Oscar picks

Though some categories are locks, picking the winners this year seems much tougher than last year. It's not too late for you to enter my Oscar pool, if just for fun, and those of you who have already now know my picks.
You can find the full list of nominees here.
Best picture: Brokeback Mountain
Best director: Ang Lee
Best actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Many have tabbed Heath Ledger as the likely runner-up, but I suspect Joaquin Phoenix is likelier to upset. Voters will want to see Ledger do it again, to put more distance between new gay cowboy Heath and old 10 Things I Hate About You Heath.
Best actress: Reese Witherspoon
It ain't me babe. Oh, wait, it is!
Best supporting actress: Rachel Weisz
Amy Adams performance is the one I remember, but hardly anyone saw Junebug. Their loss.
Best supporting actor: George Clooney
Tough category to pick with Paul Giamatti, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Matt Dillon all with equally vocal supporters. I'm just as curious as everyone else, though I'm going with George because everybody loves George. Except David Russell.
Best animated film: Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit
I missed Howl's Moving Castle while it was in theaters, and based on box office figures so did many other people. Nick Park has a perfect Academy Awards record. Though I love claymation and Wallace & Gromit, Curse of the Were-Rabbit didn't leave me giddy. Much of the humor felt flat to me, and I preferred Corpse Bride. I doubt enough voters felt the same way. In a larger pool, I'd probably go with Corpse Bride just as a contrarian bet.
Best foreign film: Sophie Scholl - The Last Days
Didn't see any of these. Doesn't seem like anyone is talking about Joyeux Noel or La Bestia nel cuore (Don't Tell). Sophie Scholl - The Last Days, Paradise Now, and Tsotsi - they all seem equally likely to win.
Best documentary: Murderball
In most cases, I believe in the law of overwhelming box office. That is, if only one movie in a category did any significant box office, it's likely to win simply because more voters saw it than any of its competitors. That would point to a March of the Penguins cakewalk. But Murderball is the better documentary.
The winner here should've been Grizzly Man, yes, and Herzog also had White Diamond.
Best original screenplay: Crash
Best adapted screenplay: Brokeback Mountain
Art direction: Memoirs of a Geisha
Though Kong has a warm, retro look, my guess is that all that CGI will handicap it in this category. I haven't seen Memoirs of a Geisha, but judging by the trailer and word-of-mouth, its bright palette and swishing silks will catch voters' eyes.
Cinematography: Memoirs of a Geisha
Again, just a guess since I've not seen the movie. Brokeback Mountain has the wide open landscapes, but Memoirs of a Geisha has those choreographed performances, with their dramatic lighting.
Film editing: Crash
After having taken an editing class, I've realized that this category is impossible to judge fairly. Only the editors and perhaps the directors have any idea what the editors had to work with to produce the final product everyone else sees on screen. I think it was Walter Murch who once said of himself and the other four nominees for the Oscars in this category that none of them was the best editor, that it was probably some editor who had transformed a terrible movie into something watchable that deserved the Oscar.
Minus that, most voters choose their favorite movie (under the premise, and a good one, that the editing had a lot to do with the movie's quality) or the movie with the most apparent editing. For most voters that will be the same movie this year, Crash, with its interwoven storylines. If The Constant Gardener were also a best pic nom, this would be a tougher choice, because it has an even more complex structure, with its leaps back and forth in time.
Michael Kahn is the big name in this category, but that universally disliked love scene montage in Munich will do him in.
Sound mixing: Walk the Line
I really enjoyed the alien human-evaporating ray beam's sound in War of the Worlds, but that's probably not a nice thing to write out loud. Sequences like the prison scene, with the clapping of the prisoners muffled but audible through the prison walls, will guide Walk the Line to the gold, bald, naked statue here.
Sound editing: King Kong
Original score: Memoirs of a Geisha
For a movie I didn't see and that was heaped with scorn, Memoirs sure is nabbing a lot of Oscars on my ballot. I'm probably wrong on at least one of these Geisha picks, but I have no idea which one. John Williams' BAFTA earns him my nod here. Gustavo Santaolalla's score for Brokeback Mountain is perhaps the most well-known, just because of all the Brokeback trailer knockoffs, but it's also much shorter than the work of the other composers, which I think might hurt him.
I really enjoyed John Williams elegiac score for Munich and Dario Marianelli's classically romantic score for Pride and Prejudice, also.
Original song: "In the Deep" from Crash
Will they perform all the nominees this year, and if so, who will sing "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"? Let me make clear that I'm all in favor of an de-funked, operatic rendition from Josh Groban, with Sting in the background uttering "whoop that trick" as a faint harmonic echo.
It's between the other two songs, "Travelin' Thru" and "In the Deep". It's a toss-up. I'll go with the song from the Best Pic contender.
Costume design: Memoirs of a Geisha
Colleen Atwood is the most decorated entrant in this category, and colorful kimonos are difficult to match as visual candy.
Makeup: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Another category where bold and apparent wins out over subtle, so Cinderella Man definitely won't win. I didn't see The Chronicles of Narnia, but I suspect it offers enough animal creature makeup to offer a credible alternative to Revenge of the Sith. No one in the Academy seems to want to vote for the Star Wars movies.
Visual effects: King Kong
War of the Worlds actually had more seamless visual effects than King Kong, which featured shots like the "running with the bulls except with dinosaurs" that seemed so clearly CGI. Spielberg is peerless at making his visual effects mesh with real life. And yet, many people disliked War of the Worlds and seemed breathless at King Kong, and the sequence on the Empire State Building is cool. Kong was also more dense with visual effects than any other movie I saw this year.
Best animated short: 9
For the first time, I actually saw all the animated short nominees at a screening at the Academy Theater in NYC. My favorite of the group was The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, but I'm guessing folks will go with 9. Tim Burton is going to produce director Shane Acker's feature-length version of that short, which follows a rag doll locked in a duel to the death with a giant mechanical creature in a dystopic wasteland.
Best documentary short: The Life of Kevin Carter
I didn't see any of these, so this is a guess based on some other awards it has claimed.
Best live action short: Síðasti bærinn í dalnum
I saw all these at the same screening as the animated shorts. None of them wowed me, and several were too predictable, especially Our Time Is Up (though it did feature Hurley from Lost) and Ausreisser (The Runaway). The two that weren't were Six Shooter and, at its conclusion, Síðasti bærinn í dalnum, which is pronounced, um, like it's spelled. The latter is more serious in tone, so I'm going with the Icelandic short.