The Aviator boasts the epic sweep that Oscar usually rewards, so it's likely to eclipse the more fanciful look of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (though don't rule out the French film A Very Long Engagement).
This category marks the best chance for The Passion of the Christ to snag a piece of Oscar glory. But don't hold your breath. While The Aviator is the deserved front-runner here, the mind-bending camera work of House of Flying Daggers could slice its way to victory.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Spain's euthanasia drama The Sea Inside, boosted by a haunting central performance by Javier Bardem, may well top France's saccharine Les Choristes. But if you're looking for an upset, watch for Germany's last-days-of-Hitler drama Downfall.
LIVE ACTION SHORT
Our best guess: The lone American-made entry, the beautifully shot Northern Ireland-set drama Everything in This Country Must. Other possibilities might be the charming Little Terrorist, in which a Pakistani boy slips across the mine-filled Indian border trying to retrieve his ball, and the unsettling Wasp, about a neglectful working-class British single mom.
Despite some sentiment for the Mongolian dromedary drama The Story of the Weeping Camel, we suspect the prize will go to the more serious Born Into Brothels, about the children of prostitutes in Calcutta, India, who are reared to join the sex trade themselves.
The favorite here is probably the well-crafted Autism Is a World by Gerardine Wurzburg, who won this category in 1993. Possible spoiler: Oren Jacoby's Sister Rose's Passion, in which a Catholic nun battles anti-Semitism in the Church and candidly critiques Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.
Shrek 2 may have been the bigger hit, but The Incredibles' total of four nominations (it probably came close to scoring a Best Picture nod) gives it the edge.
We'll go with the disturbing mix of animation styles in Ryan, a documentary about Canadian animator-turned-panhandler Ryan Larkin, over Gopher Broke's all-CGI whimsy. But Roy Disney partisans may favor the partially hand-drawn Lorenzo.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban earned John Williams his remarkable 43rd nomination, but keeping him from his sixth win will likely be Finding Neverland's Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, whose lush score could end up being the only winner for the film.
We're still wondering why it took six people to write Counting Crows' ''Accidentally in Love'' from Shrek 2. But expect the Josh Groban-sung Polar Express theme, ''Believe'' (written by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard), to eke out a win over Andrew Lloyd Webber's new Phantom of the Opera composition, ''Learn to Be Lonely.''
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events could be the spoiler here, but The Aviator's Sandy Powell (who won for Shakespeare in Love) will likely be rewarded for dressing one of the largest casts of the year.