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Out of the loop
Wow – I saw more than 40 new movies in 2004, and only one of them made it into the Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Original Screenplay categories. That movie was “Sideways,” which I do not think was overrated at all. In fact, Paul Giamatti was frigging robbed of a Best Actor nod. But hey, at least the forces of Sauron are pulling the rug out from under us early, instead of say, nominating Bill Murray and having him lose to Sean Penn’s insane performance in “Mystic River.” (“IS MY DAUGHTER IN THEEEEEERRRRRRGGGHH?”)

So here are the Best Pics, in declining order of preference.
1.”Sideways” – Fantastic movie, the best by a magisterial director (Alex Payne).
2.”The Aviator” – A wonderful topic choice for a biopic, and I adore Martin Scorcese. I would have seen this already if I hadn’t been focused on catching non-Oscar bait that was quicker to leave theatres.
3.”Ray” – Another good idea for a biopic – good enough that I’ll get around to seeing it eventually.
4.”Finding Neverland” – Meh.
5.”Million Dollar Baby” – I’m really souring on Clint Eastwood in my cantankerous old age. Didn’t like “Mystic River.” Don’t think I’d like this.

Predicted winner: “Million Dollar Baby.” My favorite movie won last year, kicking off the next four-year “let’s break Dave’s heart” Oscar cycle.

Here are the rest of my predictions, which were amusingly wrong in 2004.

Best Actor
Don Cheadle in “Hotel Rwanda”
Johnny Depp in “Finding Neverland”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Aviator”
Clint Eastwood in “Million Dollar Baby”
Jamie Foxx in “Ray”

If there’s one surer route to gold than playing a disabled person, it’s playing a disabled person in a biopic.

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Alda in “The Aviator”
Thomas Haden Church in “Sideways”
Jamie Foxx in “Collateral”
Morgan Freeman in “Million Dollar Baby”
Clive Owen in “Closer”

Unfortunately, brilliant comic performances are never respected like chair-tossing dramatic performances. Apparently, Clive Owen made his movie, despite being the only non-superstar in it and having originally played another character in the stage version.

Best Actress
Annette Bening in “Being Julia”
Catalina Sandino Moreno in “Maria Full of Grace”
Imelda Staunton in “Vera Drake”
Hilary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby”
Kate Winslet in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

Going out on a limb here. For starters, Hilary Swank already won an Oscar (in another “race” against Annette Bening) for playing a red state tomboy who meets a tragic end. Only Jack Nicholson gets to win Oscars for playing the same character. Annette Bening’s role seemed pretty rote – she’s been playing the brave, makeup-less middle-aged woman for a damn while. So I think the Academy will pull a Binoche and choose an unheard-of actress who gave a much better performance in a generally-loved little movie.

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett in “The Aviator”
Laura Linney in “Kinsey”
Virginia Madsen in “Sideways”
Sophie Okonedo in “Hotel Rwanda”
Natalie Portman in “Closer”

Virginia Madsen was breathtakingly good in “Sideways,” but I fear this is one of those nominations that’ll lift her back out of obscurity and … that’s it. Cate Blanchett is one of the great actresses of our time who, in retrospect, deserved an award when last nominated in 1999. Plus, she’s playing Katherine Hepburn, and does so (I’m told) with scary accuracy.

I may weigh in on the other awards later. This is fun!

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