winners underlined in red
* = prediction
+ = personal pick
*Prediction: Forget all the talk that the Miramax machine has propelled the good but underwhelming Cider House into a neck-and-neck race with the long-running favorite in the category, DreamWorks' American Beauty. Unlike last year, where a transfer of momentum could be traced from Saving Private Ryan to Shakespeare in Love, there has been no slowing down the Beauty awards juggernaut, most recently taking the top three categories at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The Sixth Sense's overwhelming popularity could pull off a surprise, but its box office could count against it. Conversely, The Insider's lack of box office hurts it, not to mention the fact that as admired as the film is, no one is terribly passionate about it. The absence of Frank Darabont in the Director category rules out The Green Mile.
+My Pick: I may sound like a bandwagon jumper, but if anyone reads this newsletter religiously, that person knows that I have been a big admirer of Beauty since before its release. Funny yet sad, cynical yet sentimental, Sam Mendes' beautiful and unconventional film is clearly the most satisfying of the five in this category.
The Winner: There's really nothing to say, considering this had been the frontrunner since its release in September, all through awards season.
*Prediction: Ask about this category a couple of months ago, and I would've said it's Denzel's to lose. However, while the ever-popular former Supporting Actor winner can never be counted out, the lack of Academy support for The Hurricane can only hurt his chances of posing a serious threat to the Beauty juggernaut, which should carry Spacey to his second Oscar. Critics' fave Crowe would be next likely to win over Spacey, but damp enthusiasm for his film won't help. Penn's nod was a pleasant surprise, and as it always is with such nominations, he hasn't a prayer of winning. The 79-year-old Farnsworth could ride something stronger than a tractor--sentiment--to a trophy, but obviously enough voters haven't seen The Straight Story (witness its curious omission from the Cinematography category).
+My Pick: A very tough category, with the five potential winners all worthy choices. So I'm simply going to name the one whose win would give me the greatest pleasure--Penn, who delivers as perfectly modulated a comic performance as anyone could ever give as slimy, egotistical jazz guitarist Emmet Ray.
The Winner: I guess Spacey took that Wall Street Journal poll to heart, for he genuinely appeared surprised when his name was called, not WSJ projected winner Denzel Washington.
*Prediction: Although she is an Academy perennial, Streep's nod for the not-too-well-loved Wes Craven drama came as a bit of a surprise, so there goes her shot. Moore's turn in Affair was one to remember, but it is the least showy--and therefore for many, least memorable--performance of five (!) she delivered last year. McTeer impressed both critics and audiences--however small the latter group was for the film she was in; nonetheless, she has a very slim chance of playing the spoiler in what is essentially a two-woman race between Swank and Bening. Swank has all the critical plaudits going for her. Based on the outcome of the SAG Awards, it's obvious that Beauty's popularity is so widespread as to even favor Bening, who was widely regarded as giving the least impressive performance of the film's ensemble; plus, it also serves as a type of payback for two better, non-nominated performances in previous years--in Bugsy and The American President. It's a very close race, but I think that Boys Don't Cry's unflinchingly rough nature puts Swank just a hair behind Bening. Don't be surprised, however, if the former Next Karate Kid has her date with Oscar.
+My Pick: There is more to Swank's task than to simply dress up as a man; she has to absolutely convince the audience that her character wasn't just playing dress-up, but that she truly belonged in that skin. As subtly, naturally played by Swank, one had little difficulty believing that the true self of the person born as the female Teena Brandon was the male Brandon Teena.
The Winner: A near-flawless speech, with one tiny quibble: she forgot to thank her weeping husband, Chad Lowe. An unintentional oversight, to be sure, but I get the feeling that when she said "last but not least," he expected to hear his name, not that of Brandon Teena.
*Prediction: Law is the only major nominee to emerge from the once-highly-touted Ripley, which means that he'll have to settle for the title of "hot newcomer." That leaves four contenders with a viable shot at winning. After two previous lead Actor nominations, Cruise is indeed due for a win, and this is a safer place for the Academy to reward a bonafide "star" (witness Robin Williams' 1997 Supporting win after garnering a few nods in the lead category). However, Magnolia is obviously not very popular among voters, and many may not sit through the three-hour-plus film long enough to get to his prototypical "Oscar clips." Duncan is popular and has been highly visible on the Hollywood campaign circuit, and while his film is well-liked, I don't think the Academy has quite warmed up to his film to the degree they have, say, The Cider House Rules. Which brings me to Caine. He holds some momentum after winning the SAG Award, and he's a well-respected previous winner. All that, plus he's a Brit tackling his first role requiring an American accent. However, I think Cider will get its token recognition elsewhere, leading me to go out on a limb and predict Osment. A few reasons: (1) this is The Sixth Sense's best chance of winning something, and I don't think the Academy will allow this record-breaking blockbuster to go off emptyhanded; (2) Osment's disarming performance has been credited with a lot of the film's phenomenal success; and (3) the story of how the 11-year-old cried after losing the Golden Globe--and had to be consoled by no less than Harrison Ford--has been widely documented. Would the Academy want to play the bully and really devastate the poor child? Don't think so.
+My Pick: Did anyone think that I would not vote for the sole representative of the superb Magnolia ensemble? Cruise's chauvinist role appears to be one-note and undemanding at first, but as the defenses of his character are gradually stripped away, so are the complexities of Cruise's terrific performance laid bare.
The Winner: The winner of the Most Gracious Acceptance Speech award, no contest. It's too bad I can't really agree with his victory, though.
*Prediction: As with the Best Actor nod for co-star Sean Penn, Morton's much-deserved nomination came as a pleasant surprise. You know what that means. Collette's big money scene near the end of The Sixth Sense was more a showcase for co-star Haley Joel Osment; it's not a good sign when you're upstaged in your own Oscar clip. Keener has numerous critics' awards to her credit, but the overwhelming weirdness of Malkovich cost that film from placing in other major categories--and accordingly will cost her some votes. Sevigny and Hilary Swank make for a remarkable lead tandem of performances in Boys, and as such many voting for Swank will go for Sevigny. But I don't think that'll be enough to steal the thunder of front-runner Jolie, who has this category pretty much sewn up after taking home the Golden Globe and SAG Award. Plus, the Academy just loves to honor second generation performers; remember Mira Sorvino's win, which left proud papa Paul uncontrollably bawling in his seat? Don't be surprised if Jolie's father Jon Voight puts on a similar display.
+My Pick: It takes quite a performance to steal a film away from Sean Penn's wonderfully Lowdown turn, and the effortlessly charming Morton not only does just that as the Sweet half of the film's title, she did it without uttering a single word.
The Winner: Enough dirty talk about her relationship with her brother, and let's get to the real issue: what was up with the outfit? Auditioning to sit in for Anjelica Huston in an Addams Family prequel?
*Prediction: Malkovich failed to earn a Best Picture nod, and that snub effectively erases Jonze's chances. Mann somehow makes a tobacco company conspiracy the center of compelling suspense, but getting enough people to see his film has proven to be nearly as difficult a feat. Even Cider's most ardent supporters don't necessarily gush over the work of Hallström, who didn't earn a Directors Guild nomination. The precision of Shyamalan's direction becomes even more apparent after repeated viewings of Sense, but the Beauty juggernaut will charge on, honoring Mendes for his delicate balance of comedy and drama.
+My Pick: The deliriously inventive Malkovich is an even greater achievement for its behind-the-scenes talent than its onscreen talent, and Jonze meticulously guides his film through the wild turns of Charlie Kaufman's script, in the end coming up with a true cinema original.
The Winner: Though the selection of Steven Spielberg as presenter of this award undoubtedly had something to do with his winning it last year, I'm certain the virtually preordained victory for Mendes just sweetened the scenario--nothing like a symbolic passing of the torch, the studio head giving an award to the director of his company's crown jewel of the year.
*Prediction: Ripley was an also-ran in the nominations, making Minghella an also-ran in this race. The main gripe with Darabont's film was its length, and much of it had to do with his thick script. The Insider could get its token recognition here, but the lack of a groundswell campaign isn't helping its chances. Normally, Election would be counted out from the get-go since this is the film's only nomination, but its recent Writers Guild win makes it a possibility. However, every Academy member, not simply the writers' branch, votes for the final tally, not to mention Election's subversive wit would have difficulty going over with older viewers; consequently, this is where the Miramax machine will reap its reward for the nice-'n-safe Cider.
+My Pick: That subversive wit is what makes Payne and Taylor's Election clearly stand out among the pack here--as well as its complex multi-narrator structure and consistently surprising storyline.
The Winner: I'm sure that when Academy voters went seemingly the "nice 'n safe" route by honoring Cider, they didn't count on the blatantly political speech given by Irving. They wouldn't have had the same problem had they given, say, the more deserving Election the win.
*Prediction: Leigh is known to start his film projects without a script and instead develop their stories through rehearsals with the actors. Little writing = no writing trophy. Anderson juggled a number of stories and characters admirably in Magnolia, but his real achievement was in the director's chair. The secret of The Sixth Sense definitely serves Shyamalan's chances well, but that stroke of inspiration pales compared to the many on display in the remaining two nominees. The rave reviews for Malkovich made pains to credit Kaufman's strange and surprising script, thus this is the film's best chance of earning some recognition. But the best chance doesn't necessarily mean a really good chance, for Beauty will strike again.
+My Pick: The 7 1/2 floor. A portal into the mind of an eccentric character actor. A woman who carries out a lesbian affair by occupying the mind of a male body. If Kaufman's wild Malkovich script doesn't define an "original" screenplay, I don't know what does.
The Winner: The thought that immediately comes to mind whenever I see Ball: an older Todd Solondz. Nominee Paul Thomas Anderson summed up my--and, I assume, many others'--reaction to this win with his look of mock shock once Ball's name was announced. This category did offer one of the evening's most revelatory moments. As each nominee was named, a page of his screenplay was shown, except in the case of Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy; only a vaguely-worded chart was shown, for he never writes a script, but rather develops his story through rehearsals with his actors. I could imagine a writers' revolt had he won.
Now, my picks (not predictions) in the remaining categories, except the Documentary categories and Animated Short Subject:
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Winner: I don't know about anyone else, but I'm getting annoyed by "cheerleader" presenters assigned to these categories the last couple of years. Last year it was Sophia Loren clearly rooting on countryman and eventual winner Roberto Benigni; this year, Mother co-star Penelope Cruz and another Pedro Almodóvar vet, Antonio Banderas, handing their fellow Spaniard the trophy. Such obvious favoritism is unfair to the other four nominees, who cannot too pleased, not to mention made to feel somewhat unwelcome.
The Winner: Kudos to the Academy for giving this film's wonderfully imaginative and effectively unsettling visual world the recognition it deserves.
The Winner: Hall ran a close second behind Warren Beatty for the Most Rambling Acceptance Speech award.
The Winner: Yes, the costumes were nice. But they were stage costumes in a film about the stage. Not exactly what I call "innovation"--that label I reserve for the far more adventurous garments in Titus.
The Winner: The big story lost under the American Beauty victory parade was The Matrix's sweep of all its nominated categories. Of course, all these categories are on the technical end, but that doesn't make its domination any less impressive--or the Academy's embrace of such an edgy film any less refreshing.
The Winner: Yes, the makeup was nice. But it was stage makeup in a film about the stage. Not exactly what I call "innovation"--that label I reserve for the far more adventurous work in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. (Uh, did I just repeat myself?)
The Winner: The only genuine surprise of the night was a most pleasant one; Corigliano's score was the best feature of the good but overrated Violin, and the most haunting of the five scores nominated.
The Winner: The Academy chose the wrong nominee from a Disney animated feature--Toy Story 2's "When She Loved Me" is hands down the more memorable song. One can go even farther and say the Academy chose the wrong nominee from an animated feature, period--that label belongs to South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut's "Blame Canada." One can only imagine the chaos that would've ensued had the Jennifer Lopez dress-clad Trey Parker ended up onstage. Alas...
The Winner: (see Film Editing, above)
- The Green Mile - Robert J. Litt, Elliot Tyson, Michael Herbick, and Willie D. Burton
- The Insider - Andy Nelson, Doug Hemphill, and Lee Orloff
- The Matrix - John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, David Campbell, and David Lee
- The Mummy - Leslie Shatz, Chris Carpenter, Rick Kline, and Chris Munro
- +Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace - Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Shawn Murphy, and John Midgley
SOUND EFFECTS EDITING
The Winner: (see Film Editing, above)
The Winner: (see Film Editing, above)
- Buena Vista Social Club - Wim Wenders and Ulrich Felsberg
- Genghis Blues - Roko Belic and Adrian Belic
- On the Ropes - Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen
- One Day in September - Arthur Cohn and Kevin Macdonald
- Speaking in Strings - Paola di Florio and Lilibet Foster
LIVE ACTION SHORT
- Bror, Min Bror (Teis and Nico) - Henrik Ruben Genz and Michael W. Horsten
- Killing Joe - Mehdi Norowzian and Steve Wax
- Kleingeld (Small Change) - Marc-Andreas Bochert and Gabriele Lins
- Major and Minor Miracles - Marcus Olsson
- *My Mother Dreams the Satan's Desciples in New York - Barbara Schock and Tammy Tiehel
- Humdrum - Peter Peake
- My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shorts - Torill Kove
- The Old Man and the Sea - Alexandre Petrov
- 3 Misses - Paul Driessen
- When the Day Breaks - Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis
- Eyewitness - Bert Van Bork
- King Gimp - Susan Hannah Hadary and William A. Whiteford
- The Wildest Show in the South: The Angola Prison Rodeo - Simeon Soffer and Jonathan Stack
Unlike last year, when only one of the Best Picture nominees (The Thin Red Line) was shut out, this year three ended up emptyhanded: The Insider (7 total nods), The Sixth Sense (6), The Green Mile (4). The only meaning I can glean from this statistic is that this year, the Academy was eager to honor its clear favorites rather than spread the wealth.
Surprisingly, I did equally as well predicting the top eight awards as I did last year: six for eight, this time missing the Actress and Supporting Actor categories.
Michael's Oscar Follies 2000
Inside the Nomination Announcement
Nomination Announcement Memorabilia
72nd Annual Academy Award Winners/© Michael Dequina