A cursory glance through any issue of the trades (or The New York Times) at this time of year will reveal the unintended side effects of awards season -- namely that they're a hell of a revenue-generator for print and online publications. I know that you can't exactly legislate campaign-finance reform in Hollywood -- hell, we can't even legislate it in Washington -- but, good heavens. When the Oscars season was shortened a few years back, it must have been a hell of a blow to the bottom lines of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter ... until, of course, the studios realized they could spend just as much money in a shorter time. Right now, though, I'd cite the Borgnine doctrine, though -- the fact that Academy voters tend to be old, rich and, well, like Ernest Borgnine -- and say that The Queen is a shoo-in for Best Picture: Sentimental but not shocking, strikingly well-acted and if ever any group of people could sympathize with Helen Mirren's Elizabeth Regina as she wanders through a changing, uncomfortably modern world, it's older actors. United 93? Too upsetting. Babel? Too confusing. The Departed? Mmmmmaybe, but also a little violent for the gray panthers of the Actor's voting block. Dreamgirls? Possibly, thanks to razzle-dazzle .. but I think that right now, we'll all be hailing The Queen come Oscar night. I could be wrong. But then again, I could not be.

J.