Oscar predictions

At first glance, this year's Oscar race is open and shut. The front runners have all received numerous awards already from all kinds of guilds and film critic's societies. But at least the biggest one of the night is completely up for grabs this year. But let's start with the shoo-ins:

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"

Should win: Judi Dench

Will win: Helen Mirren

Streep's record 14th nomination in this category won't help her, because it is Mirren's year. Even the oddsmakers agree. British betting site Ladbrokes are so sure she'll win that they have stopped taking bets on Dame Helen for "The Queen." "It will go down as the greatest upset in the Academy's history if she wasn't given the award," spokesman Nick Weinberg said. Ironically, perennial nominee Dench, who was so scathingly funny and heartbreaking in "Notes on a Scandal," just bested Mirren for Best Actress at the Evening Standard British Film Awards, held Feb. 5.

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"

Should win: Forest Whitaker

Will win: Forest Whitaker

Past Event

"Red Carpet Showdown" and Oscar Watch Party

  • Sunday, February 25, 2007, 5:30 p.m.
  • Kansas Union, 1301 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence
  • All ages / Free

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O'Toole's nomination is a career acknowledgement, and since he already won an honorary Oscar in 2003, he won't triumph here. No, the other acting shoo-in of the night will be the much respected and never-nominated Whitaker, whose scary portrayal of dictator Idi Amin was impossible to take your eyes off of. Gosling's subtle work in "Half Nelson" was so real it hurt, but he'll have more nominations on down the line. And since Leo was passed over for his far superior work in "The Departed" and Sacha Baron Cohen was criminally snubbed for the groundbreaking "Borat," Whitaker's is the best performance in this category.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Adriana Barraza "Babel"

Cate Blanchett "Notes on a Scandal"

Abigail Breslin "Little Miss Sunshine"

Jennifer Hudson "Dreamgirls"

Rinko Kikuchi "Babel"

Should win: Rinko Kikuchi

Will win: Jennifer Hudson

Despite four extremely strong performances in this category, the award will go to the showiest-and weakest-of the nominees, former "American Idol" contestant Hudson. Kikuchi conveys so much suppressed teen anger in "Babel" that it's a wonder the 26-year-old actress doesn't need therapy, and she does it all without speaking a word. Apparently the caliber of a good performance has more to do with decibel level, though, because Hudson won the Golden Globe and SAG award already for her non-stop wailing in the overstuffed "Dreamgirls." In a cliche-ridden musical with scads of unlikable characters, Hudson's was the most likable. Therefore, the Oscar is hers.

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  • Sunday, February 25, 2007, 7 p.m.
  • Louise's Downtown, 1009 Mass., Lawrence
  • 21+ / $5

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Alan Arkin "Little Miss Sunshine"

Jackie Earle Haley "Little Children"

Djimon Hounsou "Blood Diamond"

Eddie Murphy "Dreamgirls"

Mark Wahlberg "The Departed"

Should win: Jackie Earle Haley

Will win: Alan Arkin

I'm going out on a limb here. In the first major upset of the night, veteran actor Arkin will walk away with an award that many feel is Murphy's to lose. Arkin was nominated twice before for Oscars, all the way back in '66 and '68. Yes, Murphy was passed over for a nomination in the multi-role comedy "The Nutty Professor," but that is not quite enough sympathy to win the prickly comedian an Oscar this year. In a photo finish, Arkin will edge him out, riding a wave of goodwill for indie darling "Little Miss Sunshine." Haley's harrowing performance as a tortured sex offender is nothing short of a miracle, considering he hasn't been in a theatrically released movie since 1983, but it was also little seen.

BEST DIRECTOR

Alejandro González Iñárritu "Babel"

Martin Scorsese "The Departed"

Clint Eastwood "Letters from Iwo Jima"

Stephen Frears "The Queen"

Paul Greengrass "United 93"

Should win: Martin Scorsese

Will win: Martin Scorsese

After losing this award to Robert Redford, Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood among others, Marty will finally get his due.

BEST PICTURE

"Babel"

"The Departed"

"Letters from Iwo Jima"

"Little Miss Sunshine"

"The Queen"

Should win: "The Departed"

Will win: "Little Miss Sunshine"

The other big upset will be in the biggest award of the night. Best Picture will go to the underdog feel-good SAG winner for Best Ensemble Cast, "Little Miss Sunshine," despite the fact that the movie's directors aren't even nominated. Frontrunner "The Departed" transcended the straightforward cop thriller, but no movies in this genre have won since 1971's "The French Connection," so it will be snubbed for Best Picture. "Babel" has a small chance since it is a more tasteful version of last year's surprise winner "Crash," but it just doesn't have enough vocal fans or box office receipts.

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