Academy Awards Preview

Del Toro, the Puerto Rican native who had to brush up on his Spanish to play a Mexican cop, has hunk appeal. But the academy tends to honor older actors, and Finney — a five-time nominee — might be due for honors. Last year, Michael Caine took the prize for his work in The Cider House Rules.

Kate Hudson: Like Mother, Like Daughter?

Younger actresses tend to come out on top in the Best Supporting Actress competition. Marisa Tomei and Mira Sorvino were winners for My Cousin Vinny and Mighty Aphrodite. This year's pick could be Kate Hudson, the groupie with the heart of gold in the 1970s coming-of-age rock homage Almost Famous.

Hudson, the daughter of Goldie Hawn, has the added value of being an Oscar legacy. Her mom won Best Supporting Actress in 1969 for Cactus Flower. Such a victory would be a replay of last year, when Angelina Jolie, daughter of Oscar winner Jon Voight, won the award for Girl, Interrupted.

But Hudson faces two women who have already won Oscars, in Judi Dench (Chocolat) and Frances McDormand (Almost Famous). Marcia Gay Harden gave a much-praised performance as the wife of an tortured, alcoholic artist in Pollock. And Julie Walters got rave reviews as the dance instructor in Billy Elliot.

If there is one apparent certainty this year, it's Julia Roberts for Best Actress. She's never been honored, and Erin Brockovich is the sort of message movie that usually wins.

Will Crouching Tiger Surprise?

To be sure, it's decidedly less certain who will win Best Director. On the face of it, Steven Soderbergh has the best chance, with two nominations — Traffic and Erin Brockovich. He's the first director in since 1938 to achieve double directing nominations. But that might work against him if the vote for him is split between those two movies.

If so, that would leave Gladiator's Scott and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Ang Lee as front-runners. Some insiders say Dragon may be the more innovative film, but it was shot in Asia. Most of the 5,607 Academy members — actors, directors, and industry professionals — live or work in Los Angeles, and they might be partial to a homegrown product.

With 10 nominations, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon could make a run at history. The Taiwanese epic would become the first non-English language film to win Best Picture. In 1999, the Italian film Life Is Beautiful won Best Foreign Film ,with the directing award going to Roberto Benigni.

With the 45-second rule in place, it's a good thing the free-spirited Benigni — who climbed atop chairs to revel in his victory — is not nominated this time around.

ABCNEWS Radio's Heidi Oringer and Bill Diehl in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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