Oscars: Will 'Brokeback' Be King of the Mountain?

Will "Brokeback" be king of the "Mountain"? Or will "Crash" crash the party?

This is what Oscar-watchers were wondering heading into Sunday night's 78th annual Oscar telecast.

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The "gay cowboy" movie "Brokeback Mountain" led the Academy Award nominees with eight nods, among them Best Picture and honors for actor Heath Ledger and director Ang Lee.

But the ensemble drama "Crash" scored a big upset at the Screen Actors Guild awards in January winning best ensemble cast, and has had a lot of buzz ever since.

Also nominated for best picture were the Truman Capote story "Capote"; the Edward R. Murrow chronicle "Good Night, and Good Luck"; and the assassination thriller "Munich."

Other key questions heading into Sunday night's telecast:

Will "Walk the Line" star Reese Witherspoon walk all over "Transamerica" lead Felicity Huffman in the Best Actress category?

Huffman won the Golden Globe for best dramatic actress, while Witherspoon earned the Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy. But Witherspoon beat Huffman in the best-actress race at the SAG awards (perhaps because SAG honored Huffman that night for her work on "Desperate Housewives").

Also nominated for Best Actress: Judi Dench as a society dame who starts a nude stage revue in 1930s London in "Mrs. Henderson Presents"; Keira Knightley as the romantic heroine of the Jane Austen adaptation "Pride & Prejudice"; and Charlize Theron as a mine worker who leads a sexual-harassment lawsuit against male co-workers in "North Country."

Philip Seymour Hoffman is considered a virtual shoo-in for Best Actor for his work in "Capote," but Ledger could score an upset for his performance as a closeted cowboy.

Along with Hoffman and Ledger, the other Best Actor nominees were Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in "Walk the Line," Terrence Howard as a small-time hood turned rap singer in "Hustle & Flow" and David Strathairn as newsman Edward R. Murrow in "Good Night, and Good Luck."

"Brokeback" filmmaker Ang Lee was the clear favorite to win the Best Director Oscar.

The other contenders were Steven Spielberg for "Munich," George Clooney for "Good Night, and Good Luck," Paul Haggis for "Crash" and Bennett Miller for "Capote."

It was the first time since 1981 that the same five movies were nominated for Best Director and Best Picture. It is also the first time in Oscar history that a person was nominated simultaneously for acting in one movie as well as for directing another — George Clooney.

The supporting actor races were far more unpredictable. Among the Supporting Actor nominees — Clooney for "Syriana"; Matt Dillon for "Crash"; Paul Giamatti for "Cinderella Man"; Jake Gyllenhaal for "Brokeback Mountain" and William Hurt for "A History of Violence" — Clooney and Giamatti seemed to have the most buzz, with a late spurt for Dillon.

Giamatti won at SAG, and Clooney won at the Globes.

Among the Supporting Actress nominees — Amy Adams for "Junebug"; Catherine Keener for "Capote"; Frances McDormand for "North Country"; Rachel Weisz for "The Constant Gardener" and Michelle Williams for "Brokeback Mountain" — Weisz had the strongest buzz, followed by Williams and Keener. Weisz won at both SAG and the Globes.

Oscar nominees in most categories are chosen by specific branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, such as directors, actors and writers. The full academy membership of about 5,800 is eligible to vote in all categories for the Oscars themselves.

ABC will broadcast the Oscars live at 8 p.m. ET from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre, with Jon Stewart as host.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.