Right now I'm very busy rounding up early Oscar predictions from our panel of experts so The Envelope can issue racetrack odds. All I'm asking each expert to do is to rank nominees from 1 to 5 in 12 categories, but Gene Seymour of Newsday went to town giving us detailed analysis of each category in extensive text format. So, since he offered these to us so generously, here are his noodlings for your kudos enlightenment and enjoyment.
X - "Brokeback Mountain"
"Good Night, and Good Luck"
The only thing that could brake this juggernaut's momentum — and it’s by no means unlikely — is some manner of "Brokeback" fatigue; e.g., people hearing for so long how "great" the movie is and how it can't possibly match the hype and/or heightened expectations after so many months, blah blah blah. Right now, this minute, none of the other nominees has “Brokeback’s” heart-as-big-as-all-outdoors. And, as we've seen repeatedly over the decades, "heart" trumps every other consideration, especially in this category.
X - Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain"
Bennett Miller, "Capote"
Paul Haggis, "Crash"
George Clooney, "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Steven Spielberg, "Munich"
See above. Besides, they've been trying to give one of these to Ang Lee for years. If nothing else, this'll satisfy all those folks who wanted him to get it for "Crouching Possum, Hidden Mastiff" or whatever that thing was called.
X - Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"
Terrence Howard, "Hustle & Flow"
Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain"
Joaquin Phoenix, "Walk the Line"
David Strathairn, "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Earlier in the day, I thought the aforementioned juggernaut was powerful enough to carry everything and everybody connected with it to the winners' circle. But has anyone really seen Heath Ledger out there campaigning for this thing? Possibly I've missed him, but I wonder. (Too many goddamn movies to review keep me in the dark, so to speak.) Philip Seymour Hoffman, meanwhile, is well-liked and highly admired among his peers, who’ve already given him a SAG Award. Pencil him in.
Judi Dench, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"
Felicity Huffman, "Transamerica"
Keira Knightley, "Pride & Prejudice"
Charlize Theron, "North Country"
X - Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line"
I like Felicity Huffman and her hubby very much and I'm quite sure that, between them, there's an Oscar coming their way sometime in the coming years. But Huffman’s "Transamerica" turn is one of those situations where you’re more impressed with the performance's assembly process than with the performance itself. On the other hand, there's the all-powerful Reese-ster! A natural reaching the first of what will likely be many peaks. She cannot — and will not — be stopped.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
George Clooney, "Syriana"
Matt Dillon, "Crash"
X - Paul Giamatti, "Cinderella Man"
Jake Gyllenhaal, "Brokeback Mountain"
William Hurt, "A History of Violence"
I'm going strictly by SAG on this right now, though I think this is the one category where things can easily change in the remaining couple weeks of balloting.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, "Junebug"
Catherine Keener, "Capote"
Frances McDormand, "North Country"
X - Rachel Weisz, "The Constant Gardener"
Michelle Williams, "Brokeback Mountain"
Wide, wide open. But then, this category usually is. Once again, I’m going along with SAG for now. But Adams has been making herself more visible (as she should) and you know how much they love giving ingenues and newcomers this trophy.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
X - Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco, "Crash"
George Clooney and Grant Heslov, "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Woody Allen, "Match Point"
Noah Baumbach, "The Squid and the Whale"
Steven Gaghan, "Syriana"
No way is this movie coming away empty-handed. Not after one of the most remarkable, attention-getting campaigns in recent memory.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
X - Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, "Brokeback Mountain"
Dan Futterman, "Capote"
Jeffrey Caine, "The Constant Gardener"
Josh Olson, "A History of Violence"
Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, "Munich"
Book it in bronze, baby, though there are some who really go for Futterman’s fine work here.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
"Don't Tell" (Italy)
"Joyeux Noël" (France)
"Paradise Now" (Palestine)
"Sophie Scholl - The Final Days" (Germany)
X - "Tsotsi" (South Africa)
My lone "oh-what-the-hell" pick of this round. I’ve nothing to go on except the swoons it generated towards the end of last fall’s Toronto Film Festival.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
"Howl's Moving Castle," Hayao Miyazaki
"Tim Burton's Corpse Bride," Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
X - "Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit," Nick Park and Steve Box
It's not their best, but after the W&G boys' consistent wins in the animated shorts competition, it'd be hard to imagine them losing their first time up for features.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
X - "Brokeback Mountain," Gustavo Santaolalla
"The Constant Gardener," Alberto Iglesias
"Memoirs of a Geisha," John Williams
"Munich," John Williams
"Pride & Prejudice," Dario Marianelli
Even though John Williams could very well hear his name announced. Yet again.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
"In the Deep" from "Crash," Music by Kathleen "Bird" York and Michael Becker; Lyrics by Kathleen "Bird" York
"It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from "Hustle & Flow," Music and Lyrics by Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard
X - "Travelin' Thru" from "Transamerica," Music and Lyric by Dolly Parton
The "Hustle & Flow" theme was catchier than a hundred butterfly nets. Still, the songwriters who vote in this category sometimes react badly to things that are too hip-hop. I'd have to listen again to Dolly's tune to see if it’s just catchy enough to steal the statue.