Normally, this is the column where I would be poring over the latest Academy Award nominations, looking for all of the glaring omissions and undeserving nominees.
But the inauguration bumped the Academy Award nominations from its usual Tuesday perch, and they won't be announced until 8:35 a.m. today.
So instead of pontificating, I'll do a little prognosticating.
One advantage to the glut of awards ceremonies (Golden Globes, Broadcast Film Critics Association, Screen Actors Guild nominations, etc.) is it takes much of the guess work out of things.
Barring a major upset, ''Slumdog Millionaire,'' ''The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,'' ''Milk'' and ''Frost/Nixon'' are certain Best Picture nominees and ''The Dark Knight'' is expected to grab the fifth slot.
Some think ''The Dark Knight'' is vulnerable for Best Picture, but if a movie like ''Gran Torino'' can push its way into the top five, I think ''Benjamin Button'' could be the one curiously left out.
The Oscar nominations are chosen through a complicated weighted balloting process. The way it is explained, a movie is better off being the first choice of a few people than the third choice of everyone. ''Benjamin Button'' is a movie that a lot of people seem to like but not necessarily love. If it rounds out the bottom slots on everyone's nominating ballot, a movie with a small group of vocal supporters could push ahead, like ''Gran Torino'' or, less likely, ''Doubt'' and ''The Reader.''
Usually one of the directors of a Best Picture nominee gets excluded by the Academy. If ''Button'' somehow misses Best Picture, I think David Fincher still will get a Best Director nod, along with Danny Boyle (''Slumdog''), Gus Van Sant (''Milk'') and Christopher Nolan (''Dark Knight''). Ron Howard (''Frost/Nixon'') could be the most vulnerable to be left out if the Academy decides to recognize a director like Darren Aronofsky (''The Wrestler''), Jonathan Demme (''Rachel Getting Married'') or Eastwood (''Gran Torino'').
Eastwood almost certainly will be one of the five nominees for Best Actor, along with Sean Penn (''Milk''), Mickey Rourke (''The Wrestler'') and Frank Langella (''Frost/Nixon''). I'd love to see Richard Jenkins (''The Visitor'') get recognized here, but it's hard to imagine voters not acknowledging Brad Pitt's work in ''Button.''
Kate Winslet has a much better chance of getting nominated for ''Revolutionary Road'' than her co-star Leonardo DiCaprio. Her Globe win puts her in the top tier of Best Actress contenders along with Meryl Streep (''Doubt''), Anne Hathaway (''Rachel Getting Married'') and probably Sally Hawkins (''Happy-Go-Lucky''). A groundswell behind ''Button'' could give Cate Blanchett the fifth slot, name recognition could throw it to Angelina Jolie (''Changeling'') or the Academy could look to indie (Melissa Leo in ''Frozen River'') or foreign (Kristin Scott Thomas in ''I've Loved You So Long'') films to fill the category.
Does it really matter who fills the other four slots for Best Supporting Actor with Heath Ledger's win feeling like a foregone conclusion? And while many seem to think that Penelope Cruz (''Vicky Christina Barcelona'') is the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress, I wouldn't bet against Winslet (''The Reader'') being a double nominee (and winning here).
And if you can find anyone who's willing to bet against ''WALL-E'' for Best Animated Feature, take the money and run.
I'll dissect the actual nominees later today in my blog.
Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org