Well, the big night is almost upon us. And the biggest question of the night remains who will walk away with the evening’s top prize: Best Picture. No doubt Brokeback Mountain is your clear favorite, having won every conceivable precursor award, including last night’s Independent Spirit Award. But surveys of actual Academy voters have unearthed a strong support base for Crash. Besides, there always remains that burning question in the back of everyone’s minds…can a movie dealing with the controversial subject of homosexuality (in a Western no doubt) win over an Academy that is still fairly conservative in many regards? Here’s some things to watch for as the early awards are presented.

 * The supporting categories. Supporting actor looks like a race between Clooney and Giamatti, but if Matt Dillon pulls off the improbable upset – watch out! Crash could very well be headed for a Shakepeare in Love type of monumental upset. On the other hand, if Michelle Williams (who’s picking up momentum recently) beats out Rachel Weisz for supporting actress, then you can bet Brokeback will cruise to a Best Picture win.

* Cinematography. Brokeback is the favorite here, but Memoirs of a Geisha can’t be counted out, especially after it won the ASC award. If Geisha prevails here, it will be a sure sign of weakness for Brokeback Mountain. On another note, A Geisha victory in this category might enable it to finish with the most number of total Oscar wins (along with Costume Design, Art Direction, and Score). Brokeback, even if it won all the other expected categories, would only finish with three. This would mark the first time in over a decade that a non-Best Picture nominee amassed the most total wins.

* Crash vs. Good Night and Good Luck in the original screenplay shootout. If voters decide to reward Giamatti for past snubs, then Clooney’s best chances to walk away with something will come down to this. But if the Academy does indeed swing screenplay Clooney’s way, it will also reveal a lack of passionate support for Crash, which clearly was the better and more clever script. In such a scenario, expect that Brokeback will have no problem securing Best Picture.