Here it is, and this is the truth: Sideways is still the best film of the year, but time and again in conversations I’m picking up respect (even grudging respect at times) for Alexander Payne’s masterful, emotionally rounded adult comedy-drama more than whole-hearted affection or awe. The winner in this regard is Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, which, as far as I can tell, is far and away the leading contender for the Best Picture Oscar. The third extreme likelihood, I keep hearing, is Taylor Hackford’s Ray — a decently-assembled biopic that no one dislikes (or is attacking). But Eastwood’s entry is unquestionably at the head of the pack right now because Baby is an austere and highly disciplined thing that delivers the strongest emotional kapow.