Streep has had for three decades.

Even so, the biggest Oscar story this season has been all about the potential for Kate Winslet finally winning an Oscar after being nominated five times prior. This year, she has two strong roles and movies, causing somewhat of a conflict between awards voters, because she’s equally good in her husband Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road (Paramount Vantage) as she is in Stephen Daldry’s The Reader (The Weinstein Co.) After a conflict that drove Scott Rudin, producer of both movies, off the latter, the Weinstein Company has generally been pushing Winslet into the supporting category for The Reader even though most who see the movie consider it a leading role. Having two high-profile performances in Oscar season could help Winslet’s chances greatly, but they could also hurt them if voters are divided between which movie and which category she should be nominated in. Based on reaction to the two movies, she’s more likely to get nominated for The Reader and the Academy will probably follow SAG and the Golden Globes by putting her in the supporting category, although she could follow Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett and receive two nominations this year.

The Others:

Assuming that the four above get nominated–and Winslet might be the weak link since she’s more likely to get a supporting nod for The Reader–that leaves one slot left for one of the actresses below:

Angelina Jolie got a lot of attention for her emotional performance as a mother whose son goes missing in Clint Eastwood’s crime-thriller Changeling (Universal). If she gets an Oscar nomination, she’ll be following in the footsteps of Hilary Swank, who won the Oscar for her starring role in Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby four years ago. Jolie has been nominated for all three precursors, the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and the SAG award, but last year, she received the same honors for her performance as Mariane Pearl in Michael Winterbottom’s A Mighty Heart, and then was snubbed by the Academy… for what many think was a much stronger role. Maybe the Academy has issue with Jolie’s exploits in the tabloids, which would be kind of unfair since her boyfriend Brad Pitt might get nominated despite appearing in just as many tabloid stories.

Melissa Leo has been getting rave reviews for her performance in Courtney Hunt’s indie drama Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics) since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. While she’s a late bloomer during awards season even though the movie received a low-key release in early August, she has a slight advantage over the others below since she’s already been nominated for a SAG and Critics’ Choice award, two primary precursors, as well as a number of critics awards. She was snubbed by the Golden Globes in favor of Kristin Scott Thomas for her performance in the French drama I’ve Loved You So Long (Sony Pictures Classics), but the Academy tends to be more in sync with the members of SAG, all of them being actors. The question is whether Sony Pictures Classics will put the kind of money behind either of these movies that they will put behind their sure-fire nominee Anne Hathaway. The fact that both of these actresses have received so much acclaim clearly puts them in the running, but Leo has a slight lead to take the fifth slot, especially if the Academy snubs Jolie again.

Then there’s Cate Blanchett, whom the Academy loves almost as much as Clint Eastwood. If she was able to get two nominations last year, one in each acting category, is there any doubt she could get similar love for her role in David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount)? There are similar questions about her performance as there is for her co-star Brad Pitt and how much of it has to be credited to the FX and make-up departments, but Blanchett surely has enough pull with the Academy to slip in despite being snubbed by the Golden Globes and SAG.

No Chance in Hell:

Three actresses who’ve gotten some early attention but have little chance of getting further include Michelle Williams for playing one half of Wendy and Lucy (Oscilloscope), Keira Knightley, for The Duchess (Paramount Vantage) and Emma Thompson for her role in the romantic comedy Last Chance Harvey (Overture). Thompson received a Golden Globe nomination but will probably lose to Hawkins or Meryl Streep for Mamma Mia!, Williams doesn’t really have much money backing her indie role, and Knightley’s latest period movie crashed and burned months ago.

My Personal Pick: At this point, it’s doubtful Kate Beckinsale will get much further than her Critics’ Choice nomination for her performance in Rod Lurie’s Nothing But the Truth (Yari Film Group), mainly because the film’s distributor filed Chapter 11 after sending out screeners and before the movie’s nominal Oscar-consideration release. There’s no denying that it’s a career-defining performance, but with the movie having only played in L.A. and New York in one theater for that one week, it’s doubtful enough Academy members will have seen the movie or know about it to get Beckinsale into the Big Show.

The Story So Far:

HFPA: (Drama) Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, Kristin Scott Thomas, Kate Winslet / (Comedy/Musical) Rebecca Hall, Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson

BFCA: Kate Beckinsale, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Melissa Leo, Meryl Streep (UPDATE: Fun stuff! Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep have tied to win the Critics Choice Award!)

SAG: Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Melissa Leo, Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet

NYFCC and LAFC: Sally Hawkins (LAFC Runner-Up: Melissa Leo)

NBR: Anne Hathaway

Best Bets for Lead Actress: Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky), Melissa Leo (Frozen River), Meryl Streep (Doubt) and Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road) (Alternates: Cate Blanchett for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Angelina Jolie for b>Changeling)

The Women – Supporting

The big problem with awards season every year is the ever-present issue of what constitutes a lead or supporting performance and that continues to be a big problem, especially as studios try to push their actors and actresses one way or another in order to gain the most leverage in the race for awards.

The Frontrunner(s):

Right now, it certainly looks like Spanish actress Penélope Cruz has a damn good chance to win her first Oscar for her performance as a crazy artist in Woody Allen’s Spain-based Vicky Cristina Barcelona (The Weinstein Co.), a performance that seems to have thrilled critics and industry folk alike. It will be her second nomination regardless after being nominated for Pedro Almodovar’s Volver a few years back. Cruz has already taken the NBR’s honor in this category as well as both the New York and L.A. Film Critics, although looking back, it’s rare for the frontrunner in this category to win the Oscar. Just look at Virginia Madsen for Sideways or Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone, who were critical faves early in the race who ended up losing the Oscar to others.

With that in mind, Cruz might not want to clear off a place on her mantle just yet, because she’ll be facing a fierce foe in the unstoppable Kate Winslet, who seems to have been shunted off to the supporting category for her performance as a teen-lovin’ former SS agent in Stephen Daldry’s The Reader (The Weinstein Co.) Two of Winslet’s previous Oscar nominations were for supporting performances but many see this as a leading role being jockeyed for awards (and to prevent Winslet from competing against herself in Revolutionary Road). It’s fairly common belief among those in the industry that it’s long past due Winslet was awarded an Oscar after five previous nominations against much stronger competition. A good percentage of those who’ve seen both Winslet’s movies believe this to be the better performance, and so many actors have won their first Oscars in this category despite them playing lead roles, most notably Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener and George Clooney for Syriana. This puts a lot more things in Winslet’s favor for winning her first Oscar this year for this role. (UPDATE: And Winslet just beat Cruz at the Critics Choice Awards, starting the ball rolling on her Oscar takedown.)

Close Behind:

Viola Davis appeared in less than fifteen minutes of John Patrick Shanley’s play-turned-film Doubt (Miramax), but it was in one explosive emotional scene with Meryl Streep where she blew the socks of the millions who’ve seen the movie and that includes many of her fellow actors. Davis is almost guaranteed a nomination, but could she benefit from the other two splitting votes?

The Others:

Having already been nominated in this category twice before (and winning an Oscar her first time out of the gate with My Cousin Vinny), Marisa Tomei has received many positive notices for her performance as a stripper in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight). She’s already received Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice nominations, yet she was snubbed by her peers in SAG, which is a shame. They instead went with Amy Adams for Doubt (Miramax), and if Adams gets nominated for the Oscar, John Patrick Shanley’s movie would have an astounding four acting nominations. (Usually, that would be enough for the movie to get serious consideration in the Best Picture category, even if Shanley himself doesn’t get a directing nomination.) Even with Golden Globe and SAG nominations under her belt, Adams is the weakest link in this category, especially when facing the more significant and impressive role played by Tomei.

Many of those who love David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button took special note of Taraji P. Henson’s character Queenie, the woman who raised Benjamin Button from when he was a baby. While she was snubbed for a Golden Globes nomination, Henson, who was a part of the SAG nominated cast of Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow, already has a Critics’ Choice and SAG nomination under her belt, which are both strong precursors for an Oscar nomination.

While Anne Hathaway has been getting most of the accolades for Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married (Sony Pictures Classics) (see above), those who love the movie have also noted the supporting performances by Rachel DeWitt and Deborah Winger, though neither have found much love so far.

My Personal Pick: Just as much as I loved Kate Beckinsale’s performance in Rod Lurie’s Nothing But the Truth (Yari Film Group), one can’t discount the equally amazing performance by Vera Farmiga as the CIA Soccer Mom who starts the ball rolling on the entire story. The two or three scenes Farmiga has with Beckinsale are some of the best of the year, and both have received Critics’ Choice nominations, but sadly, too few people have seen the movie for it to make a difference. Hopefully, people will still get a chance to see this movie in the future.

The Story So Far:

HFPA: Amy Adams, Penélope Cruz, Viola Davis, Marisa Tomei, Kate WInslet (The Reader)

BFCA: Penélope Cruz, Viola Davis, Vera Farmiga, Taraji P. Henson, Marisa Tomei, Kate Winslet (The Reader)

SAG: Amy Adams, Penélope Cruz, Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, Kate Winslet (The Reader)

NYFCC and LAFC: Penélope Cruz (LAFC Runner-up: Viola Davis)

NBR: Penélope Cruz

Best Bets for Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Viola Davis (Doubt), Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler), Kate Winslet (The Reader) (Alternate: Amy Adams for Doubt)

Sometime soon, we’ll look at the scripts, the directors and the most anticipated category, “Best Picture”, but until then, you can catch the “Critics’ Choice Awards” on Thursday, January 8 at 9pm airing at VH1 and then the “Golden Globes” on Sunday, January 11 on NBC.

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