It may be the biggest and most rarely spoken-of dirty little secret about the
Oscars: For all of the usual blow-hard noise about 'Liberal Hollywood,' the Oscars are a surprisingly conservative institution. The average Academy voter is old, white, rich and possessed of the sort of vaguely fuzzy liberal sentiments you can only have after a lifetime of privilege. Oh, and a guy, too. When trying to read the mind of the Academy before the awards every year, I always ask "What would Ernest Borgnine do?" Just think like a multi-millionaire who's had maid service since the Eisenhower administration, and you too can deduce which films will get the big prize. This model explains why Forrest Gump wins Best Picture, and not, say, Pulp Fiction; or why Crash gets lauded for the kind of morality most of us have seen in a thousand after-school specials ... Because of Borgnine. And with that said, here's this year's most probable winners in the big categories, including what I imagine ol' Ernest might say about each.

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

"A heckufan actor -- and it's hilarious seeing a heroin-snorting grandfather! And the great plot twist with his character! What? National Lampoon's Vacation? No, never saw it; why do you ask?"

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

"That voice! Wowsers! Plus, uh, that voice! And also? That voice! Wowsers!"

Best Actor: Forrest Whittaker, The Last King of Scotland

"That Whittaker kid did a heck of a job -- and besides, Petey O'Toole owes me $20 from that time we went drinking with Angie Dickinson. ..."

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen

"Helen Mirren's performance was so amazing -- every time I looked at her, it was like staring at a piece of Canadian money. And she's had a heckufa career. ..."

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

"Look, the man's been nominated so often, let's give it to him. I mean, that Eastwood kid is okay, but Marty? Come on."

Best Picture: The Queen

"Babel? More like "Welcome to Bummertown." And Letters from Iwo Jima? Subtitles make my eyes hurt. Little Miss Sunshine's cute as a pail of kittens, but a little thin. The Departed is fun, but a little violent ... and The Queen is a great story about a powerful, aging icon in a changing world ... so, I can definitely relate."