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Battle of the titans

A look at the nominees' chances in the major categories, where heavyweights rule.

January 31, 2007|TOM O'NEIL

Best picture

Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" was out front early but may be ambushed by another last-minute release from Clint Eastwood ("Letters From Iwo Jima"), just like two years ago when "Million Dollar Baby" knocked out "The Aviator." "Babel" could cash in on its Golden Globe trophy. "Little Miss Sunshine" won the Producers Guild of America award and is the only emotionally sunny entry, but few nominees win without a director's bid (OK, OK, "Driving Miss Daisy," "Grand Hotel"). Only "The Queen" is unlikely to reign (it's all about Helen Mirren's performance). Hey, where's "Dreamgirls"?

Best director

Finally, it's Scorsese's year! Oh, wait. That's what they said two years ago when Eastwood pounced. Only Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Babel") could pull off an upset over these two. Stephen Frears ("The Queen") and Paul Greengrass ("United 93") are two directors out of this picture.

Best actor

Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland") conquered the critics' awards and Golden Globes but villainous roles rarely win. Sentiment often rules the Oscars, so after seven losses (and one honorary award), Peter O'Toole ("Venus") may go home with the statuette. Leonardo DiCaprio ("Blood Diamond") got nominated for the wrong movie; he might've won for "The Departed." Will Smith ("The Pursuit of Happyness") and Ryan Gosling ("Half Nelson") are just happy to be here.

Best actress

Judi Dench ("Notes on a Scandal") is the only actress older than 50 to win in the last 15 years; she won supporting actress for "Shakespeare in Love." But another dame, Helen Mirren ("The Queen") will probably prevail here over younger actresses. Sorry, Penelope Cruz ("Volver") and Kate Winslet ("Little Children"). Beware possible usurper Meryl Streep ("The Devil Wears Prada"). Being the only Yankee nominated probably helped 1997 winner Helen Hunt ("As Good as It Gets").

Best supporting actress

A "Dreamgirls" backlash could hurt front-runner Jennifer Hudson, giving this to art-house favorite Adriana Barraza ("Babel"), academy favorite Cate Blanchett ("Notes on a Scandal") or everybody's favorite, Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine"). There's little hope for Rinko Kikuchi ("Babel").

Best supporting actor

Rebounding veterans often win but this category is crowded with three: Alan Arkin ("Little Miss Sunshine"), Jackie Earle Haley ("Little Children") and Eddie Murphy ("Dreamgirls"). If "The Departed" wins best picture, Mark Wahlberg could go along for the ride. Djimon Hounsou ("Blood Diamond") is the film snob's alternative.

Best animated feature film

"Cars" zoomed off with the early awards (Golden Globe, Critics' Choice), but crowd-pleasin' "Happy Feet" may dance off with an upset.

Best foreign film

"Pan's Labyrinth" was voted best picture by the National Society of Film Critics, but the academy usually pooh-poohs fantasies. Thus, there's hope for "After the Wedding" (Denmark), "Days of Glory" (Algeria), "The Lives of Others" (Germany) and "Water" (Canada).

Tom O'Neil writes the Gold Derby blog at

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