Number crunching is in this year at the Academy Awards and it's not just those pesky accountants. Whoopi Goldberg is back for the fourth time as Oscar hostess and for his performance as happy-go-lucky mathematician lunatic John Nash, Russell Crowe could take home Oscar gold two years running. Baz Luhurmann didn't make the cut but his Moulin Rouge! did—it's the first musical to be nominated for Best Picture since All That Jazz in 1979. 77-year-old Golden Globe winner Robert Altman earned his fifth nomination for Best Director. Will the Academy go for his Gosford Park or something heavy on the Opie? With 13 nominations, though, Peter Jackson's hobbits and wizards offer the kind of epic swing Oscar finds difficult to resist. Here are Slant Magazine's predictions for who will arrive at the after-show parties with Oscar on their arm and who will show up empty-handed.
ACTOR: Tom Wilkinson's performance in In the Bedroom is so under the radar it just about cancels out Sean Penn's over-the-top I Am Sam turn. Crowe's Golden Globe win for A Beautiful Mind is especially difficult to assess when looking at recent Globe-to-Oscar turnover rates. Crowe (The Insider) lost the 1999 Globe to Denzel Washington (The Hurricane) but Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) took home the Oscar. Tom Hanks (Cast Away) snagged last year's Globe but Crowe won the Oscar for his Gladiator turn. Damien Bona, co-author of the seminal awards book Inside Oscar and author of its recently-published sequel Inside Oscar 2, concedes: "Hanks's second victory seemed like an inevitability. There is certainly not an air of inevitability with Crowe this year. Last year when he won for Gladiator, it was mainly as a mea culpa, the Academy seemingly having decided that on second thought his performance in The Insider was more deserving than Kevin Spacey's Oscar-winning work in American Beauty. There's also a feeling these days that The Hurricane's Denzel Washington, too, was better than Spacey, and that he got shafted because of the controversy regarding his movie. Therefore, many Academy members will undoubtedly cast their ballots this year with an eye to giving Denzel his make-up award." Any chances of a Washington win, however, may have been dashed when Will Smith snagged one of the category's two wild card spots from Billy Bob Thornton and Gene Hackman. A mixed blessing in disguise, could the category's two African-American nominees cancel each other out? Still, with A Beautiful Mind packing so much sentimental steam, Crowe could very well join Hanks and Spencer Tracy in that elite two-in-a-row Best Actor club—that is, assuming Crowe's BAFTA bad behavior hasn't already nixed those chances. If Crowe looses the SAG award, Washington will likely make room for his second Oscar.
Will Win: Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind)
Should Win: Denzel Washington (Training Day)
ACTRESS: Thanks to Miramax, Renée Zellweger snagged the wild card spot that should have gone to Naomi Watts—as if Charlotte Rampling (Under the Sand) had a chance! Judi Dench earns her spot but not without a price: with four nominations in five years and one win for her cameo role in Shakespeare in Love, she's the perennial presence still two or three nominations away from snagging Oscar number two. Halle Berry may now have industry cred but she still had to get naked to get Oscar's attention; for her sake, let's hope Academy members haven't seen Swordfish. Sissy Spacek may be a virtual lock for a win but that hasn't stopped Vegas odds-makers from putting her in a dead heat with Nicole Kidman. After a not-so-clean divorce from Tom Cruise, Kidman has sympathy on her side but Bona believes that any correlation between Vegas odds and actual wins are purely coincidental. "The Vegas odds-makers are clueless and have no feel for how Hollywood thinks. Spacek's main competition, in my opinion, is Halle Berry, who had a far more dramatic role than Kidman and does more overt 'acting.'" Also, with ardent fans of Kidman's other performance likely to vote elsewhere, this is Spacek's award to lose.
Will Win: Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom)
Should Win: Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Papa Jolie snags his first Oscar nomination since 1985's Runaway Train but his Howard Cosell from Michael Mann's Ali will likely be seen as nothing more than a really snazzy impersonation. Voight rode Will Smith to an Oscar nod—ditto Ethan Hawke, who snags his first nomination for playing Denzel Washington's white chump in Training Day. Bona, however, disagrees: "Hawke did no campaigning—in fact, in terms of his attitude to Hollywood glitz and awards, he can be thought of as the anti-Sally Kirkland. Academy members saw the film, loved Hawke's subtle, gutsy and extraordinarily affecting work and voted for him simply because of the quality of his performance—which given all the time and money spent on soliciting Oscar voters is something rare and quite wonderful." Academy members too frazzled by the expletives in Ben Kingsley's Sexy Beast cockney accent will likely join the ranks in voting for Ian McKellen or Jim Broadbent. Sir Ian has The Fellowship of the Ring's popularity on his side but Broadbent's touching turn as Iris Murdoch's grieving husband in Iris seems virtually unstoppable after its Golden Globe victory. A win for Broadbent may also be the closest thing to Oscar recognition for Moulin Rouge!, which is likely to fall short in a slew of technical categories.
Will Win: Jim Broadbent (Iris)
Should Win: Jim Broadbent (Iris)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Without a doubt the screwiest category of them all. So shocking was Marisa Tomei's 1993 win over favorite Judy Davis (Husbands and Wives) that conspiracy theorists have yet to let up. Tomei is back, this time for her performance as a grieving hussy in Todd Field's In the Bedroom. "Her role was too secondary," claims Bona. "And because of her ever-changing accent, you didn't know if her character was supposed to be from Maine or Queens. The main thing for Tomei is that this second nomination ends her reign as Oscar's biggest joke." For her charming, if not wholly memorable, turn as the young Iris Murdoch, Kate Winslet snags her third bridesmaid nomination. Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith are the chosen Gosford Park dames. Mirren gives the Altman film its heart but Smith's stiletto-tongued performance lends it pizzazz—both should cancel each other out. With Jennifer Connelly doing most of the grunt work in A Beautiful Mind, a win for Crowe seems unlikely without her. For those betting the house on this one, here's a few notable losers from this category's past: Kate Hudson, Gloria Stuart, and Lauren Bacall.
Will Win: Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind)
Should Win: Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind)
ANIMATED FEATURE: Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius shocked pundits when it squeaked past Waking Life for a nomination in this newbie category. Shrek's glib, postmodernist antics may have nothing on the heart-warming awe of Pixar's Monsers, Inc. and while only a mere $15 million separates both films on the all-time box office chart, DreamWorks's adult-skewing toon still feels like the biggest film of 2001. DreamWorks launched their aggressive marketing campaign back on Halloween with trick-or-treat baskets filled with chocolates, popcorn and a Shrek DVD. Since then, more "for your consideration" solicitations: DVD screeners, endless Academy screenings and a copy of the film's screenplay. This kind of persistence should go unpunished.
Will Win: Shrek
Should Win: Monsers, Inc.
ART DIRECTION: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a long shot here, its relatively banal art direction likely to bore rather than excite most Academy members. Amélie may be seen as the cinematographer's wet dream while Moulin Rouge! will likely fare better for its costumes. Recent winners Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Sleepy Hollow suggest the spoils could go to the minimalists and Goths. There's a reason why The Fellowship of the Ring enters the Oscar race with 13 nominations. Jackson's visualization of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth should be enough eye-popping splendor to sneak past the Gosford Park ultra-classy Brit sets.
Will Win: The Fellowship of the Ring
Should Win: The Fellowship of the Ring
CINEMATOGRAPHY: With his rep and critical nods, five-time nominee Roger Deakins, this year's AFI and ASC winner for Best Cinematography, would normally be a lock for a win. Then again, his nomination is for the Coens' possibly too-subtle The Man Who Wasn't There. His fellow nominees are all first-timers so a win for Deakins would end an egregious losing streak. Slavomir Idziak (Black Hawk Down), Bruno Delbonnel (Amélie) and Donald McAlpine (Moulin Rouge!) are long shots but could all benefit from a possible vote split. Andrew Lesnie, the color wheel behind Babe and Babe: Pig in the City, could ride The Fellowship of the Ring fever straight to the podium. A win for Deakins, though, would be the most difficult class act the Academy could pass up.
Will Win: The Man Who Wasn't There
Should Win: The Man Who Wasn't There