It's hard to get a statistical breakdown of the Academy's membership, but over the years I've formed a mental picture of the Academy's average member. He's male; he's been in show business for decades, usually as an actor; he's wealthy enough to be "liberal"; he's white. He sees the nominated films at home, on screeners, possibly while enjoying a sandwich, instead of in the theater. And he's more inclined to go for a glossy feel-good movie over a grimmer one, or for a sweeping, old-fashioned Hollywood period epic over a gritty drama about actual present day concerns. (See also Forrest Gump vs. Pulp Fiction; Gladiator vs. Traffic.)
In short, Ernest Borgnine.
So, when I try to handicap Oscar picks, I ask: WWEBD? This is often a very different set of films from what I'd like to see win, and the Virtual Borgnine process isn't foolproof (last year, VB went 5/6; in 2006, VB tanked with a record of 3/6, somewhat damaged by my overlooking when Borgnine -- the real one, not the virtual one -- publicly stated he wouldn't see Brokeback Mountain). But, mostly, it's an exercise in looking into the thought process behind the maddening nature of the Oscars. All quotes are, as ever, rough intimations of the Borgnine thought process ...
BEST PICTURE: No Country for Old Men
"At first, my Academy pals and I liked Atonement -- a sweeping romantic period piece which boldly takes a stand reminding us that war, rape and lying are all wrong. But this year? No Country for Old Men; hey, I love a good violent movie (I was one of The Wild Bunch, remember?) and, more importantly, I love a good Hollywood success story -- heck, those Coen Brothers have been making movies since I was in my 60s!"
BEST DIRECTOR: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
"Jason Reitman has plenty of years left to be snubbed by the Academy; and if that Schnabel guy's so good, how come the movie didn't get nominated? (Oh, right: Because guys like me didn't see it.) Anderson's another good kid -- plenty of time, he can wait like Marty did, three or four decades of not being recognized should season him. And while I like that Tony Gilroy -- he made a real classy, old-timey movie with that Michael Clayton -- I gotta think, for the reasons above, that those nice Coen kids get my vote. "
BEST ACTOR: George Clooney, Michael Clayton
"Oh, I know Daniel Day-Lewis has all the momentum -- but Jesus, what was that movie about? It scared me! His mustache scared me! And what the hell is he talking about milkshakes for if he's an oilman? I liked Johnny Depp as Sweeney Razorhands -- oh, no, wait, different movie -- and I turned Eastern Promises off after the second cut throat, so good luck Viggo Mortensen. I love Tommy Lee, but who the hell saw that movie? Heck, who can pronounce it? And Clooney is a real old-school movie star; heck, he must be good if they named the movie after his character!"
BEST ACTRESS: Julie Christie, Away From Her
"Hollywood Royalty, and a classy dame. What more do you have to say? Besides, Cate Blanchett's Horseyface McWiggington thing got old, I don't understand half of what came out of Ellen Page's mouth, Laura Linney didn't do it for me and as for Marion Cotilliard's performance as the French Judy Garland, I wasn't overwhelmed; plus, I couldn't find my reading glasses, so oy, those subtitles!"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
"Sure, that kid with the Prince Valiant hair, Javier Bardem, was awesome -- but he can wait in line behind Hal! I love giving a body-of-work award as much as the next Academy voter, and Hal's gonna get it, baby. He's a great kid, too. ..."
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
"I was never much of a Dylan fan -- too mumbly -- but that young lady looked great as a young man. Sure, it's a little showy -- but what, Amy Ryan should get it for playing a crack mom, or Ruby Dee for 30 seconds of acting? I've had mid-sentence pauses that lasted longer than Ruby's screen time in American Gangster! The kid from Atonement is okay, and Swinton is good, too -- but the Academy loves cross-dressing in movies almost as much as it hates and fears transvestitism outside of the movies!"
BEST DOCUMENTARY: No End in Sight
"That Moore kid's turned into a real putz, and No End in Sight made me feel the least bad of the rest of 'em."
BEST SCREENPLAY, ORIGINAL: Michael Clayton
A great, old-timey movie -- what more can I say? Animation is kid's stuff, sex dolls creep me out, Juno made me feel like I do when my grandkids show me rap videos or the internet, and if I want to watch people deal with the reality of their aging father, like in The Savages, I'll have a family reunion. ...
BEST SCREENPLAY, ADAPTED: No Country for Old Men
"I tried reading that book, and I was worried I bought some cheapo version since mine had no punctuation; turns out that's how that McCarthy guy writes. All the other scripts are great, but 'Oscar' and 'sweep' go together like my pal Wilford Brimley and oatmeal. ..."
For much more on the Oscars, head over to Moviefone's official Oscar page for the skinny on this Sunday's ceremony.