The Oscars are heading into their final weeks, with the nominees from the major six categories trying to make one final push. But realistically, only a select few of these nominees can win at the Oscars. For these select few movies and actors that have a shot, they do have factors and momentum on their side that can help them win the big prizes. But they also have factors and history that can keep them from closing the deal on Oscar night. Here are the elements that can carry the nominees to an Oscar victory – and the ones that can kill their chances.
Why Slumdog Millionaire can win the Oscar: It has cleaned up most of the pre-Oscar awards, has all the momentum, and is an audience favorite according to critics.
Why Slumdog Millionaire cannot win the Oscar: It’s too far ahead and already vulnerable to backlash. Plus the Oscars don’t often honor movies about other countries, unless they’re three-hour epics and have white leads.
Why Benjamin Button can win the Oscar: It is the only movie to make $100 million, is the big epic of the field, the big visual effects showcase of the field, and a weepy tearjerker.
Why Benjamin Button cannot win the Oscar: No one actually loves it, and few seem to think that Benjamin Button himself actually has a pulse.
Why Milk can win the Oscar: The Obama era demands that a movie like this must win. So does the anti-Prop 8 forces of Hollywood.
Why Milk cannot win the Oscar: It may just be a standard biopic behind the political hype and Sean Penn. Those still bitter about Brokeback Mountain’s loss have more colorful theories on why a pro-gay movie can’t win.
Why Sean Penn can win the Oscar: He won most critics awards, and actually smiles for the first time on-screen in 20 years.
Why Sean Penn cannot win the Oscar: Too angry and prickly off-screen, even for Hollywood liberals.
Why Mickey Rourke can win the Oscar: Critics, audiences and the news have written too many “comeback of the year” stories about Rourke for him to lose now.
Why Mickey Rourke cannot win the Oscar: May still be a little nutso.
Why Frank Langella can win the Oscar: Already won Tonys as Richard Nixon, and would be a career-capping Oscar for a beloved veteran.
Why Frank Langella cannot win the Oscar: Penn and Rourke make too much news on and off-screen.
Why Meryl Steep can win the Oscar: Hasn’t won one in 26 years, which seems unnatural. After playing the ultimate strict nun in Doubt, no one will want to cross Streep.
Why Meryl Streep cannot win the Oscar: Victory seemed assured in November, but Steep has lost some ground since, and people loved her a lot more than Doubt itself.
Why Kate Winslet can win the Oscar: Even more overdue than Streep, and actors with two big movies in one year usually win something.
Why Kate Winslet cannot win the Oscar: Did Winslet lose this when she got nominated for The Reader instead of Revolutionary Road?
Why Anne Hathaway can win the Oscar: Showed brand new range in Rachel Getting Married, and big name actresses who stretch at least once – a la Charlize Theron, Halle Berry and Reese Witherspoon – usually win.
Why Anne Hathaway cannot win the Oscar: Streep and Winslet are too powerful, and voters may not want Hathaway to give a speech after the one she had in Married.
Best Supporting Actor
Why Heath Ledger can win the Oscar: Everyone not under a rock for the last year knows why.
Why Heath Ledger cannot win the Oscar: Perhaps his ghost had some unpleasant encounters with the voters.
Why Josh Brolin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr and Michael Shannon cannot win the Oscar: See answer two places above.
Best Supporting Actress
Why Penelope Cruz can win the Oscar: Woody Allen hasn’t had one of his actresses up here in a while – and Javier Bardem presenting Cruz the Oscar would be super hot.
Why Penelope Cruz cannot win the Oscar: Too much of a heavy favorite in a category ripe for upsets.
Why Viola Davis can win the Oscar: Would be the latest Supporting Actress to win the Oscar with 10 minutes of screen time – screen time she stole from Meryl Streep.
Why Viola Davis cannot win the Oscar: Is Doubt good enough for two Oscar winners?