"Capote" or "Crash" could sweep in out of nowhere and screw up all the conventional Oscar odds. Maybe it will happen this way: "Munich," "Capote" and "Brokeback" split the vote among the vast majority of Academy voters and the dark horse candidate "Crash" coasts to an unlikely victory. The signs are already apparent in the gossip columns -- "Crash" is that darkhorse candidate. No doubt Ang Lee will win for best director and "Brokeback" will certainly pick up some awards, but I can sense a "Brokeback" backlash already taking shape.
Here are my predictions, who I'd like to see win and who will most likely win.
Best film and best director: "Brokeback" and Ang Lee. I personally would go with either "Crash" or "Capote" although the vote could split between "Brokeback" "Capote" and "Good Night and Good Luck," in which case "Crash" (the recipient of much recent overheated Oscar hype) could become a darkhorse winner. Think of "Crash" as you would think of Mitt Romney within the arena of the Republican primaries -- an evidently threatening contestant, and an entrant previously ignored. It's disingenuous, of course, to say "it's all in the voting," but that is true. The vote could split and all bets be off.
For best actor, however, there is very little doubt that the great Philip Seymour Hoffman will win for his portrayal of Truman Capote. For best actress the battle is tight between Felicity Huffman as the transexual in "Transamerica" and Reese Witherspoon in her wonderful turn as June Carter in "Walk the Line." Either actress is deserving. I predict Witherspoon will win.
In the supporting acting categories there is far less agreement as to frontrunners. Among the women "Brokeback's" Michelle Williams has a good shot. I would rather see either of her closest competitors ("Junebug's" Amy Adams or Rachel Weisz from "The Constant Gardener") take home the statue. Among the men, Clooney Giamatti and Dillon are all about even and if the vote splits the right (wrong) way, then the odious Jake Gyllenhaal might end up getting called to the podium. I hope that doesn't happen. I predict Giamatti will win a well-deserved squeaker.
Finally, in the writing categories, there is some blood-and-guts competition. In the adaptation category Larry McMurtry and his partner Diana Osanna seem to be the prohibitive favorites for their work translating Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain" to the screen. "Capote" and "The Constant Gardener" will provide some competition but not enough to thwart McMurtry and Osanna. In the original screen play category, my main man Stephen Gaghan has a shot but it's a long one. His complex writing for "Syriana" is likely to be bested by "Good Night and Good Luck" or "Crash." Interestingly, "Good Night" is not quite so original as some may think, having been written around the texts of Edward R. Murrow's actual broadcasts during the McCarthy years, and "Syriana" was initially misclassified as a result of its having been "suggested by" ex-CIA agent Robert Baer's book, "See No Evil."
Of course, as every year, how things shake out will depend more on popularity than merit.