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Oscar time

Will 'Chicago' gang up on Kidman, or will it be all about Nicholson? Our critic lists his picks

If there weren't already an award that bears the name Harvey (it's given to comic books), it could be used to change the nickname of the Academy Awards — at least for the next 12 months.

If there's one man who can't lose when it comes to this year's Oscars, it's Harvey Weinstein, chief of Miramax Films. Three of the front-running movies — "Chicago," "The Hours" and "Gangs of New York" — were either distributed or co-financed by his studio.

At this point, I'm guessing "Chicago" has a lock on several of the most prestigious awards.

Besides Weinstein, the other man who'll be dancing — and probably singing a happy tune — is Steve Martin, who returns for his second go-around as host of the awards ceremony. I'm looking forward to Sunday's Academy Awards (which starts at 6:30 p.m. on KTVX/Ch. 4) just to see what Martin will say and do.

This is a difficult year in some of the Oscar races, but here are my picks in 15 of the 24 award categories — the six "major" ones, as well as nine other "almost-sure-things":

BEST PICTURE

What's nominated: "Chicago," "Gangs of New York," "The Hours," "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," "The Pianist"

What will win: "Chicago," the musical that made musicals fashionable again.

What should win: "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," for being even better than its predecessor.

BEST ACTOR

Who's nominated: Adrien Brody, "The Pianist"; Nicolas Cage, "Adaptation"; Michael Caine, "The Quiet American"; Daniel Day-Lewis, "Gangs of New York"; Jack Nicholson, "About Schmidt"

Who will win: Nicholson, in the type of role that always seems to win Oscars.

Who should win: Cage, for playing two different characters and making each believable.

BEST ACTRESS

Who's nominated: Salma Hayek, "Frida"; Nicole Kidman, "The Hours"; Diane Lane, "Unfaithful"; Julianne Moore, "Far from Heaven"; Renee Zellweger, "Chicago."

Who will win: Kidman . . . and the false nose she wore to play Virginia Woolf.

Who should win: Kidman, who probably should have won last year for "Moulin Rouge."

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Who's nominated: Chris Cooper, "Adaptation"; Ed Harris, "The Hours"; Paul Newman, "Road to Perdition"; John C. Reilly, "Chicago"; Christopher Walken, "Catch Me If You Can."

Who will win: Walken, in a squeaker over sentimental favorite Newman.

Who should win: The underrated Cooper, though Reilly's a close second.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Who's nominated: Kathy Bates, "About Schmidt"; Queen Latifah, "Chicago"; Julianne Moore, "The Hours"; Meryl Streep, "Adaptation"; Catherine Zeta-Jones, "Chicago"

Who will win: Given that this is Oscar's least predictable category, don't be surprised if Queen Latifah takes home the gold.

Who should win: Going from serious to silly in her "Adaptation" role, Streep, of course.

BEST DIRECTOR

Who's nominated: Pedro Almodovar, "Hable Con Ella (Talk to Her)"; Stephen Daldry, "The Hours"; Rob Marshall, "Chicago"; Roman Polanski, "The Pianist"; Martin Scorsese, "Gangs of New York"

Who will win: Marshall, even if Oscar really wants to give something to Scorsese.

Who should win: Out of this group? Probably Almodovar, for his wild, weird women-in-a-coma drama.

OTHER (NEARLY) SURE BETS

"Ying xiong (Hero)," Best Foreign Film

"Bowling for Columbine," Best Documentary Feature

"Chicago," Bill Condon for Best Adapted Screenplay

"Far from Heaven," Elmer Bernstein for Best Musical Score

"Father and Daughter," composed and performed by Paul Simon (from "The Wild Thornberrys"), as Best Song

"Ice Age," Best Animated Feature

"The Chubbchubbs," Best Animated Short Film

"Chicago," Best Costume Design and Best Art Decoration-Set Decoration


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com