This year’s Academy Awards should be interesting for a number of reasons. The first is the host, Chris Rock, a risky departure from regular hosts Billy Crystal and Steve Martin. Rock has already gotten himself in trouble for comments made before the ceremony, and nobody knows what he’s planning for the actual event.
Unlike in past years where most races were done before they even started, there are actually a few very close categories this year, including Best Picture.
For a full list of this year’s Oscar nominees, visit www.oscars.com. The ceremony will be broadcast on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 27, at 8:00 p.m.
Best Picture: The Aviator
This is the first year in quite a while where there is no clear-cut favorite for Best Picture. The consensus seems to be that either The Aviator or Million Dollar Baby will win, but both are considered top notch and are respected films from great directors, so picking the winner is hard. Million Dollar Baby was widely loved by critics and most audiences, while The Aviator does have some detractors. But the Academy seems to favor large-scale films with mass appeal (Lord of the Rings, Chicago, Gladiator), as opposed to character studies or quiet dramas. It could go either way, but The Aviator is more of a classic Oscar winner.
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx (Ray)
As unpredictable as the Best Picture category is, Best Actor looks to be a lock. If there was any doubt that Foxx would win, it’s been easily erased by his much-loved Golden Globes acceptance speech, and by Ray Charles’ huge wins at the Grammys. Foxx is more than deserving of the award, even if Ray is one of the weakest Oscar nominees in any category.
Best Actress: Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby)
Swank is a heavy favorite here as well, having wowed almost everyone with a great performance and having already notched a Golden Globe win. It helps that the average moviegoer has never heard of three of the films nominated here: Vera Drake, Being Julia and Maria Full of Grace. The last one, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for which Kate Winslet is nominated, has a slight shot, but would still be a major upset.
Best Director: Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby)
This is another too-close-to-call category. Again, it’s down to Eastwood and Martin Scorsese for The Aviator. Scorsese’s history with the Oscars is a disastrous one, starting with no nominations for Mean Streets or Taxi Driver and seeing him lose at the Oscars for Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York. As good as The Aviator is, it doesn’t even crack Scorsese’s top five, and a win for it certainly wouldn’t make up for the Academy’s past mistakes. If The Aviator wins Best Picture, the directing award could go to Eastwood to somewhat balance things out.
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby)
This is a pretty open category, with any one of the nominees having a chance to win. If Sideways fans come together, Thomas Haden Church has a shot at it. Clive Owen seemed like a longshot for Closer until he won the Golden Globe for it. Jamie Foxx was excellent in Collateral and is hot enough this year to potentially pull of a double win. And Alan Alda, playing a corrupt senator in The Aviator, was nothing short of amazing. But it will probably come down to Freeman, a highly respected actor who gave one of the best performances of his impressive career in Million Dollar Baby.
Best Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen (Sideways)
Although Natalie Portman won the Golden Globe for Closer and Cate Blanchett is an obvious pick for The Aviator, Madsen should pull this one off for the same reason Sideways will win Best Adapted Screenplay. Love it or hate it, Sideways did have excellent acting, and with Haden Church looking like a long shot and Giamatti not getting nominated, it’s left up to Madsen to represent Sideways with an acting win.
Best Documentary Feature: Super Size Me
After Fahrenheit 9/11 disqualified itself in an attempt to get shown on TV, Super Size Me emerged as the clear favorite here. The film certainly deserves the win if popularity counts, since it’s currently the fourth highest grossing documentary of all time, but it’s not a true documentary in the classic sense. Still, Super Size Me is funny and enjoyable, and if voters are trying to push documentaries into the mainstream, this will be their choice.
Best Animated Feature Film: The Incredibles
Shark Tale isn’t in the same league as The Incredibles and Shrek 2, so count it out. The race is close between the other two, but since sequels hardly ever do as well as original ideas, look for The Incredibles to win this one.
Shawn Wines can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.