Will locals fare well in Oscar race?

Tune in and take your pick.

By Andrew Lyons/Special to The Malibu Times

Nominations for the 77th Annual Academy Awards were announced last month and with only a few weeks until the Feb. 27 telecast, it’s time to get down to business. We’re here to help you get a jump on the office pool fun with our predictions of who will win and more importantly, who should win.

Last year, Malibu was well represented by winners Sean Penn (Best Actor) and Charlize Theron (Best Actress). This year, four people with Malibu connections are up for major awards. In fact, two of them worked on the same film.

Leonardo DiCaprio is nominated for his portrayal of Howard Hughes in “The Aviator.” The movie’s screenwriter, John Logan, is up for Best Original Screenplay. Former Malibu resident (and wife of Warren Beatty) Annette Bening was nominated for Best Actress for her role in “Julia.” The connection for her competitor, Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), is a little more tenuous. Her husband, actor Chad Lowe, grew up in Malibu.

Logan is likely to lose out in the screenplay scramble to Charlie Kaufman (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”). So that leaves us to ponder how the other locals will fare in the major categories this year. Let’s take out that crystal ball and peek.

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Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett-“The Aviator”

Laura Linney-“Kinsey”

Virginia Madsen- “Sideways”

Sophie Okonedo-“Hotel Rwanda”

Natalie Portman-“Closer”

As usual, Supporting Actress is a much stronger category than Best Actress. The only real long shot is Okonedo, a relative unknown in a very small movie. Portman was solid but her youth may hurt her. Linney is highly respected but “Kinsey” didn’t make much of a splash. Blanchett delicately handled the tricky real-life role of Katharine Hepburn but has drawn some criticism for mimicry. Madsen, who had been off the acting radar, comes out of nowhere with a career-redefining performance.

Will Win: Tough call but Blanchett may ride the “Aviator” wave.

Should Win: Madsen-who doesn’t love a Cinderella story?

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Alda-“The Aviator”

Thomas Haden Church – “Sideways”

Jamie Foxx-“Collateral”

Morgan Freeman-“Million Dollar Baby”

Clive Owen-“Closer”

Each of these guys is nomination-worthy, but four of them need not write speeches. Alda is good but not what makes “The Aviator” fly. Haden Church (formerly Lowell on “Wings”) is fun but shouldn’t clear off his mantle. Foxx probably has a better chance in the Best Actor category. Owen is the dark horse, but likely won’t see the light. This is Morgan Freeman’s award. It’s his fourth nomination and a win would validate not only his work here but his many years of stellar performances.

Will Win: Freeman

Should Win: Why not Freeman?

Best Actress

Annette Bening-“Being Julia”

Catalina Sandino Moreno- “Maria Full of Grace”

Imelda Staunton-“Vera Drake”

Hilary Swank-“Million Dollar Baby”

Kate Winslet-“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

This is always a hard category to peg. Much has been made of how this is a rematch of the 1999 battle in which Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry”) beat out Bening (“American Beauty”). It likely will come down to those two again, but that’s no sure thing. Moreno will probably have to settle for the invite and Winslet’s wonderfully quirky performance may get overlooked. But if Swank and Bening split the vote, Staunton, as an unassuming 1950s abortionist, might sneak in.

Will Win: Bening

Should Win: Moreno never makes a false step as a drug mule dreaming of a better life.

Best Actor

Don Cheadle-“Hotel Rwanda”

Johnny Depp-“Finding Neverland”

Leonardo DiCaprio-“The Aviator”

Clint Eastwood- “Million Dollar Baby”

Jamie Foxx- “Ray”

As good as Cheadle, Depp and DiCaprio are, this one’s a two-man race. Will Eastwood be recognized for his career or will Foxx be rewarded for channeling Ray Charles?

Will Win: Foxx won’t be singing the blues.

Should Win: Both Cheadle and Foxx are magnificent. Flip a coin.

Best Picture

“The Aviator”

“Finding Neverland”

“Million Dollar Baby”

“Ray”

“Sideways”

“Ray” and “Finding Neverland” are the bridesmaids.

“Sideways” seems to have lost a little steam of late. That leaves two heavyweights to duke it out. Oscar loves an epic like “The Aviator” but the affection for “Baby” seems to run deeper. It’s a very tough call but …

Will Win: “The Aviator,” by a nose cone.

Should Win: “Sideways” may be a small film, but sometimes great things come in little packages.

So there you have it. Commence the arguing. Buy some extra popcorn. And tune in Feb. 27 on ABC to see how we did.

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