Who will hold an Oscar statuette this Sunday?

Ben Raymond

“Nobody knows anything.” This is the Oscar watcher’s creed.

Academy Award prediction is a sort of transient, ephemeral theology. It is a shameless, woebegone orthodoxy of oversight; a bootless, forlorn religion with no answers; and a loathsome inclination to fault. We sorry mystics of silver screen ecclesia endure, for your benefit, the inquisition of erroneous forecast and are hopeful that you forgive the missteps we are sure to make.

This Sunday night at 8 p.m., live from the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, the 79th annual Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, will air on ABC. Featuring every ridiculously good-looking person in God’s creation, it promises to be, as always, a glitzy, extravagant celebration of the year’s best cinema.

Whether you watch for the awards or simply hope for a wardrobe malfunction to strike your favorite star, the Oscars have something for everyone. With the best picture race the tightest in years and a legendary director waiting for a long-overdue Oscar, this year’s show is guaranteed to be something special.

And now, without further ado, your Villanovan film critic gives you his predictions for biggest races of the 2007 Academy Awards.

Best Supporting Actress:

Adriana Barraza for “Babel”

Cate Blanchett for

“Notes on a Scandal”

Abigail Breslin for

“Little Miss Sunshine”

Jennifer Hudson for “Dreamgirls”

Rinko Kikuchi for “Babel”

With performances varying from a sexually-depraved mute to a young, aspiring beauty queen to a nefarious, lusty schoolteacher (also sexually depraved), it’s hard to determine which is the most dynamic.

My Pick: Jennifer Hudson. From “American Idol” reject to Oscar frontrunner, Hudson’s journey to stardom has been an improbable one. Slammed for her weight by merciless “Idol” judge Simon Cowell, it appeared as if her 15 minutes were up. But times have changed as the season has proven for her an all-you-can-win smorgasbord of awards. Hudson has tipped the scales in her favor with her powerful performance in “Dreamgirls,” and I think, having won both the Screen Actors’ Guild Award and the Golden Globe for her performance, we can safely add an Oscar to her already full plate.

Spoiler: Abigail Breslin. Not yet 11 years old, Breslin and her sparkly, dimpled charm might melt one too many Academy voters following her preciously precocious performance in “Little Miss Sunshine.” She is criminally cute in this movie, and I hope against hope she wins.

Best Supporting Actor:

Alan Arkin for

“Little Miss Sunshine”

Jackie Earle Haley for “Little Children”

Djimon Hounsou for

“Blood Diamond”

Eddie Murphy for


Mark Wahlberg for “The Departed”

This is certainly the closest of the major races outside of best picture. Almost anyone could take it. The consensus pick is for Eddie Murphy. But will the “Dreamgirls” snub (deserved, in my opinion) trickle down and cost him an Oscar?

My Pick: Eddie Murphy. I make this choice with much reservation. Having won both the Golden Globe and the SAG Award, I guess it makes little sense to bet against him. But with the surprise omission of “Dreamgirls” from the best picture and best director nominations and Murphy’s highly-paid, critically-slammed pedigree, his victory is far from assured. If it were up to me, I’d be wary of allowing “Norbit” to boast an Oscar-winner in its cast.

Spoiler: Alan Arkin. His heartfelt performance as a wily, cantankerous grandfather in “Little Miss Sunshine” is sure to grab voters’ attention. With his last nomination coming all the way back in 1969, his success this year could be labeled a “comeback,” something the Academy is pained to resist.

Best Actress:

Penelope Cruz for “Volver”

Judi Dench for “Notes on a Scandal”

Helen Mirren for “The Queen”

Meryl Streep for

“The Devil Wears Prada”

Kate Winslet for “Little Children”

This is a no-brainer.

My Pick: Helen Mirren. Her astounding portrayal of England’s Queen Elizabeth II in the time following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, is being hailed as one of the greatest in film history. Having won every award – and I mean every award – to this point, Mirren is the biggest lock in Oscar history at 1:30.

Best Actor:

Leonardo DiCaprio for

“Blood Diamond”

Ryan Gosling for “Half Nelson”

Peter O’Toole for “Venus”

Will Smith for

“The Pursuit of Happyness”

Forest Whitaker for

“The Last King of Scotland”

From a 26-year-old Canadian heartthrob to a 74-year-old Irish drunk, the Best Actor category is an unlikely hodgepodge of talent. And with the year’s best performance – Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Departed” – completely passed over, it’s anyone’s game.

My Pick: Forest Whitaker. In the last two years, both best actor winners have come from biopics (Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote). I don’t believe this year will be any different. With his stirring portrayal of Idi Amin, everyone’s favorite people-eating Ugandan dictator, Whitaker is in prime position for victory. However, his pathetic, mumbled “speech” after winning the Globe is an unfortunate detractor on an otherwise spotless resumé.

Spoiler: Peter O’Toole. Seven-time nominee and recipient of the 2003 Honorary Oscar, O’Toole is a living legend. At age 74, it appears as if it is now or never.

Best Director:

Clint Eastwood for

“Letters from Iwo Jima”

Stephen Frears for “The Queen”

Paul Greengrass for “United 93”

Alejandro González Iñárritu for “Babel”

Martin Scorsese for “The Departed”

This is it. This makes or breaks the evening. I beseech the Academy, in the name of all that is good and holy, to give Martin Scorsese an Oscar. Please!

My Pick: Scorsese. It is his time. It is just his time. Over 30 years of the most potent, powerful and resonant work in cinema lore has yet to yield Scorsese the big one, and I firmly believe that, this time, there is no excuse. There will be no repeat of heartbreaks past. Exactly three decades removed from the tragedy that was “Rocky” over “Taxi Driver,” Marty will, finally, have his Oscar. And he could not be more deserving for his potent, ballsy direction of “The Departed.”

Spoiler: Alejandro González Iñárritu. The Academy hates Scorsese. More accurately, they hate his violence, vision and success. If they somehow find an excuse to deny him the Oscar, Iñárritu will be waiting with open arms.

Best Picture:


“The Departed”

“Letters from Iwo Jima”

“Little Miss Sunshine”

“The Queen”

So, it all comes down to this: five films, all with a legitimate claim to the most wide-open best picture race in recent memory, and this dumbfounded critic trying to figure it all out. Off we go.

The weak link in the race is definitely Eastwood’s Japanese-language war drama “Letters from Iwo Jima.” It’s surely a fine film with pastel photography and a weighty anti-war message, but it simply lacks any sort of momentum. To be frank, it’s merely a “thank you” to Eastwood and a replacement for the over-hyped “Dreamgirls.” Count it out.

I think we can also safely eliminate “The Queen.” I have enough confidence in my masculinity to admit that even I enjoyed it. It’s certainly a fine picture that deserves its fair share of praise, but it’s too small and too British to be considered a huge threat.

The consensus winner among industry experts and avid Oscar watchers alike is “Babel.” A stirring picture about society’s cultural and lingual boundaries that boasts a star-studded cast and a pertinent political message, it has Oscar written all over it. So, why bet against it? Simply put, it’s too much like last year’s shock winner “Crash.” I cannot see the Academy awarding yet another multi-storyline social commentary. But, stranger things have happened.

So, it’s down to two: “The Departed” and “Little Miss Sunshine.” One is a blood-spattered, obscenity-laced gangster flick. The other is a disarming, soulful comedy about a dysfunctional family en route to a beauty pageant. Who’s it going to be?

My pick: “Little Miss Sunshine.” It is an adorable, high-fructose film gushing with sap and liberally iced with schmaltz. Funny, warm and rambunctiously offbeat, I think the Academy will jump at the opportunity to award something light. Not since “Forrest Gump” in 1995 have they honored a comedy, and I think the violence in “The Departed” will be hard for the voters to stomach. I am certainly going on my own with this pick, but I suppose I am betting that sugar is thicker than blood. The 79th annual Academy Awards will air live next Sunday on ABC television network.