Luke's Oscar Picks

by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & Cinematography & r & Cinematographers draw you into a film. Color saturation, hues and filters create an emotional connection with what we're seeing. (If Ang Lee shot Brokeback with a camcorder, you wouldn't've felt a thing.) In Memoirs of a Geisha, Director of Photography Dion Beebe's colors perfectly articulate not just the Japanese weather and culture, but the very emotions that Director Rob Marshall is supposed to be giving you (but doesn't). Sometimes, there's emotion enough in the world itself. & r & Should Win: Memoirs of a Geisha | Will Win: Memoirs

Animated Feature & r & This is the first time (since the beginning of the Age of Pixar) that there hasn't been a computer-generated entry in the Animated Feature category. The Academy apparently decided this year to snub CGI the same way it snubbed blockbusters. The best films here are Wallace & amp; Gromit and Howl's Moving Castle. Let's be practical: Neither is their creator's best work. But while Hayao Miyazaki won the Oscar for his masterpiece, Spirited Away, two years ago, Nick Park didn't for 2000's Chicken Run. (There was no animated category until 2001.) That seems fair, right? & r & Should Win: Wallace & amp; Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit | Will Win: Wallace & amp; Gromit

Adapted Screenplay & r & What Dan Futterman did, along with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, was recreate an American icon, warts and all (indeed, mostly warts), without trivializing him as a person or diminishing the lesser understood aspects of his person. Vain, contemptible, narcissistic, selfish and, at times, an absolute bastard, he was also a deeply troubled person who made a living understanding people without ever taking the time to understand himself. That's the tragedy of Truman Capote, and that's exactly what Futterman gives us. & r & Should Win: Dan Futterman, Capote | Will Win: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain

Original Screenplay & r & Though Crash is a better and more complete film, what Stephen Gaghan did with entangling oil alliances in Syriana to make a military-industrial snafu seem not just understandable but compelling is a very rare feat. Similarly rare is a story of divorce that approaches the inter-familial complexity of real divorce. Noah Baumbach's screenplay does that amazingly well, giving each person their share of faults and making them fight to a stalemate. Hard to watch, but I didn't want it to end. & r & Should Win: Stephen Gaghan Syriana, Noah Baumbach The Squid and the Whale (tie) | Will Win: Paul Haggis Crash

Supporting Actress & r & This is probably the most contentious category, with no clear frontrunner. That leads me to pick Brokeback's Williams as the favorite, as there's a tendency to heap awards upon a film in droves, like a variant of mob mentality. If Brokeback wins big, so will Williams. Of course, Adams gave two spectacular and widely divergent performances this year, one for which she's recognized (Junebug) and one for which she wasn't (Wedding Crashers). She should win, but my gut says she won't. & r & Should Win: Amy Adams | Will Win: Michelle Williams

Supporting Actor & r & A Paul Giamatti win would be unfortunate. Unfortunately, he also seems to be a frontrunner. Shame. Still, I think Clooney is going to pull this one off. His transformation for Syriana was unbelievable, both physically and in subduing his considerable charisma. The only greater transformation came from Hurt in A History of Violence. His Richie Cusack is a role unlike any Hurt has ever played. Neurotic, hilarious and crazy as hell, the 10 minutes he was on film were the most electric I saw all year. & r & Should Win: William Hurt | Will Win: George Clooney

Actor & r & Phoenix, Strathairn and Howard are good, but no one gives them a chance in hell of winning. That's fine. The two best performances, bar none, are Hoffman's Capote and Ledger's Ennis Del Mar. That's science. You can't argue with that. Though both were brilliant, Hoffman gets the edge in my book because of the depth of characterization he brought to a very dense and complicated psyche, and the added difficulty of being beholden to a historical personage. & r & Should Win: Phillip Seymour Hoffman | Will Win: Hoffman

Actress & r & Reese is good -- really good. I wouldn't feel bad at all about her winning, but the sheer transformation Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman underwent for Transamerica was startling and, in the most unexpected way, beautiful. ("Transformation" is my buzzword for these Oscars, partially because I've obsessed over character actors this year, and partially because I'm lazy.) Huffman's performance carried real power. Kudos also for using her success to get good films made. & r & Should Win: Felicity Huffman | Will Win: Reese Witherspoon

Director & r & This is like best director by negation. None of these choices is great. What Lee does isn't spectacular, it isn't earth-shattering, thankfully though, it also isn't a sweaty, slow-motion sex scene/terrorism montage a la Munich. He simply lets the beauty of the land and of his characters speak for themselves. Bennett Miller does this similarly well, but lacks Lee's restraint. Haggis plays well to his actors, but is too gimmicky. & r & Should Win: Ang Lee | Will Win: Ang Lee

Best Picture & r & Even getting nominated is a feat for Crash, and the way it did it (sending out 130,000 Academy screeners) will shift the paradigm of how Hollywood markets its films to the Academy. This wouldn't matter so much, though, if Crash weren't so important, poignant and uncompromising -- if it weren't, that is, the best film of 2005. With tremendous scope and precision, it tackled prejudice better than Munich handled terrorism, Syriana handled oil and Brokeback handled forbidden love. & r & Should Win: Crash | Will Win: Brokeback Mountain