Oscar Odds

If I Had My Way …
Las Vegas Review-Journal movie critic Carol Cling picks her favorites

Best Picture
"Slumdog Millionaire"
Best Actor
Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"
Best Actress
Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"
Best Supporting Actor
Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"
Best Supporting Actress
Penélope Cruz, "Vicki Cristina Barcelona"
Best Director
Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"

81st annual Academy Awards
5:30 p.m. Today
KTNV-TV, Channel 13

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
15-to-1
The overall nominations leader (with 13), this ambitious saga about the title character, who ages backward, ranks as an undisputed technical marvel — and it should clean up in those categories. As a dramatic experience, however, it’s overlong, overdone and frequently overbearing — the kind of movie that’s a lot easier to admire than to love. And with the lovable "Slumdog Millionaire" racing toward victory, "Benjamin Button" will need more than one miracle to prevail.

"Frost/Nixon"
20-to-1
A textbook example of how to transfer a stage hit to the screen, this boasts terrific performances (and not just in the title roles), understated direction and a script that maintains the original’s dramatic core while expanding its cinematic vision. Yet in these embattled times, when Americans of all stripes (even Oscar voters) look to a new president for inspiration, revisiting a disgraced post-Watergate Richard Nixon seems like a case of deja vu all over again — and an even bigger case of bad timing.

"Milk"
5-to-1
What would Harvey Milk do? If there’s one movie with a chance to put the brakes on "Slumdog Millionaire’s" momentum, it’s this timely biopic about the pioneering — and martyred — gay politician, a pivotal public figure who still inspires, three decades after his assassination. If Oscar voters feel guilty over the passage of California’s controversial Prop. 8 (which outlaws gay marriage), they might treat the Oscar campaign as a referendum, leading to one last Harvey Milk victory.

"The Reader"
15-to-1
Some longtime Oscar-watchers believe there’s a permanent spot in the final five for Holocaust-themed movies. That’s one explanation for the unexpected strength of this provocative, time-tripping drama about the repercussions of a lawyer’s life-changing teenage affair, in post-World War II Berlin, with an enigmatic woman harboring more than one dark secret. Yet despite four top nominations, it’s tough to imagine any kind of happy ending for "The Reader" in this competitive category.

"Slumdog Millionaire"
2-to-1
Director Danny Boyle’s exuberant Bollywood fairy tale, about a Mumbai street urchin’s fateful path toward "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," is no one’s idea of typical Oscar fare. It’s not big, it’s not portentous, it’s not "important." Yet, of all the nominees, it’s the one that goes for the heart — and scores a direct hit. "Slumdog" has won every pre-Oscar award around, so there’s danger of a backlash, but not enough to stop this little movie that could from cashing in.

BEST ACTOR
Richard Jenkins
25-to-1
Character stalwart Jenkins’ first leading-role performance — as a lost soul who finds himself where he least expects it — is the kind of subtle, heartfelt stunner that sneaks up on you. Unfortunately, that means Oscar voters probably will overlook it, given their general preference for in-your-face bombast, making Jenkins the longest of long shots.

Frank Langella
10-to-1
Broadway hits usually make the transition to Hollywood without their original stars. Luckily, this didn’t happen to stage legend Langella, giving us the chance to see, and marvel at, his uncanny, Tony-winning portrayal of ex-president Richard Nixon — which conveys the torment, and humanity, of one of U.S. history’s most reviled figures.

Sean Penn
3-to-1
Why is this man smiling? Maybe because Penn knows Oscar voters love actors who play real-life characters — characters, like "Milk’s" Harvey Milk, who fight for noble causes and die noble deaths. Oscar voters also love to demonstrate (and congratulate themselves on) their bleeding-heart political correctness, which makes Penn a favorite.

Brad Pitt
15-to-1
Pitt did give a great performance in 2008. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." (See "Burn After Reading" for proof.) Some Oscar voters equate heavy makeup with heavy emoting, but Pitt can’t quite convey the inner impact of his passive character’s amazing adventures — which makes him an inevitable also-ran.

Mickey Rourke
3-to-1
If there’s one thing Oscar voters love more than parading their bleeding-heart liberalism, it’s honoring an incredible comeback. Better still, Rourke’s powerhouse performance as "The Wrestler" — a battered has-been trying for one last triumph — has the kind of art-imitates-life authenticity that gives Rourke a once-in-a-lifetime Oscar shot.

BEST ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway
15-to-1
In "Rachel Getting Married," Hathaway sheds her proper-princess image, playing a maddening, mercurial screw-up who can’t stand being in the background, even at her sister’s wedding. Oscar loves young lovelies who ugly up to prove their acting chops, but the competition’s too rough this year for Hathaway to break through. She’ll be back.

Angelina Jolie
20-to-1
In "The Changeling," Jolie looks as though she just stepped out of an Edward Hopper painting, playing a ’20s mother battling the system to find her lost boy. It’s the kind of showy "look at me" performance that always attracts Oscar attention, but in a field this competitive, Jolie’s probably an also-ran. Besides, she has an Oscar — and a Brad.

Melissa Leo
25-to-1
A rare movie that’s more real than reel, "Frozen River" gains much of its power, and hardscrabble poetry, from veteran Leo’s fierce, fearless portrayal of a desperate yet determined single mother. Alas, this is one of those cases where the nomination is the victory; in this lineup, Leo’s a long shot — but just as deserving as the leader(s) of the pack.

Meryl Streep
3-to-1
Winner of two Oscars, Streep has a record 15 nominations, but it has been 26 years since she won for "Sophie’s Choice." Her "Doubt" portrayal of a no-nonsense nun — full of imperious authority and righteous indignation — ranks as her best shot in years. It’s also mannered and actressy — which, of course, makes it an Oscar natural.

Kate Winslet
3-to-1
Winslet scores her sixth nomination, not for "Revolutionary Road" (as many expected) but for "The Reader," which showcases her uncanny ability to reveal truths about a character who’s desperate to conceal them. It may be a supporting role (hey, so was Hannibal Lecter), but Winslet so dominates the movie — and is so overdue — it might not matter in the end.

Life
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Army medic’s Afghanistan story told in new book
The graphic novel “Machete Squad” is based on journals written by Las Vegan Brent Dulak.
Las Vegas man talks about losing his wife
Dwayne Murray, 37, lost his wife, LaQuinta while she was at Centennial Hills Hospital. A jury awarded him $43 million last week after it said the hospital failed to perform the standard of care in administering a drug for her sickle cell disease.
Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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