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Oscar '00 Pre-Show

Opening Commentary: The Academy Awards this year look to be more in the air than any year since 1995. Having been what could be considered to be a disappointing year, though I disagree, the nominees' chances seem to be in line with a lackluster approval for the entire year. There is no film that really knocked people's socks off (though, if you ask me, Requiem for a Dream should knock the socks off of any viewer) and that is seen in the fact that nothing really dominates the awards from this point. Of course, by the end of the night, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Gladiator could sweep, but even that looks doubtful -- Crouching Tiger will probably get the lion's share of awards with Gladiator taking a few for itself.

For just a moment I would like to make a quick reference to four great places to go for predictions. The first one is from Alex Fung's highly informative web page. Just click on the Oscar part at the top of the page. The other link is to John Harkness. He could easily be called the most knowledged person about the Academy Awards with his annual book on the ceremony. Using gossip from the Hollywood grapevine and the rules of thumb put forth in his book, he has a pretty good listing of predictions that will probably be more accurate than mine. This can be found at the home page of the Toronto Now Magazine (this link is not yet active, Jim Ridley has not released his predictions yet). This year I have two new sites of interest for Oscar buzz. I have found a wealth of information at the Unofficial Academy Awards Discussion Board, a place for Oscar aficianados to sit back and voice news, opinions, and predictions. The other site is Zeusefer's Year-Round Oscar Prediction Charts, where Zeusefer keeps up with every nook and cranny of the race beginning the week after the previous Academy Awards.

Now onto my highly opinionated (and probably half wrong) musings. I will start off with the ten main awards where there will be a nice round about reasoning behind the choices. In the place where it says "Will win: ..." that means that I'm deeming it a shoo-in (this will be a rarity considering the fierce battles this year). After that are the lesser "technical" categories where it's usually harder to pick though not always. My "Should win: ..." spot is pretty much as accurate as their going to come being that I have already seen everything in the competitive fields (re: not all of the shorts, documentaries, and foreign nominees). The [Order of Chance: ...] is self descriptive. Once again don't start placing your money on who I say will win because some of them are mere guesses.


Best Picture
Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Gladiator, and Traffic

Should win: Traffic. Steven Soderbergh's drug trade epic is the year's second best film.  And, if the Academy had been bright enough to nominate Requiem for a Dream, I might be a little more excited this year.  I'm not trying to take away from Traffic's placement as the best of the nominated films, but it is so hard to think of a great film on drugs without gazing back at the horrifying yet awe-inspiring Requiem for a Dream.

Will win: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Gladiator, shmatiator -- Ang Lee's action epic should bode much better with the elders of the Academy, who have been quite vocal in dismissing Gladiator as a poor attempt at the pageantry of Spartacus and Ben-Hur.  This is still a possibility that the technical branch will be all for the auspicious film from Scott, but there might not be enough of them to matter with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as an alternative in the action field. [Order of Chance: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Gladiator, Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Chocolat]

Best Director
Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot), Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Ridley Scott (Gladiator), Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich), and Steven Soderbergh (Traffic)

Should win: Steven Soderbergh (Traffic). With two nominations, it is a high possibility that Steven Soderbergh will go without an Academy Award Sunday night.  That's a real shame since he is definately the name that most deserves it.  Not only directing, but also taking a hand in the actual photographing of Traffic, he created one of the year's most engaging films.  The only nominee that would really irk me if he should win is Daldry, all the rest did great jobs on their films, even if not as good as Soderbergh on Traffic.

Will win: Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). The steam engine that was Gladiator should have taken this category easily (and deservedly, no matter how reprehensible Hannibal may be, Gladiator is still a fine directorial acheivement), but has seen its chances fall dramatically with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the running.   Expect Ang Lee to accept this award even if the film fails to win Best Picture. [Order of Chance: Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Ridley Scott (Gladiator), Steven Soderbergh (Traffic), Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich), Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot)]

Best Actor
Javier Bardem (Before Night Falls), Russell Crowe (Gladiator), Tom Hanks (Cast Away), Ed Harris (Pollock), and Geoffrey Rush (Quills)

Should win: Javier Bardem (Before Night Falls). This is one year that I would be relatively happy with any of the five nominees coming off with the award -- each of them did a great job in their respective films. Personally, I prefer the work of Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls over the other four, but would have been a little happier to place my support in shoulda-been-a-contendah Michael Douglas for Wonder Boys.

Will win: Ed Harris (Pollock). No one has a death grip on the Best Actor race, no matter how often people mention Tom Hanks.  This was the most important category of the SAG Awards, it could have brought some of the speculation in this category to rest, but instead it only made things a little murkier.  With a loss there, Hanks and Crowe look to have lost some of the steam that took them into a one-on-one race when the nominees were announced.  As it looks now, Ed Harris will finally get that long awaited Academy Award (but, hey, I've predicted him incorrectly twice before and that could become a third offence this year). [Order of Chance: Ed Harris (Pollock), Tom Hanks (Cast Away), Javier Bardem (Before Night Falls), Russell Crowe (Gladiator), Geoffrey Rush (Quills)]

Best Actress
Joan Allen (The Contender), Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream), Laura Linney (You Can Count on Me), and Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich)

Should win: Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream). From the GBA Awards: "If there is any performance that marks 2000 it is the one given by Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream.  In curiosity, I went through all the previous Best Actress winners and could not find a performance that could compare to Burstyn.  In fact, I could only see three that I thought were near her in magnitude: Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking, Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress.   This is not to say that there are not other performances that were notable along these lines that did not win the Academy Award, but of those winners, she is pretty much the best (even going beyond her own Best Actress win 1974 for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore)."

Will win: Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich). As much as I hate to say it, the Best Actress race is Julia Robert's to win.  I tried to keep my hopes up for an Ellen Burstyn win, but losing the SAG Award, where most of her support would come from, means that her chances are dwindling as I type this.  Roberts not only gave a very gratifying speech, but also seems to have another audience-friendly hit on her hands with The Mexican -- she seems to have this award in the bag.  Nevertheless, I'm not going to place her in sure bet -- I'm hoping for that miracle of the younger voter (who might be fans of Requiem for a Dream) and the older voters (who might be friends with Ellen Burstyn) to rally to Burstyn's side, however doubtful this scenerio may be. [Order of Chance: Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich), Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream), Laura Linney (You Can Count on Me), Joan Allen (The Contender), Juliette Binoche (Chocolat)]

Best Supporting Actor
Jeff Bridges (The Contender), Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire), Benicio Del Toro (Traffic), Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich), and Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator)

Should win: Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire). Willem Dafoe became Max Schreck and made one of the year's funniest performances as one of the scariest of actors.  I have long supported Dafoe over the years (his lack of a nomination for Mississippi Burning, by the way, is a disgrace) and this is quite possibly his best work.  In a year that had a great deal of fine performances from actors in supporting roles, his is the best to get Oscar consideration (though, I'm still a little irked that the Academy failed to nominate Michael Douglas for his work in Traffic and James Woods for his work in The Virgin Suicides).

Will win: Benicio Del Toro (Traffic). Albert Finney could still win Best Supporting Actor, but I would not hold my breath.  The win by Benicio Del Toro in the Best Actor race at the Screen Actors Guild means that he has the support needed to surpass Finney and Dafoe for the Academy Award.  Finney's emphasized no-show attitude towards the Academy Awards will also help Del Toro's chances. [Order of Chance: Benicio Del Toro (Traffic), Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich), Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire), Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator), Jeff Bridges (The Contender)]

Best Supporting Actress
Judi Dench (Chocolat), Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock), Kate Hudson (Almost Famous), Frances McDormand (Almost Famous), and Julie Walters (Billy Elliot)

Should win: Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock). If I had chosen the nominees, we'd have a different batch of ladies competing for this Oscar. But only one of them actually made it from my list to the Academy's -- that actress being the absolutely incredible Marcia Gay Harden. Oh, and the other four for me would be Jennifer Connelly for Requeim for a Dream, Samantha Mathis for The Virgin Suicides, Catherine Zeta-Jones for Traffic, and Kate Winslet for Quills.

Will win: Kate Hudson (Almost Famous). The Best Supporting Actress category looks to be a five woman race.  Judi Dench looked doubtful until the Screen Actors Guild Awards when she grew into sentimental favorite stature.  But, no one should count out the ladies of Almost Famous, Frances McDormand and Kate Hudson, the latter of whom has the edge with her Golden Globe win in this category.  There is still a margin of chance for Julie Walters and Marcia Gay Harden, who could win in the event of an under-expected vote count for Dench and the Almost Famous actresses counting each other out. [Order of Chance: Kate Hudson (Almost Famous), Judi Dench (Chocolat), Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock), Frances McDormand (Almost Famous), Julie Walters (Billy Elliot)]

Best Cinematography
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Gladiator, Malèna, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and The Patriot

Should win: Gladiator. As much as I respect Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon over Gladiator in most categories, this happens to be one that I just do not get the Crouching Tiger juggernaut’s nomination and chance of winning. I mean, Peter Pau’s work is impressive, but far from extraordinary -- I’ll take John Mathieson’s lusciously golden Rome any day. Of course, I would be far happier with a win for Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic camera work or Matthew Libatique’s Requiem for a Dream camera work, but the Academy did not see fit to nominate them.

Will win: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Thanks to some nifty moving camera shots, Peter Pau should go home with an Academy Award. His work has been the most noted by critic’s groups and should look nice on an Oscar ballot with a check beside Ang Lee’s name as well. [Order of Chance: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Gladiator, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Patriot, Malèna]

Best Foreign Language Film
Amorres Perros (Mexico), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan), Divided We Fall (Czech Republic), Everybody Famous (Belgium), and The Taste of Others (France)

Should win: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan). It’s the only one I’ve seen -- but it was damn good.

Will win: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan). In this year of open races, this looks to be the only one that’s in the bag. Of course, now that I’ve said this, watch Amorres Perros win. [Order of Chance: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan), Amorres Perros (Mexico), The Taste of Others (France), Divided We Fall (Czech Republic), Everybody Famous (Belgium)]

Best Original Screenplay
Almost Famous, Billy Elliot, Erin Brockovich, Gladiator, and You Can Count on Me

Should win: Almost Famous. Kudos to the Academy for nominating the extremely deserving Cameron Crowe screenplay for Almost Famous. Even though the film was not one of the five best of the year and the direction was far from the best, the screenplay was a standout achievement this year -- I'd easily place it as the best original screenplay of the year.

Will win: Almost Famous. And I feel that the Academy will call it the best of the year as well. There is a chance that Writers Guild winner You Can Count on Me could cause a small upset, but the other three really do not stand much of a chance unless the two leads cancel each other out. [Order of Chance: Almost Famous, You Can Count on Me, Erin Brockovich, Gladiator, Billy Elliot]

Best Adapted Screenplay
Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Traffic, and Wonder Boys

Should win: Wonder Boys. Of the two great films that really received undeservedly few nominations this year, both happen to be adapted screenplays. Since Requiem for a Dream did not receive a nomination, I have to sit behind the other, which luckily received a nomination in this category. From the standpoint of someone that spends most of their time writing, it should be no surprise that I place all my support behind the story of one of my own.

Will win: Traffic. The race is between Steve Kloves' Wonder Boys and Stephen Gaghan's Traffic. Since the former hasn't enough of a following that might consider this as a consolation prize for the barely recognized masterpiece, the award will probably float over to the Stephen Gaghan script. There has been some talk of a win for O Brother, Where Art Thou? -- not impossible, but not probable either. [Order of Chance: Traffic, Wonder Boys, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Chocolat]


Best Visual Effects
Gladiator, Hollow Man, and The Perfect Storm

Should win: Gladiator. If Hollow Man wins here, and it is one of the most undeserved wins ever in this young category. That cartoon work pails in comparison to the waves of The Perfect Storm and the gladiatorial fights of Gladiator. I personally prefer the work on Gladiator, though I will say that The Perfect Storm is nothing to frown about.

Will win: Gladiator. Given the fact that some people equate massive special effects with good special effects, Hollow Man (oh, please, no) may come out with a win even though its work is closer to a Daffy Duck cartoon than Terminator 2. Hopefully, the Academy will have some taste and honor the Gladiator work, which should have some edge on the competition as the only nominee with special effects that do not revolve around only one thing (water for The Perfect Storm, things surrounding Kevin Bacon’s body in Hollow Man). [Order of Chance: Gladiator, The Perfect Storm, Hollow Man]

Best Film Editing
Almost Famous, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Gladiator, Traffic, and Wonder Boys

Should win: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. One more time: the best film editing ever is in Requiem for a Dream. Having said that, I can only digress to the five films that the Academy has seen fit to nominate. Thankfully, they did catch on to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon -- a masterful editing job that remained easy to follow even when the characters’ limbs were moving at speeds far beyond the normal hand or leg.

Will win: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Academy might just note this high speed hits and kicks and award Tim Squyres. There’s a possibility that Gladiator might come in, but even that is not as tough a competitor to Crouching Tiger as it is in other categories. [Order of Chance: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Gladiator, Traffic, Almost Famous, Wonder Boys]

Best Sound
Cast Away, Gladiator, The Patriot, The Perfect Storm, and U-571

Should win: Gladiator. With an opening battle scene that has left Roman scholars overjoyed and gladiatorial fights that became feasts for the ears, Gladiator should win the category hands down (well, that is, thanks to the failure to nominate Requiem for a Dream).

Will win: The Perfect Storm. There’s no real proper way to predict this category this year -- each of the five nominees (with the possible exception of The Patriot) could come out with a win. The streak voting for Gladiator that could occur might favor that film winner here, though I have a gut feeling that The Perfect Storm’s crashing waves will ride into a victory. [Order of Chance: The Perfect Storm, Gladiator, U-571, Cast Away, The Patriot]

Best Sound Effects Editing
Space Cowboys and U-571

Should win: U-571. Hey, I’m at a complete loss for words as to how Space Cowboys received a nomination, so it’s no real competition.

Will win: U-571. I think that the Academy members will be like me and wonder about that Space Cowboys nomination -- expect U-571 to take the award thanks to a poor competitor and a corresponding Best Sound nomination. [Order of Chance: U-571, Space Cowboys]

Best Original Score
Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Malèna, Gladiator, and The Patriot

Should win: Gladiator. With this score, Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard (who, unfortunately, does not meet the requirement to be on the ballot, though her contribution to the film is massive) have created a perfect audio track to support the stunning visuals projected on the screen.

Will win: Gladiator. Even those that hate Gladiator seem to agree on one thing: it’s absolutely breathtaking score from Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard. Still, there is a respectable chance that Tan Dun’s work from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will follow the bandwagon, or Ennio Morricone’s work from Malèna will score -- no pun intended -- his first win. [Order of Chance: Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Malèna, The Patriot, Chocolat]

Best Original Song
"A Fool in Love" (Meet the Parents), "I've Seen It All" (Dancer in the Dark), "A Love Before Time" (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), "My Funny Friend and Me" (The Emperor's New Groove), and "Things Have Changed" (Wonder Boys)

Should win: "I've Seen It All" (Dancer in the Dark). I’m not a big Björk fan, but her beautiful songs from Dancer in the Dark are all worthy of nominations over three of her four competitors in this category. Thankfully, the one song from the film that the Academy nominated was the best from the film.

Will win: "Things Have Changed" (Wonder Boys). How can the voters refrain from giving an Academy Award to Bob Dylan? [Order of Chance: "Things Have Changed" (Wonder Boys), "I've Seen It All" (Dancer in the Dark), "My Funny Friend and Me" (The Emperor's New Groove), "A Fool in Love" (Meet the Parents), "A Love Before Time" (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)]

Best Makeup
The Cell, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Shadow of the Vampire

Should win: The Cell. Standing as one of the year’s most visually impressive films (though the actual story had very little to offer), The Cell was a arresting realization of great costumes, sets, and makeup. Unfortunately, the Academy only saw fit to nominate it for the latter category.

Will win: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It seems to me that there is still a pretty good chance that The Cell will come in and take the award, but it is nevertheless hard to go against a sixth win for Rick Baker. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas might not have been heralded as a success, but at least people can note its makeup. [Order of Chance: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cell, Shadow of the Vampire]

Best Costume Design
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Gladiator, 102 Dalmatians, and Quills

Should win: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The costuming of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may not be the best of the year (ahem, that would be The Cell), but it is certainly worth proclaiming as a grand achievement. I’m happy with it winning over the non-nominated Tarsem film -- it makes me sadder with the fact that the Ralph Fiennes film nomination streak has a second hole with Sunshine failing to receive a nomination.

Will win: Gladiator. The Academy has been very kind to films set in Asia with this category over the years (The Last Emperor, Ran, and even last year’s Topsy-Turvy had Asian themed costumes) and that should help Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s efforts. Nevertheless, I'm going to side with the more showy breastplates and imperial robes found in Janty Yates Gladiator costuming, though the two canceling each other out might make room for the frilly Quills or, more probably, the gaudy Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. [Order of Chance: Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Quills, 102 Dalmatians]

Best Art Direction
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Gladiator, Quills, and Vatel

Should win: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Academy might not look at it like me, but the art direction on Crouching Tiger, with trees, roofs, and restaurants serving as battlegrounds was enough to merit a win here.

Will win: Gladiator. But the massive work on Gladiator should pay off á la Restoration -- the work to create an emperor’s abode, a Roman campground, and the enormous Coliseum are all impressive sights, even if they were just as much computer generated as they were constructed by hand. [Order of Chance: Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Vatel, Quills]

Best Documentary Feature
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, Legacy, Long Night's Journey Into Day, Scottsboro: An American Tragedy, and Sound and Fury

Should win: Sound and Fury. I know that its chances are pretty much nil, but Sound and Fury has to be one of the year's best works, including up against fiction films.  I have only seen it and Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, and liked both.  But it is Sound and Fury, the saga of brothers fighting over giving thier children the ability to hear, is the one that hit me the hardest.

Will win: Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport. This may be the year that the rule of Academy documentaries does not work, but Holocaust films have a tendency of doing really well here.  There is always a chance that a win for Legacy, Scottsboro: An American Tragedy, and Long Night's Journey Into Day could come in, but their shared subjects of race relations hurt thier chances against a big Holocaust film. [Order of Chance: Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, Legacy, Scottsboro: An American Tragedy, Long Night's Journey Into Day, Sound and Fury]

Best Documentary Short Subject, Live-Action Short Film, Animated Short Film
Big Mama, Curtain Call, Dolphins, The Man on Lincoln's Nose, and On Tiptoe: Gentle Steps to Freedom
By Courier, One Day Crossing, Quiero Ser, Seraglio, and A Soccer Story
Father and Daughter, The Periwig-Maker, and Rejected

Should and Will win: See Blatant Opinion Essay below.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon...6
Almost Famous...2
Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas...1
Erin Brockovich...1
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport...1
The Perfect Storm...1
Wonder Boys...1

Blatant Opinion Essay:

O Shorts, Where Art Thou?
Oscar Prognosticator in a Short Film Void

This has become my space to steam over some Oscar issue.   In 1998, it was the unmerited controversy of Elia Kazan's deserved Honorary Oscar; in 1999, it was the improper decision by the Wall Street Journal to try and find out the winner in the major categories; for 2000, I'm looking at something that has been much less noted over the past month.  I'm aggrivated that the films in the Short Film competition (Best Documentary Short, Best Live-Action Short, and Best Animated Short) are inaccessible in this time before the awards.  I want to see them so that I can give some sort of intellgent guess as to who will win -- or at least have the ability of giving a should win choice.

Last year, I was spoiled by Atom Films and DirectTV gaining the rights to show 9 of the 10 nominted Live-Action and Animated shorts (the only one that did not have an airing was Best Animated Short winner The Old Man and the Sea).   I loved this chance to get a peek at the films in competition and happily made predicitons (for the record, I missed both categories -- Animated because I did not see the winner, and Live-Action because the winner was the one that I, truthfully, did not care for).

This year they did not get those rights.  Now, I do not know if that is the fault of Atom Films (who actually gave the airings to DirectTV, the latter is only notable as a great place to view the nominees) or the distributors behind the nominees, but I wish those at fault had done something to get these nominees available.  Not only do they give the film's an audience, but they also make those of us making predictions a little happier.

Atom Films does happen to have the rights to one nominee this year, Best Animated Short's The Periwig-Maker (which, had I seen the other two nominees, I could do on a diatribe on why it, a dark Burton-esque exploration of fear in plague-filled London, deserves to win), but that is not near enough.  As of this moment in time, I have only seen two short films from 2000, The Periwig-Maker and The Heart of the World (a terrific experimental short that deserves an Academy Award, though I can see how it did not make the short list -- it's a bit too experimental for thier tastes).  It would make me feel much better if I could say that I has at least seen a majority of the nominees, but can only wallow in my inability to say I've even seen a film in the Best Live Action Short competition.

So, when the envelope is opened on Sunday, I will not have When the Day Breaks and Kleingold to root for; I will not be able to go, "heh, that one was good."  I can only grit my teeth and hope that my one and only grace, The Periwig-Maker, wins.  At least then I can saw that I saw the winner.

Analysis by:
David Perry