Last time I talked about oscars, I hadn't seen quite a few movies that had pocketed major nominations. Now, that number has gone down to just 1 or 2. So, I guess I am much more qualified to talk about them now as compared to the last time.
I have seen all the movies nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor in Leading Role oscars. And both the categories are filled with some great movies/performances. However, even though I liked Sideways, Ray and Million Dollar Baby, I must say that I liked The Aviator and Finding Neverland much more than the other three. My personal favorite among these five is probably The Aviator with Finding Neverland coming a verrry close second (or maybe the other way round... depends on my mood :) ). However the award will most likely go to either The Aviator or Million Dollar Baby. Former more likely than the latter.
As for the actor award, this is even more closely fought than the best picture category. I personally think That Clint Eastwood is the odd one here. He made a great movie with some good performances (and an absolutely incredible one from Hilary Swank) but his own role didn't have as many will-stick-to-your-mind-forever moments as the other four nominees here. Johnny Depp, again, was good but probably in a role that demanded underplaying more than extravagance. And underplaying rarely catches ones eyes as much as extravagance, even though it might be just as - or even more - difficult. Jamie Foxx was great in Ray in a role that was tailor-made for oscar, and he will probably pick the statuette on sunday, but I personally liked Leonardo-DiCaprio more. Here was a character as close to being extravagant as you will ever get. And even though extravagance can be irritating at times, Leo made sure that it was memorable without being irritating at all. DiCaprio is coming up very well (which seems ironic considering that he has just been awarded a Lifetime Achievement award!!) and I am extremely excited about The Departed.
However, even though the real race seems to be between Leo and Jamie Foxx, I personally would give the award to Don Cheadle. He is absolutely superb in Hotel Rwanda. I know not many people have seen the movie but Don Cheadle is beyond great in that movie. He is so good that you don't realize what you are watching is actually a "performance". A curious case of an eminently memorable performance which is not even close to being extravagant.