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Our picks for this year's Oscar nominees, Part 1

Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 3:16 PM Central

by John Couture

This year's Academy Awards race is as wide open as any race in recent memory. There is no Lord of the Rings or Titanics this year to run away with all the hardware.

In keeping with the unpredictability of this year's gala event, we thought it would be fun to illustrate just how unsure the year's top movies and performances are. Tim and I compiled our own lists of who we think will be nominated for this year's Oscars in the top 6 categories. As you can see from our picks, even we can't come to an agreement.

Best Picture The Passion of the Christ The Aviator Ray Sideways Million Dollar Baby Sleeper Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

While the buzz tsunami that is Sideways is the only lock in this category, other sure bets from a few weeks ago are slipping down a notch or two. With its winner in the People's Choice Awards, The Passion of the Christ might find itself with a last minute nomination. Historically, this category contains one or two long-shots, my favorite for a nod is the quirky Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. As for the winner, something tells me that the resurgence of The Passion of the Christ in recent weeks will carry it to the promised land.

Best Director Alexander Payne, Sideways Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby Martin Scorsese, The Aviator Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ Joel Schumacher, The Phantom of the Opera Sleeper Mike Nichols, Closer

Another category that likes to reward those contributors with a long and verbose career. With that in mind, it looks like Scorsese is a lock for a nomination and, perhaps, the odds-on favorite to take home the statuette. Clint is quietly putting together quite the directorial resume and should garner his second consecutive nomination. Before Closer tanked at the box office, Mike Nichols and company were getting a lot of Oscar buzz.

Best Actor Jamie Foxx, Ray Gael Garcia Bernal, The Motorcycle Diaries Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland Leonardio DiCaprio, The Aviator Sleeper Kevin Bacon, The Woodsman

It's almost inconceivable that it took nearly 75 years before an African-American actor or actress took home the Academy's highest acting honor. This year, Jamie Foxx and Don Cheadle should make sure that their tuxes are cleaned and ready to go. While Johnny Depp almost stole an Oscar last year for Pirates of the Caribbean, he'll be rewarded for the second consecutive year with a nomination. Kevin Bacon's performance in The Woodsman is Oscar-worthy, but the controversial subject of the movie may overshadow his excellent work. In a mild upset, my money is on Depp to take all the marbles.

Best Actress Annette Bening, Being Julia Audrey Tautou, A Very Long Engagement Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby Kim Basinger, The Door in the Floor Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Sleeper Emmy Rossum, The Phantom of the Opera

In a category that has coincidentally rewarded actresses that have shown a little skin in their roles, this year's Oscar hopefuls are almost all fully clothed throughout. Audrey Tautou and Kim Basinger get the nod both for being Academy darlings and for the aforementioned oddity. In a reversal, I think Kate Winslet gets a nomination for doing something that she doesn't usually do - keeping her clothes on. There has been a youth movement in this category of late which doesn't bode well for Annette Bening, but might help deep sleeper and newcomer Emmy Rossum. Hilary Swank gets her second statue when it's all said and done and we suffer through more unwanted shots of (Hilary's husband) Chad Lowe.

Best Supporting Actor Clive Owen, Closer Thomas Haden Church, Sideways Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby Alan Alda, The Aviator Peter Sarsgaard, Kinsey Sleeper David Carradine, Kill Bill Vol. 2

The Academy is known for using the Supporting categories as a place to recognize lead actors who step out of their comfort zone. They also tend to give out the hardware based more on a body of work than the given role they're nominated. With that in mind, I think you'll see a somewhat surprise nomination for Alan Alda. Also, that criteria could score David Carradine a well-deserved nod. As for unpredictability, who would have ever thought that the star of the TV series Wings would garner an Academy Award nomination? British sensation Clive Owen should ride his accent to his first golden man.

Best Supporting Actress Natalie Portman, Closer Cloris Leachman, Spanglish Cate Blanchett, The Aviator Laura Linney, Kinsey Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda Sleeper Minnie Driver, The Phantom of the Opera

In the Best Supporting Actress category, they like to reward both the familiar and the fresh faces. This category is one of the most wide open in terms of nominations, but most pundits agree that Cate Blanchett will fly away with the Oscar next month. Oscar darling Minnie Driver might sneak in with her strong role in the popular musical turned feature film. The Academy loves to honor actresses who play real people, and I can't think of a better fit this year than Cate Blanchett playing four-time Academy Award winner Katherine Hepburn.