The Oscar nominations have been announced and, as usual, there were surprises- no Best Picture nomination for Dreamgirls– and sure things- a Best Actress nomination for Helen Mirren in The Queen. But now that the dust has settled, who has the best shot of taking home the coveted trophy?
Best Supporting Actress: Adriana Barraza, Babel Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Jennifer Hudson learned on “American Idol” that there is no sure thing, but her chances of winning in this category is as close to a sure thing as you will ever find in Hollywood. Abigail Breslin has a chance to become the second youngest person to ever win an Oscar, but it is a slim one. Hudson’s powerhouse acting performance was only matched by her powerhouse vocal. She should start cleaning a spot on her ifireplace mantel for the Oscar.
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
The early buzz has Eddie Murphy as the front-runner, but don’t count out Djimon Hounsou for his powerful performance in Blood Diamond. He was the heart and soul of a movie that could have been a disjointed mess. Mark Wahlberg is a dark horse for his role in The Departed, but he was a dark horse for the nomination, too.
Best Actress: Penélope Cruz, Volver Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal Helen Mirren, The Queen Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada Kate Winslet, Little Children
Here’s a bit of Oscar trivia: there has never been a Best Actress Winner over 40. With three nominees over that age, this year looks to break that record. Look for Helen Mirren to repeat her Golden Globe win for her turn as Queen Elizabeth II in the days after the death of Princess Diana. All of the women gave admirable performances, but this is Mirren’s year.
Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson Peter O’Toole, Venus Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness, Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Forest Whitaker is the odds on favorite to capture his first Oscar as the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, but sentiment may thwart Whitaker’s award in favor of Peter O’Toole, still Oscar-less after seven nominations. A potential spoiler could be DiCaprio, who turned in two Oscar caliber performances this year. Oscar voters may reward him for an impressive year.
Best Director: Babel, Alejandro González Iñárritu The Departed, Martin Scorsese Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood The Queen, Stephen Frears United 93, Paul Greengrass
Conventional wisdom has this as a two man race between Scorsese and Eastwood. Scorsese has never won an Oscar. Last nominated for “The Aviator,” he lost to Eastwood. In a country still reeling from the effects of September 11, Paul Greengrass could surprise everyone and capture the Oscar for his searing film United 93.
Best Picture: Babel, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen
This year’s race is wide open. Little Miss Sunshine, brought back the Great American Road Movie, but don’t look for it to win. The Academy traditionally overlooks comedies. The Departedmarks Scorsese’s return to form and Babel and Letters from Iwo Jima have picked up several major critics awards, but look for The Queen to take the big prize resting on the shoulders of Helen Mirren’s performance.