With the Oscar nominations about to be announced on February 11, it’s time for me to crystal-ball the nominees and then crawl under a giant podium until all my mistakes blow over.
BEST PICTURE: Four movies are such locks even U.N. weapons inspectors wouldn’t be able to find what’s inside them. The Pianist proves that strong feelings for an effective slice of Holocaust horror override bad thoughts about an estranged bad-boy director. The suicidal lesbian romp The Hours is an art-house triumph—the most high-minded film of the year, like, OK? Chicago doesn’t show enough dancers’ feet, but I don’t go to a movie to see feet, and besides, this one is salaciously entertaining. And the new, less impenetrable Lord of the Rings will break the rule that follow-ups only get the nod when they’re Godfathers.
The fifth slot will surely go to either the geriatric road flick About Schmidt, which even Schmidt would like; Gangs of New York, which gives the Academy the chance to atone for past snubs of Scorsese; Signs, which is getting the biggest push since Diet Vanilla Coke; or Far From Heaven—a/k/a Imitation of Imitation of Life—which is well loved on the coasts, though most inlanders feel it’s a grandiose art-school project. But totally rule out The Road to Perdition (a big, beautiful bore), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (an amiable piece of so-so baklava), and Adaptation (which is friskily clever, but is mainly adored by writers in crisis). And don’t even think about the brilliant—i.e., too weird—Punch-Drunk Love. Oscar doesn’t get it, so it won’t get Oscar.
The nominees will be: Chicago, Gangs, The Hours, Rings, The Pianist.
Kidman in The Hours
BEST ACTRESS: Julianne Moore is a shoo-in for Far From Heaven; she really nailed housewife denial—again. Renee Zellweger is both naughty and adorable as the sassy, singing murderer in Chicago (and at least it wasn’t Madonna). Meryl Streep stole The Hours as the nurturing but troubled modern-day Mrs. Dalloway—and she’s Meryl Streep! Golden Globe winner Nicole Kidman was hot in the same movie, and the fake schnozz ups her chances. (Prosthetics are always a plus—they even look like Oscars.) Diane Lane made Unfaithful‘s cheating slut understandable and almost delightful. And though Salma Hayek was arguably the main problem with Frida, people admire her just for getting it done (and again, at least it wasn’t Madonna).
Less notably: Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s Secretary vehicle was the one-joke stunt of the year, though its defenders will spank you for saying that. Greek Wedding’s Nia Vardalos was the underdog success story of the year, but that’s still not quite good enough. Goldie Hawn was smashing in The Banger Sisters, but only I saw it. And Samantha Morton, Jennifer Aniston, and Isabelle Huppert (who was in The Pianist, I mean The Piano, I mean The Piano Teacher) all got raves for movies no one saw.
The nominees will be: Kidman, Lane, Moore, Streep, Zellweger
BEST ACTOR: Gangs‘ Daniel Day-Lewis is a lock for the Geoffrey Rush, no-holds-barred slot. Jack Nicholson couldn’t be a surer bet for his so-not-showy-it-was-almost-showy Schmidt turn. Michael Caine was superb in The Quiet American, and anyone who’s against it is anti-American. And Adrien Brody was the soul of The Pianist, and besides, his mom (photographer Sylvia Plachy) works at the Voice. The fifth slot could be a wild-card choice, though insiders predict a toss-up between Chicago‘s Richard Gere, who tap-danced, and Adaptation‘s Nicolas Cage, who played twins. (Useless tidbit: Lee Marvin won for twinning it up in ’65’s Cat Ballou.)
Less surely: Antwone Fisher‘s Derek Luke had me at hello, but the Academy’s already forgotten last year’s self-congratulatory let’s-end-black-invisibility campaign. Edward Norton was solid in 25th Hour, but Spike Lee’s the real star of his own joints. Leonardo DiCaprio looked good in slacks in Catch Me If You Can, but anyone who says the flick wasn’t a bit overinflated is a con artist. And Perdition‘s Tom Hanks has to be taught that you can’t get nominated every time you make a movie. As for Al Pacino (Insomnia) and his co-star Robin Williams (One Hour Photo), they’re lovable old pros who’ll viciously cancel each other out. But wait, scrap that. I just decided Pacino will be the wild card! Nah, fuck it, let’s go with Cage.
The nominees: Brody, Cage, Caine, Day-Lewis, Nicholson
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: When Kathy Bates dove naked into a hot tub in Schmidt, Nicholson went running—no doubt to tell the Academy. Also bravely, Cameron Diaz let people throw knives at her in Gangs, Miranda Richardson rolled through the bowels of hell in three Spider roles, and Patricia Clarkson made her best-friend part in Far From Heaven seem bigger than it was. Ditto the vampy Catherine Zeta-Jones, who was every inch a star in a Chicago lead that was greeted as supporting, mainly because it had been rudely shredded. (Gossip sidebar: On the cut song “Class,” Zeta-Jones elegantly sings the word twat.) Meanwhile Queen Latifah might also ride the Chicago wave, the first talk-show host to get nominated since Oprah. (Yes, Jerry Springer was somehow denied a plaque for Ringmaster.)
As for the buts: Lois Smith and Samantha Morton rocked the noisily fabulous Minority Report, but they might lose out to the special effects. Toni Collette was strong in About a Boy and amazing in the Patricia Clarkson role in The Hours, but she might cancel herself out—the danger of being too popular. Similarly, Susan Sarandon triple mom-ed herself out of the picture. But marvy Meryl Streep (Adaptation) and jewel-like Julianne Moore (The Hours) could be dual duelists—and let’s not forget Edie Falco (Sunshine State), Michelle Pfeiffer (White Oleander), and everyone else I’ve forgotten.
The nominees: Bates, Latifah, Moore, Streep, Zeta-Jones
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Adaptation‘s Chris Cooper has been everyone’s secret favorite for a long time (and his Golden Globe just made him major). Ditto Far From Heaven‘s Dennis Quaid and The Hours‘ Ed Harris (both of whom are straight playing gay—a plus in Hollywood’s twisted eyes). Paul Newman brought dignity and Paul Newman-ness to Perdition, so you can count ol’ blue eyes in. Christopher Walken brought daft charm and Christopher Walken-ness to Catch Me If You Can. And Alfred Molina is the best thing in Frida, and maybe should have played the title role.
But though John C. Reilly had a good bit in Chicago, the whole point of his character is that he’s invisible. Meanwhile, Ray Liotta‘s being touted for Narc, but I can’t imagine they’d nominate something I haven’t even seen. As for Robin Williams, he effectively changed his Patch Adams career trajectory with Insomnia, but most people feel he wouldn’t have had to change the trajectory if he hadn’t done Patch Adams.
The nominees: Cooper, Harris, Newman, Quaid, Walken
Of course none of the above twats—I mean nominees—should gloat all that actively. The Oscar curse is so pungent that Roberto Benigni recently followed up his triumphant Life Is Beautiful with Pinocchio, the kind of mishandled misfire for which you can truly thank the Academy!