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Get in the game, everyone, and make your picks

It's the movie lovers Super Bowl. The film critics World Series. The entertainment junkies heavyweight title bout.

OK, I've run out of sports metaphors, but you get the picture. The annual Academy Awards telecast is a chance for industry experts and armchair procrastinators -- even those who haven't seen all the nominees -- to weigh in on whose name they think should be read when the envelope opens. Do you have your pick?

Here's who should win and who likely will come out the victor.


Should win: Jennifer Hudson. The scene-stealer supreme of "Dreamgirls" has had a storybook rise to fame. From "American Idol" reject to Academy Award front-runner. Proof that sheer talent still counts.

Will win: Hudson. Get that acceptance speech ready, girl. I'm expecting tears.


Should: Alan Arkin. Twice nominated, never a winner, the veteran actor's turn as a grumpy old man with heart anchors the dysfunctional family comedy "Little Miss Sunshine."

Will: Eddie Murphy. His thinly disguised James Brown was good, soulful even, in "Dreamgirls." But "Norbit," really? You follow up all that good will by getting into a fat suit?


Should: Helen Mirren. Regal doesn't even begin to cover her performance as the prim, prickly monarch in "The Queen." She made me care about Queen Elizabeth's feelings and, even more importantly, made me think of her as a person.

Will: Mirren. All hail the queen.


Should: Forest Whitaker. The journeyman actor has been consistently amazing in a series of roles and finally is receiving the credit he so richly deserves in "The Last King of Scotland." But I'd be lying if I didn't have a soft, mushy spot in my heart for the charming Peter O'Toole. Perhaps they could tie?

Will: Whitaker. If you can make a dictator like Idi Amin charismatic and sympathetic, well, you've got a future in this business, kid.


Should: Martin Scorsese. With five directing nods and no wins, it's his time. Plus, the director's taut, classic style is in full display in the mobster saga "The Departed." Susan Lucci no more.

Will: Scorsese. If anyone other than Marty's name is read come Oscar night, the room will gasp. Audibly.


Should: "The Queen." Stephen Frears' concise, cutting portrait of the monarchy in crisis is a pitch-perfect piece of moviemaking. Mirren's performance is the year's best, hands down. And the film packs an unexpected emotional punch. Stiff upper lip, indeed.

Will: "The Departed." It's Scorsese's year, though if any film can knock the tale of crime and punishment off the podium, I predict it will be dark horse (or should I say light horse) "Little Miss Sunshine." The feel-good story of a family, its beat-up VW bus and a beauty pageant is the lone sunny entry in a year of somber, serious offerings.