Cinecist (formerly Wordhound) vs. Oscar 2001

As I've made clear before, I think 2001 was a great year for film.  That usually makes it harder to predict the Oscars with any degree of accuracy.  But I soldier on optimistically--or perhaps merely foolishly--in presenting my Oscar Picks & Predictions 2001.

A few brief notes before commencing. 

First, please note the absence of predictions for any of the short film categories (animated, live action, documentary). No disrespect to the filmmakers, but short films, having virtually no commercial distribution channels, also have almost no audience.  I haven't seen any of the nominees, and neither have you.  Why torture myself and bore you trying to predict which ones will win?

Next, just to keep things clear, my “pick” in a category recognizes which of the nominees I think most deserves to win, not which of all the movies out there most deserves to win.  The actual best choice in a given category is, often enough, not even among the nominees.  For instance, in a perfect world Memento would win for Best Picture; but in the real world it wasn't even nominated, so it can't be my pick.

Finally, I’ve started assigning percentage odds in major categories as a way of expressing degrees of likelihood that any given nominee will win.  While management stands behind the reasonableness of these numbers, in a general sort of way, we are regrettably but most assuredly unable to provide reimbursement for any money wagered and lost based on these percentages.  So don't ask.

Haven't got the time?  Try my Predictions at a Glance.

Thanks for coming, and now on with the show.

 


Picture  ·  Director  ·  Actor  ·  Actress  ·  Supporting Actor  ·  Supporting Actress
Screenplay (Original)  ·  Screenplay (Adapted)  ·  Cinematography  ·  Art Direction  ·  Sound

Film Editing  ·  Song  ·  Musical Score  ·  Costume Design  ·  Makeup  ·  Visual Effects  ·  Sound Editing

Foreign Language Film  ·  Animated Feature  ·  Documentary Feature


Best Picture

 

NomineesA Beautiful Mind, Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings, & Moulin Rouge
Pick:
  In the Bedroom
PredictionA Beautiful Mind

 

In the Bedroom raises the bar for wrenching emotional drama. It is both relentless and respectful in probing the hearts of its characters; it bares everything and yet it preserves its impenetrable mysteries. It is one of the very best movies of the year, and clearly the best of those nominated. A Beautiful Mind, though, is precisely the kind of movie the Academy loves to honor: the story of one man's heroic and ultimately successful struggle against adversity. It's the most American of stories, and I think this is a year in which the quintessentially American is likely to dominate what is, after all, primarily a pageant of popular taste, and only secondarily a recognition of artistic merit. Mind is, of course, a good movie; it would be far from the least deserving film ever to win the award. This isn't a runaway, though. I think both Lord of the Rings and Moulin Rouge have a shot at the gold here, based on their spectacular escapist appeal and superb production values--as well as their commercial success. It's a toss-up which one has the better chance, though I think Lord has a bit of an edge. I'd call the percentages this way: 50% Beautiful Mind, 25% Lord of the Rings, 20% Moulin Rouge, and 5% one of the other two.

 


Best Director

 

Nominees:  A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard), Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott), Gosford Park (Robert Altman), Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson), Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
Pick:  Gosford Park (Robert Altman)
Prediction:  A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard)

 

In terms of predictions, this is a pretty close call between Ron Howard and Robert Altman. I don't think any of the other three pose too much of a threat in this category. Usually, this one goes to the director of the best picture by default. That could very well happen this year, with Howard surpassing his usual solid (albeit workmanlike) approach and making some genuinely interesting moves in A Beautiful Mind. He's been a bit snubbed in the past, but is well respected in Hollywood. Academy voters could feel it's finally his turn; that's my guess at how it will go. On the other hand, he's going up against an acknowledged cinematic master working at the top of his form. Altman's Gosford Park perfectly showcases both his unique abilities and the most awe-inspiring array of British screen talent assembled in recent memory. Awarding the Oscar to Altman would serve the dual purpose of honoring the master and honoring the cast. To reduce it to numbers: 50% Howard for A Beautiful Mind, 40% Altman for Gosford Park, 10% anyone else.

 


Best Actor

 

Nominees:  Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind), Sean Penn (I Am Sam), Will Smith (Ali), Denzel Washington (Training Day) & Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom)
Pick:  Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom)
Prediction:  Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind)

 

This is a tough category this year. Not tough to predict, because I'm pretty sure Russell Crowe will win for his fine work in A Beautiful Mind. Those (like me) who expected a bland, by-the-numbers performance were pleasantly surprised to get something so smart and challenging instead. Hollywood loves a character with a disability who makes good in the end. Like Daniel Day Lewis, Geoffrey Rush and countless others before, Crowe landed a role that, if done well, virtually guarantees him an Oscar--and he did do it well, so the award is most likely his. What's also NOT tough is my pick: Tom Wilkinson gave the performance of his life in In the Bedroom, the best performance in any category this year. If anyone ever deserved an Oscar, he does. So what's the tough part? The toughest part is that Billy Bob Thornton, who gave two brilliant dramatic performances (in The Man Who Wasn't There and Monster's Ball) didn't even get a nomination. One could say that by giving two of the best performances of the year, he kind of screwed himself: he split his own votes, so neither performance by itself ended up getting enough votes to secure a nomination. However, I'm not letting the Academy off the hook that easily. They could always do what the National Board of Review does and allow nominations for multiple performances--i.e., you don't necessarily vote for a particular performance, you vote for an actor based on the sum of all the performances he/she gave during the year. Under such a system, Thornton couldn't fail to be recognized for the quality of his work in 2001. Another tough thing about this category: As happy as I was to see both Denzel Washington and Will Smith nominated, and as much as I would like to see African-Americans treated better by the Academy (although, see Best Actress....), I don't think either one of them is going to win this one. Washington definitely has the better shot for his powerful work in Training Day, and there are those who are now considering him the favorite since Crowe hasn’t been behaving himself, but it still seems unlikely to me that he can muster the support to beat Crowe. Denzel Washington WILL win a Best Actor Oscar some day, I'm sure of it--and he'll deserve it. But I don't think it's this year. My percentages: 55% Russell Crowe, 35% Denzel Washington, 10% Tom Wilkinson, 5% anyone else.

 


Best Actress

 

Nominees:  Halle Berry (Monster's Ball), Judi Dench (Iris), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge), Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom) & Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones' Diary)
Pick:  Halle Berry (Monster's Ball)
Prediction:  Halle Berry (Monster's Ball)

 

Well, it looks like all Dame Judi Dench has to do these days is sneeze and she gets an Oscar nomination. But she has about as much chance of winning as Renee Zellweger does: just this side of nil. The real horse race here is between Halle Berry and Sissy Spacek, and it's as difficult a race to call as any this year. My vote would be for Berry, who reached down deep and pulled out a performance that nobody expected from her: passionate and wounded, powerful and sad. Before our eyes, the sex symbol suddenly became a formidable actress. Facing off against her, though, is the veteran Sissy Spacek, whose work in In the Bedroom reminded us that she is, and has been for a long time, one of the best actors we have. It's almost a coin toss between them, with the two actresses having split the two awards that are the best Oscar predictors (Berry won the Screen Actors Guild award, Spacek won the Golden Globe for best actress in a drama). It seems to me there's also a small chance that Nicole Kidman (who won the Golden Globe for best actress in a musical/comedy) could sneak in with just enough votes to take it home. If Berry and Spacek are dead even, and Dench and Zellweger can each take away a small chunk of the vote, that leaves Kidman with a shot at it. Ultimately, I think the percentages run this way: 39% Halle Berry, 36% Sissy Spacek, 20% Nicole Kidman and 5% anyone else.

 


Best Supporting Actor

 

Nominees Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge), Ethan Hawke (Training Day), Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast), Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings) & Jon Voight (Ali)
Pick Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast)
Prediction Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings)

 

Let's first clear away the underbrush: this race is between the two Sirs, Ben Kingsley and Ian McKellen. The other three haven't got a shot. For me, it's not a difficult choice. McKellen is one of the greatest living stage actors, and he does a fine job in Lord of the Rings, but that performance doesn't hold a candle to Kingsley's in Sexy Beast. In the character of Don Logan, Kingsley has created a portrait of such monolithic hatefulness that one might start wondering just what went wrong in the actor's childhood.  It sure would be fun to see the same actor who won for playing Gandhi win again for playing this foul creature.... Alas, I don't think it's going to happen. It'll be very close, but I think McKellen will take the Oscar. It's the Academy's only opportunity to award an acting Oscar to Lord of the Rings, and I don't think they'll pass it up. The odds: 50% Ian McKellen, 45% Ben Kingsley, 5% anyone else.

 


Best Supporting Actress

 

Nominees Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), Helen Mirren (Gosford Park), Maggie Smith (Gosford Park), Marisa Tomei (In the Bedroom), Kate Winslet (Iris)
Pick:  Maggie Smith (Gosford Park)
Prediction Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind)

 

I'll start with my pick, which is fairly easy to justify. Maggie Smith so completely and perfectly inhabits the character of the hilariously sniping, imperiously snobbish Constance, Countess of Trentham in Gosford Park that the character has a kind of inevitability about her: as soon as we meet her, we recognize her like an old friend, and when it's over we can't imagine any other actress having played the role. The Countess may be a stock character, but Smith gives her a glorious rebirth.  That being said, I don't really see Smith as being in the running for the award.  Conventional wisdom has Jennifer Connelly the easy favorite--some are calling her this year’s one sure thing.  She has the considerable benefit of starring in the movie that will win for Best Picture, and the fact that her role was actually a leading role rather than a supporting one will further help her chances here.  But I’m not ready to hand the statuette to Connelly just yet.  Helen Mirren’s momentum has been building in the last several weeks, including her Screen Actors Guild win.  Maybe I’m deluding myself, but I think the Academy might seize this opportunity to honor the whole cast of Gosford Park by honoring her instead of Connelly, since they will otherwise be pretty much ignoring Gosford.  I’m not crazy enough to actually predict the upset here, but don’t be surprised if Mirren takes the Oscar.  You heard it here first. My breakdown of the odds: 50% Jennifer Connelly, 30% Helen Mirren, 10% Marisa Tomei, 10% anyone else.

 


Best Screenplay (Original)

 

Nominees:  Amélie (Guillaume Laurent & Jean-Pierre Jeunet), Gosford Park (Julian Fellowes), Memento (Christopher & Jonathan Nolan), Monster's Ball (Milo Addica & Will Rokos), The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson)
Pick:  Memento (Christopher & Jonathan Nolan)
Prediction:  Memento (Christopher & Jonathan Nolan)

 

I like to call this category the consolation prize. Very often, the Academy uses this award to honor the brilliant (and successful) independent film that's just a little too off-center to have a chance at Best Picture. (e.g., Fargo, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, The Crying Game, etc.) This year, that film is Memento. And while I think it's going to have a tough battle against the more "respectable" Gosford Park, I think it has enough support to prevail--by a hair. And it deserves to, for being the most inventive, intellectually ambitious story even attempted on film this year. Neither Monster's Ball nor The Royal Tenenbaums is entirely out of the running, but their chances are slim. Percentage odds: 40% Memento, 35% Gosford Park, 10% Monster's Ball, 10% The Royal Tenenbaums, 5% Amélie.

 


Best Screenplay (Adapted)

 

Nominees:  A Beautiful Mind (Akiva Goldsman), Ghost World (Daniel Clowes & Terry Zwigoff), In the Bedroom (Robert Festinger & Todd Field), The Lord of the Rings (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson), Shrek (Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman & Roger Schulman)
Pick:  In the Bedroom (Robert Festinger & Todd Field)
Prediction:  A Beautiful Mind (Akiva Goldsman)

 

The Best Picture winner normally wins for screenplay as well, so A Beautiful Mind seems the likely winner this year. But I wouldn't count out In the Bedroom. It would get my vote, for never flinching from its difficult, painful subject matter, and for looking so fearlessly into the dark places of the heart. From the Academy perspective, it is such a highly praised and "serious" film that they might feel an obligation to honor it here, especially since I don't think they will end up giving it any acting or other major awards. The off-the-wall-but-not-out-of-the-question possibility is Shrek. A lot of people REALLY like that movie. I suppose there's also a chance the Academy could pay roundabout honor to J.R.R. Tolkien by honoring the adaptation of his Lord of the Rings; stranger things have happened. My percentages: 44% A Beautiful Mind, 30% In the Bedroom, 15% Shrek, 10% Lord of the Rings, 1% Ghost World.

 


Best Cinematography

 

Nominees Amélie, Black Hawk Down, Lord of the Rings, The Man Who Wasn't There & Moulin Rouge
Pick:  The Man Who Wasn't There
Prediction Lord of the Rings

 

Any of these could win, in my opinion. The most deserving is The Man Who Wasn't There. The lush, smoky black and white of this movie made it just about the most beautiful thing onscreen this year. The treatment of Billy Bob Thornton’s craggy, sinewy face alone was enough to make this one the winner in my book. In the Academy's book, though, it seems much more likely that either Lord of the Rings or Moulin Rouge will take home the Oscar, since the likely Best Picture winner (A Beautiful Mind) isn't nominated. This is the big daddy of the technical categories, and both Lord and Moulin Rouge are dazzling technical showpieces. I expect Lord to edge out Moulin Rouge, but it's close.  Man Who Wasn't There might have enough indignant support to win, since it was otherwise most egregiously snubbed by the Academy this year.  As for Amélie and Black Hawk Down, both have an outside shot--Amélie because it really is a visual treat, as well as being the favorite in the Best Foreign Language Film, and Black Hawk because it's a really good war movie at a time when we are open to good war movies. Percentages: 30% Lord of the Rings, 25% Moulin Rouge, 20% The Man Who Wasn't There, 15% Black Hawk Down, 10% Amélie.

 


Best Art Direction

 

Nominees: Amélie, Gosford Park, Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone, The Lord Of The Rings, Moulin Rouge
Pick
:
Moulin Rouge 
Prediction
:
Moulin Rouge

 

I think we can all agree that Moulin Rouge is a triumph of art direction.  There are those, in fact, who would say it is little else.  I’ll just say I think it’s going to win this one, and I think it deserves it.  But there will be competition from Lord of the Rings, which was the year’s most impressive spectacle, and Gosford Park, in which every detail of the upstairs-downstairs set was so impeccably realized. Amélie, while worthy, seems unlikely to draw many votes away from the big boys, and Harry Potter, in this respect as in so many others, is simply overshadowed by Lord.  35% Moulin Rouge, 30% Lord of the Rings, 25% Gosford Park, 10% anyone else.

 


Best Sound

 

Nominees: Amélie, Black Hawk Down, The Lord Of The Rings, Moulin Rouge, Pearl Harbor
Pick
:
The Lord of the Rings
Prediction
:
The Lord of the Rings

 

The big competition here, as in many other technical categories, seems to me to be between Lord of the Rings and Moulin Rouge.  However, war pictures tend to do well in this category as well, and there are two of those also in the running, so this ends up being a tough call.  My personal pick is Lord of the Rings, because I specifically remember being impressed by it as a sonic experience. I think of Moulin Rouge as being more effective visually, since the sound layering was, at times, so busy as to be disconcerting--but then maybe that’s what makes it good, if that’s the effect they were going for.  Who knows?  My prediction is that the bombast of Lord will prevail here.  Percentages:  40% Lord of the Rings, 35% Moulin Rouge, 20% Black Hawk Down or Pearl Harbor, 5% Amélie.

 


Best Film Editing

 

Nominees: A Beautiful Mind, Black Hawk Down, The Lord Of The Rings, Memento, Moulin Rouge
Pick
:
Memento
Prediction
:
Moulin Rouge

 

Very tough category to predict.  Editing is at the heart of what Memento is as a film; it is editing as storytelling.  For my money, since it’s the best story of the year, that must also mean it’s the best editing of the year.  QED.  But I doubt the Academy will agree.  If Memento can’t win, I’d love to see the award go to Black Hawk Down for doing such a great job of maintaining the clarity of the story in spite of chaotic developments in the action.  But I don’t think that one will win, either.  The Best Picture often wins this one by default, which would point to A Beautiful Mind, but I think both Moulin Rouge and Lord of the Rings have enough support to prevent that from happening this year.  Since the flashy, post-MTV editing of Moulin Rouge is such a big part of its appeal, I think it will come out on top, but not without a fight.   30% Moulin Rouge, 25% Lord of the Rings, 25% A Beautiful Mind, 10% Memento, 10% Black Hawk Down.

 


Best Song

 

Nominees: “Until” by Sting (Kate & Leopold), “May It Be” by Enya, Nick Ryan & Roma Ryan (The Lord Of The Rings), “If I Didn’t Have You” by Randy Newman (Monsters, Inc.), “There You’ll Be” by Diane Warren (Pearl Harbor), “Vanilla Sky” by Paul McCartney (Vanilla Sky) 
Pick
:
“If I Didn’t Have You” by Randy Newman (Monsters, Inc.)
Prediction
:
“Vanilla Sky” by Paul McCartney (Vanilla Sky)

 

I have to root for Randy Newman, not only because he’s such a weird old goof, but also because he’s become the Susan Lucci of the music Oscars:  14 nominations over the last 20 years, and not a single win yet.  He probably cares less about this than I do, but I’d still like to see him walk away with the prize.  But I predict Paul McCartney will take it because of his high visibility this year as a result of both the concert for NYC and the death of former bandmate George Harrison. 

 


Best Musical Score

 

Nominees: A.I. Artificial Intelligence (John Williams), A Beautiful Mind (James Horner), Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone (John Williams), The Lord Of The Rings (Howard Shore), Monsters, Inc. (Randy Newman)
Pick
:
Monsters, Inc. (Randy Newman)
Prediction
:
A Beautiful Mind (James Horner)

 

Regarding my pick, see above.  Regarding my prediction, while it might seem foolish to bet against a score composed by John Williams for a Steven Spielberg movie (A.I. Artificial Intelligence), and while Williams would seem to have doubled his chances by garnering a second nomination in this same category (for the ridiculously popular Harry Potter), the fact is A Beautiful Mind is most likely going to win best picture, and that’s a big vote in its favor.  It also has a conventional respectability about it that neither of Williams’s films do.  And James Horner is no pushover in this category, mind you; he’s been nominated numerous times in the past and won both Best Score and Best Song for Titanic. I think this one is his.

 


Best Costume Design

 

Nominees: The Affair Of The Necklace, Gosford Park, Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone, The Lord Of The Rings, Moulin Rouge
Pick
:
Moulin Rouge 
Prediction
:
Moulin Rouge

 

For me, the costumes in Moulin Rouge stand out for being, like everything else in the movie, so relentlessly inventive and energetic--and otherwise appealing, in the case of Satine’s outfits.  And the sheer number of costumes that had to be designed and produced is staggering. I think the Academy is probably thinking along these same lines.  If not, then it’s a toss-up between Lord and Gosford.

 


Best Makeup

 

Nominees: A Beautiful Mind, The Lord Of The Rings & Moulin Rouge 
Pick
:
A Beautiful Mind
Prediction
:
The Lord of the Rings

 

I was astonished at how convincingly the makeup artists aged Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.  In the final scenes of the movie, we are treated to several very tight close-ups of Crowe’s face, aged to that of a 70-year-old man, and it is utterly convincing.  That’s rare, and very impressive.  However, the Academy usually likes things a little flashier in this category, so I suspect the various critters in Lord of the Rings will better suit their fancy.

 


Best Visual Effects

 

Nominees:  A.I. Artificial Intelligence, The Lord Of The Rings & Pearl Harbor
Pick
: 
The Lord of the Rings
Prediction
: 
The Lord of the Rings

 

I think we can safely forego the pontification here.  Is there anyone who thinks Lord won’t win this one?  Or doesn’t deserve to?

 


Best Sound Editing

 

Nominees:  Monsters, Inc. & Pearl Harbor
Pick
: 
???
Prediction
: 
Pearl Harbor

 

I’ve never been sure what this category is all about, so I can’t make a personal pick.  But movies with lots of explosions usually win it, and I would think Pearl Harbor has more explosions than Monsters, Inc.

 


Best Foreign Language Film

 

Nominees:  Amélie (France), Elling (Norway), Lagaan (India), No Man's Land (Bosnia & Herzegovina) & Son Of The Bride (Argentina)
Pick
: 
Amélie
Prediction
: 
Amélie

 

Okay, I admit Amélie is the only one of these I’ve seen, so that’s why I’m picking it for myself.  But it’s also the clear favorite to win.  It’s an endearing, adorable little fable from a great visual stylist (Jean-Pierre Jeunet), and it’s been wildly successful in the U.S.--at least by foreign film standards. That should equal a win.  The dark horse here is Lagaan, the first Oscar nominee ever to come out of India’s “Bollywood” film industry--which happens to be the largest film industry in the world, by the way.  Lagaan has a substantial buzz around it, but I doubt it can compete with the charm, or the mainstream success, of Amélie.

 


Best Animated Feature

 

Nominees: Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius; Monsters, Inc.; Shrek
Pick: Shrek
Prediction: Shrek

 

Shrek is the only one of these I’ve seen, so I guess I should make that my choice (having already lamented elsewhere the unforgivable absence of what is in fact far and away the best animated feature of the year, Richard Linklater’s Waking Life).  Prediction-wise, I guess Monsters, Inc. is not totally out of the question, but Shrek is clearly the heavy favorite.  I’d say 75% Shrek, 20% Monsters, Inc., 5% Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius.

 


Best Documentary Feature

 

Nominees:  Children Underground, Lalee's Kin: The Legacy Of Cotton, Murder On A Sunday Morning, Promises & War Photographer 
Pick
: 
None
Prediction
: 
Promises

 

I must admit to having seen none of the nominees myself.  But, as I’ve pointed out before, that’s not really my fault.  The documentary branch of the Academy stubbornly makes a point of ignoring any documentary that has enjoyed any amount of commercial success or exposure (In 2001, those might have included, among others, Startup.com, Trembling Before G-d and The Gleaners and I).  Ergo, the chance that anyone other than a full-time film critic will have actually seen any of the nominees is slim to none.  So I can’t make a personal pick, and I wouldn’t even if I could.  That’ll show ’em.  For a prediction, I’ll trust those more in the know than me and go with Promises, a documentary about a group of children, Jewish and Arab, who see the possibility of a peaceful future in spite of the disastrous present.