The year du cinéma brought us far too many 19th-century spectaculars, an overabundance of operations without anesthesia, and of course, the immortal tag line "Dat kangaroo gots my money!" But the Oscars will go onand so will my annual nominee predictions. In fact, here they come now, without anesthesia.
BEST PICTURE: As always, grotesquely large studios with gigantic bucks are the big winners, and any of their long, alternately dazzling and laborious movies that beg for nominations will apparently get them. The far-reaching front-runners are Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (just submit to the glorious spectacle of it all. I only looked at my watch once!), Cold Mountain (the work of a geniusand Harvey got Minghella to help too), Master and Commander (beautifully made, if a bit like a Scholastic film via a gay porno, except there's no sex), Mystic River (which I will obnoxiously call Mystic Pizza from now on, but by any name, this friggin' thing is a lock), The Last Samurai (a/k/a Big Fish Out of Water. I preferred Lost in Translation's more honest patronization of Japanese culture), Seabiscuit (a dark horse, but it's backed by an even more lavish campaign than Howard Dean's), House of Sand and Fog (doom and gloom, followed by a bigger body pileup than in The Last Samurai), In America (in its own hyper-emotional way, it's epic enough), and Lost in Translation (not lost in the shuffle).
Less bankable are 21 Grams (Sean Penn's other anguish fest, which I shall insist on calling 21 Jump Street, explores the immortal dilemma: What do you do when your man has just been transplanted with your dead husband's heart? It happens, folks), Big Fish (flashbacks within flashbacks, lies within lies. I liked it, but I have reasons within reasons), and Finding Nemo (a/k/a Really Big Fish. But there's a separate category for animation, honey).
The nominees will be: Cold Mountain, Lord of the Rings 3, Master and Commander, Mystic River, Seabiscuit.
Charlize Theron (Monster)
(photo: New Market Films)
BEST ACTRESS : The strongest thoroughbreds out of the gate are Charlize Theron for Monster (we don't need another gay killer, but the movie takes pains to be homo-sensitive, and the astonishing Theron does such a Hilary Swank, she can start accepting now, as long as she remembers to thank Chad Lowe), Diane Keaton for Something's Gotta Give (the flick's a big, lumpy marshmallow, but Diane's luminous, and all the oldsters who regularly pay for prepubescent arm candy will vote for her out of geezer guilt), Naomi Watts for 21 Jump Street (the characters are banal constructs, but the actors up them a notch, in her case by effectively screaming and crying a lot), Cate Blanchett for The Missing (Cate sees the prairie and takes over, honeypulling teeth, sewing wounds, and doing whatever it takes to get to some emotional truth and an Oscar nod. But she has a better chance for Veronica Guerin , even though the same number of patrons who wanted to see a schmucky journalist in Shattered Glass wanted to catch noble Guerinzero. Well, The Missing wasn't exactly Bad Boys II either), Jennifer Connelly for Sand and Fog (a moving, well-calibrated performance. Hopefully her man won't dump her on the way in again), and Nicole Kidman for Cold Mountain (poverty, war, and crisis didn't affect her beauty and hygiene one bit!).
Less certain are Scarlett Johansson for Girl With a Pearl Earring (alas, it wasn't a pearl necklace), Gwyneth Paltrow for Sylvia (nobody likes a moper), Samantha Morton for In America (too subtle), Hope Davis for American Splendor or Secret Lives of Dentists (Hollywood's allergic to esoteric), Jamie Lee Curtis for Freaky Friday (in which she's trapped in the wrong bodyyikes, those rumors again), and Diane Lane for Under the Tuscan Sun (a/k/a Enchanted Unfaithful)
The nominees will be: Connelly, Keaton, Kidman, Theron, Watts.
BEST ACTOR: The choicest choices are Sean Penn for Mystic Pizza and 21 Jump Street (oy, the suffering. Let's add to his pain by nominating him), Russell Crowe for Master and Commander (he'll beat people up if he doesn't get it), Ben Kingsley for Sand and Fog (does his best Gandhi voice and is quite affecting until he starts grabbing for the gold too hard), Jude Law for Cold Mountain (so cute! So blank, but so cute!), Bill Murray for Lost in Translation (his apex. His quintessential role. He'll get nominated anyway), Jack Nicholson for Something's Gotta Give (in his sixties, he's finally playing romantic leads. This is sick!), Johnny Depp for Pirates of the Caribbean (he did so many quirky movies, they'd like to embrace him for finally making a family-oriented smash. But not this year), Tom Cruise for The Last Samurai (it would be fun to see Nicole have to present him with the award. Otherwise, forget about it), and Jeff Bridges for Seabiscuit (couldn't upstage the horse).
The nominees will be: Crowe, Kingsley, Law, Murray, Penn.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Brace yourselves for Shohreh Aghdashloo for Sand and Fog (say that five times fast), Holly Hunter for Thirteen (the Academy's favored her ever since she played the piano with nine fingers), Scarlett Johannson for Lost in Translation (yes, they're pushing her for supporting for this. Don't ask), Renée Zellweger for Cold Mountain (they owe her. See, she lost last year because Nicole won because she'd lost the year before. This year, I bet Renée's sick dog won't be an issue), Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden for Mystic Pizza (oh, yeah, Clint Eastwood, that great director of women. Still, Harden's a doll), Maria Bello for The Cooler (she showed her George Dubya and did a credible Sharon Stone impression), various gals for Mona Lisa Smile (a/k/a School of Schlock), Keisha Castle-Hughes for Whale Rider (a/k/a My Big Fat Maori Wedding. If this is a supporting role, then I'm Scarlett Johansson), Emma Thompson for Love Actually (her arm rose out of the goo to clutch for a nomination), Patricia Clarkson for Pieces of April (she's eternally fabbut Pieces of April?), and Frances McDormand for Laurel Canyon (are you kidding? Way too good!).
The nominees will be: Aghdashloo, Harden, Hunter, Johansson, Zellweger.
SUPPORTING ACTOR: The insanely diverse choices include Albert Finney for Big Fish (big ham), Tim Robbins for Mystic Pizza (this year's Michael Moore?), Peter Sarsgaard for Shattered Glass (shatteringly good), William H. Macy for Seabiscuit (I see biscuit, I eat it), Benicio Del Toro for 21 Jump Street (superb in an irritating movieso what else is new?), Alec Baldwin for The Cooler (a bad flick, but it's not his fault), Ken Watanabe for The Last Samurai ("Let me tell you how he lived. . . . "), Paul Bettany for Master and Commander (he's Jennifer Connelly's hubby. If he's nominated, can he still dump her on the way in?), the gang from Rings 3 (yeah, right, it's a movie about acting), Wentworth Miller for The Human Stain (can he pass for a nominee?), and Djimon Hounsou for In America (in doubtthough he does have a big screaming scene).
The nominees will be: Del Toro, Macy, Robbins, Sarsgaard, Watanabe.
The nominees for Best Short Subject will be . . . Do you honestly think I give a shit?
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