Best Picture:
“Brokeback Mountain”
“Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Will win: Brokeback Mountain
Should win: Brokeback Mountain
Dark horse: Good Night, and Good Luck

This is Brokeback’s to lose, since it’s won just about every possible major award there is. People are talking about a Crash upset, but it’s nothing more than hype – nothing can deter this film from winning.

Best Actor:
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote”
Terrence Howard in “Hustle & Flow”
Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain”
Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line”
David Strathairn in “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Will win: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote
Should win: Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain
Dark horse: Terrence Howard in Hustle & Flow

All five of these nominees are extremely deserving, and all five of them could have won in a different year. The frontrunner is Philip Seymour Hoffman, and he’s claimed nearly all the awards. But my vote goes to Heath Ledger, who, from the very moment he appeared on screen and especially the first words he uttered, completely transfixed me. His role was also riskier than Capote. Essentially, Heath Ledger invented Ennis Del Mar from the inside out, and Philip Seymour Hoffman just pranced around and did his best Truman Capote imitation. Too bad he’s going to win.

Best Supporting Actor:
George Clooney in “Syriana”
Matt Dillon in “Crash”
Paul Giamatti in “Cinderella Man”
Jake Gyllenhaal in “Brokeback Mountain”
William Hurt in “A History of Violence”

Should win: Matt Dillon in Crash
Will win: George Clooney in Syriana
Dark horse: William Hurt in A History of Violence

This is the year’s toughest category – it’s down to George Clooney and Paul Giamatti, and Matt Dillion could slip through. Personally, I think Matt Dillon gave a better performance, but George Clooney suffered so much for his role (he had tons of problems with his back after filming a torture scene). Plus, George Clooney MUST be given an Oscar for his phenomenal year, and unfortunately Good Night, and Good Luck is likely going to be shut out completely.

Best Actress:
Judi Dench in “Mrs. Henderson Presents”
Felicity Huffman in “Transamerica”
Keira Knightley in “Pride & Prejudice”
Charlize Theron in “North Country”
Reese Witherspoon in “Walk the Line”

Should win: Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line
Will win: Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line
Dark horse: Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice

Here’s the foil to the best actor nominees. There isn’t a lot to choose from, and I have difficulty picking my favorite. Judi Dench and Charlize Theron have Oscars for better performances, and while I enjoyed Felicity Huffman’s transgendered performance, I found it a bit mechanical. Reese, as June Carter, jumps back and forth between her comedic stage performances and quiet desperation. She’s the best. And barring a Keira Knightley dark horse upset, she’ll win.
Something worth mentioning is the status of the actors. Should veterans or older people take the Oscar? Well, Reese is only 29, but she’s been in plenty of films for ten years. Felicity Huffman is in her mid-40s, but she’s only beginning to be a star. It’s worth thinking about.

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams in “Junebug”
Catherine Keener in “Capote”
Frances McDormand in “North Country”
Rachel Weisz in “The Constant Gardener”
Michelle Williams in “Brokeback Mountain”

Will win: Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener
Should win: Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener
Dark horse: Amy Adams in Junebug

This is the toughest category for me. I have three favorites – Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, and Amy Adams. These are three very different, very moving performances. But Rachel Weisz carries The Constant Gardener in a way that I’ve hardly seen. I also found her to be the most realistic of the characters. Like Heath Ledger, she became her character.
Best Supporting is always apt to an upset. If so, I would guess Amy Adams for the upset.

Best Animated Film:
“Howl’s Moving Castle”
“Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride”
“Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit”

Should/Will Win: Wallace and Gromit

Best Art Direction:
“Good Night, and Good Luck.”
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
“King Kong”
“Memoirs of a Geisha”
“Pride & Prejudice”

Will win: Memoirs of a Geisha
Should win: Good Night, and Good Luck
Dark horse: Pride & Prejudice

This one comes down to two contenders: Memoirs of a Geisha and Good Night, and Good Luck. Memoirs is nominated for several technical awards which I think it will sweep, and the movie was sumptuous and gorgeous. But I prefer Good Night, and Good Luck, with the decision to shoot in black and white, and the recreation of the CBS studio in the 1950s. I felt like Good Night, and Good Luck took more chances.

Best Cinematography:
“Batman Begins”
“Brokeback Mountain”
“Good Night, and Good Luck.”
“Memoirs of a Geisha”
“The New World”

Will win: Brokeback Mountain
Should win: Brokeback Mountain
Dark horse: Good Night, and Good Luck

A win for Good Night or Memoirs would be well-deserved, but this award belongs to Brokeback Mountain for the gorgeous shots of the Wyoming landscape.

Best Costume Design:
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
“Memoirs of a Geisha”
“Mrs. Henderson Presents”
“Pride & Prejudice”
“Walk the Line”

Will win: Memoirs of a Geisha
Should win: Memoirs of a Geisha
Dark horse: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

This is where Memoirs of a Geisha will triumph, with its beautiful Japanese geisha costumes as well as the Western World War II attire. If not, this could be the big award for Pride and Prejudice.

Best Director:
Ang Lee in “Brokeback Mountain”
Bennett Miller in “Capote”
Paul Haggis in “Crash”
George Clooney in “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
Steven Spielberg in “Munich”

Will win: Ang Lee
Should win: Ang Lee
Dark horse: George Clooney

This belongs to Ang, hands-down. He is probably the most diverse filmmaker today, from the British comedy Sense and Sensibility to the amazing Asian Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Brokeback Mountain, a film in a setting that couldn’t be more uniquely American. He also treated the story with such sensitivity and care that prevented it from becoming a schmaltz-fest sob story.

Best Documentary:
“Darwin’s Nightmare”
“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”
“March of the Penguins”
“Street Fight”

Should/Will win: March of the Penguins
Dark horse: Murderball

Best Documentary Short Subject:
“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”

Will win: A Note of Triumph

Best Editing:
“Cinderella Man”
“The Constant Gardener”
“Walk the Line”

Will win: Crash
Should win: Crash
Dark horse: The Constant Gardener

With several stories going on simultaneously, this is clearly a very good editing. It’s favored to win.

Best Foreign Film:
“Don’t Tell”
“Joyeux Noël”
“Paradise Now”
“Sophie Scholl – The Final Days”

Should/will win: Tsotsi

Best Makeup:
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
“Cinderella Man”
“Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith”

Will win: The Chronicles of Narnia
Should win: The Chronicles of Narnia

It’s got four nominations, but this is the one it will win. It’s a little sad this is the only nomination the final Star Wars film got. Definitely not Lord of the Rings.

Best Original Score:
“Brokeback Mountain”
“The Constant Gardener”
“Memoirs of a Geisha”
“Pride & Prejudice”

Will win: Memoirs of a Geisha
Should win: Memoirs of a Geisha or Brokeback Mountain
Dark horse: Pride & Prejudice

This is very tough. In fact, I’m barely sure of this. I absolutely loved the score to Memoirs and couldn’t believe it was John Williams – it was so Asian! But then, when you think about it, John Williams has been nominated 70-something times and has won for only Fiddler on the Roof (adaptation), Jaws, Star Wars, ET, and Schindler’s List. His iconic scores that anyone can hum. I don’t think Memoirs falls into that category.
That being said, Brokeback could slip in again. The score is simplistic and beautiful, and now ubiquitous, thanks to all the Brokeback parodies out there. It’d be a good second choice.

Best Original Song:
“In the Deep” from “Crash”
“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from “Hustle & Flow”
“Travelin’ Thru” from “Transamerica”

Will win: Travelin’ Thru
Should win: It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp

After seeing Hustle & Flow, how could you vote for anything else? I wish “Keep Hustlin, Keep Flowin” was nominated, but this is the second choice. The rap was awesome in the movie. Travelin’ Thru is nice though, and it was yesterday’s free download on iTunes. This is the award for Transamerica when Felicity won’t be honored.

Best Animated Short:
“The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation”
“The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello”
“One Man Band”

Will win: The Moon and Son: An Imagined Conversation or 9

Best Live Action Short:
“Ausreisser (The Runaway)”
“The Last Farm”
“Our Time Is Up”
“Six Shooter”

Will win: Six Shooter or The Last Farm

Best Sound Editing:
“King Kong”
“Memoirs of a Geisha”
“War of the Worlds”

Will win: War of the Worlds
Should win: King Kong

It’s down to two: Kong and War. I think this is where War of the Worlds will be honored, since war movies are always popular in this category, but I think that King Kong was a technical masterpiece.

Best Sound Mixing:
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
“King Kong”
“Memoirs of a Geisha”
“Walk the Line”
“War of the Worlds”

Will win: Walk the Line
Should win: Walk the Line
Dark Horse: Memoirs of a Geisha

Since this award went to Ray last year (which I was delighted to predict), I’m going to go with Walk the Line. Memoirs could be an upset.
For the record, sound mixing refers to the assembly of layers of sound, like music, dialogue, and sound effects. Sound editing refers to creating sounds for a film, which is why it’s often action movies that get nominated.

Best Visual Effects:
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
“King Kong”
“War of the Worlds”

Will win: King Kong
Should win: King Kong

Go see this movie, and you’ll see what I mean. These had to be the best special effects I’ve ever seen in a film.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
“Brokeback Mountain”
“The Constant Gardener”
“A History of Violence”

Will win: Brokeback Mountain
Should win: Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain was crafted from an 11-page story, which I read before seeing the movie. The story is so short and so vague, and the movie does SO MUCH with it, giving a true meaning to adapted screenplay. It also portrays Ennis and Jack so sensitively and heartbreakingly.

Best Original Screenplay:
“Good Night, and Good Luck.”
“Match Point”
“The Squid and the Whale”

Will win: Crash
Should win: Good Night, and Good Luck or Syriana
Dark horse: Syriana

Crash has won most of the big awards, including the Writer’s Guild award, so this is going to be its major award. I can see it winning, but I saw it as a bit contrived, a little too forced. And the message? “Everyone’s racist”? I think Avenue Q said it better in its song, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.”
Granted, it’s not like “McCarthy is bad” is better, but both Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana explored political territory that is so relevant to our world today. I especially liked Syriana, because it’s was deliberately and purposefully confusing, giving you hardly any answers, because it wanted to give you the point of view that everyone has – only a tiny piece of it. I also read somewhere that George Clooney’s character is a metaphor for the US. I’d believe it. He goes in and does what he thinks is right, but it ends up causing bad consequences all around.