Here are my predictions for the Oscars, which commence live at 8 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific this Sunday on ABC.
Nominees: “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote,” “Crash,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Munich”
Should win: Except for “Crash,” of which I’m not a fan, I think all the nominees would make worthy winners. Forced to choose, however, I would go with “Brokeback Mountain,” which is a more resonant and haunting story than the others.
Will win: The film with the most nominations usually wins Best Picture, and despite some last-minute momentum from “Crash,” I believe it’s going to be a “Brokeback” night. (Take that as you will.)
Nominees: Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”; Terrence Howard, “Hustle & Flow”; Heath Ledger, “Brokeback Mountain”; Joaquin Phoenix, “Walk the Line”; David Strathairn, “Good Night, and Good Luck”
Should win: Strathairn, Ledger and Hoffman are all phenomenal, but I’d give my vote to Strathairn, perhaps because his work as a fearless journalist hits so close to home, being a craven pseudo-journalist myself.
Will win: One of the few almost-sure bets tonight is Hoffman. Ledger starred in the more famous film, but Hoffman’s performance was showier and more attention-grabbing. Plus, he’s been around longer and has racked up more honorable performances. This is Ledger’s first, because we’re not counting “10 Things I Hate About You.”
Nominees: Judi Dench, “Mrs. Henderson Presents”; Felicity Huffman, “Transamerica”; Keira Knightley, “Pride & Prejudice”; Charlize Theron, “North Country”; Reese Witherspoon, “Walk the Line”
Should win: Felicity Huffman, no question. Her work in “Transamerica” is the very picture of honest, professional, emotional acting.
Will win: Unfortunately, “Transamerica” doesn’t have much support generally, and it’s not a great film. “Walk the Line,” on the other hand, has an actress everybody loves in a simple, mainstream story. The Oscar goes to Reese Witherspoon. (Nobody cares about “North Country”; Knightley should be stunned at even being nominated; and Judi Dench only got nominated because someone called the Academy and said, “Um, excuse me? Dame Judi Dench was in a movie, so … you’ll probably want to be nominating her, I guess?”)
Nominees: George Clooney, “Syriana”; Matt Dillon, “Crash”; Paul Giamatti, “Cinderella Man”; Jake Gyllenhaal, “Brokeback Mountain”; William Hurt, “A History of Violence”
Should win: Of those five, I’d probably give it to Giamatti just so everyone can quit talking about how he keeps being overlooked.
Will win: Gyllenhaal is overshadowed by Ledger, Giamatti’s role isn’t meaty enough, and Hurt is only onscreen for 10 minutes and is goofy/weird for all of it. That leaves Dillon and Clooney. I was thinking Clooney would be skipped because he’s nominated in other categories, but as of Sunday afternoon, I’ve changed my mind no that. So now my prediction is a win for Clooney.
Nominees: Amy Adams, “Junebug”; Catherine Keener, “Capote”; Frances McDormand, “North Country”; Rachel Weisz, “The Constant Gardener”; Michelle Williams, “Brokeback Mountain”
Should win: If you haven’t seen “Junebug,” I urge you to do so at once. Amy Adams is absolutely captivating. She gets my vote in a heartbeat.
Will win: Adams has a chance. This is a very unpredictable category, and often one that rewards performances in otherwise-unnominated movies. But the buzz seems to be for Weisz as the murdered wife seen in flashbacks throughout “The Constant Gardener.” So I predict Weisz.
Nominees: Ang Lee, “Brokeback Mountain”; Bennett Miller, “Capote”; Paul Haggis, “Crash”; George Clooney, “Good Night, and Good Luck”; Steven Spielberg, “Munich”
Should win: All are worthy, but Ang Lee is worthiest for making a story that can be summarized in two words — “gay cowboys” — feel so universal, powerful and dramatic.
Will win: The Oscar voters agree with me here, I can feel it. Haggis and Miller don’t stand a chance (too new), Spielberg’s film never got a strong enough following, and while Clooney may one day be respected as a director, this won’t be the year he starts winning. Look how long it took Opie.
Nominees: “Don’t Tell,” Italy; “Joyeux Noel,” France; “Paradise Now,” Palestine; “Sophie Scholl – The Final Days,” Germany; “Tsotsi,” South Africa.
Should win: I’ve only seen “Joyeux Noel” and “Tsotsi,” so I can’t really judge.
Will win: The buzz is for “Tsotsi,” a South African story about a gangster who kidnaps (and is tamed by) a baby. “Paradise Now” is the best film, by most accounts, but it’s too controversial to win, especially with Jewish groups protesting its nomination because Palestine isn’t officially a country, yada yada yada. If there’s an upset, it could be from “Sophie Scholl,” which is, after all, about the Holocaust.
Nominees: Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, “Brokeback Mountain”; Dan Futterman, “Capote”; Jeffrey Caine, “The Constant Gardener”; Josh Olson, “A History of Violence”; Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, “Munich”
Should win: For me it’s a toss-up between “Brokeback Mountain” and “A History of Violence,” both of which are lean, efficient, exquisitely well-structured stories.
Will win: McMurtry and Ossana probably deserve an award for taking a sparse short story called “Brokeback Mountain” and working it into a beautiful full-length screenplay.
Nominees: Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, “Crash”; George Clooney & Grant Heslov, “Good Night, and Good Luck”; Woody Allen, “Match Point”; Noah Baumbach, “The Squid and the Whale”; Stephen Gaghan, “Syriana”
Should win: “Match Point” is Woody Allen’s best script in, I don’t know, 15 years. Considering he writes about one a year, that’s pretty impressive.
Will win: “Crash” all the way. Voters want to reward this movie.
Animated Feature Film:
Nominees: “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride,” “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”
Should win: “Howl” and “Corpse Bride” have their charms, but come on. How can you not love — and I mean LOOOOVE — the Wallace & Gromit movie?
Will win: W&G earn the cheese.
Nominees: “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “King Kong,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Pride & Prejudice”
Should win: The others are great, but nothing matches the magical world of Harry Potter for imagination and detail.
Will win: I think this is where things start to look up for “King Kong,” which so many people wanted to love — before it came out, people thought it would be a major Oscar contender — and which certainly deserves SOME recognition.
Nominees: “Batman Begins,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “The New World”
Should win: The landscapes of the West have seldom looked so beautiful as in “Brokeback Mountain.”
Will win: “Batman Begins” isn’t a serious contender amongst these prestige films, the black-and-white of “Good Night” is hard to appreciate, “The New World” has been entirely forgotten by every one living in the new world, and people hated “Memoirs.” That leaves everyone’s favorite: “Brokeback Mountain.”
Nominees: “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “King Kong,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Walk the Line,” “War of the Worlds”
Should win: The difference between this and Sound Editing is this: Sound Mixing is for the actual sounds actually recorded by the AV geeks on the set and in the lab afterward, while Sound Editing is for the way the sound effects and made-up sounds are combined with the dialogue and music. That said, the Sound Mixing award should go to “Walk the Line,” which seamlessly blends music and dialogue and makes them part of one musical story.
Will win: “Walk the Line” really is an Oscar kind of movie, and here’s another chance for the Academy to vote for it.
Nominees: “King Kong,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “War of the Worlds”
Should win: “King Kong,” for its many fictitious and frightening sound effects deployed so realistically.
Will win: “King Kong.”
Nominees: Gustavo Santaolalla, “Brokeback Mountain”; Alberto Iglesias, “The Constant Gardener”; John Williams, “Memoirs of a Geisha”; John Williams, “Munich”; Dario Marianelli, “Pride & Prejudice”
Should win: Having recently re-watched parts of “Pride & Prejudice,” I’m smitten again with Marianelli’s lush, romantic score.
Will win: John Williams cancels himself out, nobody remembers the music in “Constant Gardener,” and “Pride & Prejudice” ain’t goin’ nowhere. It’s a “Brokeback” night, remember?
Nominees: “In the Deep” from “Crash,” Kathleen ‘Bird’ York and Michael Becker; “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from “Hustle & Flow,” Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard; “Travelin’ Thru” from “Transamerica,” Dolly Parton
Should win: I have no particular feelings about any of these songs.
Will win: There isn’t enough overall love for “Transamerica,” so count Dolly out. And while “Hustle & Flow” is beloved, and while Eminem did win an Oscar for a rap song a few years ago, I really don’t think the Academy is quite ready to give an Oscar to a song called “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.” That leaves “In the Deep,” from “Crash,” which is even more beloved.
Nominees: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” “Pride & Prejudice,” “Walk the Line”
Should win: Just to be crazy, I’d vote for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” The costumes really are very whimsical.
Will win: It’s a tough one. Nobody’s going to vote for “Charlie” for anything, “Mrs. Henderson Presents” is more about the ABSENCE of costumes, and everyone hates “Geisha.” Considering all they had to do for “Walk the Line” was put people in clothes from the 1950s and ’60s — ooh, real hard — that’s probably what the Academy will vote for, the big sillies.
Nominees: “Darwin’s Nightmare,” “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” “March of the Penguins,” “Murderball,” “Street Fight”
Should win: “Murderball” is by far the strongest entry here.
Will win: On the rare occasions that a documentary does anything interesting at the box office, it usually portends Oscar victory, too. So bring on the penguins!
Documentary (short subject):
Nominees: “The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club,” “God Sleeps in Rwanda,” “The Mushroom Club,” “A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin”
Should win: Haven’t seen ’em.
Will win: Entertainment Weekly is calling for “The Death of Kevin Carter,” and who am I to argue with scripture?
Nominees: “Cinderella Man,” “The Constant Gardener,” “Crash,” “Munich,” “Walk the Line”
Should win: “Munich” boasts some extraordinarily suspenseful scenes, and suspense is all about the editing.
Will win: “Crash” probably takes home the gold for interweaving its separate stories.
Nominees: “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Cinderella Man,” “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”
Should win: Of these three boring choices, I guess it’s the “Chronic(what?)cles of Narnia.” (Seriously, “Cinderella Man”? What, for making a boxer’s eye look bruised? Geez!)
Will win: Yeah, “Narnia,” sure, why not.
Animated Short Film:
Nominees: “Badgered,” “The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation,” “The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello,” “9,” “One Man Band”
Should win: Haven’t seen ’em.
Will win: “One Man Band” is from Pixar. Enough said.
Live Action Short Film:
Nominees: “Ausreisser (The Runaway),” “Cashback,” “The Last Farm,” “Our Time Is Up,” “Six Shooter”
Should win: Haven’t seen ’em.
Will win: I’ll defer to scripture again: EW says “Ausreisser.”
Nominees: “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “King Kong,” “War of the Worlds”
Should win: For me, it’s down to “King Kong” and “War of the Worlds.” Both looked fantastic, but there are moments in “King Kong” that look fake. I don’t recall a single fake-looking shot in “War of the Worlds,” though, and that includes some very impressive long takes that required a lot of post-production to make them look right.
Will win: But nobody’s thinking about “War of the Worlds,” from way back in May. “King Kong” gets it.
For an alternate view, I refer you to my friend Chris Clark. He makes predictions every year, and every year he gets more right than I do — BUT JUST BARELY! Usually one or two. I’m confident, however, that this is the year I overtake him. Look at his picks anyway, though, if you want a second opinion. But I’m telling you: I’m right this time.