Directing Nominees:

  • Martin Scorsese, "The Aviator"
  • Clint Eastwood, "Million Dollar Baby"
  • Taylor Hackford, "Ray"
  • Alexander Payne, "Sideways"
  • Mike Leigh, "Vera Drake"

Martin Scorsese has been waiting a long, long time for an Oscar, and I’m convinced he’s taking it home this year.  He did a great job with “The Aviator” – a large-scale, impressive production about the life of an intriguing man.  Was he better than Eastwood?  Probably not.  But Eastwood’s taken home the honors before, so I’d say Oscar is going to make Martin’s day.

Actor in a Supporting Role Nominees:

  • Alan Alda, "The Aviator"
  • Thomas Haden Church, "Sideways"
  • Jamie Foxx, "Collateral" 
  • Morgan Freeman, "Million Dollar Baby"
  • Clive Owen, "Closer" 

An interesting selection.  Three morally repugnant characters, all white, against two noble ones, both black.  Oscar has a sketchy history when it comes to African-Americans, having gone to a very select few, so it’s a great time to improve the record.  With Foxx as Best Actor – and Freeman giving us yet another tour-de-force as a black narrator solving white people’s problems – this one is going to Freeman.  Rightly so.

Actress in a Supporting Role Nominees:

  • Cate Blanchett, "The Aviator"
  • Laura Linney, "Kinsey"
  • Virginia Madsen, "Sideways"
  • Sophie Okonedo, "Hotel Rwanda"
  • Natalie Portman, "Closer"

Oh, how I would love to see Sophie Okonedo win this one.  She was sublime in “Hotel Rwanda,” but Blanchett was just too flawless to overlook.  Besides, it’s not every day that someone portrays an icon like Katherine Hepburn – one of Hollywood’s own.  I strongly suspect that this one is going to her.

Writing (Original Screenplay) Nominees:

  • "The Aviator"
  • "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
  • "Hotel Rwanda"
  • "The Incredibles" 
  • "Vera Drake"

Good screenplays – all of them.  But “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is probably the best.  A quirky independent film, it offers the wonderful message that, even when we know each other’s sins, and how hard it will be to make a relationship work, we can still choose to love.  And we will.  A well-deserved Oscar.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay) Nominees:

  • "Before Sunset"
  • "Finding Neverland"
  • "Million Dollar Baby"
  • "The Motorcycle Diaries"
  • "Sideways"

I’m amazed that “Before Sunset” is on this list.  A vacuous film with nothing but “talking heads” (characters who speak to one another without any action, except walking around), it would have received an ‘F’ in first-year filmmaking.  My first pick in this bunch is, again, “Finding Neverland.”  However, I predict a surprise win for “The Motorcycle Diaries.”  Hollywood loves communist revolutionaries.

Animated Feature Film Nominees:

The real battle is between “The Incredibles” and “Shrek 2,” because “Shark Tale” is just a rip-off of Dreamwork’s “Finding Nemo” – with lots of sleaze and none of the charm.  I liked “Shrek 2” for the way it deconstructed postmodernity, showing us all who we’ve become.  But “The Incredibles” wins this one hands-down for me, and I believe Hollywood will say the same

Cinematography Nominees:

Finally a safe place to nominate “The Passion of the Christ” without ruffling any feathers.  Caleb Deschenel (“The Patriot”) is one of the best cinematographers around, so this nomination is hardly without merit.  His artistic renderings of Christ’s suffering were was so vivid and memorable that it would be hard for Hollywood to give this to anyone else.