79th Academy Awards: Special A&E Feature

The 79th Annual Academy Awards are always entertaining, and this year’s race seems to be wide open.

A wide variety of films will be honored, ranging from the fantastical fable of Pan’s Labyrinth to the quiet, yet powerful voice of change with The Queen.

Also making noise is Little Miss Sunshine, the quirky family road-trip comedy with four nominations.

Following in the footsteps of comedians Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and Jon Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres should provide her own blend of humor as a host.

The duel of the evening will come down between the intense multicultural tale of Babel and the gritty crime epic in The Departed.

Don’t miss the Oscars Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Best Picture: The Departed

Tim: Take a fairly simple story idea: an undercover cop vs. a mole in the police department. Give it a great script. Make the characters a little more complex. Complicate the plot. Add the talent of Leonardo DiCaprio in what is probably the best performance of his career, Jack Nicholson in a welcome return to crazy, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen and more. Put it in the hands of Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest directors of all time. What do you get? The best picture of the year. Oh, and speaking of Martin Scorsese…

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Tim: In his 40-odd years of directing amazing films, Scorsese has never won an Oscar. If he had won for Gangs of New York or The Aviator (two films for which he was recently nominated), I would have argued that it would have only been because the Academy felt bad. If he wins this year, it would be because The Departed was the best directed film of 2006. The Departed is both a return to form and a – ahem – departure for Scorsese. He takes on his favorite subject: the underworld of crime, but he sets it in a new city-Boston, instead of New York. He enlists his new favorite young-ish actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, but he also enlists a screen veteran with whom he had never worked before: Jack Nicholson. The result is not Scorsese’s best; but it is the best of the year, and it is brilliant.

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Caleb: Forest Whitaker has given us one of the most memorable performances of the year. He portrays the real life murderous Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in a very frightening but brilliant manner. Despite great performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith and newcomer Ryan Gosling, Whitaker should be crowned Best Actor for his role as a villain.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen

Tim: I had never heard of Helen Mirren before she started getting rave reviews as Queen Elizabeth, and now I have trouble picturing anyone else as Queen Elizabeth, including the real one. The Queen is set in the days after the biggest tragedy England has faced in recent years, the death of Princess Diana. Queen Elizabeth does not expect her people to react the way they do. She realizes that times have changed since she first became Queen, and she questions how she can relate to this new generation of Britains. Mirren makes the cold, stoic Queen sympathetic and human, and it breaks your heart to observe a Queen forced to question her own relevance.

Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

Caleb: Eddie Murphy’s performance as the 1960s singer James “Thunder” Early in Bill Condon’s Dreamgirls will give him his first Oscar statue. With several dazzling vocal performances, Murphy proves that he is capable of roles outside cheap comedy. His torn character will not go unnoticed by voters, and despite stiff competition, Murphy will bring home the gold. Now if only Jack Nicholson of The Departed and Brad Pitt of Babel were nominated, it would be a different story.

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Caleb: Who would have thought that a former American Idol contestant would be garnering so much praise and acclaim for her acting ability? Jennifer Hudson stole the show in Dreamgirls as the determined and talented singer Effie White. With several show-stopping performances, Hudson outdoes the vocal capacities of her co-star, singing sensation Beyoncé Knowles. This category is filled with strong performances, but there really is nobody else who deserves this Oscar more than her.

Note: The predictions expressed here do not necessarily represent the opinions of both Caleb and Tim.

Academy Awards Nominees Shortlist

Best Picture:BabelThe DepartedLetters from Iwo JimaLittle Miss SunshineThe Queen

Best Director:Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, BabelMartin Scorsese, The DepartedClint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo JimaStephen Frears, The QueenPaul Greengrass, United 93

Best Actor:Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood DiamondRyan Gosling, Half NelsonPeter O’Toole, VenusWill Smith, The Pursuit of HappynessForest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, Little Miss SunshineJackie Earle Haley, Little ChildrenDjimon Hounsou, Blood DiamondEddie Murphy, DreamgirlsMark Wahlberg, The Departed

Best Actress:Penelope Cruz, VolverJudi Dench, Notes on a Scandal Helen Mirren, The QueenMeryl Streep, The Devil Wears PradaKate Winslet, Little Children

Best Supporting Actress:Adriana Barraza, BabelCate Blanchett, Notes on a ScandalAbigail Breslin, Little Miss SunshineJennifer Hudson, DreamgirlsRinko Kikuchi, Babel

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