Oscars: Who Will Win and Who Will Surprise?
Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke
You already know how we feel about the Oscar song category, but how about the other races — particularly the big ones? Well, now you'll find out. Behold, TVGuide.com's predictions for the 81st Academy Awards (Sunday, ABC at 8:30 pm/ET). Don't agree with us? Then check out the nominees here and tell us who you think will and should triumph on Hollywood's biggest night.
Who will win: Slumdog Millionaire. At this point, it's Slumdog's to lose.
Watch out for: No one, really. Then again, like Ricky Gervais taught us, a Holocaust film is always a safe bet. The Reader had a better showing than expected nomination morning, and besides, you can never count out Harvey Weinstein.
Did You Know?: If Slumdog wins best picture, it will be the 11th film to win the top award without receiving any acting nominations. The other 10 are: Wings, All Quiet on the Western Front, Grand Hotel, An American in Paris, The Greatest Show on Earth, Around the World in 80 Days, Gigi, The Last Emperor, Braveheart and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. With 10 nominations, Slumdog has a chance to make a killing. There hasn't been a big sweep by a film at the Oscars since The Return of the King went 11 for 11 five years ago. At the past four ceremonies, no film won more than five awards.
Who will win: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire. It's been a near-clean sweep for him this season.
Watch out for: Like in picture, no one. But to play devil's advocate: Stephen Daldry, The Reader. This could have shades of the 2003 ceremony when heavy favorite (and DGA winner) Rob Marshall (Chicago) lost out to Roman Polanski for The Pianist, the Holocaust drama that surprisingly picked up screenplay and actor for Adrien Brody. The Reader is the Holocaust film this time around. Ironically, Weinstein was the force behind Chicago.
Did you know?: Daldry has made three films, 2000's Billy Elliot, 2002's The Hours and The Reader, and has received Oscar nominations for all of them. Somebody clearly likes him. This is also only the fifth time in Academy history that the picture and director nominees match five-for-five. The other times were for films released in 1957, 1964, 1981 and 2005.
Who will win: Sean Penn, Milk. This is down to Penn vs. Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), just like it has been from day one. It's the chameleon-like, transformative immersion (which the Academy is always fond of — see, most recently, Helen Mirren, Marion Cotillard and Philip Seymour Hoffman) against the once-in-a-lifetime performance. Penn took the SAG, which helps his case as actors make up the largest Academy voting bloc, but everyone loves a comeback, right? If you're stuck, flip a coin.
Watch out for: Rourke. Seriously, flip a coin. (Don't worry, cynics: Rourke's late pup, Loki, didn't sway votes his way. Ballots were due Tuesday at 5 pm/PT before news of Loki's death broke.)
Did you know?: Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) is the second actor to receive a nomination for portraying Nixon, following Anthony Hopkins in 1995's Nixon. Hopkins' competition that year included Sean Penn (Dead Man Walking). Outside of Nixon, three other presidential portrayals led to lead actor nominations: Raymond Massey as Abraham Lincoln in 1940's Abe Lincoln in Illinois, Alexander Knox as Woodrow Wilson in 1944's Wilson and James Whitmore as Harry S. Truman in 1975's Give 'Em Hell, Harry!
Who will win: Kate Winslet, The Reader. Her elusive Oscar is finally in reach (let's be realistic — of her five previous nominations, she was closest to winning for 1995's Sense and Sensibility in supporting). She's campaigned aggressively and her lack of double nominations prevent vote-splitting. Plus, it's a Holocaust movie (skip to 3:20) and she's naked in, like, half of it. And we know voters like pretty young things in their actress winners. OK, Helen Mirren's not that young, but she's still hot.
Watch out for: Meryl Streep, Doubt. On her 15th nomination, she's widened the gap for most total acting nods. But the two-time winner last triumphed for Sophie's Choice, which came out in 1982... which is also the year Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married) was born. Is it finally time for No. 3?
Did you know?: In the past decade, seven of the category's winners portrayed real people. The only biopic nominee this year is Angelina Jolie (Changeling).
Who will win: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight. 'Nuff said.
Watch out for: Nobody. However, who doesn't want to see Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder) win so "five-time Academy Award winner Kirk Lazarus" can add another statuette to his mantle? Too bad Satan's Alley isn't a real movie... yet.
Did you know?: Of the seven posthumous acting nominees, Ledger included, only one of them has been a woman. Jeanne Engels was nominated for 1929's The Letter and was the first performer, male or female, to receive a posthumous nod. If Heath Ledger wins, he will be the second posthumous acting winner after Peter Finch (Network).
Who will win: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. With Kate Winslet (rightfully) placed in lead for The Reader after siphoning a slew of precursors in supporting, the race feels open — and exciting. Manic and entertaining, Cruz is, as her alter ego Maria Elena would say, "genius" in the Woody Allen picture. Also in her favor: She won the BAFTA two weeks ago.
Watch out for: Viola Davis, Doubt. The one-scene wonder masterfully goes up against Streep and, arguably, upstages her even — snot and all.
Did you know?: The Academy loves Allen's supporting gals. Including Cruz, Allen has directed nine nominated performances in supporting actress. Two ladies, Dianne Wiest (twice) and Mira Sorvino, have won. This is also the first time in 23 years that two black actresses, Davis and Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), are nominated in supporting actress. The Color Purple's Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey (who wanted to play Davis' role in Doubt) lost to Anjelica Huston (Prizzi's Honor) at the 1986 show.
Check out the list of nominees, fashion and videos with TVGuide.com's complete Oscar coverage, and follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/tvguide during Sunday's show. Also be sure to watch celebrity arrivals with TV Guide Network's red-carpet coverage with Lisa Rinna and Joey Fatone at 6 pm/ET.