Who will pick up the Oscars?
VIV THOMAS With cinema’s biggest night of the year coming up in Hollywood, Viv Thomas runs her eye over the runners and riders for the awards.
The film awards season reaches its zenith in America on Sunday with the glittering Oscars ceremony.
The list of nominees from which the Academy voters will choose is a particularly impressive one this year with some wonderful films and performances on show.
Martin Scorsese's bio-pic of Howard Hughes, The Aviator, leads the nominations with 11 but faces stiff competition, particularly from Clint Eastwood's boxing flick Million Dollar Baby, which has seven chances for a golden statuette.
The Aviator won Best Film at both the Golden Globes and BAFTA ceremonies, which is usually a good indication of how the Academy will vote, however Eastwood's film has overtaken it in the last week as bookies' favourite. The main awards will, I'm sure, be split between these two great movies.
By looking at certain trends in Academy voting behaviour in the past, it's possible to come up with a list of possible winners – although, of course, they might decide to spring a surprise or two.
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They tend to like making up for past mistakes, applaud stories of adversity or impairment, and love actors who have radically changed their appearance for a role.
Martin Scorsese has been nominated six times (four for directing, twice for writing) and has always lost out. Voters may feel that he has been robbed in the past, particularly for Raging Bull, and for this reason I think he will land the Best Director and Best Film prizes this year.
Similarly, I think the versatile Cate Blanchett, who should have won for her amazing portrayal in Elizabeth in 2000 but lost out to sobbing Gwyneth Paltrow, will land Best Supporting Actress for The Aviator. It will also help her cause that it is a remarkable portrayal of Academy darling Katharine Hepburn.
And in the category of Best Supporting Actor, it's the perfect opportunity to give long-overdue Oscar recognition to the excellent Morgan Freeman, for his role in Million Dollar Baby, having been nominated three times previously.
Jamie Foxx has been winning awards left, right and centre for his wonderful portrayal of blind musical legend Ray Charles. So that ticks the impaired/disadvantaged box and should see an Oscar go to the fantastic Mr Foxx.
Hilary Swank won the Best Actress Oscar in 2000 for Boys Don't Cry where she played a woman who lived as a man, and in Million Dollar Baby she also changed her appearance by training hard to gain a boxer's physique – and that dedication could well earn her the top honour again.
Whatever the outcome, lots of exciting films and remarkable performances are in the spotlight and it's certainly a chance for the film industry to pat itself on the back. Of course, for us, it's also the perfect opportunity to admire or bitch about the frocks on show too!
Best Film: The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways.
Best actor: Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), Jamie Foxx (Ray), Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), Johnny Depp (Finding Neverland), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator).
Best actress: Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake), Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Annette Bening (Being Julia), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Hotel Rwanda).
Best supporting actor: Alan Alda (The Aviator), Clive Owen (Closer), Jamie Foxx (Collateral), Thomas Haden Church (Sideways), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby).
Best supporting actress: Cate Blanchett (The Aviator), Virginia Madsen (Sideways), Laura Linney (Kinsey), Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda), Natalie Portman (Closer).
Best director: Martin Scorsese (The Aviator), Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), Alexander Payne (Sideways), Taylor Hackford (Ray), Mike Leigh (Vera Drake).