Oscars: Possible Shockers

They're not all locks.

Although common wisdom says Oscar will be going home with Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, it's not a good idea to count your chickens before they're hatched, even when the chickens are wearing tuxes and designer gowns.

Entertainment contributor Jess Cagle, who is also assistant managing editor at People magazine, appeared on The Saturday Early Show on Oscar eve to talk about a few possible surprising scenarios.

  • Best Picture: "Little Miss Sunshine" might rock the boat. Cagle says this is one race that's wide open. A lot of people are betting on "Babel" because it has more nominations than any of the other Best Picture nominees. "However," he adds, "a lot of people are expecting a surprise with 'Little Miss Sunshine.'"

    It is a low-budget film, an unassuming movie that Cagle says "is beloved by the Academy. People just love this movie, so it could sneak in and win."

  • Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin could intercept Eddie Murphy. Cagle points out that Murphy is the front-runner here, having won all supporting actor award in nearly all the other big awards programs this year.

    Photos: Alan Arkin

    "But," Cagle continues, "Alan Arkin is a sentimental favorite. He was part of 'Little Miss Sunshine,' which people loved, and people loved him in the movie. He was a popular actor. Some say he was better-liked than Eddie Murphy is. There's a chance he could sneak it out. But I am excited about seeing Eddie Murphy win an Oscar."

  • Best Supporting Actress: Don't bet the rent on Jennifer Hudson. Cagle theorizes that since "Dreamgirls" did not get a nomination as Best Picture, honoring Hudson is one way that the Hollywood community is honoring that movie.

    Photos: Jennifer Hudson

    "I think she'll win," he predicts, but adds that there are also strong performances from Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi, both of "Babel," and, he reminds fans, "Cate Blanchett is in that category — no slouch, either."

    In three other major categories, Cagle does not expect any surprises.

    Best Actor: If Peter O'Toole wins, that would be a huge upset.
    O'Toole has been nominated seven times and he has never won an Oscar. "It could happen," says Cagle. "If there is a shocker, it would be that O'Toole takes it."

    Photos: Peter O'Toole

    But Cagle points out that O'Toole has formidable competition in Forest Whitaker, and so his chances of winning are not great.

    Best Actress: Helen Mirren is the queen in more ways than one. Cagle says he doesn't think there is any chance of a shocker in this category, adding, "I think Mirren is as sure a bet as you can have."

    Photos: Make Way For "The Queen"

    Best Director: It's Martin Scorsese's year. After five nominations, it's time for him to win. "I do not expect an upset in that category," Cagle says flatly. "I think, finally, Marty will get it, and people are very excited out here to give it to him."

    The fact that five African-American performers are nominated in the major acting categories is an Oscar record. (They are Will Smith, Forest Whitaker, Djimon Hounsou, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson.) Is this a significant change in Hollywood?

    "It does signal a change in that … there are better roles every year for African-American actors," says Cagle. "One of the reasons for that is, younger audiences are color blind. The conventional wisdom in Hollywood used to be that 'white audiences' would not go to a 'black movie.'

    "That's no longer true," Cagle continues. "You cannot say white audiences will not listen to black music."

    He concludes, "Younger audiences are color blind. Look at 'Dreamgirls.' The movie made $100 million."
    • Ellen Crean

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