It would seem the Academy is out of touch with the nation. But does it even matter? Is there a difference between the popular and the good? Or more importantly, can we have — or live with — both the popular and the good? Am I OK if I love "Cloverfield" and "Doubt"?
So with apologies to Batman, Iron Man and Indiana, here's who will win the Oscar — and who should win.
Who Will Win: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." I would have chosen "The Changeling" and "Doubt" over "Frost/Nixon" and "Slumdog Millionaire," so you can guess my opinion on those nominations. "Milk" is all about Sean Penn. "The Reader" without Kate Winslet wouldn't have been nominated. Which leaves "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." It's the most inventive and most interesting picture of the group. It's complete like a novel, it's beautiful and it's dramatic. It's a great example of what movies can and should be. And it's all about its fantastic story.
Who Should Win: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
Best Leading Actor Who Will Win: Sean Penn for "Milk." There's no question Penn has this wrapped up. The other nominations are well deserved, but Penn's performance was that of a lifetime. Who Should Win: Penn.
Best Leading Actress
Who Will Win: Kate Winslet for "The Reader." This is her sixth nomination and thus due. This is probably the most competitive category. We didn't know Anne Hathaway had it in her for "Rachel Getting Married." Melissa Leo might have taken this if her film "Frozen River" had been marketed and actually seen. For "Doubt," Meryl Streep was, well, the great Meryl Streep. And Winslet, in "The Reader," was the best she's ever been. But Angelina Jolie's performance in "The Changeling" was the most honest and remarkable.
Who Should Win: Jolie.
Best Supporting Actor
Who Will Win: Heath Ledger for "The Dark Knight." Josh Brolin shouldn't have been nominated for "Milk." Robert Downey Jr. was great in "Tropic Thunder," but it was a gag. Michael Shannon was solid in "Revolutionary Road." And Philip Seymour Hoffman, for his troubled priest in "Doubt," would have walked away with it if it hadn't been for Ledger. If I hadn't seen Ledger's performance with my own eyes, no one could have ever convinced me that someone playing the Joker in a Batman movie would deserve a nomination. I felt, and honestly still do, that comic book films are for the kids, or at least for cheap entertainment. Ledger's outstanding performance allowed him to steal the show while making the film better. His performance was mesmerizing.
Who Should Win: Ledger.
Best Supporting Actress
Who Will Win: Amy Adams for "Doubt." She's been nominated twice and thus due. I admired Marisa Tomei for her willingness to play a stripper in "The Wrestler," but outside her willingness to be nude on film, her performance was not Oscar worthy. Penelope Cruz was a Spanish firecracker in "Vicky Christina Barcelona," but again, not really worthy. Viola Davis, for "Doubt," was on film for maybe five minutes and the performance certainly deserves a nomination, but it doesn't match Adams in "Doubt" or Taraji P. Henson's pitch-perfect, career making performance in Button.
Who Should Win: Henson for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
Who Will Win: David Fincher for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." The best directing is usually invisible. The best directing allows you to get lost in the film, to be amazed at the sights, the actors, the color, the story. David Fincher continually makes interesting films and is not beholden to any style or point of view. As is often the case, the best director gets out of the way and allows the story its full potential.
Who Should Win: David Fincher
Best Animated Film
Who Will Win: "WALL-E." This is maybe the easiest choice in Oscar history. "WALL-E" is a classic. "Bolt" and "Kung Fu Panda" were cute and well made, but were no where near "WALL-E" in vision and quality.
Who Should Win: "WALL-E"
Who Will Win: It's a toss up, but Tom Stern for "The Changeling." This is my favorite category. It's always filled with five deserving shooters, and is based solely on how the look of the film fits with the story; you can't win just with pretty pictures or adapting new technologies. Claudio Miranda did an incredible job with Button and can certainly pull it out, but Tom Stern made "The Changeling" look like it was filmed in the 1920s. The mood, the colors, his ability to make every scene look natural, was just incredible.
Who Should Win: Tom Stern.