2000 was the year of the genre flick — gladiator epics, hurricane movies, and chicken runs — and it’s now up to the Oscars to plow through all the storms and feathers and find some actual humans worth citing. The nominations will be announced on February 13, but being blessed with amazing mystical powers and a subscription to Daily Variety, I can tell you right now who’s going to get what. Maybe.
BEST PICTURE: A smorgasbord of period pieces and confrontational dramas is pushing for the glory, all torn between social relevance and sheer titillation. The soggy field covers everything from flashy embarrassments like Quills (a/k/a Hideous Kinky) and seductive formula flicks like Billy Elliot (Shine with tutus and lollipops) to the wildly praised Traffic — drugs are bad — which some disgruntled audience members have been calling “Lifestyle television for women.”
Without one solid front-runner, it seems even Battlefield Earth has a chance, but there are some prize horses in the rat race. Among the shiniest contenders: Almost Famous (almost a hit), Gladiator (Ben-Hur for the “Get her” generation), Erin Brockovich (what consciousness raising! what cleavage!), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (lush scenery and kick-ass karate — an art flick for real people), Cast Away (if you scream “Oscar” on a deserted island, do people still hear it? By God, yes!), Sunshine (180 minutes spanning three generations — and all they’re asking for is one tiny little statuette).
But you can safely rule out: The Patriot (I was rooting for the British), Chocolat (an icky trip down the Hershey highway, though Miramax has worked up its usual frenzy around it), Wonder Boys (the Al Gore of movies — they’ll keep rereleasing it until it wins something).
The nominees will be: Cast Away; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Erin Brockovich; Gladiator; Traffic.
BEST ACTOR: Angst is the key emotion here, and, as usual, the more outbursts the better. The most cantankerous contenders are Russell Crowe for Gladiator (the only thing in the movie that wasn’t digitized), Javier Bardem for Before Night Falls (Javier who? Oh, hush, he’s a shoo-in), Geoffrey Rush for Quills (that naked scene took balls), Sean Connery for Finding Forrester (the name’s Forrester. William Forrester), Jamie Bell for Billy Elliot (he can see dance people), Denzel Washington for Remember the Titans (remember the grosses), George Clooney for O Brother, Where Art Thou? (how cute is he?), Tom Hanks for Cast Away (he gained weight, lost weight, and talked to a volleyball — does this not merit some recognition, people?), Michael Douglas for Wonder Boys (Hollywood admires him for nabbing whatshername for only a million a year), Ed Harris for Pollock (what next — Gary Sinise as Schnabel?), Ralph Fiennes for Sunshine (on my shoulder makes me happy).
Fuhgeddaboudit: Kevin Costner for Thirteen Days (Waterworld wasn’t that long ago), Colin Farrell for Tigerland (too soon), Jim Carrey for the Grinch movie (a/k/a Green Eggs and a Really Big Ham).
The nominees will be: Bardem, Crowe, Douglas, Hanks, Rush.
BEST ACTRESS: The field is dominated by seemingly lightweight types surprising us with chutzpah and pathos. The cream of the dreamgirls are Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich (it’s her Norma Rae, and I really, really like her!), Laura Linney for You Can Count On Me (superb, but they’ll notice her anyway), Björk for Dancer in the Dark (everyone hated it, but she rocked as the sweet simpleton who murders, then sings about it), Joan Allen for The Contender (the orgy hurt her presidential chances, but not her Oscar ones), Gillian Anderson for The House of Mirth (a/k/a The House of Blues), Juliette Binoche for Chocolat (leave off the last e — it’s the e for extra servings), Cate Blanchett for The Gift (a nomination might be in her cards), Ellen Burstyn for Requiem for a Dream (I felt she overacted, but hey, I’m not an Oscar voter), Michelle Yeoh for Crouching Tiger (Yeoh, mama!).
Sorry, ladies: Renée Zellweger for Nurse Betty (response to the movie needed resuscitation), Brenda Blethyn for Saving Grace (the potheads can’t seem to get it together to vote for her).
The nominees will be: Allen, Björk, Burstyn, Linney, Roberts.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Character actors charmed their way to award consideration, gamely chewing scenery while grabbing for the gold. The top aspirants are Albert Finney for Erin Brockovich (if you didn’t love him, you must be drinking tainted water), Oliver Reed and Joaquin Phoenix for Gladiator (Phoenix is more of a favorite because he’s alive, though he goes to too many parties), Willem Dafoe for Shadow of the Vampire (he didn’t suck), Bruce Greenwood for Thirteen Days (Jack impersonation equals Oscar nomination), Benicio Del Toro for Traffic (he’s been better in other movies, but Oscar’s not known for timing), Giovanni Ribisi for The Gift (this could be his chance to prove he’s not Benicio Del Toro), Alfred Molina for Chocolat (around the corner, fudge is made), Jeff Bridges for The Contender (though his ethical president now seems unbelievable), Mark Ruffalo for You Can Count On Me (a/k/a O Brother, Where Art Thou Taking My Son?).
No way, José: Michael Caine for Quills (didn’t he win the last 10 years?), Gary Oldman for The Contender (Phoenix already has the boo-hiss slot), Donald Sutherland for Space Cowboys (Tang and Depends don’t mix).
The nominees: Dafoe, Del Toro, Finney, Greenwood, Phoenix.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Veterans dominate this category, oozing authority despite unflattering hairstyles. The hottest hotshots are Frances McDormand and Kate Hudson for Almost Famous (very famous), Catherine Deneuve for Dancer in the Dark (the most glamorous factory worker since Kathie Lee’s kids had to address envelopes), Julie Walters for Billy Elliot (no, she’s not Brenda Blethyn), Kate Winslet for Quills (being a laundress in that movie took a lot of Febreze), Dame Judi Dench for Chocolat (there is nothing like a Dame Judi Dench), Catherine Zeta-Jones for Traffic (though her lavish pre-nup might be reward enough), Marcia Gay Harden for Pollock (a/k/a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Drunk).
Sorry, ladies: Lupe Ontiveros for Chuck & Buck (the nominators aren’t that swift), Zhang Yi Yi for Crouching Tiger (ditto), Jennifer Ehle and Rosemary Harris for Sunshine (their Tony Awards battle was scary enough).
The nominees will be: Dench, McDormand, Walters, Winslet, Zeta-Jones.
May the best woman win — if she’s nominated!