2005 was the year of the little movies that took big risks. Movie studios took major leaps of faiths on films that could have fallen flat on their faces, but instead caught the admiration of critics and moviegoers alike.And although all five movies up for best picture; Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck and Munich are each different in their own right, each film did something quite similar. They broke the status quo and made 2005 one of the most influential years in cinema history.Best Picture:Brokeback MountainCapoteCrashGood Night, and Good LuckMunich.If it were any other year, Munich would have been the sure-fire thing for Best Picture. Steven Spielberg’s taut thriller based upon the tragedy at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany and the events that followed were nearly flawless in its execution. Capote flawlessly captured the life of the famed In Cold Blood writer. Good Night, and Good Luck reminded us just how similar today’s political climate is to the Joe McCarthy era.Crash didn’t shy away from illustrating the racial tensions that brew in Los Angeles.2005 was the year of Brokeback Mountain, and deservedly so. Call it “the gay cowboy movie” all you like, laugh along with the jokes made by almost every comedian on the planet, but none of that can really take away from the masterpiece that this movie truly is. The movie packs a deep emotional punch and it stays with you long after the credits roll. It is a movie that showed love has no boundaries. Moviegoers haven’t been able to quit Brokeback Mountain, and neither will Academy voters.Best Director:George Clooney- Good Night, and Good LuckPaul Haggis- CrashAng Lee- Brokeback MountainBennett Miller- CapoteSteven Spielberg- MunichThese directors brought films to life dealing with racism, terrorism, homosexuality and political controversies, subject matter with the potential for disaster. Perhaps no film this year had a greater captain than Brokeback Mountain’s Ang Lee. Lee is best known for his directorial work with films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Hulk. With Brokeback Mountain, he pushed this quietly effective story to movie perfection.Best Actor:Philip Seymour Hoffman- CapoteTerence Howard- Hustle & FlowHeath Ledger- Brokeback MountainJoaquin Phoenix- Walk the LineDavid Strathairn- Good Night, and Good LuckCategories like Best Actor make it near impossible to pick one nominee over another. Whether it was acting veterans finally getting their recognition (Stratairn) to the introduction of breakthrough stars to the screen (Howard), 2005 was a great year for men.Joaquin Phoenix pulled the one-two punch of both flawlessly singing and acting the part of the legendary Johnny Cash. Philip Seymour Hoffman has nearly dominated the awards circuit for his spot as famed writer Truman Capote. And to many, Hoffman may be on top of the Vegas odds, but look for Ledger to ride off with Oscar gold. His performance as the haunted and lonely Ennis is the stuff movie dreams are made of.Best Actress:Judi Dench- Mrs. Henderson PresentsFelicity Huffman- TransamericaKiera Knightley- Pride & PrejudiceCharlize Theron- North CountryReese Witherspoon- Walk the LineWith a year of no dying mothers or hookers with a heart of gold, the race for Best Actress was left open for some other daring performances. Felicity Huffman, who saw a big year in 2005 with Transamerica and on TV with Desperate Housewives, grabbed Academy attention with her gutsy performance as a transsexual.Kiera Knightley proved that she was far more than a pretty face and Charlize Theron showed she could miss the post-Oscar slump so many actresses seem to suffer from. But no one did it better than Reese this year. Her shining portrayal of the legendary June Carter Cash transitioned her from America’s sweetheart to Oscar’s front-runner.Best Supporting Actor:George Clooney- SyrianaMatt Dillon- CrashPaul Giamatti- Cinderella ManJake Gyllenhaal- Brokeback MountainWilliam Hurt- A History of ViolenceMatt Dillon played a highly dislikeable character but still captivated the audience. Jake Gyllenhaal played a man who can never truly have the love he so badly wants and in the process, breaks moviegoers’ hearts. William Hurt is on screen for only ten minutes and still makes one of the year’s most striking performances. Paul Giamatti came out swinging again this year with a scene-stealing role as a boxing manager. But it was Clooney who pulled this year’s hat trick (nominated for acting, writing and directing) and it’s at the Oscars that he’ll walk away a winner.Best Supporting Actress:Amy Adams- JunebugCatherine Keener- CapoteFrances McDormand- North CountryRachel Weisz- The Constant GardenerMichelle Williams- Brokeback MountainThe Best Supporting Actress race is notorious for upsets. Travel back to 1993 when Marisa Tomei won for her comedic role in My Cousin Vinny, a win no one saw coming. Both Amy Adams and Michelle Williams became darlings of the critics this year with their roles in Junebug and Brokeback Mountain.This year Rachel Weisz is already ahead of the race and dominated both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor’s Guild. Still, in this category predictions are never a sure thing but it’s this suspense that makes the Oscars so exciting for any movie fan.The 78th Academy Awards will air on ABC on March 5th.Aly Semigran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.