Experts on the Oscars

The Monitor asked three experts on the Academy Awards for their reactions to this year's nominations. We also asked them who they think will win the top categories.

Damien Bona, film historian and author of "Inside Oscar."

On the matchup between "The Aviator" and "Million Dollar Baby":

"It's an interesting and classic matchup, because 'The Aviator' is a big, sprawling epic and 'Million Dollar Baby' is more of an intimate film, and one that really plays to the emotions. There really is a difference between the two films. At this point, 'Aviator' is a movie people respect more than they love, and 'Million Dollar Baby' is just going into wide release now, which will give it momentum."

On why Martin Scorsese may win for Best Director:

"There's a company line that the Academy owes Scorsese, which people have been saying since after 'Goodfellas,' a decade and a half ago. But then he turns out movies like 'Casino,' which ultimately no one got excited about, and 'Gangs of New York,' where people actively disliked the film. So there's a feeling that maybe 'The Aviator' is going to be as good as Scorsese is going to get from now on, so maybe just give it to him now."

On why Cate Blanchett may win Best Supporting Actress:

"I don't think she's a convincing Kate Hepburn, but on the other hand she was the liveliest thing in 'The Aviator.' "

Mr. Bona's picks for who will win:
Best Picture: The Aviator
Best Actress: Hilary Swank
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett

Dave Karger, resident Oscar expert at Entertainment Weekly

On why 'Million Dollar Baby' could scoop Best Picture:

"Usually the movie with the most nominations wins, but I don't think that's a done deal this year as much as in years past. I really do feel a lot of support among Oscar voters for 'Million Dollar Baby,' and the fact that Clint Eastwood was able to eke out a best actor nomination after not being listed by the Golden Globes or Screen Actors Guild Awards proves that. At the same time, it's impossible to ignore the scope of Scorsese's achievement in his movie."

On one notable omission from the Best Actor nominees:

"The best actor race was so crowded, with eight performances that were so strong that you knew somebody would be left out. But to see Paul Giamatti ['Sideways'] left out for the second year in a row may be because he doesn't fit the typical movie star mold. [Giamatti was also passed up for his role in 'American Splendor.'] It was such a great performance, because he is such an everyman and disappears into his characters. But he may have disappeared into this character too well."

Mr. Karger's picks for who will win:
Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby
Best Actress: Hilary Swank
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman
Best Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen

Robert Osborne, author of "75 Years of the Oscar," and host of Turner Classic Movies

On actors overlooked this year:

"I was surprised that Paul Giamatti ['Sideways'] wasn't one of the five. The other one that disappointed me a lot was Javier Bardem ['The Sea Inside'] not being nominated because I thought he gave one of the great performances and because the film itself had gotten quite a bit of attention, I thought he had a really good shot. This year, at least in the Best Actor category, there were so many good people that there wasn't room for all of them. That meant that Kevin Bacon ['The Woodsman'] got left out. Liam Neeson ['Kinsey'] got left out. Gael Garcia Bernal ['The Motorcycle Diaries'] got left out. So there were a lot of really good people that, in any other normal year would certainly be a nominee."

On the prospects of 'Sideways':

" 'Sideways' is a victim of its own success in a way. It's one of those lovely little movies that's wonderful to discover in a theater and I think if you had the good fortune, like the critics did, of seeing it without hearing anything about it, you'd be absolutely captivated and charmed by it. The problem is, for those of us who go see it after we've read so much about it, you kind of expect the earth to shake a little bit and you kind of wonder what the fuss was all about."

Mr. Osborne's picks for who will win:
Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby
Best Actress: Hilary Swank
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett or Laura Linney

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