THE 79TH ACADEMY AWARDS / / Tonight at 8 p.m. on Channel 2
Over the years, movie stars have surprised audiences with their acceptance speeches. Excerpts from some of the more notable (for better or for worse):
"Wow, wow."-- Forest Whitaker,
at the Broadcast Film Critics Association awards, 2007, for The Last King of Scotland
"Members of the Academy, distinguished guests, viewers, ladies and gentlemen: Always a bridesmaid, never a bride -- my foot. I have my very own Oscar now to be with me till death do us part. I wish the Academy to know that I am as delighted as I am honored, and I am honored."-- Peter O'Toole,
honorary lifetime Oscar, Academy Awards, 2003
"I don't know what I did in this life to deserve all of this. I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream."-- Hilary Swank,
Academy Awards, 2005, for Million Dollar Baby
"I'd like to thank Jack Nicholson for making being in a mental institution like being in a mental institution. I loved being hated by you."-- Louise Fletcher,
Academy Awards, 1976, for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
"A girl's got to have her moment. Everybody tries to get me to shut up. It didn't work with my parents, and it didn't work now."-- Julia Roberts,
Academy Awards, 2001, for Erin Brockovich
"This is the highlight of my day. I hope it's not all downhill from here."-- Kevin Spacey,
Academy Awards, 1999, for American Beauty
"I'm practically unprepared!"-- Greer Garson,
Academy Awards, 1943, for Mrs. Miniver (After that opening line, Garson prattled on for a record-breaking seven minutes.)
"I'm happy enough to cry, but I can't take the time to do so. A taxi is waiting outside with the engine running."-- Claudette Colbert,
Academy Awards, 1935, for It Happened One Night (Colbert had a train to catch.)
WILL WIN: LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Don't write this off as another dysfunctional-family comedy. It's a functional-family comedy about a mom, dad, half-brother and sister, crazy uncle and earthy granddad who ultimately unite against the sanitizing forces of American life. My guess is that once Academy voters got Babel out of their DVD players and their systems, they warmed to a movie that's both good and good for a laugh.
SHOULD WIN: THE QUEEN
The whole movie is like Helen Mirren's performance: able to speak Shakespearean folios about the burden and responsibility of power with subtle shifts in language and delivery, offhand gestures, and mere ripples in the surface of the queen's court and Tony Blair's suburban manse. It's a tiny masterpiece, but a masterpiece.
WILL WIN: MARTIN SCORSESE
Some bred-in-the-Beantown actors (including Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg), a corkscrew plot, dialogue soaked in cheap yet pungent alcohol, and staging, camerawork and editing that are equally fleet and powerful -- that's urban entertainment, delivered by an auteur operating as an ace showman in The Departed.
Should Win: Paul Greengrass.
Scorsese's work in The Departed is top-notch, but in United 93 Greengrass pulled off what Scorsese did at his inspired peak in Taxi Driver: harnessed his style, technique and empathy to a story that sums up the potential for heroism and horror in the way we live now.
Will Win: Forest Whitaker.
Whitaker and O'Toole: The two names are linked for the top male award acting this year. In The Last King of Scotland, Whitaker proves himself the rare performer who can act on an epic scale and bring the audience with him all the way to the brink of over-the-top -- just as O'Toole did, gloriously, in Lawrence of Arabia. But in Venus....
Should Win: Peter O'Toole.
... O'Toole, acting against a refreshingly resourceful and salty female named Whittaker (first name Jodie), does things no one else has done before on-screen: he shows a performer burning with that essence of epicurean art, "a hard, gem-like flame," as well as the wit and humanity that fuel it.
Will Win: Helen Mirren.
Mirren takes impersonation to poetic heights. Although The Queen details the insularity of the House of Windsor, the star's ability to convey the monarch's genuine integrity and hard-grained strength gives surprising pull and power to the ruler's outmoded idea of keeping private feelings private, even for public figures like Princess Diana.
Should Win: Helen Mirren.
Like Philip Seymour Hoffman's Capote in Capote, this is one performance that will be praised, studied, and, most important, savored, for generations.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Will Win: Eddie Murphy.
When an instinctive talent like Murphy pours all his energy and talent into a part like James Thunder Early in Dreamgirls, it melds with some essence of his being. He makes you feel what James Thunder Early and Eddie Murphy feel. He brings you to the outer limits of delight and despair.
Should Win: Eddie Murphy.
Just think "Jimmy Got Soul." In that number alone, Murphy proves he has it, too.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Will Win: Jennifer Hudson.
The way Hudson plays Effie, the chubby powerhouse in Dreamgirls, the character's name might as well be short for "ineffable." She brings out the conquering heroine beneath the masochistic torch singer.
Should Win: Jennifer Hudson.
Hudson's "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" is one of the peak numbers in movie-musical history. But from the moment she belts out the raucous "Move" -- as in "Move, move, move right out of my life" -- she demonstrates reserves of strength and humor that make you root for her and, more important, believe in her, no matter how many hard knocks she takes.
WILL WIN: BABEL
This is the most wide-open of the year's major Oscar races, so anything could happen. For weeks, my crystal ball said The Departed would win, but there's little buzz emanating from Hollywood about that picture. Instead, everyone keeps talking about what a masterpiece Babel is. So, though I think it's the least of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's films, I'm betting on Babel.
SHOULD WIN: THE DEPARTED
The Departed had energy to burn, not to mention more honest suspense than any other film of 2006. Great performances, taut writing, peerless directing ... what's not to like?
WILL WIN: MARTIN SCORSESE
SHOULD WIN: MARTIN SCORSESE
Scorsese, not because he's the sentimental favorite, but because he deserves it. The fact that he's been overlooked before would make his win here only overdue, not undeserved.
Will win: Helen Mirren
Much as I love Kate Winslet, who is almost automatically the best thing about any picture she's in, this is Helen Mirren's year. She was flawless in The Queen, endowing Elizabeth II with more substance and personality than many of us would have thought possible.
Should win: Helen Mirren
Much as I love Kate Winslet, who brought more conviction to Little Children than the film deserved, this really is Helen Mirren's year.
Will win: Forest Whitaker
Forest Whitaker was mesmerizingly, charismatically, horrifically powerful in The Last King of Scotland. He also did the seemingly impossible: Portray Ugandan strongman Idi Amin as something more than a cartoon buffoon. While his breathless-surprise schtick is growing old -- could he have really been that amazed at winning a Golden Globe? -- he'll have one more chance to wow us with his public speaking skills.
Should win: Peter O'Toole
Peter O'Toole has been turning in powerful, memorable, singular performances for more than four decades. His lascivious octogenarian in Venus is not only the latest, but one of the most remarkable: He makes lechery seem Shakespearean.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will win: Eddie Murphy
That Eddie Murphy has acting chops shouldn't surprise anyone; he didn't make such a strong impression in 48 Hours (for example) by simply doing stand-up. But this is the first time he's shown them in an Oscar-worthy role, and his peers can't wait to show him the love. (Then maybe he'll think twice before subjecting us to another Norbit.)
Should win: Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg gave surprising heft (and welcome legitimacy) to his role as the wildcard in The Departed. It's about time we all moved past Marky Mark and realized how good Wahlberg is as an actor.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will win: Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson has that feel-good vibe going -- take that, American Idol fans who voted her off the show! -- and her performance as Effie gives Dreamgirls the emotional heft it needs to resonate with audiences. (Don't count Abigail Breslin out, however; as Tatum O'Neal and Anna Paquin proved, Oscar has a soft spot for little girls who can melt people's hearts with their acceptance speeches.)
Should win: Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson is the obvious standout in a weak field.
Select Oscar nominees
Babel, The Departed, Letters From Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond; Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson; Peter O'Toole, Venus; Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness; Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Penelope Cruz, Volver; Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal; Helen Mirren, The Queen; Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada; Kate Winslet, Little Children
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine; Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children; Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond; Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls; Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
Adriana Barraza, Babel; Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal; Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine; Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls; Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel; Martin Scorsese, The Departed; Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima; Stephen Frears, The Queen; Paul Greengrass, United 93
After the Wedding, Denmark; Days of Glory (Indigenes), Algeria; The Lives of Others, Germany; Pan's Labyrinth, Mexico; Water, Canada
Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips, Borat; Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, Children of Men; William Monahan, The Departed; Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, Little Children; Patrick Marber, Notes on a Scandal
Guillermo Arriaga, Babel; Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis, Letters From Iwo Jima; Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine; Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth; Peter Morgan, The Queen
Animated feature film:
Cars, Happy Feet, Monster House
Dreamgirls, The Good Shepherd, Pan's Labyrinth, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Prestige
The Black Dahlia, Children of Men, The Illusionist, Pan's Labyrinth, The Prestige
Apocalypto, Blood Diamond, Dreamgirls, Flags of Our Fathers, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Apocalypto, Blood Diamond, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Babel, Gustavo Santaolalla; The Good German, Thomas Newman; Notes on a Scandal, Philip Glass; Pan's Labyrinth, Javier Navarrete; The Queen, Alexandre Desplat
"I Need to Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth, Melissa Etheridge; "Listen" from Dreamgirls, Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler and Anne Preven; "Love You I Do" from Dreamgirls, Henry Krieger and Siedah Garrett; "Our Town" from Cars, Randy Newman; "Patience" from Dreamgirls, Henry Krieger and Willie Reale
Curse of the Golden Flower, The Devil Wears Prada, Dreamgirls, Marie Antoinette, The Queen
Deliver Us From Evil; An Inconvenient Truth; Iraq in Fragments; Jesus Camp; My Country, My Country
Documentary (short subject):
The Blood of Yingzhou District, Recycled Life, Rehearsing a Dream, Two Hands
Babel, Blood Diamond, Children of Men, The Departed, United 93
Apocalypto, Click, Pan's Labyrinth
The Danish Poet, Lifted, The Little Matchgirl, Maestro, No Time for Nuts
Live action short:
Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea), Eramos Pocos (One Too Many), Helmer & Son, The Saviour, West Bank Story
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Poseidon, Superman Returns