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Oscar 2002 Winner Predictions

Number crunching is in this year at the Academy Awards and it’s not just those pesky accountants.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Photo: New Line Cinema

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

COSTUME DESIGN: The best thing about The Affair of the Necklace was the bodices, courtesy of two-time winner Milena Canonero. Jenny Beavan, a past winner for A Room with a View, fares better—her film (Gosford Park) has the critical kudos and box office bucks. Two-time nominee Judianna Makovsky’s dusty garbs for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone should go unnoticed. Catherine Martin’s husband couldn’t snag a nomination for directing Moulin Rouge! yet she and co-designer Angus Strathie could pose a threat to The Fellowship of the Ring’s Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor. This three-horse raise is one of the more difficult ones to pinpoint. It’s also one of three likely trips Taylor will make to the Oscar podium—he’s also nominated for his makeup and visual effects work on the Jackson film.

Will Win: Moulin Rouge!

Should Win: Moulin Rouge!

DIRECTOR: After his surprise Golden Globe win, Robert Altman was seemingly situated as the director to beat on Oscar night. Indeed, with four previous losses in this category, a win for the 77-year-old maverick seemed like a sure thing. Once DGA nominations were announced, however, a major blow was dealt to pundits: no nomination for Altman. Someone who did make the cut was Ron Howard, who won the DGA award back in 1996 (for Apollo 13) despite losing his Oscar spot to men with grittier works (Tim Robbins and Mike Figgis). The DGA can be screwy but a win with them usually means a win with Oscar. Assuming the same folks accountable for Howard’s Apollo 13 snub are still active with the Academy, Opie might have to settle for the joy of nailing his first nomination. With Lynch and Ridley Scott out of the equation (their films failed to snag Best Picture nods), Howard and Jackson will have to ride their respective film’s runaway popularity in order to beat Altman. “Altman himself is highly respected rather than beloved,” says Bona. “The only way he can be expected to win is if support for Gosford Park is so overwhelming that it takes Best Picture. He has bad-mouthed Hollywood too much and for too long for Academy members to split their votes and give him the Best Director Oscar while voting for The Fellowship of the Ring or A Beautiful Mind for Best Picture.” Until the DGA award sheds more light on this one, there’s enough critical and popular hysteria behind The Fellowship of the Ring to help Jackson squeak past the veteran director.

Will Win: Peter Jackson (The Fellowship of the Ring)

Should Win: David Lynch (Mulholland Drive)

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: In Christian Frei’s War Photographer, James Nachtwey morphs the chaos of war into fabulous, haunting photographs. Murder on a Sunday Morning tells the story of 15-year-old Brenton Butler, who was falsely accused in the shooting death of 65-year-old Mary Ann Stephens in Jacksonville, Florida. LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton, an award-winner at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, explores the legacy of slavery in the Mississippi Delta while B.Z. Goldberg’s Promises follows seven Israeli and Palestinian children around Jersusalem, chronicling their fractured identities and hopeless worldview. Edet Belzberg’s Children Underground, also a Sundance winner, transcends exploit by subtly indicting the homeless plight of Romanian youth on Ceausescu’s ignorant legacy. In an unusual move, the Academy’s documentary committee has failed to nominate a film with a Holocaust theme. With America currently in anti-terrorist mode, the spoils should go the most topical document. The Legacy of Cotton and War Photographer may be too subtle for the Academy while Murder on a Sunday Morning should go unnoticed by members who have, in the past, rejected such films as 4 Little Girls and Paradise Lost. In this battle of the children, Edet Belzberg’s grueling, masterful Children Underground will have a difficult time defeating the timelier Promises.

Will Win: Children Underground

Should Win: Children Underground

DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Sarah Kernochan, whose credits include the story for What Lies Beneath and the screenplays for Sommersby and 9 1/2 Weeks, won an Academy Award back in 1973 for her documentary feature Marjoe, the rise-and-fall story of child evangelist Marjoe Gortner. Kernochan’s Thoth follows 47-year-old Stephen Kaufman through Central Park’s tunnels and fountains, celebrating the street performer’s colorful, uniquely schizoid solo operas. Thoth had a brief run in New York one month after the World Trade Center disaster and is now part of Art for America, a national fundraiser for the Twin Towers Fund. While certainly a tough act to pass up, Thoth might be a little too quirky for the Academy’s tastes. Jessica Sanders and Freida Lee Mock, five-time nominee and winner for 1994’s Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, offer the more accessible Sing! while Lianne Klapper McNally’s Artists and Orphans: A True Drama could be irresistible with its inspirational story of a theater troupe visiting a Tbilisi orphanage.

Will Win: Thoth

Should Win: Thoth

FILM EDITING: At three hours, The Fellowship of the Ring may not move fast enough for some Academy members. Mike Hill and Daniel P. Hanley, Oscar winners for 1995’s Apollo 13, might have equipped Howard’s A Beautiful Mind with a tad too many fade-outs to make much of an impression with the Academy’s editor’s branch. And while Dody Dorn spliced and diced the film with the most editing brio, just how much of Memento’s pacing and structure was already laid out by Christopher Nolan’s precise, narrative template? This category’s results could determine whether Black Hawk Down will go back to its studio empty-handed. Pietro Scalia is hot off his nomination in this category for last year’s Gladiator but until the American Cinema Editors announce their awards on February 24th, Jill Billcock is packing enough heat from her AFI win to give her hyper-paced Moulin Rouge! the edge.

Will Win: Moulin Rouge!

Should Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: In any other year Harvey Weinstein could have bet his Miramax house on an Amélie win. Beloved by many though certainly not without its critics, Amélie has $25 million box office bucks on Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land but no Golden Globe on its side. The Foreign Press Association showed class by praising Tanovic but who’s to tell if Academy members will feel just as humanitarian when choosing between French fantasy and Bosnian satire. Norway’s Elling and classy Argentinian entry Son of the Bride will sit this one out while four-hour, international mega-hit Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India could benefit from a possible vote split. With Weinstein cramming his expensive French drug down voter throats, No Man’s Land will likely be eating its own dust.

Will Win: Amélie

Should Win: Son of the Bride

MAKE-UP: Colleen Callaghan and Greg Cannon, an eight-time nominee and two-time winner for 1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire and 1992’s Dracula, are unlikely to take A Beautiful Mind’s age makeup to the Oscar stage. Still, with Cannon’s cred, his film’s hokey last act make-up extravaganza gives A Beautiful Mind the edge over Aldo Signoretti and Maurizio Silvi’s work on Moulin Rouge!. But for anyone whose seen the many faces of Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring, a win for Peter Owen and Richard Taylor seems like a no-brainer.

Will Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

Should Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

SCORE: Next to Angelo Badalamenti’s subversive, haunting soundscape for Mulholland Drive, none came better than Hans Zimmer’s awesome tribal-techno score for Black Hawk Down—neither man was nominated for his work. Hollywood score whore John Williams rakes up his fortieth and forty-first nominations for A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Williams’s haunting A.I. score will likely be nulled by his lighter Harry Potter tunes. With Randy Newman still the Susan Lucci of the Oscars, a win for Monsers, Inc. would be as earth-shattering as a, um, win for Susan Lucci. James Horner’s cutesy, tinkly score for A Beautiful Mind seems to have its fans but first-time nominee Howard Shore’s epic beats for The Fellowship of the Ring will be difficult to overcome.

Will Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

Should Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

SONG: Diane Warren knows how to market her schmaltz but with her Pearl Harbor anthem hardly a crossover hit on the Billboard charts, six-time nominee Warren will likely continue her losing streak. Randy Newman’s “If I Didn’t Have You” from Monsters, Inc. doesn’t have the hakuna matata the Academy prefers from their Disney tunes. Vanilla Sky certainly had the songs right and a nomination for Paul MaCartney has to count for something even when the film did not. Enya scored another hit album with A Day Without Rain but her “May It Be” for The Fellowship of the Ring doesn’t hold a candle to her hit single “Only Time.” The Golden Globes are especially good at predicting the Best Song category so a win for “Until” tune Kate & Leopold seems likely for Adult Contemporary favorite Sting.

Will Win: Kate & Leopold

Should Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

PICTURE: They may have their critics but backlash fever has yet to strike Howard’s A Beautiful Mind and Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring. While PGA winner Moulin Rouge! once seemed poised to reap the rewards of a possible vote split, late-in-the-game critical accolades for Gosford Park have made Robert Altman’s Brit dramedy the likelier upset victor. This year’s Miramax-bought spot goes to In the Bedroom but without a nomination for director Todd Field, Weinstein and his gang will have to sit this one out with Baz Luhrmann. Since the Academy’s top prize typically goes to the film with the most nominations, a win for mega-epic The Fellowship of the Ring seems most plausible. A win for A Beautiful Mind, however, is certainly not out of the equation. Howard’s glossy, TV-movie take on John Nash’s insanity has the market cornered: Crowe has set female heart’s afire while the film’s morally-questionable, trick narrative has corralled Hollywood old-schoolers. In this nailbiter battle between heart and soul, the epic-swing of The Fellowship of the Ring seems to have the upper hand.

Will Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

Should Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

ANIMATED SHORT: Ruairi Robinson and Seamus Byrne’s outstanding Fifty Percent Grey tells the gruesome story of a futuristic sergeant who awakens in a desolate environment with only a widescreen TV as his companion. This ironic, visually-arresting short packs an existentialist wallop but its suicidal theme may be too bloody for some Academy members. Cathal Gaffney’s Give Up Yer Aul Sins wonderfully combines sound with old-fashioned animated footage to create a charming tale of one Irish girl’s potent Dublin identity. Strange Invaders, Cordell Barker’s first film since his awesome 1988 Oscar-nominated short The Cat Came Back, tells the kooky story of a childless couple sent into a panic when a strange child pays them a surreal, nighttime visit. This vastly uneven short is nowhere near as compact and bouncy as The Cat Came Back and is likely to leave many Academy members annoyed rather than entertained. Philip Holahan’s cute but minor Stubble Touble, a 1999 Sundance winner, is the claustrophobic story of a claymation couple in the shape of human feet. Sadly, the Academy will honor Monsers, Inc. in a roundabout way when it throws a bone at Pixar’s For the Birds, the adorable short that preceded Monsters, Inc. in theaters.

Will Win: For the Birds

Should Win: Strange Invaders

SHORT: LIVE ACTION: Ray McKinnon’s absurd, quaintly stylized The Accountant seems too quirky for Academy tastes while Copy Shop, the story of a copy shop worker who copies himself until he fills the whole world, may be too much Kafka for one night. Kalman Apple’s Speed for Thespians takes Anton Shekhov’s The Bear onto a New York City bus; it has absolutely nothing to do with crystal meth, which should tire any member still hoping for a Moulin Rouge! Best Picture win. Slawomir Fabicki’s A Man Thing (Meska Sprawa) tells the story of a 13-year-old trying to hide the fact that his father beats him. At 26 minutes, it might pack enough tragedy to win over weepier members. Based on premise alone, though, Johannes Kiefer’s Gregor’s Greatest Invention screams Oscar. Winner of the Brooks Pharmacy Positive Lifestyle Award and Best Short Comedy at the Burbank International Children’s Film Festival, Invention is the story of a man who invents a floating balloon device for his invalid grandmother.

Will Win: Gregor’s Greatest Invention

Should Win: The Accountant

SOUND: Amélie has its colors, Moulin Rouge! its songs and The Fellowship of the Ring its vistas. For blowing things up, the Oscar should go to one of two Bruckheimer war films: Black Hawk Down or Pearl Harbor. Two wins for the Bay film may be too much for some to handle but the fact that the film also shows up in the Sound Effects Editing category suggests the film’s sound designers have their fans.

Will Win: Pearl Harbor

Should Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

SOUND EDITING: While the Academy was able to come up with five films for its Best Sound category, the lonely race for Best Sound Effects Editing pits Pixar against Bruckheimer. Noticeably absent here is Black Hawk Down. Twelve-time nominee Gary Rydstrom shares his Monsers, Inc. nod with first-time nominee Michael Silvers. Christopher Boyes, who is nominated in the Best Sound category for his work on The Fellowship of the Ring, should have no problem riding Pearl Harbor to Oscar victory. Boyes won in this category back in 1998 for his Titanic sound editing.

Will Win: Pearl Harbor

Should Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

VISUAL EFFECTS: The visual effects mavens behind A.I. Artificial Intelligence have tackled everything from Star Wars and Flashdance to Jurassic Park and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The most notable member from the Pearl Harbor group is Eric Breving, who won the Oscar back in 1991 for his work on Total Recall. Still, it would take a minor miracle to defeat The Fellowship of the Ring in this category. Richard Taylor, who is also nominated in the make-up and costume design categories, could leave the Kodak Theatre a little weak in the jaw.

Will Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

Should Win: The Fellowship of the Ring

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: With Steve Buscemi missing from the supporting actor race, it’s a small miracle that Daniel Clowes and Terrry Zwigoff’s delicate screenplay for Ghost World made the cut. Todd Field and Robert Festinger’s subtle In the Bedroom adaptation will make just as small of an impression on the Academy. Those still confused by Shrek’s nomination in this category (Academy President Frank Pierson says “it’s a real story”) might even forget that the film is even nominated. Two-time Razzie nominee Akiva Goldsman won the Golden Globe his screenplay for A Beautiful Mind but will the Academy vote for a writer whose previous credits include Batman & Robin and A Time to Kill? With controversy still circulating around A Beautiful Mind’s selective recollection of John Nash’s life, Goldsman may be at a disadvantage. Nonetheless, the Academy loves solo jobs so a win for Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring screenplay could mean too many writers on one stage.

Will Win: A Beautiful Mind

Should Win: Ghost World

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: No nominee in this category can quite rival what Wes Anderson does with The Royal Tenenbaums. His is a nuanced story of fairy-tale characters seeking entrance to fairy-tale kingdoms—it’s so good that a win with Oscar could be the classiest choice of the night. Milo Addica and Will Rokos’s screenplay for Monster’s Ball will surely fly under the Oscar radar and while Audrey Tautou’s two facial expressions (happy and sad) just about defined the whole of Amelie, Guillaume Larant and Jean-Pierre Jeunet still managed to snag a spot for their screenplay. This category affords the Academy the chance to award edgier, splashier work that fails to make an impression in other categories. Past winners include The Piano, The Crying Game, The Usual Suspects, Good Will Hunting and Pulp Fiction. Julian Fellowes could take it with his WGA-winning Gosford Park screenplay but a win for Christopher Nolan’s twisty noir thriller Memento would be an obvious pat on the back to a rising talent.

Will Win: Memento

Should Win: The Royal Tenenbaums

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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