You can't bet against The Lord of the Rings. I checked the odds in London. If you bet a dollar on Rings, all you can win is a measly 16 cents. It's that heavily favored to win the best picture Oscar.
Hollywood has every reason to kiss director Peter Jackson's Rings. The trilogy has made history. It's the first time that three films were made simultaneously, and the third installment, The Return of the King, just crossed the $1 billion mark.
What's more, Jackson saved the best for last, and the odds of him winning best director are even better. For every dollar you bet on Jackson, you can win all of 15 cents. Best Actor: Sean Penn was the early favorite. Penn's performance was great in Mystic River. But, to his credit, he's never played the game, and they don't like that out in Hollywood.
Penn won a Golden Globe. Then, last week, the Screen Actors Guild picked Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. This, believe it or not, is good for Bill Murray, who's nominated for Lost in Translation.
Best Supporting Actress: Shohreh Aghdashloo may make it a race for Renée Zellweger. The Iranian actress, who fled her homeland on the eve of revolution in 1978, earned a nomination for House of Sand and Fog. She's an amazing success story.
I give the edge to Renée, however. I think the voters feel, "Hey, she didn't win last year for Chicago, she did a great job, we like her. She probably should've won for Bridget Jones's Diary or Jerry Maguire. Let's give it to her this year."
Best Supporting Actor: Tim Robbins is great in Mystic River , my pick for best film of the year. His best competition is the Sean Penn's other co-star, Benicio del Toro in 21 Grams. Del Toro has already won an Academy Award for Traffic. This is Robbins' first acting nomination. He was nominated for best director for Dead Man Walking. Alec Baldwin was great in The Cooler, but there's too much competition and his film was too small.
Best Actress: This is a two-person race. Diane Keaton has been nominated once in each of the last four decades, most recently for Something's Gotta Give. She was the early favorite until people saw Charlize Theron in Monster. She's still a sentimental favorite, but every time I go with a sentimental favorite they lose.
The legendary John Huston is the only person to have ever directed a parent and a child to Academy Award victories. In 1949, when his father Walter won for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, he was doubly honored — with Oscars for both directing and screen writing.
In 1986, I figured, how can the academy not give Huston his second directing Oscar for Prizzi's Honor, when his daughter was a shoe-in for best actress?
Still, that didn't happen.
This year, however, we will see history, if Sofia Coppola wins best original screenplay for Lost in Translation. The Coppola family would then join the Huston clan as Hollywood's next three-generation Oscar dynasty.
Sofia's dad, Francis Ford Coppola, has five Oscars to his name. Her grandfather, Carmine Coppola, won Hollywood's highest honor for scoring the music for The Godfather: Part II.
One more prediction: The next family with a three-generation Oscar dynasty will be the Fondas — Henry, Jane, and Jane's son, Troy Garity. Give him a couple of years and we might see that.