What Do the Nominations Mean for the Major Categories?
Best Picture: Nothing, honestly. People are going to say that "the fact that The Reader got all these nominations shows love/support for it/ blah blah blah/ it's a threat for the win." I can already see it coming and it frankly bores the shit out of me. Not because I'm particularly against The Reader winning, but because Slumdog is too big to lose at this point. There is a category where all of this outpouring for The Reader is going to help, but it isn't here. Slumdog Millionaire is winning best picture...which I'm for, insomuch as it keeps presumptive runner-up, Benjamin Button from stealing the prize. Ew, watch it win now too.
Best Director: I know I said Gus Van Sant was winning this, but that was wishful thinking. It's going to be Danny Boyle, unless the Directors Guild throws a real curveball. Wouldn't it be fun if the DGA pulled an Apollo 13 and gave it to Christopher Nolan?
Best Actress: Directly following the nominations, I commented that Kate Winslet is going to have a harder time winning here. Now that I really think about it, she might actually have an easier time. It's still wide-open. Really, the only person I can't see winning is Angelina Jolie. The fact that Melissa Leo landed a nod here means she's got people who are really going to bat for this performance (and Frozen River has a screenplay nod too, don't forget). No one seems to be rallying for Meryl (only one big award so far and she's tied with Hathaway). I could see Hathaway winning before Meryl, honestly. And now that I've had time to ponder, I think that this win would be bad for Hathaway. I'm conflicted. But ultimately, I think Winslet will prevail. People want to see her win an Oscar. Plus, the Academy clearly likes The Reader. She's the only nominee in this category from a best picture nominee. Consider this: 1995, 1969, 1932 and 1931. Those are the only four years EVER when none of the four acting winners came from best picture nominees, and considering they only had two acting categories towards the beginning, that's a pretty meaningful statistic. In supporting actress this year, the only one from a BP Nominee is Taraji P. Henson. Then there's supporting, where Josh Brolin is the only one repping a BP nominee. And Ledger's winning there, so it's all moot. In best actor, Sean Penn could feasibly win (but I don't think he will). That leaves Winslet in lead. Overdue, one nomination this year for them to focus on, and no one's excited about anything else. Is it time?
Best Actor: With Clint not nominated, this remains a two-man race between Rourke and Penn. I think Rourke will prevail, and not because he won the Globe. I predicted him to lose the Globe and I still thought he was going to win the Oscar. As much as I love Penn and this performance, he simply isn't likeable to win two Oscars so close together. He's Rourke's saving grace. The only actor who's less likeable than him, though I thought Penn and Rourke both gave crowd-pleasing speeches at the BFCA and Globes, respectively.
Best Supporting Actress: Now that Winslet is out, I think that this paves the way for a shocker in this category. Penelope Cruz becomes the defacto frontrunner, but I don't think she'll win. The lack of screenplay attention for Woody (who is a normally a mainstay in that category) shows that love for Vicky Cristina Barcelona might be cooling. I liked this performance, but I'm now officially pulling for Viola Davis. First, because I liked Davis's performance better than Cruz's and second, I think that it will be easier for Cruz to be back here again than it will Davis.
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Shannon! I'm probably the only person screaming that, since everyone seems to hate that performance except me. I just love him so much and that may be clouding me. I want to go back in time and give him a nomination for Bug, but this is good too and it's moot. Because Ledger is going to win anyway...right?
Best Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for Milk. It's the surest way to ensure that the beloved film (did you hear the whoops and cheers when Gus Van Sant's name was called?) doesn't go home empty-handed, since Sean Penn isn't a sure thing according to me.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire was always winning here.