This year I'm ready for the Academy Awards.
I've schlepped my way from theatre to theatre watching film after film, spent a million hours in front of the TV watching CDs of the ones that were no longer screening, and I'm finally done.

Here's my take on what I saw. Use the comment function at the end of the article to agree or disagree with my list.

Best Film
Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Milk
Frost/Nixon
The Reader

The Reader is amazing and Kate Winslet and David Kross are stellar, but the film is long. It could easily have ended with Winslet's final scene, but it pushes on for another ten minutes and that's what I think pulls it out of contention.

Benjamin Button is an extraordinary film for its visual effects and unique story. The first 45 minutes of the film enraptures, but it slows down immensely after that. I felt little to nothing for Pitt's and Blanchett's characters. I think it a fundamental flaw that the director allows Pitt's character, with this extraordinary gift/flaw that surely would have made headlines world wide, let alone in his home town, be entirely forgotten as he grows younger and more vulnerable.

Slumdog Millionaire is unique and the pacing is great, but the romance isn't believable. It was very disconnected. My bone of contention with this film is the leading lady. I would have liked to see someone a little less "Hollywood" or in this case "Bollywood" in that role. A life of slums, prostitution, and malnutrition would have taken its toll on anyone regardless. Her flawless skin and perfect teeth proved only to take me out of the film and lose any belief I might have had in the character.

Frost/Nixon. I waited until the end to watch this film. It was worth it. A good film. I was fairly impressed considering the story was known beforehand. Frank Langella and Kevin Bacon were fabulous. Completely believable, they both drew me in entirely. If Milk wasn't on the list, I think this would have been my favourite film.

Which brings us to Milk. Sean Penn gives an incredible performance as Harvey Milk. This is the only film of the lot that I didn't want to end. I wanted more. I wanted to know what happened after Harvey died, to everyone and everything. It's not often you come across a film that can have that affect.

Who I'd like to win: Milk
Who I think will win: Benjamin Button, if it's not edged out by Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Male Actor
Brad Pitt - Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler
Sean Penn - Milk
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor

Brad Pitt is okay when you see him, and he does a great job of the ADRs, but I think the majority of the most impactual moments on screen come from the performances created by the combination of stand-in actors and the digital work in post production. Not enough of a performance by Pitt to warrant an Oscar.

Mickey Rourke. You've got to admire the work put in to this role, and I'm glad he got the Golden Globe for this role. But is it Oscar worthy? I don't think so. Rourke does a great job bouncing around as a wrestler and if there was an Oscar for best wrestler impersonation, he'd win it hands down. It almost felt like he was hiding behind those tights.

Frank Langella is incredible. If you haven't seen this film, you absolutely must. Langella plays Nixon with such believability it felt like you were watching Nixon in real time. I think it will be a close race between Langella and Penn with Langella winning by an edge.

Sean Penn. What can you say about Penn that hasn't been said before. He's stellar, and delivers a hundred fold on his portrayal of Harvey Milk. Penn isn't afraid to delve into eccentric difficult roles and he does it with ease and flare. I must say though, that I'm torn. Although I truly loved Penn's performance, I felt it was almost too easy. Like giving a gangster role to Pacino.

Richard Jenkins. I have to say I liked this performance the best out of all the male contenders. Jenkins is solid and creates a character both lovable and believable. It's a subtle, mono-toned role (for the most part) within which Jenkins disappears. This, I believe, is an incredibly difficult thing to do, and the true mastery of his craft. The only two who could really give him a run for his money, are Penn and Langella.

Who I'd like to win: Richard Jenkins
Who I think will win: Frank Langella

Best Female Actor