Here's how I handicap the race: Slumdog Millionaire vs. four films that barely merited spots in Oscar's starting gate.
In other words, Secretariat vs. The Field.
It's that lopsided ... or at least it should be.
Of the five films nominated - the others being The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader, Frost/Nixon and Milk - only Slumdog exceeded the considerable hype surrounding it.
A brilliant concept executed brilliantly on the screen, which is the very definition of a great movie.
Ben Button? Zzzzzzz. I could have edited out 45 minutes. The Reader? Kate Winslet was so good she almost saved it. Nixon was fun, but aside from Frank Langella as Tricky Dick, the acting wasn't noteworthy. Milk was a nice biopic - and nice shouldn't be good enough to win an Oscar, especially when up against something as grand as Slumdog.
I'm a little sad - only a little, because it's only the movies - that four of the five best flicks I saw weren't nominated.
The Wrestler was my favorite, full of great acting and funny scenes and emotion. Doubt, the superbly acted movie about a priest gone bad (we think), was a superior drama to The Reader. In Bruges, a hilarious buddy/caper movie, was as enjoyable as anything to hit the screen. And Let the Right One In, a charming Swedish film about a 12-year-old vampire girl - that's right: I said charming, Swedish, 12-year-old, vampire and girl in the same sentence - was an absolute delight.
Heck, if you throw in Man On Wire, The Dark Knight and Wall-E - and you certainly could - that would be seven films better than the four non-Slumdog entries.
So it really is hard to fathom Slumdog not winning a deserving Oscar. I mean, Secretariat didn't break his leg down the homestretch of the Belmont.
As for some of the other main categories ...
ACTOR (Richard Jenkins, Frank Langella, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Mickey Rourke):
Aside from Pitt, any of them are deserving. Langella absolutely nailed Nixon, Penn was as solid as ever and Jenkins was special in The Visitor. Still, I'm pulling for Rourke, who took a wonderful role and made The Wrester memorable.
ACTRESS (Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Melissa Leo, Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet):
I didn't see three of the films, but the majority of experts seem to be siding with Winslet, who was excellent. In a head-to-head matchup, though, I'd go with Streep, who as the pushy, old-school nun in Doubt kicked Philip Seymour Hoffman's priestly butt.
SUPPORTING ACTOR (Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Michael Shannon):
Everybody says Ledger should and will win. Everybody is right.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS (Amy Adams, Penelope Cruz, Viola Davis, Taraji Henson, Marisa Tomei):
As good as Tomei was during her "hey, I'm still around" turn in The Wrestler, this actually happened: After Davis finished her amazing, powerful, 12-minute scene with Streep in Doubt, I turned to my wife and whispered: "Wow. She should win the Oscar." Nothing has happened to change my mind.
And last but not least ...
The Cubs' thorough incompetence during their second straight postseason collapse was so incredibly realistic ...
But no 97-win team could have been so completely inept on the big stage, right?