Gladiator,, Traffic and Erin Brokovich all made huge showings when the nominations for the 73rd Academy Awards were announced in LA last month. I was excited to see Gladiator lead the nominations with 12 nods, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Chocolat get nominations for Best Picture, Actress and Supporting Actress. I thought it would be interesting to look at the trends from this year's nominations and perhaps make a couple of predictions.

Other than the inclusion of Chocolat, the nominations for Best Picture have all made huge numbers at the box office. Along with Chocolat and Gladiator the remaining nods go to Erin Brokovich, Traffic, and the surprise hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Gladiator should easily win this trophy. Its toughest competition will probably come from Traffic; then again, it should be noted that Erin Brokovich continues to garner huge Hollywood buzz.

Russell Crowe is the favorite to win best actor. The Academy loves new faces, especially newcomers from other countries (he's Australian). He is up against two previous Oscar winners, Geoffrey Rush (Quills) and Tom Hanks (Cast Away). The final two nominations include Ed Harris for his part in Pollock and Javier Bardem for Before Night Falls.

Juliette Binoche was brilliant portraying the liberal-minded chocolate maker in Chocolat -- although it is a bad year to be nominated when you have Hollywood's highest-paid actress running against you. Hollywood has been dying to give Julia Roberts an Oscar. She has finally given them the means by which to do just that. With her role in Erin Brokovich, she is by far the runaway favorite to win the Oscar for Best Actress. Joan Allen (The Contender), Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream) and Laura Linney (You Can Count On Me) are the other nominated actresses.

I predict real competition for the Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress awards. Every actor nominated could easily walk away with this award. I think the favorite is Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire). Dafoe has long been a Hollywood favorite, and I think he could easily win. His strongest competition will come from Albert Finney (Erin Brokovich) and Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator). Judi Dench (Chocolat) is my personal choice for Best Supporting Actress. I happen to think it is ridiculous that Frances McDormand is nominated for a 10-minute part in Almost Famous. She is an amazing talent, but this part was not Oscar-worthy. Some may remember her Oscar-winning performance in Fargo. Kate Hudson (Almost Famous) will bring Dench her strongest competition.

It is always exciting to see who will become the evening's big winners. In many of the categories, there is no clear favorite. I believe Gladiator will have a huge year. I also think Traffic and Chocolat will make good showings at this year's presentation. As always, all we can do is wait and see.

By Matthew Turner