Oscar Predictions: The 77th-Annual Academy Awards

Winter is upon us, and with it has come another season of posh Hollywood award shows. This year’s Oscar ceremony, presented as always by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has no clear favorites, so who from the varied field of nominees is most likely to win? Read on to get this humble reporter’s best guesses.
Best Supporting Actor
Morgan Freeman has played the wizened old man before, and played it well, so his nomination for ‘Million Dollar Baby’ seems rote. Thomas Haden Church’s nomination for ‘Sideways’ is irksome, as he is really just playing himself. Clive Owen has been involved with ‘Closer’ for so long (both onstage and onscreen) that his fine performance comes as no surprise.
While Alan Alda puts on a fine show as Leonardo DiCaprio’s foil in ‘The Aviator,’ he delivers it in the sort of subtle and understated manner that is, regrettably, often overlooked by the Academy. Jamie Foxx, on the other hand, seemed to come out of nowhere with ‘Collateral’ well before his turn in ‘Ray’ (discussed below) and in doing so delivered something great for its unexpectedness. This is a close race, but I give the edge to Foxx.
Best Supporting Actress
Laura Linney had a few really good moments in ‘Kinsey,’ but was just adequate overall. The same goes for Virginia Madsen in ‘Sideways,’ a bright spot in a dismal movie but not especially noteworthy. That leaves Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett and Sophie Okonedo.
While I am ready and willing to admit my massive crush on Natalie Portman, she simply hasn’t paid her Hollywood dues enough to come away with an Oscar just yet. Cate Blanchett gave a stellar performance as Katharine Hepburn in ‘The Aviator,’ but it runs the risk of being drowned in the great performances it was surrounded by. Sophie Okonedo was equally impressive in ‘Hotel Rwanda,’ not quantifiably better or worse than her competition, but definitely gaining a boost from her prior anonymity. A very close race, and while I expect Blanchett to win the award she definitely deserves, I won’t be surprised to see it go to Okonedo, either.
Best Actor
Johnny Depp should have been nominated for ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ last year; his nomination for ‘Finding Neverland’ seems like a sort of consolation prize. It would be swell to see him win, but it isn’t likely. Clint Eastwood playing yet another version of himself in ‘Million Dollar Baby’ hardly registers. A win isn’t outside the realm of possibility, but he doesn’t deserve it.
Don Cheadle was fantastic in ‘Hotel Rwanda,’ but he faces stiff competition from Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx. Foxx’s performance was more imitation than inspiration, and given a subject as idiosyncratic as Ray Charles, his spot-on impersonation seems good, but not great. DiCaprio, on the other hand, channels so much raw emotion as Howard Hughes that he manages to carry ‘The Aviator’ almost single-handedly. This award should be Leo’s.
Best Actress
‘Eternal Sunshine’ is a personal favorite, and it definitely belonged to Kate Winslet, but I don’t see her quirky performance winning the award. Annette Bening was good in ‘Being Julia,’ but her resum