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Lights, Camera, Oscar!

Four BU film experts tell us who’ll win at Sunday’s Academy Awards

Best Picture nominations (clockwise from left): “The Departed,” “Babel,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” and “The Queen.” Photos courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Roll out the red carpet and let’s start arguing. It’s Oscar time!

Polling for the 79th Academy Awards ended on Tuesday, when members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences cast their final ballots. Now it’s just a matter of counting. While that’s happening, BU Today undertook its own poll of four BU film experts: Paolo Difabio, assistant director of the College of Fine Arts school of theatre; Bill Linsman, College of Communication associate professor and director of the Boston University Los Angeles Internship Program; Jason Marcus (COM’07), film major and general manager of butv10; and Randy Steinberg (COM’98), College of Communication visiting assistant professor of screenwriting. This is what they said about who will, and who should, win the Oscars this year.

From left: Paolo Difabio, Bill Linsman, Jason Marcus (COM’07), and
Randy Steinberg (COM’98)

Best Picture nominees:
Babel, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Queen

Difabio: Whichever film receives Best Director almost always also receives Best Picture. This year the Academy will most definitely choose The Departed, because director Martin Scorsese is due for an Oscar. My dark horse winner would be Little Miss Sunshine.  

Either Babel or Little Miss Sunshine will win. Both are excellent, but I think Babel has the advantage because it’s so edgy. I’m not going to completely rule out Little Miss Sunshine, though.

Little Miss Sunshine will win. The Academy loves Best Picture upsets. The Departed deserves the award, but my gut feeling tells me to put my money on the tiny, “cute” film.

Steinberg: It comes down to Babel versus Letters from Iwo Jima. Both have foreign aspects to them — that bit of non-American mystery that make them tempting choices for voters. I think Letters from Iwo Jima will get the nod because voters awarded a multiple-storyline film last year for Crash. Also, voters love Clint Eastwood.

Best Director nominees:
Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima; Stephen Frears, The Queen; Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel; Paul Greengrass, United 93; Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Difabio: Scorsese has it — lock, stock, and barrel. The Academy wants to pay tribute to all of his other films it ignored, such as Casino, Goodfellas, and Raging Bull.

Scorsese will get it. He deserves it after a lifetime of accomplishment.

Marcus: It’s about time Scorsese wins. If he doesn’t, there will be riots in the streets of Beverly Hills.

Steinberg: Scorsese still has not won a Best Directing Oscar in his long and glorious career. Though I thought The Departed lacked as a story in a few ways, my hunch is he’ll be rewarded on the strength of his oeuvre.

Best Actor nominees:
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond; Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson; Peter O’Toole, Venus; Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness; Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Difabio: Knowing the Academy, I think it will finally recognize O’Toole, who has been passed up numerous times for an Oscar. Think of it as a lifetime achievement award. If anyone is going to beat him, it will be Whitaker.

Linsman: Whitaker did a fantastic job in The Last King of Scotland. His only competition is O’Toole, because the Academy could choose to honor his past achievements.

Marcus: There’s no doubt Whitaker will win.

Sometimes actors rise above the films in which they star — such was the case last year with Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote. I think we’ll see a repeat of the phenomenon this year with Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland. The role of Idi Amin is dramatic in its own right, and Whitaker rises to the occasion. 

Best Actress nominees: Penélope Cruz, Volver; Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal; Helen Mirren, The Queen; Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada; Kate Winslet, Little Children

Difabio: Mirren’s performance in The Queen will reign supreme. I predict she’ll get it on artistic merit alone, unless Dench or Streep steals it from her.

Linsman: Mirren’s performance in The Queen was absolutely classic — very majestic. But it has been a long time since Streep has won, and she has broad audience appeal.

Marcus: No questions asked, Mirren will win. She is the movie.

Miranda Priestly, the character Streep plays in The Devil Wears Prada, is a force of nature. I think it’s Streep’s destiny to be this year’s Best Actress choice.

Best Supporting Actor nominees:
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine; Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children; Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond; Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls; Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

Difabio: I hope Arkin gets it, because his performance was brilliant. I think he has a good chance, because when the Academy honors a comedy, it typically does so by recognizing the Best Supporting Actor or Actress.

Linsman: Arkin will get it, hands down. He gave a knockout performance, and he was perfect for that character.

Marcus: Murphy shows he has class and talent despite his recent “fat-suit,” “just-in-it-for-the-dough” release of Norbit. That said, Wahlberg is awesome in The Departed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Academy backlash against Murphy catapults Wahlberg into the spotlight.

I’m torn between Wahlberg and Arkin. I think, like Scorsese for directing, the award could go to Arkin for sentimental reasons.

Best Supporting Actress nominees:
Adriana Barraza, Babel; Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal; Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine; Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls; Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Difabio: Blanchett will get it because the Academy is still trying to make up for robbing her of the Best Actress award for Elizabeth.

Linsman: I can’t get the image of Barraza wandering around in the desert out of my head. Her performance is just riveting. Breslin would be my second choice, just for the cuteness and age factor.

Without a doubt, the front-runner is Hudson. Her break-out performance is worth the price of admission.

Steinberg: I have no clue here, but I’m going to go with Barraza in Babel simply because that film will have to be recognized and rewarded somehow.

Think you know the winners? Vote in the BU Today/Student Activities Office (SAO) Oscar contest. Submit your Oscar picks using the online ballot, and on Sunday, February 25, bring a copy of your ballot to the annual SAO-sponsored Oscar Party. If your predictions match the Academy’s selections, you’ll be eligible to win some snazzy prizes, including movie passes and a digital camera. The party will be held at BU Central beginning at 7 p.m.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.