James Surowiecki has an interesting point at the New Yorker:
The funny thing, though, is that Hazlett’s broader point, about the Oscar voters foolishly ignoring popular films this year, is right—though not for the reasons she thinks. There’s no doubt, after all, that the most popular film of the year, “Wall-E,” was also among the best, yet it went unnominated for Best Picture. And one could similarly make a case for Christopher Nolan’s excellent if flawed “Dark Knight,” which was a huge box-office smash. The problem with the Oscar voters isn’t that they love small, independent films like “Frozen River” too much. The problem is that they think tasteful, middlebrow dramas like “The Reader” are necessarily more artistic or serious than a movie like “Wall-E.” This year, at least, the Oscar voters should have more paid more attention to what ordinary people liked, not because it would have made for great television, but because it would have made for better nominations.
I'm not altogether sure I agree. "Wall-E" was not snubbed this year, and is a shoe-in to win best animated feature (Animated Feature is the official Pixar category... just you try to convince me that "Ratatouille" had more artistic merit than "Persepolis"). If the academy relies to heavily on middle-brow, it is because it is try to find the mid-point between the popular and the artistic. A movie based on a comic-book can never be nominated for Best Picture, but a movie too dark for the audiences tender sensibilities could never win.
My thinking: Sean Penn will win for "Milk", Kate Winslet will win for playing a concentration camp guard in "the Reader", and Heath Ledger will be awarded posthumously.