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Oscar '98 Pre-Show

Opening Commentary: You always know that it is Oscar time when I'm this giddy. I know very well that it is a bit bias but something about the Academy Awards get to me, so much that I find it more enjoyable than Christmas and my birthday. My Happiness (just wanted to throw in that small plug) is further increased by the fact that this year is one of the better years for films (though still no 1992 or 1996). Personal favorites like The Thin Red Line, Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Gods and Monsters, and Affliction have been nominated. I have seen more lists of should wins, could wins, would wins, and shoo-ins that I'm about to ask Gwyneth Paltrow to quit the race so I will not have to hear her name again. For just a moment I would like to make a quick reference to two good places to go for predictions. The first one is from Alex Fung who has a highly informative web page that can be found at 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.

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). Once again don't start placing your money on who I say will win because some of them are just mere guesses.


Best Picture
Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, and The Thin Red Line

Should win: Life is Beautiful. I know that this has been scrutinized by some as too much hilarity for a Holocaust film but I really loved this movie. I felt just as entrenched with the lead in this as I did in Schindler's List and that is saying quite a bit.

Will win: Saving Private Ryan. Unless Miramax pulls a fast one and Shakespeare wins, it is almost a sure bet that DreamWorks will be taking this one home. It helps that it won the DGA Award which usually tells you who will win both Best Picture and Best Director.

Best Director
Robert Benigni (Life is Beautiful), John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line), Steven Speilberg (Saving Private Ryan), and Peter Weir (The Truman Show)

Should win: Terrence Malick. As much as I'd love seeing Weir and Benigni go home with this, it is Malick's work that most enthralled me. This also is a recreation of last year (Egoyan vs. L.A. Confidential) when my Best Film and Director of the Year choices were not the same. Nothing against Benigni, I just can't help but call Malick the better.

Will win: Steven Speilberg. As much as I hate to say it, his DGA win promises this to go to him. Even if there is an upset and Shakespeare wins Best Picture, the Academy will still go for Speilberg's high-handed direction.

Best Actor
Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful), Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan), Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters), Nick Nolte (Affliction), and Edward Norton (American History X)

Should win: Ian McKellen. His was the performance of a career and just think that he does this type of stuff weekly on the London stage. Benigni was great for a light-hearted performance but the real meat of the race was McKellen.

Will win: Ian McKellen. With this being one of the toughest races, my choice is a bit doubtful. All in all, I think Benigni and Nolte still might just take him down, but the large older Hollywood voters might go for McKellen's performance as self-exiled gay director James Whale. The only thing that might hurt his chances is that he on and off the screen is gay, a tough thing for those voters to swallow.

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth), Fernanda Montenegro (Central Station), Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love), Meryl Streep (One True Thing), and Emily Watson (Hilary and Jackie)

Should win: Cate Blanchett. In a pretty good year for actresses, Blanchett just seems to stand out. While not always flattering in the film, she gave a better performance than the performances of the four acting winners last year combined. I would also like to give credit to Montenegro who gave a great performance in spite of the fact that the film was far from the greatest.

Will win: Gwyneth Paltrow. In this choice I'm listening to the word of mouth around Hollywood. Miramax has so hyped her that she is almost a sure bet. The only thing is that I'm still hoping for an upset by Blanchett.

Best Supporting Actor
James Coburn (Affliction), Robert Duvall (A Civil Action), Ed Harris (The Truman Show), Geoffrey Rush (Shakespeare in Love), and Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan)

Should win: James Coburn. For a seventy year old actor to give his best performance is a big deal. This In Like Flint and The President's Analyst star should be walking home with an Oscar but will not.

Will win: Ed Harris. Again I'm listening to the grapevine on this one. Rush is the only one to be counted out because he got one two years ago in a much more flauntable performance, Coburn is just happy to be nominated finally. That leaves Duvall, Harris, and Thornton who all have a great chance of taking the trip to the podium. Duvall's recent SAG win in addition to his upset loss to Nicholson last year would normally mean a nice win for him. Harris is the chance for the Academy to make amends for not nominating The Truman Show. Thornton has the fact that he was not given the award two years ago for Sling Blade (Rush beat him with Shine) although he did win for writing the screenplay. My choice of Harris is pretty much based on the fact that he has yet to win an Oscar (Duvall won for Tender Mercies in 1983).

Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Bates (Primary Colors), Brenda Blethyn (Little Voice), Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love), Rachel Griffiths (Hilary and Jackie), and Lynn Redgrave (Gods and Monsters)

Should win: Lynn Redgrave. Her frau-maid was not only a showcase for her dramatic skills but also for her comedic. I'd also love to see her win just to see if she would say anything about her sister's famous 1976 speech for this same award ("Zionist hoodlums").

Will win: Judi Dench. This is the category I've spent the most time on. Bates is near beating Dench because (a) she is the only American in the midst of four Brits and (b) she won the SAG award. I think Dench will win because the Academy evidently loved Shakespeare in Love and she probably should have won last year for Mrs. Brown. Redgrave and Griffiths would have much more of a shot if their films had been a little more widely seen. As for Blethyn, if Jane Horrocks couldn't even get nominated, her chances are probably the second worst of the all the acting awards (I still am getting over Edward Norton even getting nominated).

Best Cinematography
A Civil Action, Elizabeth, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, and The Thin Red Line

Should win: The Thin Red Line. This would be the best cinematography on a war film I've ever seen and it would win if it wasn't for that other war film.

Will win: Saving Private Ryan. Despite a little talk for John Toll of The Thin Red Line, I still think Janusz Kaminski has this won if not simply for the first 30 minutes of the film.

Best Foreign Language Film
Central Station (Brazil), Children of Heaven (Iran), The Grandfather (Spain), Life is Beautiful (Italy), and Tango (Argentina)

Should win: Life is Beautiful. I thoroughly doubt any of the other nominees are better than this. The reason I have only seen Central Station and Life is Beautiful are (a) have not come to Nashville yet (Children of Heaven, Tango), and (b) has not come to America yet (The Grandfather).

Will win: Life is Beautiful. In the surest bet of the night, Benigni will overcome all odds and all language barriers to accept this one. Let's face it, as the first film since 1969's Z to be nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Film, the film can't lose.

Best Original Screenplay
Bulworth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, and The Truman Show

Should win: The Truman Show. Andrew Niccol's screenplay was one of the best since the dawn of Tarantino and it's too bad that he will not get what he really deserves for it.

Will win: Shakespeare in Love. Even cynics that think the film will come home almost empty handed think this is a sure bet for Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman. The only thing against it that I can think of is that playwrights turned screenwriters very rarely win (i.e. David Mamet).

Best Adapted Screenplay
Gods and Monsters, Out of Sight, Primary Colors, A Simple Plan, and The Thin Red Line

Should win: Gods and Monsters, Out of Sight, and The Thin Red Line. All of these were magnificent stories brought to the screen with great zeal and confidence that rarely comes with scripts in their genres. I cannot think of just one that I like the most.

Will win: The Thin Red Line. Malick fans are dying to give him something and this is seen as their chance. Another thing on his side is that it is the only Best Picture nominee here (keep in mind that The English Patient lost two years ago to non-Best Picture nominee Sling Blade).


Best Visual Effects
Armageddon, Mighty Joe Young, and What Dreams May Come

Should win: What Dreams May Come. I guess...

Will win: What Dreams May Come. I guess...

Best Film Editing
Life is Beautiful, Out of Sight, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, and The Thin Red Line

Should win: The Thin Red Line. See it, you'll know why.

Will win: Saving Private Ryan. Usually goes hand in hand with Best Cinematography (editing = cinematography = director = picture). Only real competition is Out of Sight, but lack of nominations for this film almost completely counts it out.

Best Sound
Armageddon, The Mask of Zorro, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, The Thin Red Line

Should win: The Thin Red Line. I'm just going to have to face it with this film, "always a bridesmaid, never a bride."

Will win: Saving Private Ryan. It will just pick up in a small sweep for Ryan.

Best Sound Effects Editing
Armageddon, The Mask of Zorro, and Saving Private Ryan

Should win: Saving Private Ryan. Those bullets under water still get to me.

Will win: Saving Private Ryan. I'm sure they still get to the voters too.

Best Original Musical or Comedy Score
A Bug's Life, Mulan, Patch Adams, The Prince of Egypt, and Shakespeare in Love

Should win: Shakespeare in Love. The whimsical them to Shakespeare is hard to resist.

Will win: Shakespeare in Love. The three cartoons will cancel each other out and no one in their right mind would vote for Patch Adams.

Best Original Dramatic Score
Elizabeth, Pleasantville, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, and The Thin Red Line

Should win: Life is Beautiful. The score to this film was in itself beautiful, mixing nice whimsical pieces in the first half before the drama in the second half.

Will win: Life is Beautiful. Initially I said this was going to Ryan, but of late I've heard enough to convince me that Life probably has this one. Consider this: the last time a foreign language film was nominated in this category was the Miramax driven Il Postino and it won.

Best Original Song
"I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" (Armageddon), "The Prayer" (Quest for Camelot), "A Soft Place to Fall" (The Horse Whisperer), "That'll Do" (Babe: Pig in the City), and "When You Believe" (The Prince of Egypt)

Should win: "That'll Do." I do not know why but this song has really grown on me since first hearing it in the film back in November. The Prince of Egypt song is okay but is only good in the movie and is awful when performed by mistaken divas Mariah Carrey and Whitney Houston.

Will win: "When You Believe." Forgetting that they are voting for the part of the song in the film which is partially in Hebrew, voters will frolic to have this elevator music be called "Award Winning." By the way, the win for "The Prayer" at the Golden Globes means nothing, they once gave an award to Pia Zadora!

Best Makeup
Elizabeth, Saving Private Ryan, and Shakespeare in Love

Should win: Elizabeth. Just for the last thirty seconds.

Will win: Saving Private Ryan. Just for the first thirty minutes.

Best Costume Design
Beloved, Elizabeth, Pleasantville, Shakespeare in Love, and Velvet Goldmine

Should win: Elizabeth. Joseph Fiennes: I'll take Atom Ant any day before MC Hammer (small in-joke).

Will win: Shakespeare in Love. Miramax has made sure that the Academy will be giving this one to their film (and I do not mean Velvet Goldmine).

Best Art Direction
Elizabeth, Pleasantville, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, and What Dreams May Come

Should win: Elizabeth. By the way Shakhar Kapur directed the film you could tell he was in awe with the sets. I was too.

Will win: Shakespeare in Love. Miramax has this one just as bought as the costumes.

Best Documentary Feature
Dancemaker, The Farm: Angola, U.S.A., The Last Days, Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth and Regret to Inform

Should win: The Farm: Angola, U.S.A. This one is kind of unfair since this is the only nominee I've seen.

Will win: The Last Days. Holocaust documentaries always win, and it doesn't hurt that it was produced by Speilberg.

Best Documentary Short Subject
The Personals: Improvisations on Romance in the Golden Years, A Place in the Land, and The Sunrise over Tiananmen Square

Should win: N/A. I did not see any of the nominees.

Will win: The Sunrise over Tiananmen Square. Everyone seems to say this one will win so I might as well just agree.

Best Live-Action Short Film
Culture, Election Night, Holiday Romance, La Carte Postale (The Postcard), and Victor

Should win: N/A.

Will win: La Carte Postale. It's French and a father-son story, give this film an Oscar.

Best Animated Short Film
Bunny, The Canterbury Tales, Jolly Roger, More, and When Life Departs

Should win: N/A.

Will win: Bunny. I don't know why. It just sounds like a good choice.


Saving Private Ryan...7
Shakespeare in Love...6
Life is Beautiful...2
What Dreams May Come...1
The Thin Red Line...1
The Prince of Egypt...1
Gods and Monsters...1
The Truman Show...1

Analysis by:
David Perry