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.
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."
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."
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."
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."