Obligatory Oscars, anyone?

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t’s Oscar time again. This Sunday night, millions will crowd around their television sets, either to see Steve Martin’s zany antics, garish gowns or a glimpse of Hollywood’s in-crowd.

Elitist film buffs will be tuning in to shake their fists at who was wrongfully awarded the little gold guy. However, they should have nothing to worry about.

Recipients of the Academy Award completely deserve it, as they are truly the best Hollywood has to offer each year. There are no politics involved, and no one has ever received an Oscar that was not well-deserved.

Right.

As with anything, the Oscars are all about politics and furthering careers. Only Hollywood insiders can vote for the Academy Awards, many times the Oscar goes to someone for reasons other than their performance.

And with that optimism in mind, here’s a look at the major nominees:

Best Supporting Actress

Unlike most years, all of this year’s nominees are Oscar-worthy, and the supporting actress category is no exception. Kathy Bates (“About Schmidt”) always gives an intriguing performance no matter the role, but she has not been mentioned as a serious contender. Neither has Queen Latifah (“Chicago”), even though her portrayal as Matron “Mama” Morton is stellar, but she has such range as an actress that it would be no surprise if she was nominated again in the near future.

The real cat fight for this award will be among Meryl Streep (“Adaptation”), Julianne Moore (“The Hours”) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Chicago”). Meryl Streep already snatched a Golden Globe earlier this year for her portrayal of writer Susan Orlean, and since she hasn’t won an Oscar since 1982 (“Sophie’s Choice”), voters may feel that it’s her time. Julianne Moore has never won an Oscar, and she is heartbreaking as Laura Brown, a suicidal 1950s housewife. The Academy loves characters with “issues,” and Moore’s weak, reluctant smile might be enough to nudge her over the edge. She is also nominated in the best actress category, so it will be a big surprise if she walks away empty-handed.

However, the real stand-out role this year is Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly, the singer/dancer who murders her cheating husband and his lover, Veronica Kelly (Velma’s sister). She sings, she dances, she smokes and she has a sassy attitude-such stuff that Oscars are made on.

Deserves the Oscar:

Catherine Zeta-Jones for “Chicago”

Will get the Oscar:

Julianne Moore for “The Hours”

Best Supporting Actor

The buzz actor this year has been Chris Cooper (“Adaptation”). He won the Golden Globe for his portrayal of John Laroche, an orchid breeder. Ed Harris, though he was incredible in “The Hours” as poet Richard Brown, is not a serious contender. Christopher Walken won the Screen Actor’s Guild award for “Catch Me If You Can,” but when compared to the competition, he’s also not a strong candidate. Paul Newman (“The Road to Perdition) has not been mentioned at all, even though he received rave reviews for his character of John Rooney, an Irish mob boss. Newman might get the Oscar just because he has not won since 1986 (“The Color of Money”) and he’s old. It’s been hard to miss John C. Reilly this year, as he has appeared in several movies (“Gangs of New York,” “The Good Girl,” and “The Hours”). However, it’s his role of Amos Hart, the shy Mr. Cellophane of “Chicago,” that earned him the nod. Reilly might win just because he’s been great in every movie in which he’s appeared.

Deserves the Oscar:

John C. Reilly for “Chicago”

Will get the Oscar:

Chris Cooper for “Adaptation”

Best Actress

This category is full of tight performances, and it’s not a matter of who deserves the Oscar so much as who deserves it more. Diane Lane (“Unfaithful”) received critical acclaim for her role as Connie Summer, who cheats on Richard Gere with a young guy with a sexy French accent. Salma Hayek (“Frida”) is nominated for portraying Frida Kahlo, the unibrow-clad, mustache-wearing Mexican surrealist painter. However, neither Lane nor Hayek will win, not because their acting is less than worthy, but because they are competing against three monolithic performances.

Cathy Whitaker has been touted as Julianne Moore’s best performance to date, and she will either win for “Far From Heaven” or “The Hours” (Supporting Actress). Renee Zellweger shows a bit of the ol’ razzle dazzle as Roxie Hart in “Chicago.” She has already received a Golden Globe for the role, and it would be no surprise if she gets to add an Oscar to her mantle. Fighting her tooth and nail with a prosthetic nose will be Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf (“The Hours”). Kidman also won a Golden Globe for this role, and she gave an Oscar-nominated performance last year in “Moulin Rouge,” which will be remembered come voting time.

Deserves the Oscar:

Nicole Kidman for “The Hours”

Will get the Oscar:

either Renee Zellweger for “Chicago” or Nicole Kidman for “The Hours”

Best Actor

All the nominees for best actor were in movies released in December, and their performances are still fresh in voters’ minds. There is hardly a movie critic who does not believe that Jack Nicholson deserves the Oscar for “About Schmidt,” and he has the Golden Globe to prove it. Besides the fact that Nicholson is great as Warren Schmidt, he is also a strong contender because he’s getting up there in years and may not have many more opportunities to win. Battling Nicholson for the elderly vote is Michael Caine for “The Quite American,” which Caine and critics have acclaimed as his best performance to date. However, he has not gotten as much hype as Nicholson.

Nicolas Cage’s nomination for “Adaptation” is puzzling because it’s hard to tell for which role he is nominated, as he plays both Charlie Kaufman and his identical twin, Donald, but he’s not a strong contender.

Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”) is the only actor nominated who has not previously won an Oscar. His role as Holocaust survivor/pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman is mesmerizing, but he’s young and promising, and he will have plenty more opportunities to win. Another Oscar long-shot is Daniel Day-Lewis (“Gangs of New York”). He’s an incredible actor who can pull off a flawless American accent, but this year belongs to Nicholson.

Deserves the Oscar:

Jack Nicholson for “About Schmidt”

Will get the Oscar:

Jack Nicholson for “About Schmidt”

Best Director

This is the one easy category this year. Pedro Almodovar won the Golden Globe for “Talk to Her,” but when placed among the other nominees, he would only win because he gives an animated acceptance speech.

“Chicago” is Rob Marshall’s first feature film, and with the movie’s hype and his talent, he will have more chances to win. Stephen Daldry (“The Hours”) is still early in his directing career, so the same goes for him.

The real competition is between Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”) and Martin Scorsese (“Gangs of New York”), neither of whom have an Oscar. “The Pianist” is an amazing film, far superior to “Gangs of New York,” but Polanski won’t win because people still remember his sex scandal. Scorsese won’t win for “Gangs of New York,” but for “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” He’ll get the Oscar because he’s a great American director, and it would be a shame if he died having never won it.

Deserves the Oscar: Roman Polanski for “The Pianist”

Will get the Oscar: Martin Scorsese for “Gangs of New York”

Best Motion Picture

This category is a process of elimination. “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” won’t win because it’s going to win everything next year for “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.” “Gangs of New York” won’t win because it’s a “silly movie,” and it was only nominated because Scorsese directed it and everyone had forgotten about “Road to Perdition.” “The Pianist” would win only if “The Hours” and “Chicago” split the vote enough for it to squeeze by, which is highly unlikely. “The Hours” is an incredible film, but it hasn’t gotten the hype that “Chicago” has. There’s no avoiding it; “Chicago” really is all that jazz.

Deserves the Oscar:

“Chicago”

Will get the Oscar:

“Chicago”

Tune in for the 75th Annual Academy Awards. Sunday, March 23, 8:30 p.m. ABC

Check out oscar.com for a complete list of the nominees and make your own Oscar predictions in a chance to win assorted prizes.

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