Despite February’s recurring status as life’s off-season, we’ve had a quite an exciting second month. The Patriots won their second Super Bowl in three years in one of the greatest games of all time, but I’m convinced that only happened in February due to a scheduling error. The Grammys once again annoyed music fans everywhere because the voters screwed up their ballots and honored the wrong artists. Evanescence as best new artist? Let’s get real. 50 Cent should have pistol-whipped those fake misfit Goths as he sauntered through their acceptance speech. The Yankees just bought the entire American League, but I’m still confident that the entire team will implode in September in a giant war of egos. And in more serious news, the presidential race is heating up, as John Kerry’s Botox-riddled face appears to be running away with the Democratic nomination, while George W. attempts to explain what exactly the Texas Air National Guard did during the ’60s.

And now the Oscars are upon us! Twelve hours of pre-game on E!, followed by 12 hours of post-game and way too many hours of Joan Rivers. The television really ought to mute itself whenever she opens her big, geriatric yapper. And we’ll all sit riveted, or at least passively pay attention to the spectacle so that we have something to discuss with the cosmo-drinking lady at the end of the bar next weekend.

So here’s my Oscar preview. Let’s just assume that I’ve seen all these movies and that I’m an informed movie critic. The fact is that I haven’t seen all these movies and that I’m far from an informed movie critic, but that’s why the Internet is here — to fill all the gaping holes in my knowledge.

Let’s start with the nominees for Best Picture. I would start with Best Makeup, but, well, that award just isn’t that important.

“Cold Mountain.” This movie wasn’t actually nominated, but I just want to rant about how it’s overrated. I actually did see this epic Civil War film, and if my chair hadn’t been so darn comfortable, I would’ve fled in horror. What a downer! Within the first five minutes of the movie, soldiers were being blown to smithereens, killed facedown in the mud, and gored by bayonets. And what were the producers thinking, casting two actors from the British commonwealth as the leads? Nicole Kidman and Jude Law have the worst Southern accents one could possibly imagine. I didn’t buy their characters for a second. It’s no wonder that the most interesting part of this movie was the giant bucket of popcorn that I ate within the first 15 minutes.

“Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.” On principle, I refuse to sit through a movie that is three-and-a-half hours long. And inexplicably the Lord of the Rings series has somehow crossed over into mainstream legitimacy. I just can’t divorce myself from the notion that being a fan of the Lord of the Rings used to brand someone a huge nerd. This is undoubtedly the favorite, and given the competition, there’s a very good chance this film could take every category in which it’s nominated. Especially Best Makeup.

“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.” Not one female appeared in this film. It takes place on a ship off the coast of South America. And, to quote the official synopsis, “doctor Stephen Maturin takes an injured young midshipman under his wing and shares his studies as a naturalist with the boy.” Yikes. Older men mentoring young boys? The very appearance of the phrase “take under one’s wing? Look for a constitutional amendment to ban the screening of this movie in the next few months.

“Mystic River.” What a surprise: Sean Penn plays yet another creepy role in a depressing movie. There’s a good chance that he’ll walk away with best actor honors. I’m pulling for that; his acceptance speech could be priceless. A giant political rant that just makes everyone feel ridiculously uncomfortable. Maybe he’ll be eliminated as a result of the Patriot Act by a Terminator-clad Governor Schwarzenegger.

“Seabiscuit.” Nope, didn’t see this movie either. Heard it was good. Apparently the horseracing scenes were “poetry in motion.” I believe that favorite canned phrase of the critics has described scores of bad action films, especially in the ’80s. I would go see this movie, largely so that I could admire Jeff Bridges the entire time. He should have retired after “The Big Lebowski.” That was the pinnacle of American cinema. Although I do hear that his role in “Seabiscuit” has a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous.

“Lost in Translation.” I actually managed to see this movie. Thoroughly depressing. I left the theatre in a haze of self-loathing and hopelessness. I don’t understand why this movie is so critically acclaimed. Bill Murray is a genius, and I admire this transition from comedic mastermind to serious actor, but I found this movie boring and unbearably slow. And I can’t believe there hasn’t been a protest about the movie’s depiction of the Japanese; far from politically correct — not that I’m complaining. And Sofia Coppola, the film’s director, needs a style consultant. At the Golden Globes, she appeared to be wearing a black trash bag.

So there you have it. My Oscar preview consists of one category. And I did make my prediction for Best Makeup. Enjoy the festivities. And have the mute button ready for Joan Rivers.

Robert Schrum wants a little golden man.