What makes this year's Oscars interesting is that unlike last year, when the final film in The Lord of the Rings saga, The Return of the King was widely expected to be the major winner, there is not a single film with overwhelming promise this time around.
Nominees: The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby, Ray, Sideways.
Winner: The Aviator. Hollywood can hardly resist a film of epic nature, and though the movie seldom achieves greatness, it is nevertheless an impressive film.
Though not a big hit at the box-office, it has grossed about $90 million in North America and can join the $100 million club without an Oscar. Visually dazzling and well acted, the film is too meandering and often hollow.
Should win: Million Dollar Baby, lean and engrossing, it is a fine meditation on life and death. It is the kind of film Martin Scorsese should make.
Nominees: Martin Scorsese, The Aviator; Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby; Taylor Hackford, Ray; Alexander Payne, Sideways; Mike Leigh, Vera Drake.
Winner: Eastwood, for having the courage to make films like Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River. Using a spare style, he has made a deeply engaging, pulsating and thought provoking film. The fact that the so-called risky venture has grossed $55 million in North America and has plenty of life ahead cannot be ignored.
Should win: Eastwood. Scorsese should have won earlier for Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, when he was at the peak of creativity. He is younger to 74-year-old Eastwood by almost a decade. It means he has time to make lean and gripping films, or spectacles that do more than dazzle.
Nominees: Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda; Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator; Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby; Jamie Foxx, Ray.
Winner: Foxx, for the awesome Ray. It is easy to notice how Foxx has captured the cadences, voice and body language of the legendary singer and musician, Ray Charles. What is even more important is that he has captured the man in all his glory and failures. A deeply felt, humanistic portrayal of a complex, soaring spirit.
Should win: Foxx, even if the great Paul Giamatti (Sideways) had been nominated.
Nominees: Annette Bening, Being Julia; Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace; Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake; Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby; Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Winner: Swank, who won an Oscar for Boys Don't Cry, wins once again for her remarkable performance as a feisty boxer who has to discover a lot about herself and life even as she seems to achieve her ambition.
Should win: Staunton, whose surprising work in Vera Drake as a kind-hearted working woman who defies the law to help unwed mothers, is one of the greatest performances we have seen in recent years.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Alan Alda, The Aviator; Thomas Haden Church, Sideways; Jamie Foxx, Collateral; Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby; Clive Owen, Closer.
Winner: Freeman. Despite wonderful work by the likes of Owen (Closer) and Foxx (Collateral), it is the brooding presence of Freeman in Million Dollar Baby that haunts us long after the movie is over.
Should win: Freeman. But could there be a tie? Owen, who showed startlingly interesting strength in the adultery drama Closer, deserves to be honored, too.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Cate Blanchett, The Aviator; Laura Linney, Kinsey; Virginia Madsen, Sideways; Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda; Natalie Portman, Closer.
Winner: Blanchett, whose career had nosedived after the her impressive work in the hit Elizabeth, is more than impressive as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator. This was no small challenge. Blanchett proved that she is good not just at playing British monarchs but also Hollywood goddesses.
Should win: Madsen for her often low keyed but funny, wise and life-affirming insights. As one film critic pointed out, her wine-as-metaphor-for-life speech alone should earn her kudos.
Best Foreign language film: the hypnotic and disturbing Downfall (German),about the last days of Adolf Hitler.
Best Documentary: the moving and courageous Born Into Brothels.