Chasing Oscar 

CL critics Felicia Feaster and Curt Holman predict Tuesday's Oscar nominations

The following is a transcript of Curt Holman and Felicia Feaster's predictions for the upcoming Academy Awards. You can also download and listen to the podcast by clicking here [mp3].

FELICIA FEASTER'S PREDICTIONS

Despite reviewing films for a living, the whims of the Academy Awards remain a mystery to me. I have yet to walk away from an Oscar party or poll with any cash, but almost inevitably leave with a sour taste in my stomach at what is rewarded in mainstream film. Predicting what will be nominated and what will win is an exercise in frustration. What I hope will be nominated and then win rarely is, though there are certainly some worthwhile potential nominees this year. To be able to predict winners, it's best to put matters of taste aside and simply watch what groups such as the Screen Actors Guild or Directors Guild of America award. Below are my predictions for Academy Award nominees, based on the films that have already garnered industry awards.

Best Picture

Babel

The Departed

Dreamgirls

Little Miss Sunshine

The Queen

I would be happy if either Scorsese's The Departed, a tightly written, marvelously entertaining crime picture, or Stephen Frears' equally engrossing, complex portrait of England's frumpy monarch, The Queen, took home the top prize. Just hoping that virtually assures that neither film will win. There's a chance that Clint Eastwood's critically acclaimed Letters From Iwo Jima could sneak in here, too.

Best Director

Bill Condon, Dreamgirls

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine

Stephen Frears, The Queen

Alejandro González Iñarritu, Babel

Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Ditto Frears and Scorsese. The fact that Scorsese has never won a director Oscar (nor Frears for that matter) proves the ultimate perversity of the Academy Awards. I don't want to see film-crazed Scorsese's face crumple with pain should he lose in this category again.

Best Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond

Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson

Peter O'Toole, Venus

Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness

Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Though the film had some problems, Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin was a marvel in The Last King of Scotland, showing both the charisma and the madness behind Uganda's most notorious leader.

Best Actress

Penelope Cruz, Volver

Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal

Helen Mirren, The Queen

Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada

Kate Winslet, Little Children

That the sleek, elegant Helen Mirren could make you believe she was a frumpy monarch was one thing. That she could make you identify with Queen Elizabeth's outmoded worldview was an even more amazing feat. I'm pulling for Mirren, though I also loved Penelope Cruz as the earthy/sexy mama in Pedro Almodóvar's Volver.

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed

Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children

Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond

Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

I'm pulling for Jackie Earle Haley who was remarkable -- sympathetic, reprehensible, poignant, grotesque -- as the mommy-loving pedophile in Little Children.

Best Supporting Actress

Adriana Barraza, Babel

Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal

Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine

Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

No strong favorites here, though I am praying plucky Abigail Breslin will not break out any more "Superfreak" moves should she trot onstage to accept her award.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan; screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen and Anthony Hines and Peter Baynham and Dan Mazer; story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, Anthony Hines and Todd Phillips; based on a character created by Sacha Baron Cohen

The Departed; screenplay by William Monahan; based on the film Infernal Affairs; written by Alan Mak and Felix Chong

The Devil Wears Prada; screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna; based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger

Little Children; screenplay by Todd Field and Tom Perrotta; based on the novel by Tom Perrotta

Thank You For Smoking; screenplay by Jason Reitman; based on the novel by Christopher Buckley

This seems to be a year of good novels and scripts made better or more interesting in their film adaptations -- Todd Field and Tom Perrotta's script felt like a more humane improvement on Perrotta's scathing social comedy Little Children. And Aline Brosh McKenna's script for The Devil Wears Prada brought some depth to the marshmallow-cream, superficial, chick-lit novel by Lauren Weisberger. William Monahan's script for The Departed brought some interesting American texture to the original screenplay for the Hong Kong action source Infernal Affairs.

Best Original Screenplay

Babel, Guillermo Arriaga

Little Miss Sunshine, Michael Arndt

The Queen, Peter Morgan

Stranger Than Fiction, Zach Helm

United 93, Paul Greengrass

Nuanced, layered, wonderful commentary on the increasingly ravenous public taste for access to the private lives of celebrities, Peter Morgan's script for The Queen is a standout here.

CURT HOLMAN'S PREDICTIONS

The Academy's favorite flavor tends to be big, muscle-bound period epics such as Gladiator, but such fare proved thin on the ground in 2006. Consequently, expect this year's Oscar nominations to pile on idiosyncratic choices such as Little Miss Sunshine or Babel, unless they opt to emphasize "safer" fare such as Blood Diamond or Dreamgirls.

Best Picture

Babel

The Departed

Letters From Iwo Jima

Little Miss Sunshine

The Queen

Likely Also-Ran: Children of Men

Best Director

Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima

Stephen Frears, The Queen

Paul Greengrass, United 93

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel

Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Likely Also-Ran: Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth

Best Actor

Matt Damon, The Good Shepherd

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed

Peter O'Toole, Venus

Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness

Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Likely Also-Ran: Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Best Actress

Penelope Cruz, Volver

Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal

Helen Mirren, The Queen

Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada

Kate Winslet, Little Children

Likely Also-Ran: Naomi Watts, The Painted Veil

Supporting Actor

Steve Carell, Little Miss Sunshine

Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children

Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

Jack Nicholson, The Departed

Brad Pitt, Babel

Likely Also-Ran: Michael Sheen, The Queen

Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal

Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine

Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration

Likely Also-Ran: Shareeka Epps, Half Nelson

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Departed; screenplay by William Monahan; based on the film Infernal Affairs; written by Alan Mak and Felix Chong

Dreamgirls; screenplay by Bill Condon; based on the novel by Tom Eyen

Flags of Our Fathers; screenplay by William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis; based on the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers

Little Children; screenplay by Todd Field and Tom Perrotta; based on the novel by Tom Perrotta

Notes on a Scandal; screenplay by Patrick Marber; based on the novel by Zoe Heller

Likely Also-Ran: Thank You For Smoking; screenplay by Jason Reitman; based on the novel by Christopher Buckley

Best Original Screenplay

Babel, Guillermo Arriaga

Blood Diamond, Charles Leavitt

Little Miss Sunshine, Michael Arndt

Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro

The Queen, Peter Morgan

Likely Also-Ran: Inside Man, Russell Gewirtz

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