Oscar night is approaching quickly, and, at this point, Slumdog Millionaire seems to be unstoppable. It has won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and every major guild award thus far, and it has the momentum heading into Sunday night. Avid Oscar addicts would be smart to bet money on a Slumdog trifecta of awards for best film, director and adapted screenplay; after all, its win would not be without precedent.
But then there’s Brokeback Mountain. Brokeback had all the momentum in 2006; it was the juggernaut that could not be stopped, and its win for Best Picture was all but certain until Jack Nicholson, sounding as surprised as the rest of the world was about to be, declared Crash the winner. Whether it was cowboy fatigue or homophobia that sank Brokeback in the end, it walked away with quite a few Oscars but without the preeminent award. That fate could await Slumdog Millionaire since many Academy members have been grumbling about simply being sick of the little movie that could.
In all honesty, though, Slumdog will likely emerge victorious in a field of far superior movies like Milk and Frost/Nixon. Fellow Best Picture nominee The Reader has been taking heat recently for being both a Holocaust film (talk about fatigue – even the New York Times lamented the fact that seemingly any film about the Final Solution gets anointed with Oscar glory) and a movie that almost justifies Nazi behavior. In a just world, Milk would win everything from Best Picture and Best Director, for Gus Van Sant, to Best Actor for Sean Penn. In a realistic world, the first two are going to Slumdog and Mickey Rourke may or may not beat Penn. In a year with lesser competition, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Frost/Nixon would have a genuine shot at winning, but their nominations are their awards.
The question of the night is whether or not Kate Winslet will finally win the Oscar that she’s so wholeheartedly deserved ever since her performance in 1996’s Sense and Sensibility. Perhaps voters will finally correct this injustice – both Eminem and Jennifer Hudson have Oscars and Winslet does not – and her only competition comes in the form of the unsinkable, beloved Meryl Streep. Both Streep and Winslet won Screen Actors Guild awards for their performances; though nominated in different categories, it is unclear who will win on Sunday. Streep is universally respected and adored, while Winslet is considered one of the greatest young actresses working today. Some say, however, that she’s been campaigning too hard for the award.
Only time will tell if Hugh Jackman will be as good a host for the Oscars as he was for the Tonys and if Kristen Stewart can put down the bong long enough to present an award. Chances are that not all of the deserving films will be recognized by the Academy, but if they are, Hollywood will be a far better place.