Who cares about Best Actor? Our money is on this top performer
Wrangler’s Mark Moorehead looms as this year’s guy to beat

Editor’s note: Hollywood’s biggest night--the 77th annual Academy Awards--is just three weeks away. Wrangler News Oscar guru Mark Moorehead joins his Valley media counterparts again this year in trying to predict the winners, a challenge that ranks second only to cage fighting as a brutal competitive sport. While we won’t predict the outcome of this year’s rivalry, we remind the other competitors that our guy Moorehead emerged last year with an enviable record of having correctly predicted all 10 winners in the top categories. Gentlemen, take your corners.

By Mark Moorehead

Despite the rather remarkable success of my 2003 predictions, which may have been based partly on pure luck, this year’s awards present a major difference: There are no clear standouts for the important awards to Best Supporting Actor or Actress.

That problem notwithstanding, here’s what my crystal ball says about the other categories:

Best Picture will go to The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett,  which received 11 nominations.

The story chronicles the flamboyant life of billionaire Howard Hughes as filmmaker, star maker, pilot, inventor and ladies’ man.

Director Martin Scorsese also pays homage to the good old days of early Hollywood, when directors like Hughes risked personal injury soaring high in the air for the sake of the perfect action shot.

Academy members love that stuff. The film is no masterpiece, but you can’t award Scorsese an Oscar for Best Director and not recognize his film as Best Picture.

So what about the Best Director nomination?

Scorsese’s film credits include Gangs of New York, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. This will be his fifth chance at capturing Best Director honors, after losing out in four previous nominations. Academy members will recognize The Aviator as the perfect opportunity to correct that score.

Best Actor belongs to Jamie Foxx in Ray, the Ray Charles story. Foxx hits all the right keys, and brings Ray Charles back to life in this moving tribute.

I did struggle with this category due to another worthy nomination, Don Cheadle’s intense and heartbreaking portrayal of a hotel manager in Hotel Rwanda. It is a true story that centers on an unlikely hero who saved the lives of a thousand civilians amid genocide that took the lives of a million people.        

Hilary Swank will win for Best Actress in Million Dollar Baby. Swank rose to the occasion in a difficult role that a lesser actress would have sabotaged by overplaying the role and wallowing in self pity. Swank’s optimism and strength shine through, even during her character’s darkest days.

Imelda Staunton could be a surprise upset in this category for her role inVera Drake if too many Academy members loathe boxing. 

Best Supporting Actor honors are reserved for Clive Owen in the Closer, but only because there are no real standouts. Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) was occasionally funny but unremarkable in his role as a flaky, middle-aged B actor looking for a cheap thrill in Santa Barbara’s wine country. 

Picking Blanchett as winner for Best Supporting Actress flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says an actress portraying another actress is Oscar poison.

However, I’m optimistic that Academy members will take exception to this rule and reward Blanchett’s extraordinary performance as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator.   

Best Animated Feature should go to The Incredibles, an original story about a family of superheroes struggling with domestic harmony. It’s a laugh-a-minute experience that appeals to a wider audience than, say, Shark Tale. Shrek 2, another nominee, is an excellent animated sequel but lacks the freshness of its predecessor.    

Best Documentary is another tough call. But I’m going to go with my gut on this one and choose Super Size Me, a film about the serious health risks of eating regularly at McDonald’s. Why? Because in America, where one out of three school-age kids are overweight, Morgan Spurlock’s film has challenged public schools all over the country to reconsider what they serve children for lunch.

The film also is credited with motivating McDonald’s to change its menu and offer healthier alternatives. This is exactly the impact every documentary filmmaker dreams of. 

Spain’s The Sea Inside will win Best Foreign Language Film. It’s a gut-wrenching film about a paralyzed man wanting to die that is sure to have lasting impact on the viewer.