Originally created 02/11/02

Crystal-ball time for Oscar nods



Come Tuesday, when the nominations for the 74th annual Academy Awards competition are announced, there should be some relief from the current, out-of-control Oscar mania. This madness has taken possession of even the most balanced and casual moviegoer.

Second-guessing the collective mind of 5,722 voters of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences - always a challenge, even under the best of circumstances - is trickier this year for two reasons. First, the usual critics' groups that giddily hand out their own pre-Oscar awards and claim to be accurate indicators of the Academy Awards race have agreed to disagree this year. Not only have their picks been all over the map, they can't even agree who should be nominated and in what categories. And this little discrepancy exacerbates a problem that has plagued the Academy for years.

This problem is best exemplified this year by what I call the Nicole Kidman Dilemma. Kidman, as anyone who keeps up with such things knows, is a potential best actress contender for two performances - in Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge" and in Alejandro Amenabar's "The Others." But because of one of the arcane, inconsistent bylaws of the academy, an actor can be nominated only once in any given category.

This rule doesn't affect any of the other artisans of the filmmaking community - a good case in point being director Steven Soderbergh, who was nominated last year for both "Erin Brockovich" and "Traffic," winning a statuette for the latter.

Kidman is not alone. There are other performers caught up in the confusion this year. Take Gene Hackman: He won the Golden Globe as best actor (musical/comedy) for Wes Anderson's "The Royal Tennenbaums," but was named best supporting actor by the American Film Institute. Naomi Watts, being touted by her studio as a best actress candidate for David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive," was named best supporting actress by the Las Vegas Film Critics. And Jennifer Connelly, who won the best supporting actress Golden Globe for Ron Howard's "A Beautiful Mind," was nominated for best actress by the Screen Actors Guild.

So exactly what Oscar category will Connelly be in on Tuesday?

Benicio Del Toro had a situation similar to Connelly's when he was nominated last year by the Screen Actors Guild for best actor for Soderbergh's "Traffic." He actually went on to win the best supporting actor Oscar.

The only thing clear about this confusion is that the source behind it is all so arbitrary. With this contrariness in mind, here then are Oscar picks for the movie year 2001:

BEST PICTURE

The nominees will be:

"A Beautiful Mind"

"Black Hawk Down"

"In the Bedroom"

"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"

"Moulin Rouge"

Titles That Could Slip In: "Amelie," "Gosford Park," "The Man Who Wasn't There," "Memento," "Monster's Ball," "Mulholland Drive" and "Shrek."

Titles Doomed to be Overlooked: "Ali," "The Deep End," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Lantana," "The Others," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "Sexy Beast."

BEST DIRECTOR

The nominees will be:

Ron Howard, "A Beautiful Mind"

Peter Jackson, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"

Baz Luhrmann,"Moulin Rouge"

Christopher Nolan, "Memento"

Ridley Scott, "Black Hawk Down"

Names That Could Slip In: Robert Altman ("Gosford Park"), Todd Field ("In the Bedroom") and Steven Spielberg ("A.I. Artifical Intelligence").

Names Doomed to be Overlooked: Wes Anderson ("The Royal Tenenbaums"), Joel Coen ("The Man Who Wasn't There"), Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("Amelie"), David Lynch ("Mulholland Drive") and Michael Mann ("Ali")

BEST ACTRESS

The nominees will be:

Halle Berry, "Monster's Ball"

Judi Dench, "Iris"

Nicole Kidman, "Moulin Rouge"

Sissy Spacek, "In the Bedroom"

Renee Zellweger, "Bridget Jones's Diary"

Names That Could Slip In: Thora Birch ("Ghost World"), Cate Blanchett ("Charlotte Gray"), Audrey Tautou ("Amelie"), Tilda Swinton ("The Deep End") and Naomi Watts ("Mulholland Drive").

Names Doomed to be Overlooked: Stockard Channing ("The Business of Strangers"), Licia Maglietta ("Bread and Tulips"), Janet McTeer ("Songcatcher"), Piper Perabo ("Lost and Delirious"), Michelle Pfeiffer ("I Am Sam"), Charlotte Rampling ("Under the Sand"), Reese Witherspoon ("Legally Blonde") and Zhang Ziyi ("The Road Home").

BEST ACTOR

The nominees will be:

Russell Crowe, "A Beautiful Mind"

Sean Penn, "I Am Sam"

Will Smith, "Ali"

Denzel Washington, "Training Day"

Tom Wilkinson, "In the Bedroom"

Names That Could Slip In: Gene Hackman ("The Royal Tenenbaums"), Kevin Kline ("Life As a House"), Kevin Spacey ("The Shipping News") and Billy Bob Thornton ("The Man Who Wasn't There" and "Monster's Ball").

Names Doomed to be Overlooked: Daniel Auteuil ("The Widow of Saint-Pierre"), Benjamin Bratt ("Pinero"), Adrien Brody ("Bread & Roses"), Albert Brooks ("My First Mister"), Pierce Brosnan ("The Tailor of Panama"), Bruno Ganz ("Bread and Tulips"), Hugh Jackman ("Kate & Leopold"), Samuel L. Jackson ("The Caveman's Valentine"), Anthony LaPaglia ("Lantana"), Ewan McGregor ("Moulin Rouge"), John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch"), Guy Pearce ("Memento") and Jack Nicholson ("The Pledge").

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

The nominees will be:

Jennifer Connelly, "A Beautiful Mind"

Helen Mirren, "Gosford Park"

Maggie Smith, "Gosford Park"

Marisa Tomei, "In the Bedroom"

Kate Winslet, "Iris"

Names That Could Slip In: Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench (both for "The Shipping News").

Names Doomed to be Overlooked: Phoebe Cates ("The Anniversary Party"), Elpidia Carrillo ("Bread & Roses"), Pat Carroll ("Songcatcher") and Laura Dern ("Focus").

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

The nominees will be:

Steve Buscemi, "Ghost World"

Jim Broadbent, "Iris"

Ben Kingsley, "Sexy Beast"

Ian McKellan, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"

Jon Voight, "Ali"

Names That Could Slip In: Tony Shalhoub ("The Man Who Wasn't There") and Nick Stahl ("In the Bedroom").

Names Doomed to be Overlooked: Jim Broadbent (this time for "Moulin Rouge"), Robbie Coltrane ("Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"), Brian Cox ("L.I.E."), James Gandolfini ("The Man Who Wasn't There" and "The Mexican"), Elliott Gould ("Ocean's Eleven"), Josh Harnett ("O"), Carl Reiner ("Ocean's Eleven"), Richard Roxburgh ("Moulin Rouge"), Geoffrey Rush ("Lantana" and "The Tailor of Panama"), Stanley Tucci ("Sidewalks of New York") and Steve Zahn ("Riding in Cars with Boys").

Finally, it will be interesting to observe the inevitable omissions and oversights this year. "Come What May," the terrific David Baerwald song from "Moulin Rouge," has already been decreed ineligible for some reason. The academy always has its own bizarre rationale. In 1972, Ingmar Bergman's brilliant "Scenes from a Marriage" was barred from competing because it originated as a Swedish TV series, but two years later, in 1975, James Whitmore was nominated as best actor for "Give 'em Hell, Harry!," a stage performance that was filmed live on stage during a tour of that show.

In 1999, Robert Benigni's "Life Is Beautiful" was nominated for both best picture and best foreign language film, which it won. The same thing could happen to Jean-Pierre Jeunet's French-language "Amelie," which is also being pushed as a best picture contender. We'll see.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com)