Looks like I ran out of time for predicting the nominations in categories other than screenplay. They are announced early today, I think. I’ll still lay down my best guesses on the winners when I hear the announcements. For those who need their predictive fix, here are the guesses of my very astute friend Sam:

Best Picture
THE AVIATOR
FINDING NEVERLAND
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
RAY
SIDEWAYS

Ray is the most vulnerable of these five, since it didn’t get a PGA nom (that slot went to INCREDIBLES). HOTEL RWANDA is next on the list, but there’s still hope for a ray of ETERNAL SUNSHINE, whose nomination would secure the Academy’s marginal coolness once and for all.

[Continue…]
Best Director
Clint Eastwood (MILLION DOLLAR BABY)
Mark Forster (FINDING NEVERLAND)
Michel Gondry (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND)
Alexander Payne (SIDEWAYS)
Martin Scorsese (THE AVIATOR)

It’s very rare (especially recently) for all five Best Picture directors to get nominated here, and the Academy loves throwing a bone to a more visionary or eclectic contender in this category, so I’ve dropped Taylor Hackford (RAY) and included Michel Gondry, even though ETERNAL SUNSHINE’s praise leans mostly to Charlie Kaufman. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Zhang Yimou for HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS.

Best Actor
Don Cheadle (HOTEL RWANDA)
Johnny Depp (FINDING NEVERLAND)
Leonardo Dicaprio (THE AVIATOR)
Jamie Foxx (RAY)
Paul Giamatti (SIDEWAYS)

The closest category of the year, by far, with Javier Bardem, Liam Neeson, and Clint Eastwood all on deck. And yes, the Oscar will still evade Jim Carrey, unless there’s a big swell of ETERNAL SUNSHINE support in Best Picture, etc. Javier Bardem is the most likely runner-up, but Clint’s MILLION DOLLAR BABY has dark horse written ALL over it, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the old man nominated here.

Best Actress
Annette Bening (BEING JULIA)
Catalina Sandino Moreno (MARIA FULL OF GRACE)
Imelda Staunton (VERA DRAKE)
Hillary Swank (MILLION DOLLAR BABY)
Kate Winslet (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND)

The least close category, by far! I’m hard pressed to find more than a couple runners up, and I’m most confident with these pics of any. But if there’s a god, other pundits will be correct in predicting Julie Delpy here for BEFORE SUNSET. She’d knock off Kate Winslet (Catalina Sandino Moreno is thankfully in the clear as far as I see it)… but it’s not a likely swap since Winslet gets nominated for just about everything (see below). There’s also a small chance that Le Kidman will show up here for BIRTH, but the movie just wasn’t seen quite enough. You know I’d be thrilled. If Kidman and Delpy both got noms, I’d be almost as ecstatic as when Keisha Castle-Hughes upset the category last year.

Best Supporting Actor
David Carradine (KILL BILL VOLUME 2)
Morgan Freeman (MILLION DOLLAR BABY)
Thomas Haden Church (SIDEWAYS)
Freddie Highmore (FINDING NEVERLAND)
Clive Owen (CLOSER)

Chruch, Owen, and Freeman are locked. It’s this catgegory where I’m claiming No Guts No Glory… Supporting categories love surprises, and I think that first name might just be Carradine for KILL BILL VOL. 2, which probably won’t get any other nominations. Freddie Highmore’s performance is just as noteworthy as Haley Joel Osment in 99, and they love awarding kid geniuses. But if those two wild cards don’t make it, look for safer bets like I-cant-believe-I’m-not-predicting-him Jamie Foxx (COLLATERAL) and James Garner (THE NOTEBOOK). If these guys love THE AVIATOR enough to give a record amount of nominations, they’ll list Alan Alda or Alec Baldwin as well.

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, THE AVIATOR
Laura Linney, KINSEY
Virginia Madsen, SIDEWAYS
Natalie Portman, CLOSER
Kate Winslet, FINDING NEVERLAND

You know how I feel about the nominees here – this is Cate’s turf, and everyone else should be pretty damn grateful. Linney is a safe shoo-in, Virginia Madsen’s caught up in the SIDEWAYS sweep, and Winslet (again) rakes in nominations with almost
anything she does, and NEVERLAND will be a plentiful picture Tuesday morning. After winning the Globe, I’m pretty sure Natalie Portman will get the fifth slot for CLOSER. But as Casabla said, this is the biggest upset category there is. So watch out for RAY’s Sharon Warren, HOTEL RWANDA’s Sophie Okonedo, and the most-nominated actress of all time, Meryl Streep (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE).

Original Screenplay
The Aviator (John Logan)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Charlie Kaufman)
Hotel Rwanda (Keir Pierson and Terry George)
The Incredibles (Brad Bird)
Kinsey (Bill Condon)

Thankfully, we can all count Kaufman in here as a lock, as well as the scripts for AVIATOR, RWANDA, and KINSEY. I figure if NEMO got nominated here (this category more or less showcases the Best Picture runners-up), then INCREDIBLES is in. Tina Fey’s guild nomination could throw here in here for MEAN GIRLS, but I doubt that such a fluffy flick will get recognized. More likely would be VERA DRAKE or MARIA FULL OF GRACE.

Adapted Screenplay
Before Sunset (Dick Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy)
Closer (Patrick Marber)
Finding Neverland (David Magee)
Million Dollar Baby (Paul Haggis)
Sideways (Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor)

Everyone else, including the guilds, has mentioned Jose Rivera’s THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES here, but I’m hoping BEFORE SUNSET gets the slot, which has also been guilded itself. Patrick Marber’s CLOSER is losing buzz, so also look out for FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS which is getting attention as well.

I wish I could agree with Jason that BEFORE SUNSET would show up for Picture, Director as well, but it’s looking unlikely. If I had an ultimate No Guts No Glory call, it would be that my favorite film of the year gets a coveted Best Picture slot.
Sam