by Michael Bowen & r & & r & Film Editing & r & Munich is out because its showiest montage (Avner's flashbacks during sex) is also its most criticized sequence. Walk the Line walks the plank because it stitches together concert footage, not action sequences. The differently paced prizefights in Cinderella Man were among the best boxing sequences ever filmed, and The Constant Gardener's early sequences cut from frenzy to hysteria and back again. But the consensus is with Crash. & r & Should Win: Crash | Will Win: Crash

Art Direction & r & The line on Memoirs of a Geisha seems to be "gorgeous visuals, no heart." In this category, that's an advantage. Pride & amp; Prejudice is inventive, but only for a period piece; the Good Night guys are first-time nominees; and the wizardry of Harry Potter extends only to nominations in the lesser categories. That leaves only the 800-ton gorilla for a possible upset. & r & Should Win: Memoirs of a Geisha | Will Win: Memoirs

Adapted Screenplay & r & Three films that make various mistakes in tone are long shots: The Constant Gardener, A History of Violence and Munich. Working with shorter source material than any of the other nominees, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana created a Brokeback script that's told visually and with sometimes minimalist dialogue. In Capote, Dan Futterman shaped already extensive materials. & r & Should Win: Brokeback Mountain | Will Win: Brokeback

Original Screenplay & r & Syriana never overcame unjust charges of over-complexity; Woody Allen fatigue is still a factor; The Squid and the Whale didn't swim into enough cineplexes. The top two contenders are close, but Good Night is cerebral while Crash is emotional. Even Academy members have hearts. & r & Should Win: Crash | Will Win: Crash

Supporting Actress & r & The supporting categories usually produce an upset, and this one's a three-way race. (Catherine Keener and Frances McDormand, pulled along by other actors' stronger performances in their movies, are long shots.) Amy Adams got raves for Junebug, but few people saw it. Michelle Williams' overrated Brokeback performance comes down to the one scene at the kitchen sink. In The Constant Gardener, Rachel Weisz has the virtue of excelling in several scenes. & r & Should Win: Rachel Weisz | Will Win: Michelle Williams

Supporting Actor & r & The Best Makeup Medallion goes to ... Paul Giamatti because he didn't win for Sideways. No, the Can't Go Empty-Handed Statuette goes to ... George Clooney, because he's sure not going to win Picture or Director. No, the Deserving Swell Guy Trophy goes to ... Matt Dillon, as Crash's sole survivor. It's a toss-up, but ... in a year of dark films, a winner emerges out of the Depression and into old-fashioned triumph. & r & Should Win: Paul Giamatti | Will Win: Giamatti

Actor & r & Ledger vs. Hoffman: stolid cowboy vs. effete journalist, restrained vs. flamboyant character construction. Ledger chips away, subtracting this potential emotional response and that possible gesture from his sculpture of stolid Ennis Del Mar. In contrast, Hoffman's Capote mixes this voice lilt with that sour expression, adding in a half-dozen showy insecurities for good measure. Ledger took away from what was already there; Hoffman added what had been non-existent. He masters the more difficult acting task. & r & Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman | Will Win: Hoffman

Actress & r & A likable actress playing a likable, real-life woman in a movie that's liked, but not well liked ... oughta be enough for an Oscar win. Felicity Huffman persuasively, comically depicts a member of another gender -- and Reese Witherspoon? She plays herself. Some pundit noted that if the song from Transamerica wins, we'll have to hear the phrase "Oscar winner Dolly Parton" for the rest of our lives. Next, this: "That Legally Blonde gal sure is cute. Didn't she win an Oscar?" Just as grating. & r & Should Win: Felicity Huffman | Will Win: Reese Witherspoon

Director & r & For Best Comeback From a Hulking Bomb in a Completely Different Movie Genre ... Ang Lee. Spielberg misjudged his ending; Bennett Miller tells a straightforward story; Clooney cluttered Good Night with the married-coworkers subplot. Directing with passion, Paul Haggis juggles multiple plots and would be more of a contender in most years. But Lee garnered nearly all the preseason awards because he coached understated passion out of those cowpokes. & r & Should Win: Ang Lee | Will Win: Lee

Best Picture & r & This is a closer race than most realize. Brokeback negatives: More people have joked about it than seen it. Neither cowpoke is rewarded for his behavior. Sure, it'll be a Hollywood landmark -- but the first mainstream romantic comedy with both guys ending up happy and did you notice they were gay? has yet to be produced. Crash positives: An industry mass mailing of 130,000 DVDs. An actor-laden ensemble piece dealing with issues of class and race that's set in L.A. Did I mention lots of actors? & r & Should Win: Crash | Will Win: Brokeback Mountain

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