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Oscar '99 Pre-Show

Opening Commentary: This year's Academy Awards seem just as controversal as last year. Sure there is no Kazan problem, but mail bags have been lost, statues have been stolen, juggernauts have subsided, and the Wall Street Journal has attempted to ruin the suspence. 1999 was a grand year for films, unfortunately that is not quite shown in this year's nominees. Earlier in the race, it looked like four of my top five films would be nominated for Best Picture. Then the Academy announced the nominees and only two made my short list. The biggest upset is the fact that The Talented Mr. Ripley, the year's second best film, failed to pick up any major nominations beyond Supporting Actor (Jude Law) and Adapted Screenplay. I know that I complained about the lack of Happiness nominations last year, but this is a literal travesty. Hopefully, the Academy will save face by awarding the deserving nominees anyway (yes, that means no Miramax upset this year, please).

For just a moment I would like to make a quick reference to two (four as of this year) good 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 is still the link to last year's predictions, Jim Ridley has not released his predictions yet). This year I have two new sites of interest for Oscar buzz. As of late, 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. There is actually a fifth, but it is a forum restricting to members of the Online Film Critics Society, so start writing those reviews and you can join me there.

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 [even worse than last year when I wrote this template]). 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
American Beauty, The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, and The Sixth Sense

Should win: American Beauty. It's so nice to have my choice for best of the year nominated; this makes four years in a row and the eighth time this decade. American Beauty is exactly what I look for in a Best Picture nominee, the crowd-happy momentum, the grand script, the fine acting, and the cinematic expertise. Too bad The Talented Mr. Ripley did not make the cut.

Will win: American Beauty. This is only the second time this decade that my favorite was the front runner for the Academy Award. It looks like The Insider, The Green Mile, and The Sixth Sense might as well be happy with nominations, they are not going to win. The only film that might stop DreamWorks Pictures from taking their first Academy Award is The Cider House Rules from Miramax. Hey, it happened last year (of course, Shakespeare in Love at least had a Golden Globe nomination, Cider House failed there). [Order of Chance: American Beauty, The Cider House Rules, The Insider, The Sixth Sense, The Green Mile]

Best Director
Lasse Halström (The Cider House Rules), Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich), Michael Mann (The Insider), Sam Mendes (American Beauty), and M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense)

Should win: Michael Mann or Sam Mendes. I really hate to choose ties, but this is one time in which I really could not choose between the two. The soft and easy direction from Mendes is hard to compare with the fast and edgy helming from Mann. Of course, there really is no reason that this year's real Best Director did not get a nomination: Anthony Minghella was literally robbed of his nomination for The Talented Mr. Ripley by Lasse Halström and M. Night Shyamalan, of all people.

Will win: Sam Mandes. Could it be, the Best Picture winner coinciding with the Best Director winner. I know that I personally would have Minghella win Best Director and American Beauty win Best Picture, but from those nominated, Mendes should and will win with his film. I feel so good about Mendes here that I'm going to choose it as a shoo-in (at least DreamWorks won here last year). [Order of Chance: Sam Mendes (American Beauty), Lasse Halström (The Cider House Rules), Michael Mann (The Insider), M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense), Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich)]

Best Actor
Russell Crowe (The Insider), Richard Farnsworth (The Straight Story), Sean Penn (Sweet and Lowdown), Kevin Spacey (American Beauty), and Denzel Washington (The Hurricane)

Should win: Kevin Spacey. Kevin Spacey is one of my favorite actors of the 1990's. Time and time again, he proves this honor, having been awarded or nominated for a Golden Brando Award for five straight years (wins for Best Actor for American Beauty and Best Supporting Actor for The Usual Suspects and L.A. Confidential, and Best Supporting Actor nominations for A Time to Kill and Hurlyburly). If he does not win here it will be a travesty.

Will win: Kevin Spacey. I'm crossing my fingers here. There is a very strong possibility that Denzel Washington will take the award. Too bad, Spacey has had this coming for some time. The other three can be forgotten, Spacey and Washington have this award to fight over. [Order of Chance: Kevin Spacey (American Beauty), Denzel Washington (The Hurricane), Russell Crowe (The Insider), Richard Farnsworth (The Straight Story), Sean Penn (Sweet and Lowdown)]

Best Actress
Annette Bening (American Beauty), Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds), Julianne Moore (The End of the Affair), Meryl Streep (Music of the Heart), and Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry)

Should win: Hilary Swank. As much as I adored Annette Bening in American Beauty, this was the performance of the year. Swank stole the throne from everyone by showing off the unseen acting prowess in Boys Don't Cry. She should win just like Cate Blanchett should have won last year.

Will win: Hilary Swank. Another wishful thinking, but this one has a better chance of paying off. I was pretty much ready to consider this award to be hers until Bening won the Screen Actors Guild Award. I'm still gunning for Swank even though the last time I acted as if the SAG Awards were going to be wrong I turned up with many incorrect The Talented Mr. Ripley nominations. [Note: On 24 March 2000, I came increasingly close to changing to Bening as my prediction, but chose not to.] The other three should be happy with their nominations, this is just not their night. [Order of Chance: Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry), Annette Bening (American Beauty), Julianne Moore (The End of the Affair), Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds), Meryl Streep (Music of the Heart)]

Best Supporting Actor
Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules), Tom Cruise (Magnolia), Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile), Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley), and Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense)

Should win: Jude Law. It was about time that The Talented Mr. Ripley get a major nomination. Law is one of the best actors that I have fought for. Ever since seeing him in Gattaca, I have been working to gain attention for this deserving Brit, and its about time that he get some recognition from the Academy.

Will win: Michael Caine. But that recognition will just have to be the nomination, he is the only one of the five nominees that seems to be out of the running. Osment has the cute kid factor, Duncan has the minority factor, Caine has the old crumudgen factor, and Cruise has the star defying stardom factor. I'm going to go with Caine simply because of the SAG Awards, they are such great precursors and this category is so wide open. Maybe, just maybe, they can all cancel each other out and Jude Law can be the BIG surprise winner (I know, cloud dreams). [Order of Chance: Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules), Tom Cruise (Magnolia), Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense), Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile), Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley)]

Best Supporting Actress
Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense), Anglelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted), Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich), Samantha Morton (Sweet and Lowdown), and Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don't Cry)

Should win: Chloë Sevigny. Of course Cate Blanchett was not nominated, so I had to hit my choice for second best supporting actress of the year. I know that I have complained for some time about Sevingy, especially due to the Harmony Korine films, but in Boys Don't Cry she literally defied my expectations.

Will win: Angelina Jolie. It really pains me to say this, but it looks to me like Jolie has this one in the bag. As much as I detested the film, it did have a flashy role for her, and she seems to have successfully ridden it to wins at various awards ceremonies including the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. She seems to be the front runner, but there is always a chance that Keener or Sevingy will come in and take it. [Order of Chance: Anglelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted), Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don't Cry), Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense), Samantha Morton (Sweet and Lowdown), Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich)]

Best Cinematography
American Beauty, The End of the Affair, The Insider, Sleepy Hollow, and Snow Falling on Cedars

Should win: American Beauty or The Insider. My choice of a tie here, and the film that I thought was actaully superior, can be seen in my Best Director comments.

Will win: American Beauty. Some of film's favorite cinematographers were nominated, all of whom have rather good chances of winning. I seriously doubt that The End of the Affair and Sleepy Hollow will win, but it is always a possibility. The artsy work of The Insider from Dante Spinotti will probably just have to settle with the nomination and the masterful photography from Robert Richardson for Snow Falling on Cedars could come in. But the only film that really seems destined to get the award is American Beauty for Conrad L. Hall. [Order of Chance: American Beauty, Sleepy Hollow, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Insider, The End of the Affair]

Best Foreign Language Film
All About My Mother (Spain), Caravan (Nepal), East-West (France), Solomon and Gaenor (Wales), and Under the Sun (Sweden)

Should win: All About My Mother. This is rather poor work on my part, but I have only seen this film. Still, it was pretty good and worthy of the award.

Will win: All About My Mother. I know that crowd favorites usually lose this award (i.e. Character), but I think that this somber look at the roles of women will still win. After Life is Beautiful last year, Pedro Almodovar must look rather refreshing. [Order of Chance: All About My Mother (Spain), East-West (France), Caravan (Nepal), Under the Sun (Sweden), Solomon and Gaenor (Wales)]

Best Original Screenplay
American Beauty, Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, The Sixth Sense, and Topsy-Turvy

Should win: Being John Malkovich. As much as I adored American Beauty, Being John Malkovich was the superior script. There are some things that seem like no one would have ever thought of it, and Malkovich is one of those things.

Will win: American Beauty. Of course, Alan Ball is still going to win even if his film is less off-the-wall than Malkovich. American Beauty has that certain touch that is sure to take voters, even if they acknowledge the more revolutionary Malkovich script. [Order of Chance: American Beauty, Being John Malkovich, The Sixth Sense, Topsy-Turvy, Magnolia]

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Cider House Rules, Election, The Green Mile, The Insider, and The Talented Mr. Ripley

Should win: The Talented Mr. Ripley. And another awars that Ripley should win. One of the most exquisite films visually is also so aurally. I know that there is little chance that the film will win, but there is really no reason that it shouldn't: it is a costume drama, it is long, and it is unpredictable. The only thing that keeps this film from, say, The English Patient (though the film lost to Sling Blade) is that its lead is gay. Whoop-de-doo, kill its chances and the Academy kills its respectability factor.

Will win: The Cider House Rules. With the second most nominations The Cider House Rules looks to be the winner. Of course, The Insider tied with it for the most nominations, but that film lacks the Miramax machine to guide it to victory. Other than those two, nothing really has a chance. [Order of Chance: The Cider House Rules, The Insider, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Election, The Green Mile]


Best Visual Effects
The Matrix, Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace, and Stuart Little

Should win: The Matrix. There is no reason that this film does not deserve the award simply for its spectacular use of bullet-time cameras. I'm still getting over it.

Will win: The Matrix. And I'd say that the Academy is still getting over it too. [Order of Chance: The Matrix, Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace, Stuart Little]

Best Film Editing
American Beauty, The Cider House Rules, The Insider, The Matrix, and The Sixth Sense

Should win: The Matrix. My choice for the best film editing this year, Run Lola Run, is not eligible this year due to some rather poor foreign film nomination guidelines, so I'm turning to my second favorite. The hyper-kenetic look of The Matrix is thanks to its editing just as much as its direction and cinematography.

Will win: The Matrix. And I can only hope that the Academy will see it this way too (I'm iffy on many of my predictions this year, so I'm left simply hoping in many categories). There is always a chance that American Beauty will come in a nice steak, but I kind of doubt it. [Order of Chance: The Matrix, American Beauty, The Sixth Sense, The Insider, The Cider House Rules]

Best Sound
The Green Mile, The Insider, The Matrix, The Mummy, and Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace

Should win: The Matrix. I know that I have a fondness to the sound design of American Beauty, but I'm evidently one of a mere few. Still, I do not think that the film can compare to the beautiful sound of The Matrix.

Will win: The Matrix. There are some interesting competitors here for The Matrix, with Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace, The Green Mile, and The Insider putting up stiff competition, but I have little doubt that The Matrix will come out as the winner. [Order of Chance: The Matrix, Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace, The Insider, The Green Mile, The Mummy]

Best Sound Effects Editing
Fight Club, The Matrix, and Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace

Should win: The Matrix. Come on, I'm susceptible to The Matrix steaking in the technical awards.

Will win: The Matrix. And I think that the Academy is just as susceptible. [Order of Chance: The Matrix, Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace, Fight Club]

Best Original Score
American Beauty, Angela's Ashes, The Cider House Rules, The Red Violin, and The Talented Mr. Ripley

Should win: The Talented Mr. Ripley. Gabriel Yared is one of the best film musicians out there, garnering kudos from me for years, but this score is, without a doubt, his best work yet. Convincingly striking the chords of European, jazz, and mystery film styles while allowing the Minghella film to flow like it does. Nevertheless, I must admit a fondness for the Thomas Newman score for American Beauty and the John Corigliano score for The Red Violin as well.

Will win: American Beauty. However grand The Talented Mr. Ripley score is, and however beautifully epic the Red Violin score is, there is little doubt in my mind that Newman will win for the unusual score for American Beauty as part of a probable American Beauty sweep. (Interesting side note, the American Beauty score is actually gaining air play in many Los Angeles radio stations.) [Order of Chance: American Beauty, The Cider House Rules, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Red Violin, Angela's Ashes]

Best Original Song
"Blame Canada" (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut), "Music of My Heart" (Music of the Heart), "Save Me" (Magnolia), "When She Loved Me" (Toy Story 2), and "You'll Be in My Heart" (Tarzan)

Should win: "Save Me." I know that it has as much of a chance as David Lynch winning a Best Director Academy Award (though I did seriously think that he had a chance for a nomination for The Straight Story back in December). This is the type of artsy fare that is lucky to get a nomination. There's almost always one, and this happened to be the best of the choices (though I would ahve loved to have seen, or heard, "Lullaby for Cain" from The Talented Mr. Ripley at least get a nomination). The beautiful voice of Aimee Mann works for one of the year's best soundtracks (the Magnolia album features nine songs from Mann, four of which are prominent in the film).

Will win: "When She Loved Me." As usual, the art won't win, nor the pop ("Music of My Heart," aka fingernails against a chalkboard), so this race is left completely to the animated films. I can safely say that "Blame Canada" is not going to make it, so look for the Tarzan and Toy Story 2 songs to duke it out, with the latter screeching ahead. [Order of Chance: "When She Loved Me" (Toy Story 2), "You'll Be in My Heart" (Tarzan), "Blame Canada" (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut), "Save Me" (Magnolia), "Music of My Heart" (Music of the Heart)]

Best Makeup
Austin Power: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Bicentennial Man, Life, and Topsy-Turvy

Should win: Topsy-Turvy. An unheard of four nominees and only one that I really liked. Still I'm not choosing Topsy-Turvy based on the fact that I liked it more than the others, it is simply that I consider it to be the superior. Its work on actors of the stage putting on the Mikado looks as good as it sounds, and some honor should come its way.

Will win: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Still, the Academy likes the flashier work, hence the reason Men in Black and The Nutty Professor are winners in this category, they are films where you can tell that makeup and prosthetics were needed. While Bicentennial Man and Life meet the requirements (no, Topsy-Turvy's Timothy Spall does not count -- that's not prostheitcs), expect the larger than life (excuse the pun) makeup for the Austin Powers sequel to win come Sunday evening. [Order of Chance: Austin Power: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Topsy-Turvy, Bicentennial Man, Life]

Best Costume Design
Anna and the King, Sleepy Hollow, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Titus, and Topsy-Turvy

Should win: The Talented Mr. Ripley. Ann Roth coproduced some of this year's most beautiful costumes grasping the high society of Italy in the thirties, but I doubt that she will be reuniting with Oscar this year (she won in 1996 with that-other-Minghella-film The English Patient).

Will win: Topsy-Turvy. All the films here could be considered contendors, but this is pretty much a race between Anna and the King and Topsy-Turvy. I can see either picture winning. The only reason that I'm giving the Mike Leigh film the edge is that it is a much more respected film. [Order of Chance: Topsy-Turvy, Anna and the King, Sleepy Hollow, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Titus]

Best Art Direction
Anna and the King, The Cider House Rules, Sleepy Hollow, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Topsy-Turvy

Should win: The Talented Mr. Ripley. I know that there are some that would say that much of the film came straight from already standing Italian architecture, but what was new, from that crazed jazz club to Dickie's bachelor pad looked sumptuous enough for a travelogue.

Will win: Sleepy Hollow. Same contest as Best Costume Design, Anna and the King and Topsy-Turvy could fight each other to a dead heat and cancel each other out, so there is a chance that Sleepy Hollow will come in. [Order of Chance: Sleepy Hollow, Topsy-Turvy, Anna and the King, The Cider House Rules, The Talented Mr. Ripley]

Best Documentary Feature
Buena Vista Social Club, Genghis Blues, On the Ropes, One Day in September, and Speaking in Strings

Should win: Buena Vista Social Club. I have seen two other semi-finalists in this category that did not make the short list that I believe are superior to the Wim Wenders concert film, but since American Movie and Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. failed to garner nominations, I'll have to go with this, the only film of the five that I have seen.

Will win: Buena Vista Social Club. Many accolades have been thrown at this film but I'm still not completely sure that it has this award won. Yes, it is the front-runner, but the reportedly engrossing On the Ropes and One Day in September hold a big chance of upsetting here. [Order of Chance: Buena Vista Social Club, One Day in September, On the Ropes, Speaking in Strings, Genghis Blues]

Best Documentary Short Subject
Eyewitness, King Gimp, and The Wildest Show in the South: The Angola Prison Rodeo

Should win: N/A. Didn't see! I hadn't heard of any of these films until their nominations.

Will win: The Wildest Show in the South: The Angola Prison Rodeo. Eenie-Meanie-Miney-Moe... (By the way, director Jonathan Stack was a nominee in the Best Documentary Feature category last year for The Farm: Angloa, U.S.A., so this is easily the most respected of the nominees.) [Order of Chance: The Wildest Show in the South: The Angola Prison Rodeo, Eyewitness, King Gimp]

Best Live-Action Short Film
Bror Min Bror, Killing Joe, Kleingeld, Major and Minor Miracles, and My Mother Dreams of Satan's Disciples in New York

Should win: Kleingeld. Nothing like a tragicomedy here, with a score that would be a great nominee if it was not for the fact that it came from a 15 minute German film.  I would not be terribly disappointed if Major and Minor Miracles won either, though My Mother Dreams of Satan's Disciples in New York was not my cup of tea.

Will win: Kleingold. If it worked for me, maybe it will work for the Academy too, though Killing Joe, about a young man's life paralleling John Kennedy's life, may be the film to beat it. [Order of Chance: Kleingold, Killing Joe, My Mother Dreams of Satan's Disciples in New York, Bror Min Bror, Major and Minor Miracles]

Best Animated Short Film
Humdrum, My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts, The Old Man and the Sea, Three Misses, and When the Day Breaks

Should win: When the Day Breaks.  Rarely do I say "wow" after an animated short, which I did with this Canadian short.  The only one of the nominees that I did not see was The Old Man and the Sea, which is probably also "wow" worthy.

Will win: When the Day Breaks. Without a doubt, this is the one I've heard the most about.  Of course it is much more depressing than the others, so the dramatic The Old Man the Sea and the comedic Humdrum could also come in and take the award. [Order of Chance: When the Day Breaks, The Old Man and the Sea, Humdrum, Three Misses, My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts]


American Beauty...6
The Matrix...4
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me...1
Boys Don't Cry...1
The Cider House Rules...2
Girl, Interrupted...1
Sleepy Hollow...1
Toy Story 2...1

Blatant Opinion:
What in the world was the Wall Street Journal thinking? This year the publication decided to make a phone poll of all the members of the Academy to learn who they were going to vote for and make a valid guess at the prospective winners. I personally believe this to be a true breach of journalism integrity. If the paper is going to sink as low as ruining the Academy Awards for all those that get a kick out of the whole predictions process, then it is time to call for a boycott of the paper. I know that I will not be reading their articles for a while, at least.

Their decision to turn the Academy Awards into a presidential election is rather saddening. I know that news can be hard for a paper based around the economy, but this is a bit of a sore idea for saving grace from another article on gas prices. I'm sure their staff of monkeys on the phone were paid, and what will they gain? To the best of my knowledge, most critics have taken to the corner of AMPAS president Robert Rehme in lambasting the paper for this scheme (Rehme et al. has actually advised some to give false information to throw off the poll's credibility). The idea of polling the public is one thing, but the voters is whole different matter.

I'm thanking heavens that the Journal chose to refrain from releasing their results Friday as planned, hopefully they will not run the winners at a later date.

[Note: On Friday, 24 March 2000, the Wall Street Journal did run this story. More in my post-show column.]

Analysis by:
David Perry