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Our picks for this year's Oscar nominees, Part 2

Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 3:28 PM Central

by Tim Briscoe

When it comes time to hand out the Oscar nominations, the Academy (you know, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) tends to follow a few patterns -- though not officially of course. They just seem to follow a few truisms in their collective subconscious each year. So predicting this year's nominees amongst a closely contested field is less about hunches and more about finding the correct pattern.

For instance, an atypical foreign actor or actress usually gets nominated. It's usually a performer that has toiled in obscurity for years and finally has gotten some much-deserved attention. Last year had both Shohreh Aghdashloo and Ken Watanabe receiving nominations.

There's generally a young actor (sub 25) nominated in the bunch. Think Keisha Castle-Hughes or Haley Joel Osment. It usually occurs in the Supporting categories and they even have shots at winning. Tatum O'Neal (at age 10) won in 1973 and Timothy Hutton (19) won in 1980.

Even though the nominations cover films from the previous year, Academy voters commonly refer to an actor or director's recent or entire body of work. And if an individual is slighted one year, they sometimes make up for it in following years. In 1995, Kevin Spacey's role in Seven was also a big reason for his nomination and subsequent win for The Usual Suspects. Also, Gloria Stuart's Titanic nomination was kind of a lifetime achievement thing for her at age 87.

A couple of other patterns to note. A director from a Foreign Film nominee sometimes slips through to the top director category. The nominations for City of God director Fernando Meirelles and Talk To Her's Pedro Almodovar apply here. An actor from a foreign language film sometimes crosses over as well.

A film from much earlier in the year commonly gets noticed over amongst the usual year-end releases. Think of Seabiscuit (released theatrically in late July) from last year's nominations.

And finally, there's nearly always a surprise nomination and/or win in the top categories. They don't want to follow the Golden Globes too closely, now do they? This year will be no different.

So, without further ado, here are my predictions of this year's nominees:

Best Picture Finding Neverland Sideways The Aviator Million Dollar Baby Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Sleeper - Maria Full of Grace

Eternal Sunshine (released March 19) follows the Seabiscuit rule and it's such a good and unusual film. Sideways is this year's big indie fave -- and yet another pattern. Maria Full of Grace is definitely a dark horse candidate but it could surprise a few people since it's been widely seen on DVD. I look for Million Dollar Baby to get the T.K.O. and win -- especially since Clint's Mystic River would have won last year if not for the Rings finale.

Best Director Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby Martin Scorsese, The Aviator Alexander Payne, Sideways Marc Forster, Finding Neverland Zhang Yimou, House of Flying Daggers Sleeper - Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11

Can you believe Scorsese hasn't won in this category before? His sixth director nomination will be a win -- and to make up for all those other years he lost. The others were great but nominations are enough in this year. (Sorry, Clint. You have to live with Best Picture.) Of course, Yimou is the Foreign Film director crossing over.

Best Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator Paul Giamatti, Sideways Liam Neeson, Kinsey Jamie Foxx, Ray Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda Sleeper - Gael Garcia Bernal, The Motorcycle Diaries

Paul Giamatti gets the nod since he was terribly slighted last year for his performance in American Splendor. Gael could be another foreign film crossover, but so could Javier Bardem. I predict this will be the year for Leo to get the big one.

Best Actress Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace Annette Bening, Being Julia Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby Ziyi Zhang, House of Flying Daggers Sleeper - Scarlett Johansson, A Love Song for Bobby Long

Catalina follows the Shohreh Aghdashloo rule. (But then again, so does Imelda.) But at just 23 years of age, she'll be the youngest nominee of the year. Twenty-year-old Scarlett Johansson has had many great performances but unfortunately she'll have to wait it out this year. Ziyi Zhang (or is it Zhang Ziyi?) is just too cute not to nominate. This year Annette will get her due.

Best Supporting Actor Thomas Haden Church, Sideways Clive Owen, Closer Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby Peter Sarsgaard, Kinsey David Carradine, Kill Bill Vol. 2 Sleeper - Freddie Highmore, Finding Neverland

Morgan Freeman is the perennial favorite getting another well-deserved nom. Peter Sarsgaard was left off last year for Shattered Glass, so he gets a make-up nod this year. Carradine is Gloria Stuart. Twelve-year-old Freddie Highmore could be the kid nominee but he's the longest of long shots. Clive Owen gets the win, I believe.

Best Supporting Actress Cate Blanchett, The Aviator Natalie Portman, Closer Laura Linney, Kinsey Kate Winslet, Finding Neverland Virginia Madsen, Sideways Sleeper - Lynn Collins, The Merchant of Venice

Cate Blanchett, Laura Linney, and Kate Winslet are always great. Natalie Portman should've been nominated for past roles -- her first nomination won't be a win however. Virginia Madsen will be this year's surprise by getting the win.

The true announcement of this year's Academy Award nominees comes on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 25. These nomination predictions -- and those of my colleague -- should hold pretty close to form. However, our predictions for the winners will likely change once we see who's officially in the running.