Sunday, March 23, 2003

Okay, Academy Award Predictions

I have made various predictions about nominations and likely winners before. If you are really concerned, you can find them using the search engine to the left. In any event, the major categories. My predictions for the winners in bold.

For Best Picture, Chicago is the shortest priced favourite since Titanic. It will almost certainly win. I don't mind too much, because it is actually pretty good. The quality of the five nominees is the best we have seen in years, in my opinion, also. Of the other films, The Two Towers is a beautifully crafted blockbuster, but will not win because the academy has decided not to give the award to the middle of a trilogy. Gangs of New York is good Scorsese but not great Scorsese. The Hours is perhaps not that interesting and is perhaps even a little trite from a story point of view, but is packed with great performances from start to finish. The Pianist is the best film of the five, and is widely perceived to be the best film of the five. If there is an upset, The Pianist will win (as it did at the Bafta awards). However, I doubt there will be.

The real question is whether there will be a Chicago landslide or not. The film could conceivably win Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and three acting awards. The key indicator for this will be the supporting acting awards, which are announced early. If Catherine Zeta-Jones wins, then there likely will be a landslide. If John C. Reilly wins as well, then there definitely will be and Martin Scorsese and Charlie Kaufman might as well get up and go home.

For Best Director, Martin Scorsese has long been the favourite, sort of as a career achievement film. Nobody thinks that Gangs of New York is as good as Mean Streets or Taxi Driver or Raging Bull or Goodfellas. (I'd also add The Age of Innocence and Kundun and a couple of others. However, this list simply demonstrates how embarassing it is that the academy has not honoured him before). However, the infighting over this one has been extremely vicious, with Miramax clearly overstepping the line and breaking academy rules. (I will not go into the details now, but I can if anyone really wants me to). The worst of this furore occurred after most votes were in, so it may not hurt Scorsese as much as it could have, but it will hurt. Plus, Rob Marshall won the Director's Guild award for Chicago which is the best predictor of directing Oscars. This one is practically a tie. I will go for Scorsese because I think Mary deserves it, and Rob Marshall doesn't at this point in his career. But only just.

Okay, acting awards. For some reason, in the acting categories (with the exception of Best Actress, where none of the nominees have won before) a huge number of past winners have been nominated. This brings to the fore the "Does (such and such) deserve to win two oscars". Or "Does (so and so) deserve three oscars at this stage in her career" factor, which I think will come into it in quite a few places.

For Best Actress, though, it won't. Nicole Kidman is favourite and has been all along, although Renee Zellwegger has been mentioned a lot as a likely winner. Both actresses are seen as due, I think, and both actresses are nominated for the second year in a row, although Zellweger is perhaps seen as less of a "serious" actress than Kidman, which I think will count against her. I thought that both actresses were better in their nominated performances last year (Kidman for Moulin Rouge, Zellweger for Bridget Jones' Diary), personally, and that Kidman's performance was the least of the three main performances in The Hours, both in terms of the acting and in terms of whether it is actually a lead performance. I wish Meryl Streep was nominated so that I could say I wanted her to win. As for the nominated performances in this categorty, the one I would like to win is Julianne Moore for Far From Heaven, and she has some chance, although being nominated in two categories may split her vote. I think though that Nicole Kidman will win this one, except if we get the Chicago sweep. (Salma Hayak and Diane Lane are making up the numbers here).

As for Best Actor, the early favourite was Jack Nicholson for About Schmidt. However, Nicholson won relatively recently, and although I think the academy may give him a fourth oscar some day, I don't think they will do so this year. Nicholas Cage is just great in Adaptation, but I think the voters may find the film a little too self-indulgent to give it an Oscar for a lead performance. Plus, Cage has sullied his reputation a little by appearing in too many mindless action movies. Daniel Day Lewis is over the top in Gangs of New York but it is a delicious performance and he is likely to win. Plus we are all delighted to see him back in the movies. Michael Caine is very good in The Quiet American but the political mood is wrong for the movie and Caine has won two Oscars before and won quite recently for The Cider House Rules. The early "Caine has never won in the lead category" campaign fizzled away, largely because Miramax decided to concentrate on Daniel Day Lewis in this category. The fifth nominee is Adrien Brody for The Pianist and I think he is a real chance. (He is also the only nominee in this category to not have at least one Oscar already). He is superb in the movie, and if the academy decides to honour that movie without giving it Best Picture, it may do so here. I rate him second favourite after Day Lewis.

For Best Supporting Actress, a lot of people are now picking Catherine Zeta-Jones for Chicago. I am not. She is a lightweight actress (although she is the only person in Chicago who is genuinely a very good singer and dancer), and has managed to get a reputation for being mean spirited through her lawsuits and such. On the other hand, everyone who has ever met Meryl Streep seems to like her, she had a terrific year with two really good performances, she is someone who really does deserve a third oscar and everybody knows it, and she hasn't won for a long time. So I think she will win. Of course, Julianne Moore has also had a great year with two really good performances, but the better one was in Far From Heaven. If Moore wins, I think she will win in the lead category. Queen Latifah and Kathy Bates are the ones making up the numbers here. Bates is incapable of a bad performance, but has won for Best Actress before, and has been overshadowed in the race this year.

For Best Supporting Actor, I initially thought that Paul Newman would win. Newman is terrific in The Road to Perdition but the rest of the movie is so so, and it came out too long ago. (The film deserves to win for Art Direction, though). I also was pretty positive at one point about John C Reilly's chances, because he is in three of the Best Picture nominees and is really good in all of them, but again he hasn't got much attention since the nomination (In any event, I thought he was better in Gangs of New York. Chris Cooper seems the favourite for this category, and he is good in Adaptation, but I wasn't as blown away by the performance as were some people. (The performances I really liked in that film were Nicholas Cage's and Meryl Streep's, with a tip of the hat to Brian Cox for his delightful take on Robert McKee). I think Christopher Walken was just superb - beautifully touching and understated - in Catch Me if You Can, and I am going to predict the upset. Walken has won an Oscar before and there might be a little bit of a "Does he deserve two?" factor, but he won so long ago that many people may have forgotten. In the event that they hasn't, if you think about his career at length a good case can be made for an answer of "Yes, he does deserve two". As for Ed Harris, there may be a feeling that he is worthy of an Oscar, but he has been much better than he is in The Hours in other movies, and he doesn't seem to be getting much attention. He is not impossible, but I doubt it.

For Best Animated Feature it looks like Hayao Miyazaki will win for Spirited Away. This makes me happy: the master deserves it. There is no standout amongst the American animated movies, although all are decent, and the fact that there are five nominations in total means that the non-Spirited Away vote will be split. Plus there is a much stronger realisation out their than I was expecting that the Miyazaki film is the one great film on the list. In the event that Spirited Away does not win, it will be Lili and Stitch or Ice Age. It will also be interesting to see if they give the award to Mike's New Car (a short film featuring the characters of Monsters, Inc as a way of realising that they should have given the animated feature award to Monsters, Inc last year). I doubt it: I think that either The Chubbchubbs! or Mt Head will win in this category.

Briefly, I think My Big Fat Greek Wedding will win for Original Screenplay, as Hollywood loves to reward an unexpected success (and also, that category is weak). I think Charlie Kaufman will win for Adapted Screenplay for Adaptation, although Chicago, The Hours, or The Pianist are all a chance in that category. I would like Eminem to win Best Original Song for Lose Yourself from 8 Mile because it is a great song that is integral to the movie, but Eminem is too edgy for the academy. (8 Mile also really deserved a nomination for Art Direction, but didn't get one). I believe that Bowling For Columbine will not win for Best Documentary, and (with much less confidence) that either Prisoner of Paradise or Winged Migration will win. It would be a travesty if anything other than The Two Towers won for visual effects, but we usually get travesties in that category, because the academy as a whole knows nothing about visual effects.

I am going to watch the awards live, and I may blog my reactions as they come. Anyone who wants to is free to laugh at predictions I get wrong.

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