- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Heart says: “Ray”

Head says: “Million Dollar Baby”

No best-pic nominee was more gratifying, better executed or more culturally resonant than “Ray.” The powerfully dour “Million Dollar Baby,” however, has that most important factor in its favor: the Big Mo.


Heart: Taylor Hackford, “Ray”

Head: Clint Eastwood, “Million Dollar Baby”

Mr. Hackford took a well-known, beloved subject and a cliche-ridden genre — the biopic — and produced an honest, deeply moving picture of Ray Charles. But Mr. Eastwood’s quiet sobriety seems to tower over the competition this year, including “The Aviator’s” Martin Scorsese, who will continue to cry in the Oscar wilderness.


Heart: Jamie Foxx, “Ray”

Head: Don Cheadle, “Hotel Rwanda”

An upset figures here, not least because of Mr. Foxx’s over-aggressive, backlash-courting campaign for the trophy. Mr. Cheadle, a well-liked journeyman character actor, may sneak in on the merits of a late-blooming movie with a serious, relevant-again subject, genocide.


Heart: Kate Winslet, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

Head: Hilary Swank, “Million Dollar Baby”

Next to her performance in the period drama “Finding Neverland,” Miss Winslet’s flighty turn in “Sunshine” looks virtuosic. But early favorite Miss Swank will probably make it through the last round.


Heart: Alan Alda, “The Aviator”

Head: Morgan Freeman, “Million Dollar Baby”

Mr. Alda, the archliberal, loves to play archconservatives, and I love watching him do it. But his portrayal of corporate toady Sen. Ralph Owen Brewster was too small, too one-dimensional to topple the long-overdue Mr. Freeman.


Heart: Cate Blanchett, “The Aviator”

Head: Virginia Madsen, “Sideways”

Miss Blanchett improbably made Katharine Hepburn a living, breathing character, but the role, fundamentally imitative, shouldn’t be enough to thwart the sweet, unassuming comeback of Miss Madsen in a wide-open category.

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