Less than seven hours to go before the 77th Annual Academy Awards, so I guess it's time to put in my two cents worth before the Oscars are handed out...
My choice: Don Cheadle for Hotel Rwanda. He carried this very difficult film and made it the most important picture of the year (if not "best" picture). I've always liked Don Cheadle, but this performance stands out as something everybody must see.
Will probably win: Jamie Foxx seems to be the favorite, but I think there'll be a bit of a backlash against Foxx's ego. My guess is that tonight is Clint Eastwood's night. He's great, and I loved Million Dollar Baby, but he'll get it for being Clint, not for this performance.
My choice: This is where Jamie Foxx should win. Collateral was a very good, if flawed movie, but what tied it together and made it work was the stand-out performance of Jamie Foxx. Without him in that role, the audience would have walked out on Tom Cruise half-way through.
Will probably win: Morgan Freeman seems to be the favorite here. Again, he's always excellent, but I don't think Million Dollar Baby stands out as his best work. I think we could have a surprise win here by any of the other three.
I'm at a loss because I haven't seen all the nominated pictures, but I think Hilary Swank could easily take Oscar home. Kate Winslet was great in Eternal Sunshine, but she was even better in the non-nominated Finding Neverland.
Can you give somebody an Oscar for doing a bad impression of Katherine Hepburn? If so, Cate Blanchett could win. Personally, I'd vote for the unknown Sophie Okonedo for the incredible Hotel Rwanda.
Finding Neverland was a beautiful movie, and the Aviator was visually stunning, but I'm voting for the kid's movie: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Beautiful, stunning, and original: this movie will live on as a classic.
The Aviator. What else could it be? Unless the academy just hates Martin Scorsese...
See Art Direction, above.
Screenplay - Original:
There's some great movies nominated here, but to me, the "original" screenplay category belongs to any movie written by Charlie Kaufman; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Screenplay - Adapted:
Hard to say, because are you voting for the screenplay, or the adoption? In which case, are you qualified to vote if you saw the movie, but didn't read the original source? What the heck, I'll pick Million Dollar Baby for it's use of multiple short stories, using one as the main plot with other stories by the same author serving as background.
Tough, tough choice. I am first an always a Martin Scorsese devotee, but is the Aviator his best ever work? Probably not (besides, Hollywood hates filmmakers who insist on living in New York). Taylor Hackford did a phenomenal job with Ray, but expect the academy to pass him by.
This year's winner will be Clint Eastwood, and I think I might agree with that. Some of the votes will be out of guilt for passing over Mystic River for the big Elf movie last year, but Clint Eastwood is somebody who has who has had to earn the respect of his industry slowly over the years, and is without a doubt doing his best work as a director now.
Another tough choice. This was, in the end, a very good year for the cinema. All the nominated pictures were excellent, and there were many more that could (should?) be on the list of nominees (Hotel Rwanda for one).
Sideways will not win - or, rather, it should not win. Don't get me wrong; I really enjoyed this surprising little movie. But it's not a Best Picture. Sideways is great, but it's not Annie Hall.
Finding Neverland is the next film I'll eliminate. I found it beautiful and moving, and I'm shocked that the kid who played Peter was not nominated for Supporting Actor, but in such high competition I'm afraid this one will be brushed aside.
The Aviator will also not win, because, as we know, Martin Scorsese couldn't handle living in L.A. and moved back to New York. How dare he make a movie about another Hollywood outsider?
That leaves Ray and Million Dollar Baby. Because of the Foxx ego backlash and the pro Clint movement, Baby could win. But the real Best Picture of 2004 is Ray.
I think this will prove to be the Year Of Clint and Million Dollar Baby. Much of it earned, some of it out of guilt or personal dislike of the other nominees.
The Aviator will go down as the biggest victim of the night, and will be robbed of any glory it should have received.
If there are not at least two African American winners in the performance categories, then there will be no doubt left about Hollywood's latent racism.
Ray will pick up several Oscars (including, hopefully, Best Picture), but not as many as others are predicting.