This year's Oscar nominations: The Academy loves ''Brokeback'' and -- who knew? -- a pimp! EW's awards expert, Dave Karger, analyzes the ballot
Credit: Hustle & Flow: Alan Spearman

Oscar nominations: Sure things and shockers

This year’s Oscar nominations were fairly predictable (Entertainment Weekly went 36 for 40 in our predictions for the eight main categories), but there were a few shockers. Here’s our annual list of the top five sure things and surprises.


Brokeback dominates The genre-defying romance earned eight nominations, including Best Picture, and scored more acting nods than any other movie (three, for Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams, and Jake Gyllenhaal). It looks pretty unbeatable right now.

Good Night, and Good Luck and Crash place second With six nominations each, the two dramas continue their upward climb. And Good Night writer/director George Clooney landed nods in all three of his eligible races (Best Director and Original Screenplay for his Edward R. Murrow tribute, and Supporting Actor for Syriana). He’ll finally attend the Oscars for the first time.

Rookies rule! Thanks to the Brokeback cast, and to rising stars like Keira Knightley and Amy Adams, and never-recognized veterans like David Strathairn and Paul Giamatti, no fewer than 14 of this year’s 20 acting nominees are first-timers. The most-honored nominee? Judi Dench, who scored her fifth nod.

The Hoffman/Huffman duo rides high After their Golden Globe drama wins, Capote‘s Philip Seymour Hoffman and Transamerica‘s Felicity Huffman easily earned Oscar nods. Hoffman seems like a sure bet to win, but Huffman will have a tougher time. Speaking of which…

Walk the Line‘s duo sings a happy tune Though their Johnny Cash biopic was shut out of the picture, director, and screenplay categories, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon made it into the Best Actor and Actress races. Witherspoon is still the one to beat on March 5.


It’s not so hard for a pimp Hustle & Flow‘s Terrence Howard displaced Russell Crowe to score the fifth slot in the Best Actor race. And his character’s theme song even scored a nod (though since he’s not the songwriter, it doesn’t count as a nomination for Howard).

The return of William Hurt! Almost 20 years after he landed three Best Actor nods in a row (for Kiss of the Spider Woman, Children of a Lesser God, and Broadcast News), Hurt won his first supporting-actor nod for A History of Violence. Welcome back to the big time, Bill.

Six nods for Geisha The much-maligned period piece Memoirs of a Geisha found itself shut out of every major category (including its best shot, Best Actress for Ziyi Zhang), but it still found its way into six technical races. Well, it was beautiful…

Only three Best Song nominees Perhaps the Academy is now realizing that the Best Song category (which included nods for Crash, Transamerica, and Hustle & Flow) should soon go the way of the dinosaur. Can anyone sing a line from any of these songs? (Okay, ”It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” is pretty catchy.)

No love for Star Wars When The Lord of the Rings ended its trilogy, it won 11 Oscars. But when George Lucas wrapped up his series, all he got was one lousy nomination…for Best Makeup! As Yoda would say, embarrassing that truly is.

What surprised you most about the nominations? Which actors and movies are you hoping will win?