I posted this about a month ago originally, but people have asked about my predictions, so I've updated and re-posted it. My track record for predictions, even in the sound category, is terrible because I always allow my personal preferences to affect my predictions. This is why I don't enter Oscar pools.
I'll go by category and make comments about the nominations. I'll skip the short categories since I haven't seen any of the nominees.
BABEL and THE DEPAHTED do not belong. Replace them with CHILDREN OF MEN and PAN'S LABYRINTH, which would be my choice for winner. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is the best comedy I've seen this year (although I still haven't seen BORAT). I wish comedies were in a separate category, like the SAG or Golden Globes.
THE QUEEN is deserving of a nomination, but not a win. Based on the other awards, it looks like it's Scorcese's turn for Best Pic. I don't like the idea of lifetime achievement awards being given for Best Picture, especially when there are other, better nominated films.
I'm not at all upset about DREAMGIRLS missing. Eight nominations, but... three are for song. It's a musical. That leave five; noms for Art, Costume and Sound Mixing are primarily considered tech awards. How many times has a film that won Art Direction won Best Picture? That leaves two deserved creative awards, for SUPPORTING actor and actress (not even the leads). Neither deserves to win. It does not deserve a BP nom. Sorry.
The only thing I like about the Golden Globes is that they separate Comedy/Musical from Drama. I also like the SAG category for best cast. But among the Oscar noms in acting, they are pretty good.
Ryan Gosling is an excellent actor, but HALF NELSON is not an Oscar film. I haven't seen HAPPYNESS yet. (It looks putrid in the trailers.) Of the others, I'll be shocked if Forrest Whittaker does not win for LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. It's the performance of a lifetime. I love Peter O'Toole, and he is excellent in VENUS, but this is not his year. Leo is OK in BLOOD DIAMOND, but not deserving.
Actress: I'll also be shocked if Helen Mirren does not win for THE QUEEN. I love Judi Dench, but she was over the top in NOTES ON A SCANDAL. The other noms are deserved. Meryl Streep was very good in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, but should not win. Penelope Cruz in VOLVER and Kate Winslett in LITTLE CHILDREN were good but should not win.
Supporting actor: Alan Arkin in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and Jackey Earl Haley in LITTLE CHILDREN were both excellent. I'd be happy seeing either win, but I expect Arkin to take the trophy. How is Djimon Hounsou in BLOOD DIAMOND a supporting actor? His part was bigger than Leo's. But it was one-note. Marc Wahlberg, whom I usually like, was awful in DEPAHTED. Eddie Murphy was amusing in DREAMGIRLS, but, Oscar? I think not, although SAG thinks so, and there are more actors in the Academy than there are any other profession; they make up about 20% of the voters.
Supporting actress: no question who deserves it most, Abigail Breslin. An absolutely amazing, intelligent, layered performance from an 11 year-old. Seeing it twice confirmed this. Also, seeing her as a normal kid on Letterman... she was really acting. Adriana Barraza was very weak In BABEL. Rinko Kikuchi was better but still a very weak film. Cate Blanchett was as over the top as Judi Dench in NOTES ON A SCANDAL. The award will probably go to AMERICAN IDOL castoff Jennifer Hudson, who would be my second choice.
Clint Eastwood's deserved nomination trumps Martin Scorcese's Lifetime Achievement Award Nomination, but Scorsese will win. Left off are the two foreign directors who deserve it more: Guillermo del Toro or Alfonso Cuarón. Stephen Frears is unlikely, but Paul Greengrass did an excellent job with the under-appreciated UNITED 93.
Again it would be nice to judge comedies separately.
BABEL should not be nominated. The screenplay categories often play like "runners-up" to Best Picture, so it could win even though I thought it was weak. More likely LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE or possibly PAN'S LABYRINTH will win.
In adapted, I still haven't seen BORAT. (No guild screenings!) DEPAHTED and NOTES ON A SCANDAL don't belong. CHILDREN OF MEN *should* win, but I can't predict this one.
If you haven't noticed, I LOVE animated films. CARS was by far the weakest of the three films but will probably win. MONSTER HOUSE deserves to win. HAPPY FEET has lost steam and has a very weak third act.
will probably go to PAN'S LABYRINTH, which would be my choice.
Of the four I've seen, it should go to PAN'S LABYRINTH. LIVES OF OTHERS (DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN) is a close second and any other year would win. DAYS OF GLORY is competent but not original enough. WATER should not have been nominated. Haven't seen WEDDING.
should go to PAN'S LABYRINTH or CHILDREN OF MEN, which had superior work but was not as obvious as PAN. THE BLACK DAHLIA, ILLUSIONIST and PRESTIGE should not even be nominated.
Haven't seen POSEIDON (nor will I ever) but SUPERMAN was a lot better than PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.
Didn't see MARIE ANTOINETTE, but I'd be surprised if CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER does not win. DREAMGIRLS could win, but PRADA and THE QUEEN are unlikely.
I've only seen three; of those, JESUS CAMP is by far the best. However, the PowerPiont presentation INCONVENIENT TRUTH will almost certainly win. (MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY is also good). I hope to see the others soon.
BABEL will win because it's non-linear. (BFD.) It could also go to DEPAHTED simply because the editor and director are very popular. Of the nominees, I preferred UNITED 93 (which was one of the best films of the year).
Best score of the year was Tom Newman's score for THE GOOD GERMAN. It may win, as it's very old-fashioned.
Even David Letterman is making jokes about the fact that a doc about global warming got nominated for... BEST SONG, which I predicted quite a while ago. One of the songs from DREAMGIRLS should win, but they may split their own vote, leaving Randy Newman to win for CARS.
PAN'S LABYRINTH is most deserving. APOCALYPTO was OK but nothing special. I see why CLICK was nominated for make-up. They have to make Henry Winkler look young in flashbacks (mostly through creative cinematography and visual effects) and make Sandler look old in flash-forwards, but PAN was much better.
The Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award for Sound Effects/Foley Editing AND for Dialogue/ADR Editing both went to LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, which bodes well for its Oscar chances in Sound Effects Editing.
The Cinema Audio Society Awards for Sound Mixing on a Feature film went to DREAMGIRLS, and was well deserved also. The only other Oscar possibility in my estimation is APOCALYPTO, which was not nominated for a CAS award. Re-recording mixer Kevin O'Connell is a perennial bridesmaid at the Oscars, having been nominated 18 times in the past but has never won (a record).
I know I said I'd skip this, but I wanted to mention that a former student, Ari Sandel, was nominated in this category for his thesis film made while at USC, WEST BANK STORY, which is a musical. I'm thrilled for him and wish him the best.
Also in the animated short category, my good friend Gary Rydstrom is nominated. It's his 14th nomination (he's won 7) but this is his first as director. I wish him the best of luck as well.