It's Oscar time again, this Sunday, February 27, at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. The excitement and anticipation are rising as critics and the media are predicting this year's big winners.
One of the heavyweights is the drama Million Dollar Baby.
Veteran actor Clint Eastwood both directed and starred in Million Dollar Baby, and he's been nominated for both: as Best Director and Best Actor. Eastwood certainly delivers a tour de force performance as an aging boxing trainer who develops a strong bond with a young female boxer. It's a love story, but that of a father-daughter kind of love.
And the woman who plays the young boxer and daughter figure is Academy Award winner Hilary Swank. She's riveting as fierce and ambitious boxer Maggie Fitzgerald. Ms. Swank has been nominated for Best Actress for her role.
Million Dollar Baby received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Another film that received a Best Picture nod among its seven nominations is Finding Neverland.
The bittersweet movie Finding Neverland is a period film about the life and creative spirit of 19th century Scottish playwright J.M.Barrie - author of Peter Pan. It's told in an enchanting and poetic way that captures the imagination. At the center of the film is acclaimed actor Johnny Depp, who portrays J.M.Barrie, an eccentric man with an eternally youthful spirit. Depp has received a nomination for Best Actor.
Actress Kate Winslet also stars in Finding Neverland, portraying widow Sylvia Davies, J.M.Barrie's love interest. The actress did not get nominated for this role… however, she has been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her exuberant performance in the surreal comedy Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Ms. Winslet faces stiff competition in the Best Actress category, though. The other nominees are British actress Imelda Staunton, who gives a masterful and heartbreaking performance as Vera Drake in the movie by the same name. She plays a timid, caring but nonetheless controversial 1950s London housewife who is also a back-alley abortionist.
Colombian actress Catalina Sandino Moreno is also up for Best Actress for her portrayal of a 'drug mule' in Maria Full of Grace. Ms. Moreno plays a fiery 17-year-old drug courier who flies to New York with dozens of baggies of cocaine in her stomach.
Finally, actress Annette Bening has also received a Best Actress nomination for Being Julia. Ms. Benning is mesmerizing as the title character, an aging actress whose becomes increasingly insecure and jealous of her young, faithless lover.
Annette Bening and Hilary Swank are considered the two favorites in the Best Actress category.
Among the Best Actor nominees are Don Cheadle in the movie Hotel Rwanda. Cheadle portrays hotel owner Paul Rusesabagina, who risked his life to protect more than 1,000 Tutsi refugees from the Hutu militia in Rwanda.
As mentioned above, Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby, and Johnny Depp in Finding Neverland are also Best Actor nominees. But the two main contenders in this highly coveted category are Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio.
In the movie, Ray, Jamie Foxx is outstanding as the late legendary musician Ray Charles, a man who overcame blindness, bigotry and drug addiction to become one of America's most beloved entertainers. Ray is also a leading contender for the Best Picture Oscar. It's the first film with a predominantly African American cast to be nominated in that category since Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple two decades ago.
And then there's Leonardo Di Caprio who paints a faithful portrait of Howard Hughes, the larger than life American aviator and entrepreneur, in the movie The Aviator. The film is also up for Best Picture and is probably the leader in that category. It's nearly flawless. Great direction, wonderful cast, music, sets, heavily textured cinematography. It is difficult to imagine how the Oscar for Best Picture could be snatched away from it.
But there could be upsets. A small, independent film, Sideways, has also received a Best Picture nomination.
The comedy about two middle aged friends who take a week-long road trip through California's wine country in search of wine, women and themselves is a gem.
Regardless of who wins at the Academy Awards on Sunday, audiences around the world will surely enjoy the spectacle. That's what all this is about.