First of all, what the heck is up with the original score category? Every year, tons of deserving and outstanding scores seem to get ignored by whoever determines the nominees. This year is no different. Clint Mansell’s “The Fountain” is an exquisite and original piece of composition. The Globes recognized it, but not the Academy. Same with Clint Eastwood’s simple, yet elegant theme to “Flags of Our Fathers” and another gem from Hans Zimmer in the form of “The Da Vinci Code.”

Oh well. We have what we have, and in this year’s Original Score category, the nominees are:

Gustavo Santaolalla, “Babel”
Thomas Newman, “The Good German”
Philip Glass, “Notes on a Scandal”
Javer Navarrete, “Pan’s Labyrinth”
Alexandre Desplat, “The Queen”

Santaolalla is out. He won last year for “Brokeback Mountain” and hardly anyone ever goes back to back in this category. Newman is due. He’s composed terrific works in the past such as “American Beauty,” “Road to Perdition,” and “The Shawshank Redemption,” but has never won. But “The Good German” is not his best work and it’s likely very few people have seen it. Phillip Glass is well respected in the industry, but “Notes” may suffer from the same lack of exposure as “The Good German.” The other problem with the “Notes” score is that although it’s good, it’s also very dark and forboding. Past winners tend to be more on the light and classical side, capable of standing on their own rather than being atmospheric. Finally, remember that this is a category where newcomers are frequently rewarded (see last year, where Santaollala edged out veteran John Williams despite “Memoirs of a Geisha” being the favorite).

That knocks it down to Naverette (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) vs. Desplat (“The Queen”). This could be close, and there is a feeling among many that “Pan’s Labyrinth” will sweep many of the tech categories. We think, however, that Desplat has an edge. He is a rising star among film composers and was responsible for not only one, but two exceptional scores this year (the other being “The Painted Veil,” which won the Golden Globe). Plus, “The Queen” is a Best Picture contender and has been riding a wave of momentum due to a sensational ad campaign.

Our pick: Alexandre Desplat, “The Queen”

The Best Original Song category is perhaps the one with the best chance to bust your office pool. Over the years, there have been some absolutely mind-blowing upsets. In 2003, everyone was sure U2 would triumph with “The Hands That Built America.” The voters opted for Eminem, marking the first time a rap song won the award. In 2004, the song “Al Otro Lado Del Rio,” a Spanish song from “The Motorcycle Diaries,” came out of nowhere and took the prize. Then last year, Jon Stewart was allowed to make the joke, “For those of you counting at home, 369 Mafia ‘1,’ Martin Scorsese ‘0’” when the controversial “Hustle and Flow” song beat out the more emotional selection from “Crash.”

This year’s nominees are:

“Listen” from “Dreamgirls”
“I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth”
“Love You I Do” from “Dreamgirls”
“Our Town” from “Cars”
“Patience” from “Dreamgirls”

The most begging question is did “Dreamgirls” get screwed by having three songs nominated? The possibility of a split vote appears to be too great. But if you look at it historically, maybe it’s not so bad. Both “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” had three songs nominated. Both films won the category. Of course, there was also an overwhelming consensus as to what were the best songs from those films. “Listen” appears to be the most popular and often-played piece from “Dreamgirls” but many people are partial to “Love You I Do,” which features Jennifer Hudson. So there may be a problem here.

Who stands to benefit from a “Dreamgirls” split? We’re not buying into a Best Song winner from a documentary film, at least not yet. Melissa Etheridge’s tune was very good, but it didn’t seem to be a very memorable part of the film. Randy Newman and James Taylor are collaborators on “Our Town” and both are beloved by the Academy. “Cars” has also been pushing strong in its Oscar campaign and at this past Sunday’s Grammys, “Our Town” won its category, beating out, among others, “I Need to Wake Up.”

This one could be decided by a razor-thin margin, but for now, we’re feeling that a “Dreamgirls” split will throw the award toward Newman and Taylor. There’s got to be some surprises at this year’s ceremony after all, right?

Our pick: “Our Town” from “Cars”

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