Read all five parts of Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert's look ahead at the Academy Awards, "Elevating the Oscar Winners" here:
Part 1: Best Motion Picture
Best film: "Milk." I was truly shaken by how deeply I was moved by the closing shot of the candlelight parade down San Francisco's Castro Street, the memorial to the murdered Harvey Milk, who had started here and become the nation's first openly gay public official.
Part 2: Best Leading Actor
It is impossible not to be implicated with a career performance by an actor you have long observed and admired. I've met Mickey Rourke, been on locations, admired him, deplored his self-destruction (which was not by the usual Hollywood routes but because of disastrous career decisions and uncontrolled personal intensity).
Part 3: Best Leading Actress
Best Actress: Melissa Leo. What a complete performance, evoking a woman's life in a time of economic hardship. The most timely of films, but that isn't reason enough. I was struck by how intensely determined she was to make the payments, support her two children, carry on after her abandonment by a gambling husband, and still maintain rules and goals around the house. This was a heroic woman.
Part 4: Best Supporting Actor
I expect the late Heath Ledger to win the Oscar for best supporting actor for "The Dark Knight," but I'm not choosing his performance as the "most elevating" out of sympathy. It was elevating for an entirely separate reason: He transformed the character of the Joker, who we thought we knew so well, into a suffering, haunted being, stripped of all emotion except for ruthless self-pity.
Part 5: Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis, of course. She walks into "Doubt," which is a great film to begin with, and stuns us with a scene that portrays an entire reality outside the closed world of the school. She's the mother of a boy who the school principal thinks may have been abused, and in words of fire and insight, she shows how well she understands her son and the choices in his life. She pulls the ground out from under both the nun and the audience.