MALIBU SEEN

OSCAR READY FOR TAKE OFF

The Academy Awards are just days away and speculation is in the air. Will “The Aviator” take off or will “Ray” strike a chord? Is the smart money on “Million Dollar Baby” or will the best picture race get knocked “Sideways?”

It’s something we haven’t seen in years-a contest that seems wide open. If the Golden Globes are any indication, we may not witness a “Titanic” sized sweep, but a lot of little splashes.

When members of the foreign press handed out their trophies a few weeks back, “The Aviator” snagged the top prize for best drama. It’s a good sign, but no guarantee. Academy insiders expect stiff competition from “Ray,” which won best picture in the musical or comedy category. Clint Eastwood K-Oed the competition in the director’s category for his bittersweet boxing tale, “Million Dollar Baby.” Annette Bening snagged best actress for just “Being Julia.”

Local favorite Leonardo DiCaprio, who was just about the only one not nominated during the “Titanic” frenzy a few years back, picked up a globe for his portrayal of Howard Hughes in “The Aviator.”

What could give “The Aviator” an edge? According to DiCaprio, it is the story of Hughes himself. “He was a man obsessed with everything he did in life-women, airplanes, money, business. The man would not stop until he reached his own ideals of perfection. When you play an obsessive character like that, it’s completely challenging.”

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For DiCaprio, the role was a dream come true. “It’s something I’ve been waiting to do for eight years.”

No matter what happens on Sunday night, DiCaprio says he already considers himself a winner. His reason? Having had the opportunity to work with one of the world’s most celebrated directors. “Growing up in this business and wanting to be part of the world of film, I am truly privileged,” he explains. “But I must say the pinnacle of all of this has been to work alongside the great Martin Scorsese.”

DiCaprio and Scorsese also worked together on the epic “Gangs of New York,” which was nominated in 11 categories a few years ago was a complete shutout.

For added drama, Scorsese, the man behind such unforgettable films as “Raging Bull,” “Taxi Driver,” “Mean Streets,” “Cape Fear,” “Goodfellas” and “Casino,” has never picked up the coveted prize-ever!

So while Clint’s got more than a fighting chance, this just might be Marty’s year to score. Stay tuned.

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