And the winner (probably) is...

Let us now look at the Oscar nominees and the predicted winners

The road to Oscar glory is paved with many things. Like many before them, this year’s nominations have come a long way. Whether it is the story of the slum dog that became a millionaire or the curious case of a man aging backwards, or that whose last laugh was silenced too quickly, each of these categories determine some of the finest performances and stories we’ve seen this year.

The 81st Academy Awards will be held on February 22, 2009 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood with actor Hugh Jackman hosting the ceremony. It will be Jackman’s first time as a host and past outings have shown that a host can make or break the entire show.

But it isn’t a show about the host. For 80 years, the Academy Awards have bestowed its honor amongst many motion pictures, actors, writers, composers, directors and producers in Hollywood. This year is different however; there is strangely more competition with no clear winner in sight until the envelopes open on that fateful February evening.

Let us now look at the Oscar nominees and its predicted winners.

Best Motion Picture of the Year:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire
This one’s a tough category. With 13 nominations, Benjamin Button is clearly in the lead to win this category if not for the Best Director. Though Slumdog Millionaire is the one that is clearly winning all kinds of awards, The Reader’s subject matter (Nazi Germany and the Holocaust) has always been a favorite of the Academy and could give it an edge.
Predicted Winner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Richard Jenkins for The Visitor
Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn for Milk
Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler
Again, competition is tough but with an avalanche of critical acclaim behind him, Mickey Rourke is set to pin the rest of the competition. Though actors like Frank Langella and Sean Penn shouldn’t be ruled out for their performances either. However, the underdogs, Brad Pitt and Richard Jenkins could pull an up-set with either of the performances.
Predicted Winner(s): Mickey Rourke or Frank Langella

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie for Changeling
Melissa Leo for Frozen River
Meryl Streep for Doubt
Kate Winslet for The Reader
This is Winslet’s sixth nomination for an Academy Award, twice for supporting roles and four times for leading roles, though she hasn’t won any of them. Perhaps this time around the bridesmaid will finally be the bride. As for the rest of the contenders, Hathaway is ahead with her critically acclaimed role, but Melissa Leo’s underdog status shouldn’t be underestimated. Meryl Streep is the clear outsider here, but her strong performance gives doubt to the others in the race.
Predicted Winner: Kate Winslet

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Josh Brolin for Milk
Robert Downey Jr for Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt
Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon for Revolutionary RoadHeath Ledger’s untimely demise means that he is clearly in the lead for posthumous award. Though performances such as Brolin’s, Downey Jr’s and Hoffman’s are particularly impressive, the Academy is surely to honor the short lived career of one of its finest actors.
Predicted Winner: Heath Ledger

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams for Doubt
Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis for Doubt
Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler
In the past, this category has proved to be one of the most contested nominations amongst the actresses. Each actress has truly given her all in each of the performances and the Oscar is up for grabs right up until the name is read out.
Predicted Winner: Too close to call

Best Achievement in Directing
Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry for The Reader
David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant for Milk
Fincher’s Benjamin Button is already the leader in Best Motion Picture, but he’s facing some tough competition here especially from Danny Boyle. But if Boyle wins, he’s already under pressure to accept the award along with his co-director/casting director Loveleen Tandan.
Predicted Winner: Danny Boyle

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Published:
Eric Roth, Robin Swicord for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley for Doubt
Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon
David Hare for The Reader
Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire
Writers played an important role this year, considering the WGA writer’s strike that crippled not only the TV industry but also the Academy. Though animated movies are unlikely candidates, WALL-E’s story did strike a cord with audiences. However, this category has proven time and time again that it is outsiders like Martin McDonagh, John Patrick Shanley, could be in the limelight.
Predicted Winners: Martine McDonagh and John Patrick Shanley

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Picture, Original Score:
Alexandre Desplat for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
James Newton Howard for Defiance
Danny Elfman for Milk
A.R. Rahman for Slumdog Millionaire
Thomas Newman for WALL-E
A. R. Rahman has gathered special attention from the academy, three nominations in the categories of best score and song. But the music and song speaks (sings?) for itself as no other movie has its score so closely related to the story.
Predicted Winner: A R Rehman

The Academy Awards are a night of celebration for everyone in Hollywood. Though everybody has their predictions you can’t really tell which way the result will go. There have been many surprises in the winners revealed but that’s part of the excitement.

There’s never a dull moment, whether it is the presenter with an off-hand remark, or the strong acceptance speech that is cut off, with plenty of controversy for everyone. But more than anything it is also a moment of the highest triumph for the actors, writers, composers, producers and directors, who put their complete heart and soul into their work.