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Oscar '00 Nominee Predictions

Opening Commentary:  When the year ended, I seriously thought that this was going to be one of the more wide-open ceremonies.  But, as Oscar has continued, it has become more and more apparent what most of the races will run down to.  There is still a chance that something could come up and throw most of my predictions to the wind (like a near shutout of Gladiator), but I'm not expecting any upset like last year (when The Green Mile threw most of my predictions off).

Needless to say, if a film like Finding Forrester does this year what The Green Mile did last year, I will have to rethink nearly everything that I considered to be a precursor for next year's ceremony to get this kink out of the system.

Nota Bene: I am not the king of Oscar nominee predictions. Alex Fung is much better at the nominees. My claim to fame is predicting the winners, where I have won a competition for three straight years (and that's not even including the year that I predicted the Juliette Binoche upset in 1996). The week before the Academy Awards, I'll have a special column out on who should win and who will win. Take that closer to home -- take this with a grain of salt.

In parenthesis are awards and nominations given in that category (NBR = National Board of Review, LAFC = Los Angles Film Critics, NYFC = New York Film Critics, BFC = Boston Film Critics, TFC = Toronto Film Critics, BrFC = Broadcast Film Critics, SDFC = San Diego Film Critics, NSFC = National Society of Film Critics, CFC = Chicago Film Critics, FFC = Florida Film Critics, SeFC = Southeastern Film Critics, KFC = Kansas Film Critics, LVFC = Las Vegas Film Critics, DFC = Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics, PFC = Phoenix Film Critics, OFCS = Online Film Critics Society, EFA = European Film Awards, BAFTA = British Academy Awards, GS = Golden Satellites, GG = Golden Globes, IS = Independent Spirit Awards, WGA = Writers Guild, SAG = Screen Actors Guild, PGA = Producers Guild, ASC = Society of Cinematographers, ACE = Cinema Editors, ADG = Art Directors, CDG = Costume Designers Guild, MAG = Makeup Artists Guild, MPSE = Sound Editors, CAS = Cinema Audio Society, DGA = Directors Guild; [H] = Honorary Award, W = Winner, N = Nominee or Runner-Up).  And *** denotes a film or artist that has a pretty good chance of upsetting my top five (I will have no more than 3 in a category).


Best Picture

11 February Predictions – 4 of 5 from 21 December
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (W: NBR [H], LAFC, TFC; N: NYFC, BrFC, CFC, SeFC, DFC, OFCS, EFA, BAFTA, IS, PGA)
Erin Brockovich (W: LVFC; N: BFC, BrFC, SeFC, DFC, EFA, BAFTA, GS, GG, PGA)
Gladiator (W: BrFC, GG; N: NBR, DFC, EFA, BAFTA, GS, PGA)

Other Possibilities: ***Billy Elliot, Cast Away, ***Chocolat, The Contender, Dancer in the Dark, Finding Forrester, The House of Mirth, ***Quills, Requiem for a Dream, Sunshine, Thirteen Days, Wonder Boys, You Can Count On Me.

When people refer to 2000, what will be the film that notes it?  Last year it was American Beauty; 1997 it was Titanic; 1993 it was Schindler's List.   But I cannot help but wonder what it will be this year.  So many films are vying for the attention that it could be any one of six or seven entries for 2000, meaning that the final test will probably be who wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

The biggest production of the year, Gladiator, seems poised to do the duty of being 2000's representative film.  It was melancholy and melodramatic storytelling at its best -- like it or not.  With huge production design, it displays all the toys that Hollywood has to tinker with, even when they need a foreign cast, director, and crew to do it (though it worked for The English Patient in 1996).

But there is always the chance that a foreign language film might do the duty.  Life is Beautiful became a cross-over hit in 1998, garnering enough attention to gain a Best Picture nomination.  And this year it looks to be done again with Ang Lee's mythical adventure Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  With enough to make even the most subtitle weary viewer excited, Crouching Tiger could very well become the film of the year.

That's the Oscar Best Picture race in a nutshell -- two films vying for the attention that could catapult one to forever being remembered as "the movie of 2000."  That's not to say that either of the films are truly the best films of the year (for my money, that title goes to Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream), but they seem to be the front-runners in a category that could be more up in the air this year than in most years past (with the exception of 1998, when there was literally an upset in Academy Award win for Shakespeare in Love over favorite Saving Private Ryan).  In my mind, Crouching Tiger has the edge that should bring it to a win.  But, I regress; it is too early to tell.

There was a time when Steven Soderbergh's Traffic looked to be the film to beat, but that is not the case anymore.  After the loss of the Golden Globe, things are not looking so rose-colored now.  The film still has a great chance of getting a nomination, though the win is becoming increasingly unlikely despite all the critical kudos rained on it.

That other Soderbergh film of the year, Erin Brockovich, is lucky to even have a chance at a nomination.  I'm not saying that it is a bad film, but this crowd pleasing early-in-the-year release has a huge hurdle to go over: the fact that it is nothing like any of the Academy elders would vote for.  It may have a important social story to tell, but so does the much edgier Traffic (which will have more help from younger Academy voters).  Brockovich's nomination is likely but far from a sure thing.

For my fifth prediction, I'm turning to the year's biggest little film, Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous.  With a handful of critical notices, the film could walk its way into that last spot if the other competitors are not strong enough.

And that's where the rub comes in: the Academy loves itself.  They love the ideas of acting, directing, writing -- they live to make art.  For that very reason, films about making something beyond censorship could very well weigh in high with the Academy.   The little boy that brings out the ballet dancer inside to the chagrin of his working class father, the impoverished writer left to sulk on his perverse verse because of a dictum against his written erotica, and the chocolate maker removed from society because of her creations' divine pleasures during the holiday of Lent all have a chance of making their mark with the Academy.  Of course, that is if Billy Elliot, Quills, and Chocolat do not cancel each other out.

Meanwhile, I still have this weird feeling that something from left field will emerge.  If that does happen, my money is on the historical drama Thirteen Days.  With the Academy is extremely to the left, and I would not be wholly surprised if they latch on to something that sings the praises of one of America's most noted Democrats.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Best Director

11 February Predictions – 4 of 5 from 21 December
Ang Lee - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (W: GG; N: LAFC, NYFC, TFC, BrFC, NSFC, CFC, DFC, OFCS, BAFTA, GS, IS, DGA)
Ridley Scott - Gladiator (N: BrFC, LVFC, DFC, BAFTA, GS, GG, DGA)
Steven Soderbergh - Erin Brockovich (W: NBR, LAFC, NYFC, BrFC, NSFC, FFC, LVFC; N: BFC, BAFTA, GS, GG, DGA)
Steven Soderbergh - Traffic (W: NBR, LAFC, NYFC, TFC, BrFC, NSFC, FFC, SeFC, KFC, LVFC, DFC, PFC, GS; N: BFC, CFC, OFCS, BAFTA, GG, DGA)
Robert Zemeckis - Cast Away (N: BrFC, CFC, LVFC)

Other Possibilities: Darren Aronofsky for Requeim for a Dream, ***Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous, ***Stephen Daldry for Billy Elliot, Terence Davies for House of Mirth, Roger Donaldson for Thirteen Days, ***Lasse Hallström for Chocolat, Curtis Hanson for Wonder Boys, Philip Kaufman for Quills, Kenneth Lonergan for You Can Count on Me, Rod Lurie for The Contender, István Szabó for Sunshine, Gus van Sant for Finding Forrester, Lars von Trier for Dancer in the Dark.

And then there were four.  Soderbergh's got it, twice; Lee's a safe-bet, and Scott is sure to come in with his film.  That leaves only that fifth position in the air.  I am going with the Academy's restraint from having identical Best Picture and Best Director ballots and betting on a nomination for someone other than Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous.   One of the few reasons that it could be seen that Crowe is destined for a nomination is that his film is one that would do better with the director's branch -- he did fail to get a nomination for Jerry Maguire back in 1996, which may help his chances here for a first nomination.

Stephen Daldry and his film Billy Elliot could very possibly throw out most of my predictions this year.  There is a chance that the film could be a huge draw for the Academy this year, with a nomination in Best Picture leading into a Best Director nomination (I am especially reminded of Peter Cattaneo getting a nomination for The Full Monty in 1997).

There is also the Miramax factor, with Lasse Hallström picking up a nomination in the event that their push for Chocolat pays off.  I would not bank on the scenerio, but it is still a possibility -- much like Philip Kaufman in the event that Quills' marketing pays off.

My money is on Robert Zemeckis for Cast Away, which was one of the more stunning looking films this past year.  Something tells me that the Academy will welcome the film better than some of the guilds have, which means that it may come in to more categories than the expected Best Actor nomination for Tom Hanks.  I would not be surprised if Zemeckis and the film are nearly shut-out, but he does seem to be the likely number five in my mind.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Ang Lee – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Best Actor

11 February Predictions – 4 of 5 from 21 December
Javier Bardem - Before Night Falls (W: NBR, NYFC, NSFC, SeFC; N: LAFC, BFC, BrFC, CFC, PFC, GG, IS)
Russell Crowe - Gladiator (W: BrFC, SDFC, DFC; N: LVFC, OFCS, BAFTA, GS, GG, SAG)
Michael Douglas - Wonder Boys (W: LAFC, SeFC, GS; N: BrFC, CFC, LVFC, DFC, PFC, OFCS, BAFTA, GG)
Tom Hanks - Cast Away (W: NYFC, OFCS, GG; N: BFC, BrFC, NSFC, CFC, LVFC,
Geoffrey Rush - Quills (W: FFC, KFC, LVFC, PFC, GS; N: BrFC, CFC, SeFC,

Other Possibilities: Christian Bale for American Psycho, ***Jamie Bell for Billy Elliot, ***Sean Connery for Finding Forrester, Michael Douglas for Traffic, Ralph Fiennes for Sunshine, ***Ed Harris for Pollock, Mark Ruffalo for You Can Count on Me, Denzel Washington for Remember the Titans, Chow Yun-Fat for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Remember what I said about Russell Crowe getting a nomination for Gladiator back in December. Well, I take it back -- he has picked up so much momentum that he seems nearly destined to fill a spot in the Best Actor race. That leaves Sean Connery and Ed Harris out, both of whom had great chances back then (and both of whom failed to get nominations from the Screen Actors Guild).

Tom Hanks and Geoffrey Rush both look like they will get nominations thanks to a growing admiration for their performances from the critics and for their films from the audiences. Hanks may even win -- making him a three-time winner in merely one decade. Walter Huston would be proud.

When the Screen Actors Guild nominations came out not too long ago, it began to settle in that Michael Douglas and Javier Bardem (in my opinion, the two finest lead male performances this year) might not make it even though they were once huge frontrunners. I think that one will surely make it in, but the chance of both of them is growing more and more doubtful.

Who'll take that fifth spot if either Bardem or Douglas fall? My guess is young Jamie Bell for the title character in Billy Elliot. That film could very well do gangbusters with the Academy and Bell could be one of its 'surprise' notices (which could also lead to nominations for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Original Screenplay). I seriously think that he gives a great performance, especially for his age, but beside Bardem and Douglas, Bell seems like a, well, 90-pound weakling.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Tom Hanks – Cast Away.

Best Actress

11 February Predictions – 4 of 5 from 21 December
Joan Allen - The Contender (N: BrFC, CFC, LVFC,
Juliette Binoche - Chocolat (N: BAFTA, GG, SAG)
Ellen Burstyn - Requiem for a Dream (W: BFC, TFC, FFC, SeFC, KFC, LVFC, PFC, OFCS, GS; N: NYFC, BrFC, NSFC, CFC, DFC, GG, IS, SAG)
Laura Linney - You Can Count on Me (W: NYFC, TFC, SDFC, NSFC, DFC; N: LAFC, BFC, BrFC, CFC, SeFC, PFC, OFCS, GS, GG, IS, SAG)
Julia Roberts - Erin Brockovich (W: NBR, LAFC, BrFC, SDFC, GG; N: BFC, CFC, LVFC,

Other Possibilities: ***Gillian Anderson for The House of Mirth, ***Björk for Dancer in the Dark, Brenda Blethyn for Saving Grace, Michelle Rodriguez for Girlfight, Michelle Yeoh for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, ***Renée Zellweger for Nurse Betty.

This one of the nicer acting categories since we have a lock of four actresses and a fifth that is in the air. Hollywood's girlfriend Julia Roberts, true best actress of the year Ellen Burstyn, indie respectability magnet Joan Allen, and critic's darling Laura Linney look to go on the road to nominations -- only a vendetta welding Price-Waterhouse worker could keep them from making the final five.

That raises the question of who can take the fifth slot. Gillian Anderson has a pretty good chance to get a nomination. She is supposedly well liked in the industry and her film has been well received by art house denizens. Nevertheless, her failure to receive nominations from both the Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is making her seem less and less likely.

That leaves the race open to two comedic actresses: Renée Zellweger, who won the Golden Globe for Nurse Betty, and Juliette Binoche, who received a SAG nomination for Chocolat. Considering the indelible quirkiness of the former's film and performance, I'm putting the slot down for Binoche. It's always great to see the dazzling Juliette Binoche get a nomination, though I actually consider Zellweger to have given the better performance.

And then there are three actresses that are so close to my heart that I can only hope for some huge Roberts/Allen upset that will make room for Björk (Dancer in the Dark), Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight), and Cate Blanchett (The Gift). As of this moment, the only one that has a chance in hell to actually make the five is Björk, though her wild child persona might not bode well with Academy voters.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Ellen Burstyn – Requeim for a Dream.

Best Supporting Actor

11 February Predictions – 4 of 5 from 21 December
Jeff Bridges - The Contender (N: GS, GG, SAG)
Willem Dafoe - Shadow of the Vampire (W: LAFC, PFC, GS; N: NYFC, SDFC, NSFC, CFC,
Albert Finney - Erin Brockovich (W: DFC; N: BFC, BrFC, CFC, LVFC, OFCS, BAFTA, GS, GG, SAG)
Joaquin Phoenix - Gladiator (W: NBR, BrFC, SDFC [H]; N: SeFC, LVFC,

Other Possibilities: Michael Caine for Quills, Billy Crudup for Almost Famous, ***Bruce Greenwood for Thirteen Days, ***Philip Seymour Hoffman for Almost Famous, ***Gary Lewis for Billy Elliot, Tobey Maguire for Wonder Boys, Gary Oldman for The Contender, Oliver Reed for Gladiator.

This is one category that has consistently mad during the race for the nominations. It's not as much that the category is hard to predict, but that so many of my favorites are nearly sure to be left out. What would it take to get a nomination for James Woods in The Virgin Suicides?

As for the actual contenders, it looks like Willem Dafoe, Albert Finney, and Benicio Del Toro will all get deserving nominations (though I thought that Michael Douglas did a better job in Traffic than Del Toro). Each of the three has received relatively enough attention to make a nomination visible on the horizon. Joaquin Pheonix is also a strong possibility, though the vote split that stopped Julianne Moore for getting a Supporting Actress nomination last year (split between Cookie's Fortune, Magnolia, A Map of the World, and An Ideal Husband) could keep him out (thanks to his appearances in Gladiator, The Yards, and Quills).

So we are once again looking at a fifth position that's up for grabs. I had my money down on Bruce Greenwood for Thirteen Days before the Screen Actors Guild brought out their nominations, where he was left out. I'm still not convinced that he's out of the running, but the failure to get a nomination does not bode well, all the same.

I went with old Jeff Bridges for The Contender even though precursors have not been too kind to him this year (and understandably -- his performance was not bad but far from notable). But he did get the fifth Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nomination, which gives him more weight than notices from all the critic's groups. He could be replaced by the far superior Gary Oldman performance in the same film, but Oldman's bad mouthing of the film could void his chances with industry friends of Rod Lurie and Steven Spielberg (and there are many -- for the latter, that is).

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Benicio Del Toro – Traffic.

Best Supporting Actress

11 February Predictions – 4 of 5 from 21 December
Judi Dench - Chocolat (N: BrFC, SDFC,
Kate Hudson - Almost Famous (W: LAFC, BrFC [H], FFC [H], KFC, LVFC,
Frances McDormand - Almost Famous (W: BFC, BrFC, SDFC, FFC, SeFC; N: NYFC, NSFC, CFC, LVFC,
Julie Walters - Billy Elliot (N: BFC, BrFC, CFC,
Zhang Ziyi - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (N: LAFC, TFC, CFC, OFCS, BAFTA, IS)

Other Possibilities: Marcia Gay Harden for Pollock, Rosemary Harris for Sunshine, ***Elaine May for Small Time Crooks, Frances McDormand for Wonder Boys, ***Kate Winslet for Quills, ***Catherine Zeta-Jones for Traffic.

Dame Judi Dench will probably get the nomination that I predicted way back when -- an amalgamation of love for the actress, support for the film, and sympathy for the recent death of her husband. It is a perfect performance for a nomination in this category. I can really see the most conservative voters rallying to her side.

Meanwhile, the ladies from Almost Famous look to do what Jennifer Tilly and Dianne Weist in this category with Woody Allen's Bullets over Broadway. Each one has gone far beyond probably and have settled into inevitable.

The other two nominations are up for grabs. I'm going with Julie Walters for one since it seems like the type of character that is often embraced in this category -- just ask Brenda Blethyn, who rode the same train into a nomination with Little Voice two years ago. I keep thinking that Billy Elliot will go far beyond what I'm predicting it in (see my commentary in Best Actor and Best Picture), and this is one of the first categories it will grab up if that does happen.

My fifth spot is pretty much a cordial guess of Zhang Ziyi -- a conjecture based on the idea that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as very well received by the Academy. Ziyi is most certainly deserving and hope that she can ride into a nomination (preferably instead of one of the four 'locks').

Catherine Zeta-Jones could have received a nomination if it did not feel like she and her new husband are lobbying for more attention than they really deserve. Both are fine actors, but I'd rather not be forced to delve into their personal life every time I glance at a cover of People magazine. I think that the Academy actor's branch is probably feeling the same way.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Kate Hudson – Almost Famous.

Best Adapted Screenplay

11 February Predictions – 4 of 5 from 21 December
Chocolat - Robert Nelson Jacobs (W: SDFC; N:
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Wang Hui Ling, James Schamus, and Tsai Kuo Jung (N: BAFTA,
Quills - Doug Wright (W: PFC, GS; N: BrFC, LVFC, OFCS, GG)
Traffic - Stephen Gaghan (W: BrFC, SeFC, GG; N: NSFC, CFC, LVFC, PFC, OFCS, BAFTA, GS,
Wonder Boys - Steven Kloves (W: BFC, BrFC, LVFC; N: LAFC, NSFC, CFC, SeFC, PFC, OFCS, BAFTA, GG,

Other Possibilities: ***All the Pretty Horses by Ted Tally, Before Night Falls by Lazaro Gomez, Carriles Cunnigham O'Keefe, and Julian Schnabel, ***High Fidelity by D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, and John Cusack, House of Mirth by Terence Davies, Meet the Parents by James Herzfeld and John Hamburg, O Brother, Where Art Thou? by Joel and Ethan Coen, Pollock by Susan Emshwiller and Barbara Turner, Requiem for a Dream by Darren Aronofsky, ***Thirteen Days by David Self.

The Miramax machine will probably pay off with a nomination for Chocolat's screenplay even if the film does not find itself in the final five for Best Picture.  I was not too sure of this for a while, but the Writers Guild of America nomination drove the nails on the coffin for Ted Tally's All the Pretty Horses screenplay (at least in my predictions), opening the spot for Chocolat writer Robert Nelson Jacobs.  On a side note, I think that if Miramax had kept the long version of All the Pretty Horses (yes, it is from the same production company of Chocolat -- so they are effectively robbing Peter to pay Paul), it would have had a far better chance gaining a nomination here and could have been a more potent choice for Best Picture consideration.

I now feel that Chocolat has a death grip on its nomination, joining Traffic and Wonder Boys as films that will undoubtedly be mentioned come Tuesday morning.   Between the massive amount of attention that the Stephen Gaghan and Steven Kloves screenplay have brought from the critics organizations and the Miramax time-honored campaigning, only two spots are up in the air.

I continue to think that Quills has a good chance of taking some major award nominations, including here.  Even though the film has dwindled in Oscar attention over the past few weeks, it still poses somewhat of a threat, especially considering its anticensorship stance.  Still, I cannot help but worry about that lack of a Writers Guild of America nomination.

But the Writers Guild did mention Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's foreign language script and High Fidelity's hilariously cocky script in their nominations, which help the campaigns of both films.  I'm still not certain on the latter's chances (though I would not be too surprised if it did happen), but I am seriously considering Crouching Tiger to be a major contender for the fifth nomination.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Wonder Boys – Steven Kloves.

Best Original Screenplay

11 February Predictions – 4 of 5 from 21 December
Almost Famous - Cameron Crowe (W: BFC, BrFC, SDFC, SeFC, PFC, OFCS; N: CFC, LVFC, BAFTA, GS, GG,
Billy Elliot - Lee Hall (N: BAFTA, GS,
Erin Brockovich - Susannah Grant (W: LVFC; N: BrFC, BAFTA, GS,
State and Main - David Mamet (W: FFC; N: CFC, OFCS, GS)
You Can Count on Me - Kenneth Lonergan (W: NBR [H], LAFC, TFC, NSFC, GS; N: BrFC, CFC, SeFC, PFC, OFCS, GG, IS,

Other Possibilities: Best in Show by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, ***Cast Away by William Broyles, Jr. and James Flamberg, Chicken Run by Peter Lord, Nick Park, and Karey Kirkpatrick, ***The Contender by Rod Lurie, Dancer in the Dark by Lars von Trier, Finding Forrester by Mike Rich, ***Gladiator by David Fanzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson, Nurse Betty by John C. Richards and James Flamberg, Shadow of the Vampire by Steven Katz, Small Time Crooks by Woody Allen.

This year's Best Original Screenplay competition is left to the little films.  Unless Cast Away or Gladiator make an unwarranted mark with the Academy (hey, I love both films, but neither of them had the Best Original Screenplay worthy scripts), this should be relatively.  In the above five films, there's no explosions, no gunfights, no frumpy costumes, and no period accents.  Hey, collectively, there's only one major star, one car crash, and two sex scenes.  Poor Billy Elliot has only the mark of having a adolescent shout out profanities to compare to normal Hollywood fare.

I stand with four of my five predictions steadfastly, only worrying on David Mamet's State and Main.  Maybe it is the fact that I am a devout Mamet fan, but I do think that he'll come out of that fifth spot competition with a nomination.

Nevertheless, I should point out that there are three other comedies that all could come in and take away the film's only chance at a nomination.  Nurse Betty has the coveted (though less than Oscar predicting) Cannes screenplay award, Best in Show has the fifth Writers Guild nomination, and Small Time Crooks has the Woody factor.   Oh, and none of them have a major star, a car crash, or a sex scene.  Though, Nurse Betty does have a gunfight...

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Almost Famous – Cameron Crowe.

Best Cinematography

11 February Predictions – 3 of 5 from 21 December
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Peter Pau (W: LAFC, NYFC, BFC, FFC,
Gladiator - John Mathieson (W: BrFC, SDFC, GS; N: CFC, LVFC, PFC, OFCS, BAFTA, ASC)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? - Roger Deakins (W: LVFC; N: CFC, OFCS, BAFTA, ASC)
Traffic - "Peter Andrews" (N: LAFC, BrFC, NSFC, CFC, PFC, OFCS, GS)
Wonder Boys - Dante Spinotti

Other Possibilities: All the Pretty Horses, Almost Famous, Billy Elliot, ***Cast Away, Chocolat, ***Erin Brockovich, The House of Mirth, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Perfect Storm, ***Quills, Requiem for a Dream, Shadow of the Vampire.

Talk about a category that has situated into a final five.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Gladiator, Traffic, and late stand-out O Brother, Where Art Thou? (like Carter Burwell's score for the film, it is refreshing to see a great artist like Roger Deakins stand as a major contender in an Oscar race) all seem to be safe bets.

Now, it's that fifth spot that's open to discussion.  I'm going with Dante Spinotti's nearly forgotten work on Wonder Boys, one of the best uses of the camera this year.   That does not mean that the threats of Cast Away, Erin Brockovich, or Quills might not find their way into the final five.  I'd say that the fifth spot is pretty much in the air.

As for the most deserved, that award would have to go to Matthew Labitique for Requiem for a Dream.  But don't expect it to grab a nomination -- he can just ask fellow possibility John Seale (for The Perfect Storm) about that, he should have won for The Talented Mr. Ripley last year let alone get nominated.

[Late in the game I have learned that Traffic may be ineligible for the Academy Award in this category due to Steven Soderbergh doubling as both director and cinematographer.  If this is true, then I would say that the runner for the open spot is Cast Away's Don Burgess -- though I find it hard to believe that the Academy (who nominated Joel Coen in 1996 for both Best Director and Best Editing) has this rule.  Even still, USA Films has noticably left Best Cinematography out of thier For Your Consideration ads on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter, which tout Traffic in everything from Best Picture to Best Costume Design.  It's beginning to look bad for old "Peter Andrews."]

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Best Film Editing

11 February Predictions – 3 of 5 from 21 December
Cast Away - Arthur Schmidt (N: ACE)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Tim Squyres (N: PFC, OFCS, BAFTA, GS, ACE)
Erin Brockovich - Anne V. Coates (N: BAFTA)
Gladiator - Pietro Scalia (W: LVFC; N: OFCS, BAFTA, GS, ACE)
Traffic - Stephen Mirrione (N: LVFC, PFC, OFCS, BAFTA, GS, ACE)

Other Possibilities: Almost Famous, Billy Elliot, Chocolat, Dancer in the Dark, Quills, ***The Perfect Storm, ***Requiem for a Dream, Shadow of the Vampire, Sunshine, ***Thirteen Days.

I know that there is no questioning what film deserves a nomination the most, but something tells me that Requiem for a Dream's Jay Rabinowitz will have to settle with the knowledge that he created the most stunning film editing work in years (perhaps, and don't shoot me for this now, the best ever).

What we are instead looking at is a listing of three people with the lion's share of the critic's notices (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Gladiator, and Traffic) with two open spots.  Many have stated the probability of a nomination for The Perfect Storm, which certainly looks to be a strong possibility, a very close sixth in my listing above.  There is a very good chance that either The Perfect Storm or Thirteen Days (which is gaining some less-than-understandable momentum -- the film is good, but the editing is nothing to write home about) will be replaced by either Erin Brockovich or Cast Away.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Best Sound

11 February Predictions – 5 of 5 from 21 December
Cast Away (N: CAS)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (N: BAFTA, GS)
Gladiator (N: BAFTA, CAS)
The Perfect Storm (N: BAFTA, GS, CAS)
U-571 (N: CAS)

Other Possibilities: Almost Famous, ***Charlie's Angels, Erin Brockovich, ***Mission: Impossible 2, The Patriot, Traffic, Unbreakable, ***X-Men.

I'm going with the long taken scenario of action films sweeping this category, meaning that some high-end sound designers for dramas like Traffic, Erin Brockovich, and Almost Famous will have to settle with the knowledge of a job well done.  There is still a chance that non-action films could make the short list (The Green Mile and The Insider made it in last year), but this year it seems mighty doubtful.

Since the Sound Editors Guild has decided to withhold their nominees until after the Oscar nominee announcements, we can only look at the Cinema Audio Society for a precursor.  I'm going with four of their nominees (Cast Away, Gladiator, The Perfect Storm, and U-571), replacing The Patriot (which could very well come in and take a nomination nevertheless) with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in my belief that the Ang Lee film have a nice little sweep in the technical categories.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Best Sound Effects Editing

11 February Predictions – 2 of 3 from 21 December
Cast Away
(N: CAS)
(N: CAS)
The Perfect Storm
(N: CAS)

Other Possibilities: ***Mission: Impossible 2, ***U-571, X-Men.

This is The Perfect Storm's category and it should have no problem making the final list of three nominees.  But that leaves two more positions open, either of which could easily be filled by any of the five other films I have above.  The Academy made things a little easier by giving us a list of seven films that are under competition, but only one of them can be counted out, Space Cowboys.  That leaves some high profile films up for the remaining spots.

I'm going with Gladiator, as part of the film's techinacal categories sweep, and Cast Away, which should be helped by the hour of the film that is free of dialogue.  But I am not counting out for a moment the chances of U-571 (which does deserve some recognition, though its sound design is more worthy than its sound effects editing), X-Men (which had a large variety of sound effects, though little of them were that impressive), and Mission: Impossible 2 (which has enough explotions to fill the sound effects nomination quota).

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  The Perfect Storm.

Best Visual Effects

11 February Predictions – 3 of 3 from 21 December
Gladiator (W: LVFC,
The Perfect Storm (N: LVFC,
X-Men (N: LVFC)

Other Possibilities: ***Cast Away, Dinosaur, ***Hollow Man.

No real surprises here, the Academy short list happened to include all three of the films I predicted back in December and all of them remain feasible choices. The weak link may be X-Men -- I have no way of gauging how well they'll buy into the effects (I know that it is a completely different branch, but I'm still in wonderment over the omission of X-Men from the Makeup shortlist). For that very reason, I would not be too surprised if Hollow Man's overrated special effects (come on, it looked like a cartoon) takes the place of X-Men.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Gladiator.

Best Makeup

11 February Predictions – 2 of 3 from 21 December
Cast Away (N: MAG)
The Cell (N: PFC, MAG)
Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (W: PFC, BAFTA, MAG)

Other Possibilities: Bedazzled, ***Shadow of the Vampire.

How is it that no one is noticing the brilliant makeup on Requiem for a Dream?  I serisouly think that it is the second best use of makeup this year (only defeated by the moody makeup in The Cell).

The Academy released a list of five films that are under consideration for the three slots in the category (though, as was proven last year, there can be four films nominated).  Until the Makeup and Hairstylist Guild gave a nomination for Bedazzled, I thought that it would be like Blast from the Past last year -- respectable use of makeup but not a chance in hell of getting a nomination.

On the other hand, the four remaining films all look to be destined for a nomination -- if only there was a way to know whether or not they will have four openings again this year.  I'm going with Cast Away, The Cell, and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, leaving out Shadow of the Vampire.  There is still a pretty good chance that Vampire will get a nomination, but the fact that its use of makeup is left to only a single look on one character (to great effect, though) might make it pale beside the extensive use of makeup on Tom Hanks in Cast Away, the dream/nightmare looks for Vincent D'Onofrio in The Cell, and the unrecognizable body work on Jim Carrey on Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  The Cell.

Best Costume Design

11 February Predictions – 3 of 5 from 21 December
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (N: BAFTA, GS)
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (W: PFC, GS; N: LVFC, CDG)
Gladiator (W: LVFC; N: PFC, BAFTA, GS)

Other Possibilities: Almost Famous, Cast Away, ***Chocolat, ***The Cell, ***The House of Mirth, The Patriot, Shadow of the Vampire, X-Men.

The Costume Designers Guild makes me mad every year because their member's only nominations setup always leaves out some worthy nominees.  They are not the only tech union that does this, but they seem to be the one that leaves out important films consistently.  Most other guilds regulate a final list of five that will head into the Academy Awards, but they do not.  In fact, the five films that I have above were my choices before the actual CDG nominees were released.

This accounts for the omission of Monica Howe for The House of Mirth, Györgyi Szakács for Sunshine, Tim Yip for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Janty Yates for Gladiator (the latter two, of course, being the front runners to win the actual Academy Award.   I still stand with my predictions of Rita Ryack for Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Jacqueline West for Quills, though those two happen to be the two of the three (joining Sunshine) that I think could easily be replaced by the time the nominees come out.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Gladiator.

Best Art Direction

11 February Predictions – 4 of 5 from 21 December
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (W: LAFC; N: BrFC, BAFTA, GS, ADG)
Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (N: BrFC, GS, ADG)
Gladiator (W: NBR, BrFC; N: BAFTA, GS, ADG)
The House of Mirth (W: GS)
Quills (N: BrFC, BAFTA)

Other Possibilities: Cast Away, ***The Cell, ***Chocolat, The Patriot, Shadow of the Vampire, ***Sunshine.

Of all the categories that Quills has been dismissed from since December, this is one of the few that I think it has gained momentum.  It is not a sure bet nominee yet (it practically has the same chances as The Cell, the film that previous held the fifth spot on my predictions in this category).  Most of the other films in competition seem to be easy choices -- Gladiator and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon should be huge this year in the technical categories.  There's also a pretty good chance that Sunshine or The House of Mirth could snag a nomination depending on how well either film does with the branch -- I don't really see room for both of them, but one of the two should make the final five.  Without a doubt, the only other choice, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas will be an easy assumption since it has the votes of the elders and the baby-boomers in the branch.  Plus, it was the best thing about an otherwise lackluster film.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Gladiator.

Best Original Score

11 February Predictions – 3 of 5 from 21 December
Chocolat - Rachel Portman (N:
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Tan Dun (W:
Erin Brockovich - Thomas Newman
Gladiator - Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard (W:
O Brother, Where Art Thou? - T-Bone Burnett and Carter Burwell (N: CFCFFC, PFC,

Other Possibilities: Billy Elliot by Stephen Warbeck, Cast Away by Alan Silvestri, The House of Mirth by Adrian Johnston, The Legend of Bagger Vance by Rachel Portman, The Patriot by John Williams, The Perfect Storm by James Horner, ***Quills by Stephen Warbeck, ***Requiem for a Dream by Clint Mansell, ***Sunshine by Maurice Jarre, Traffic by Cliff Martinez, Unbreakable by James Newton Howard, Wonder Boys by Christopher Young.

This year's Best Original Score competition seems harder than previous years.  I actually blame it on last year throwing us a curveball with win for The Red Violin.  I keep on thinking that I'm leaving out that score in my list above -- it could easily be Quills or Sunshine or The House of Mirth that usurp Chocolat (which also has the chance of Rachel Portman replacing herself with her score for the underrated The Legend of Bagger Vance) or Erin Brockovich (which is present only because I think that the Academy embracing of Erin Brockovich will extend into this category).

I feel really good, though, about O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Carter Burwell deserves as many nominations as possible -- even for the otherwise horrible Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, both of which have been dealt with pretty well by critic's groups.  The fifth nominee would be Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard with their score for Gladiator, which has a death grip on the prize (but, should The Red Violin's win serve as a precursor, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon could always pull an upset).

Oh, and if the Academy wants to prove that they have some taste, they would nominate Clint Mansell for his pulsating score to Requiem for a Dream -- by far the best score this year.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Gladiator – Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard.

Best Original Song

11 February Predictions – 5 of 5 from 21 December
"I've Seen It All" - Dancer in the Dark (W: GS; N: PFC, GG)
"My Funny Friend and Me" - The Emperor's New Groove (W: BrFC, PFC; N: LVFC, GS, GG)
"Someday Out of the Blue" - The Road to El Dorado
"Things Have Changed" - Wonder Boys (W: LVFC, GG; N: BrFC, PFC, GS)
"Where are You Christmas" - Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Other Possibilities: "Can't Fight the Moonlight" from Cowboy Ugly, "Doesn't Really Matter" from The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, "A Fool in Love" from Meet the Parents, ***"I Believe" from Billy Elliot, "Need to Be Next to You" from Bounce, "Independent Woman" from Charlie's Angels, "A Love Before Time" from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, ***"A New World" from Dancer in the Dark, ***"When You Come Back to Me Again" from Frequency, "Yours Forever" from The Perfect Storm.

The title of Bob Dylan's song for Wonder Boys certainly fits almost any other category in consideration of my predictions at the end of 2000, but not this one. In fact, nothing has changed. I still think that we are looking at a nomination for that song as well as Bjork's beautiful balled "I've Seen It All" from Dancer in the Dark (I would also love to see the Academy nominate another song from that film "A New World") and Sting's "My Funny Friend and Me" from The Emperor's New Groove.

I'm not necessarily sure on my other two predictions. "Someday Out of the Blue" could very well be omitted as "My Funny Friend and Me" fills the Menkin/Schwartz void. And I have not even heard many people mention "Where Are You Christmas" as a possibility! Nevertheless, I'm keeping it in the fifth position since I cannot really believe that the Academy's music branch would nominate something like "I Believe" or "When You Come Back to Me Again."

This category would be slightly easier if "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" were eligible. But, alas, it is an adapted song.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  "Things Have Changed" - Wonder Boys.

Best Documentary Feature

12 February Predictions – 3 of 5 from 11 February
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (N: BFC, BrFC)
Long Night's Journey Into Day (N: IS)
Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story
Scottsboro: An American Tragedy
Sound and Fury (N: IS)

Other Possibilities: Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians, ***A Fight to the Finish: Stories of Polio, ***Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks, Legacy, ***Light Keeps Me Company, Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen, Soldiers in the Army of God.

The Academy chose not to release a short list in the field of Documentary Features for this year. But, the day before the nominations announcement, leaked the 12 semifinalists -- a day after I finalized my predictions (Dark Days, Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Long Night's Journey Into Day, and Sound and Fury, with strong possibilities for Fight to the Max, Paragraph 175, and Reckless Indifference).  Taking this new information into consideration, I have completely revised my predictions to cover these 12 films.

I'm still sticking with festival favorite Long Night's Journey Into Day, though I'm irked at the fact that my other festival favorite choice, Dark Days, did not make the short list.  Shame.  I'm also keeping the spots allotted to films that I think go along the lines of normal nominees in this category, the family drama Sound and Fury and the Holocaust docu Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.

From there, I'm hit with 9 films that I have neither seen nor really heard much about.  The only film from my original list of 15 possibilities that made it to the short list was Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story, about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  I chose it for the possibilities list because of its story and the small coverage it received in Variety's documentary column back in December.  For those reasons, I'll give it my support and move it into the probable nomination list.

That leaves one more spot open.  From the synopses I've read, Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks may have an edge thanks to its subject working in the industry (though, I'm downsizing its chances after Chuck Workman's The Source failed to receive a nomination -- Workman happens to be the guy that makes the film montages seen at nearly every ceremony).  But even more so, the chances of Light Keeps Me Company (Ljuset Håller Mig Sällskap) seem even better since the film is about virtuoso cinematographer Sven Nykvist and features the likes of Woody Allen, Richard Attenborogh, Roman Polanski, and Ingmar Bergman.  To tell the truth, writing about it now is causing a yearning to see it right away.

Nevertheless, I'm giving the racism indictment Scottsboro: An American Tragedy the edge for that fifth spot.  Its story of an unfair legal system in Alabama that convicted nine black teenagers for the rape of two white women could work right into the bloc that voted for 4 Little Girls a few years ago.  The only debit to its chances, in my mind, is the lack of a nomination for The Thin Blue Line, Errol Morris' acclaimed documentary on the false imprisonment of a man after the death of a police officer.  Of course, back in 1988 the Best Documentary Feature category was under an entirely different set of rules that left some important little films (including Morris' A Brief History of Time, Terry Zwigoff's Crumb, and Steve James' Hoop Dreams) out of the ballots.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:  Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.

Best Foreign Language Film

11 February Predictions – 4 of 5 from 21 December
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Ang Lee (Taiwan) (W: NBR, BFC, TFC [H], BrFC, FFC, SeFC, KFC,
The Hundred Steps - Marco Tullio Giodana (Italy) (N: GG)
In the Mood for Love - Wong Kar-Wai (Hong Kong) (N: BAFTA)
Maelstrom - Denis Villeneuve (Canada)
A Time for Drunken Horses - Bahman Ghobadi (Iran) (N: NBR, IS)

Other Possibilities: Algeria's Little Senegal from Rachid Bouchareb, ***Bulgaria's Letter to America from Iglika Triffonova, China's Breaking he Silence from Sun Zhou, Denmark's A Place Nearby from Kaspar Rostrup, Ecuador's Dreams from the Middle of the World from Carlos Naranjo Estrella, Finland's Seven Songs from the Tundra from Anastasia Lapsui and Markku Lehmuskallio, France's The Taste of Others from Agnes Jaoui, Germany's No Place to Go from Oscar Roehler, ***The Netherland's Little Crumb from Maria Peters, Spain's You're the One from Jose Luis Garci, ***Sweden's Songs from the Second Floor from Roy Andersson.

Best Foreign Language Film is always one of the hardest categories in my mind.  I can safely say that I am not 100% certain of any of the films I'm predicting with the exception of Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which is destined to become the next foreign film to make a mark in both the Best Picture and the Best Foreign Language Film categories.  If it does not grab a nomination, it will be one of the biggest upsets since Hoop Dreams failed to earn a (deserved) nomination in the Best Documentary Feature category.

I'm playing with word of mouth and country history in choosing the other four.  The Academy has a history of snubbing films from the Middle East (the nomination for Children of Heaven two years ago was the first time that Iran has been nominated) but I have this weird feeling that Bahman Ghobadi's A Time for Drunken Horses will make the short list thanks to a small established following and political importance.

We have also been a little forgetful of possible nominees from our neighbor to the north, but this might be the year that Canada gets a nomination for Maelstrom, which has been awarded a couple international prizes that my notations above do not cover.   This will be the third time that a French-Canadian production picks up a Best Foreign Language Film nomination if this prediction holds true.

There are many people that have already spoken of their great deal of respect for In the Mood for Love, which is enjoying a release in America this Spring.  Can those supporters keep the film in the mind of voters?  Perhaps, it is certainly one of the weaker links of my predictions this year.

As for the fifth spot, I turned to old FLF mainstay, Italy.  Their entry this year, The Hundred Steps, could possibly be their 27th nomination (on top of the special award given to them in 1949 for The Bicycle Thief).  I cannot say that I know much about this film and know whether or not it is award worthy.  It received a Golden Globe nomination (not that that means much), and the country chose it as their best entry (over Giuseppe Tornatore's Malèna, which Miramax is pushing for all other competitive categories) -- sounds good enough.

Early, Early, Early Winner Prediction:
  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Ang Lee (Taiwan).

Best Live Action Short & Best Animated Short

Due to the fact that the Academy has chosen not to give a short list in these categories, I have no way of predicting them.



Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon...#11
Erin Brockovich...#7
Cast Away...#6
Almost Famous...#4

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas...#4
Wonder Boys...#4
The Perfect Storm...#3
Billy Elliot...#2
The Contender...#2
O Brother, Where Art Thou?...#2
You Can Count on Me...#2
Before Night Falls...#1
The Cell...#1
Dancer in the Dark...#1
The Emperor's New Groove...#1
The House of Mirth...#1
Requiem for a Dream...#1
The Road to El Dorado...#1
Shadow of the Vampire...#1
State and Main...#1

Analysis by:
David Perry