At the Movies – Eberts Oscar Nomination Predictions

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His code name is Deep Vote. He reads the mind of the Academy. He will reveal to me the names of this years nominees. Our annual rendezvous is in the anime section of a small Blockbuster in an obscure Midwestern city. He pulls on latex gloves and uses a fingernail knife to slit open a fresh pack of 3-by-5 cards. He writes down his predictions.
Best Supporting Actor, he writes, will be won by Heath Ledger. Period. For the other contenders, the nomination itself will be their reward.
Best Picture, Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, Doubt, Revolutionary Road, The Reader. Maybe The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Extremely strong possibility of The Dark Knight. WALL-E is good enough, but voters will cover it in the best animation category. Synecdoche, N.Y. is easily good enough, but theyre embarrassed you had to explain it to them.
I havent seen four of Deep Votes picks, so I dont have an opinion.
He starts on a fresh card. Best Actor, he writes, Frank Langella as Richard M. Nixon in Frost/Nixon, a lock. Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, also a lock. Sean Penn in Milk, another lock. He mentions Brad Pitt, Josh Brolin, Richard Jenkins, Ralph Fiennes. Cant say. He opens a fresh pack of 3-by-5s and writes down five words: Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.
I ask him why the special treatment. He writes down: You seen it?
Not yet, I said.
When you see it, he wrote, youll understand. Dont be surprised.
A fanboy sidles down the aisle with his head cocked at an angle, searching for a title. He looks at us sideways, and asks, Bakugan, Volume One: Battle Brawlers? Deep Vote points him to War Movies and moves on to Best Actress.
Meryl Streep in Doubt, he writes. The best actress alive, maybe the nicest. But her 15th nomination will be her award. Shes building on her world record for the most nominations. Shes won twice, but will probably never catch Katharine Hepburn, with four. Kate Winslet, but she may split her vote between The Reader and Revolutionary Road. Quite possibly Kristin Scott Thomas in Ive Loved You So Long. Shes now starring in Ibsen on Broadway. That never hurts. Academy voters cant stand Ibsen, but they like to be associated with him. Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married. Showed her serious acting chops. Might be Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky. Devilishly tricky role, and she was brilliant.
Who will win? I whisper.
Melissa Leo in Frozen River, he writes. Best performance of the year, hands down. The public isnt sure who she is, but shes been working since 1984 and has 76 film and TV credits. Every actor in the business has worked with her, except for Kevin Bacon. If they work together, the game grows exponentially. Actors nominate actors.
Best Supporting Actress, he writes, Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Marisa Tomei, fabulous in The Wrestler. Rosemarie DeWitt and/or Debra Winger in Rachel Getting Married. Viola Davis in Doubt. Coming up fast on the far turn, looking like she may cross the finish line with the rest of the pack, Sophie Okonedo in The Secret Life of Bees.
Best Supporting Actor, you know about.
Best director, Jonathan Demme for Rachel Getting Married. A lock. Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon. Utterly fascinating. David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire looks like it was a tough location shoot. Gus Van Sant, for Milk. Very powerful.
Who will win? I ask.
He speaks for the first time all evening. Clint may squeeze in, he whispers. Dont be surprised.
He nods significantly and disappears into the Foreign Classics section, at this late hour nearly deserted. Does Deep Vote know what hes talking about? He showed me Entertainment Weeklys list of last years Oscar winners. He had a check mark beside every single one.

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