Howie shares his picks for the 2005 Academy Awards |

Howie shares his picks for the 2005 Academy Awards

Howie Nave
Chris Rock will host the 77th Annual Academy Awards on ABC live from the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Well, it’s that time of year again. The Super Bowl of the film industry for fans of movies everywhere! Excited? Yes!

First off, let’s discuss the controversial Chris Rock-as-host factor this Sunday. It’s no secret that the ratings have been hurting for this annual gala these past few years, so the network types thought that by bringing first-time, in-your-face comic Chris Rock to host, well, the buzz factor would kick in – and it did, in full force. Will he slip up and have a vocal malfunction? Possibly.

Some Academy members wanted him booted off because of his irreverent humor. That’s why ABC has announced that there will be a seven-second delay device installed just in case Chris goes off on a rant and invites the FCC to slap both him and the network. He has already stated that if Jamie Foxx doesn’t take home an Oscar, he will be pissed! Billy Crystal wouldn’t say that!

Let’s face it, Crystal has always been the host of choice for most, but I liked Steve Martin, too. Still, I have to admit, I am going to be glued to the set to hear that opening montage by Rock, because I have a feeling there will be a few surprises with him at the helm.

Let’s just hope the whole shindig doesn’t go over four hours. If they can just cut out some of those acceptance speeches!

So, get out those scorecards and let’s play along, shall we?

I think we’ll start from the top and go straight to the category for Best Motion Picture of the Year. The nominees are:

— “The Aviator”

— “Finding Neverland”

— “Million Dollar Baby”

— “Ray”

— “Sideways”

Tough choice here. “Ray” was incredible, and “Million Dollar Baby” had me almost in tears. Anything that Johnny Depp does, he makes it his own; and “Sideways” was the little picture that could. Although not his best epic, Martin Scorsese’s latest has not only legs in the business, but wings that make his movie soar in its story and cinematography, so I am going with “The Aviator.”

In the category for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, the nominees are:

— Don Cheadle for “Hotel Rwanda”

— Johnny Depp for “Finding Neverland”

— Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Aviator”

— Clint Eastwood for “Million Dollar Baby”

— Jamie Foxx for “Ray”

Again, this is a tough category, and Don Cheadle could be the spoiler. Wouldn’t that be brilliant? Albeit a welcome spoiler – he just gets better with each role he plays. Johnny Depp is an actor’s actor, while Leo hasn’t been this well noticed since he sunk in “Titanic” back ’97. Clint was good but not great. Therefore, I’m going with a man who didn’t just mimic the role of Ray Charles; no, he WAS Ray Charles, so I have to go with Jamie Foxx for Best Actor.

In the category for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, the nominees are:

— Annette Bening for “Being Julia”

— Catalina Sandino Moreno for “Maria Full of Grace”

— Imelda Staunton for “Vera Drake”

— Hilary Swank for “Million Dollar Baby”

— Kate Winslet for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

All of the nominees are, without a doubt, brilliant. The big upset would be seeing Catalina Sandino snag the statue, or Imelda Staunton for “Vera Drake.” You know, I really think Imelda may be the upset. Kate will be eternally bummed, but what a performance she gave opposite Jim Carrey. I believe we will see history repeat itself, pitting Hillary against Annette, like in the 2000 Oscars. I still feel that Bening should have received the gold for “American Beauty,” but instead it went to Swank for “Boys Don’t Cry.” Annette may be crying once again when Hillary Swank gets the Best Actress win for “Million Dollar Baby.”

In the category for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, the nominees are:

— Alan Alda for “The Aviator”

— Thomas Haden Church for “Sideways”

— Jamie Foxx for “Collateral”

— Morgan Freeman for “Million Dollar Baby”

— Clive Owen for “Closer”

The sentimental favorite is Alan Alda. Best known for his television work, this is his first nomination. Jamie Foxx was excellent in his role alongside Tom Cruise, and Morgan Freeman and Clint have done great and rewarding work together in the past (think Eastwood’s 1992 Oscar winner “Unforgiven”). Clive Owen may be the upset here. I am not kidding – he was fantastic in the depressing movie about relationships that was “Closer.” On a brighter note about relationships was Church’s performance in “Sideways.” He was the perfect balance to Paul Giamatti’s character, so I am going with Thomas Haden Church for the win here.

In the category for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, the nominees are:

— Cate Blanchett for “The Aviator”

— Laura Linney for “Kinsey”

— Virginia Madsen for “Sideways”

— Sophie Okonedo for “Hotel Rwanda”

— Natalie Portman for “Closer”

Laura Linney in the controversial “Kinsey” had one of her finest performances ever, and what an upset if she walks home with Oscar. Natalie Portman also had a character with depth, and she runs with it in “Closer.” The other upset right now, hands down, will be first-time nominee Sophie Okonedo in “Hotel Rwanda.” Still, Virginia Madsen in “Sideways” was just fantastic. It’s a real photo finish, I predict. However, I am leaning toward Cate because when she appeared onscreen as Katherine Hepburn in “The Aviator” that’s when the picture really took off. Because of that, I am going with Cate Blanchette for Best Actress.

In the category for Best Achievement in Directing, the nominees are:

— Clint Eastwood for “Million Dollar Baby”

— Taylor Hackford for “Ray”

— Mike Leigh for “Vera Drake”

— Alexander Payne for “Sideways”

— Martin Scorsese for “The Aviator”

This has got to be the toughest category for this year. Scorsese has been nominated in this category more than any of them, yet has failed to bring home the Oscar, while Clint won for “Unforgiven” 13 years ago. While Leigh, Hackford and Payne are all worthy as well, I really believe the Academy will find it time to reward one of our greatest filmmakers, so I am going with Martin Scorsese here for Best Director.

In the category for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year, the nominees are:

— “The Incredibles”

— “Shark Tale”

— “Shrek 2”

The first “Shrek” already won in this category, and “Shark Tale” … well, it tried just a wee bit too hard to appease the adults, even though obviously marketed to the kiddies. The smart choice here is obviously Brad Bird’s smart, funny, never-pandering-to-the-adults animated flick “The Incredibles” to win for this category.

In the category for Best Documentary, Features, the nominees are:

— “Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids”

— “Geschichte vom weinenden Kamel”

— “Super Size Me”

— “Tupac: Resurrection”

— “Twist of Faith”

I realize that it is difficult, living where we do, to have an opportunity to see any documentaries whatsoever, although even if we lived in a major metropolitan area it would still be tough to see some, if not most, of these selections. “Super Size Me” made it into several major theaters and chronicles quite effectively what happened to its filmmaker eating nothing but McDonald’s over the course of a month. That alone could get it the win. I have seen all of the selections here, but I’m really hoping that “Born Into Brothels” takes home the win because of what the story showed: hope. In a country whose children grow up only to see themselves sold into slavery for sex, this little documentary showed what one person can do to change their destiny and that alone, for me, gives “Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids” the Oscar for how powerful it was.

In the category for Best Writing, Screenplay written directly for the screen, the nominees are:

— “The Aviator” – John Logan

— “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” – Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth

— “Hotel Rwanda” – Terry George, Keir Pearson

— “The Incredibles” – Brad Bird

— “Vera Drake” – Mike Leigh

All are excellent, but most anything Charlie Kaufman pens to the page is pure gold, so the gold goes to him and Michel Gondry with Pierre Bismuth for their work on “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” for the Oscar.

In the category for Best Achievement in Cinematography, the nominees are:

— “The Aviator” – Robert Richardson

— “Shi mian mai fu” – Xiaoding Zhao

— “The Passion of the Christ” – Caleb Deschanel

— “The Phantom of the Opera” – John Mathieson

— “Un long dimanche de fiançailles” – Bruno Delbonnel

A bit of a toss up here, as I feel since the Academy snubbed Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” they might go with a win here, but Robert Richardson’s work in “The Aviator” was nothing short of brilliant, capturing not just the high flying stunts but also the period as well, so I’m going with “The Aviator” to sweep this category.

In the category for Best Costume Design, the nominees are:

— “The Aviator” – Sandy Powell

— “Finding Neverland” – Alexandra Byrne

— “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” – Colleen Atwood

— “Ray” – Sharen Davis

— “Troy” – Bob Ringwood

Again, I have to go with “The Aviator,” because of the attention to detail – especially when it comes to a period piece. “Troy” looked liked something from a bad drag show but made out of armor. “Ray” was good, as was “Finding Neverland,” but I keep coming back to Sandy Powell and her work, so I am going with “The Aviator” to win for Best Costume Design.

In the category for Best Make-up, the nominees are:

— “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” – Valli O’Reilly and Bill Corso

— “The Passion of the Christ” – Keith Vanderlaan and Christien Tinsley

— “The Sea Inside” – Jo Allen and Manuel García

“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” will win because Jim Carrey was overlooked, I predict. Valli O’Reilly and Bill Corso did such an amazing job with the cast, how can they not win? Maybe through divine intervention, “Passion” might be the upset, but I am going with “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” to win for Best Make-up.

And finally (due to space constraints), in the category for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song, the nominees are:

— “Les Choristes” – Bruno Coulais, Christophe Barratier: “Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)”

— “Diarios de motocicleta” – Jorge Drexler: “Al Otro Lado Del Río”

— “The Phantom of the Opera” – Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart: “Learn To Be Lonely”

— “The Polar Express” – Glen Ballard, Alan Silvestri: “Believe”

— “Shrek 2” – David Bryson, Adam Duritz, David Immerglück, Matthew Malley, Dan Vickrey, Charles Gillingham, Jim Bogios: “Accidentally In Love”

“The Phantom of the Opera” has the best chance, as does “The Polar Express” for this category. However, because “Shrek 2” had so many well known songwriters in this category, and because it will be snubbed in the Best Animated category, I am going with “Shrek 2” with “Accidentally In Love” for Best Song.

– Howie Nave is the host/emcee/manager of The Improv at Harveys every Tuesday through Sunday, and the comedian for The X Show every night except Monday. Howie appears on seven radio stations every Friday morning (including KOZZ 105.7) reviewing movies in California and Nevada.

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