Odds at the Oscars

RN&R film critic Bob Grimm predicts this year’s Academy Award winners

There’s only one thing about this year’s Academy Awards that I’m quite certain of: Steve Martin will be missed, and center-square Whoopi Goldberg will again suck as the host.As for what’s going to happen with the actual awards, it’s a crapshoot. Every race is a tight one, with three or four of the nominees in each category having what appear to be equal chances. I am unsure about many of the categories, but I will pretend to have an inkling for the sake of entertainment and showmanship, something I’m sure hostess Goldberg will be sorely lacking (if she makes another fart joke, I’ll tune out).

Each category will be listed in the order of what I perceive to be the highest chance of winning, down to “no way in hell.”

Best Actor
Denzel Washington, Training Day

Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind

Tom Wilkinson, In the Bedroom

Will Smith, Ali

Sean Penn, I Am Sam

A couple of weeks ago, I thought Russell Crowe was a lock, but he probably cost himself a few votes when he recently went Maximus on the director of the BAFTA awards for bumping his “I’m so fucking cool poem” acceptance speech. Whether or not he cost himself his second Oscar in a row, he’s certainly portrayed himself as an asshole.

There’s been speculation that Crowe’s behavior will pave the way for Denzel Washington to score his first Best Actor award for Training Day. A chance exists that the Academy voters think Denzel will be back with a nomination for a more Oscar-friendly role and will not recognize him for a film that wasn’t overwhelmingly liked. In Washington’s favor is the perception that he was robbed of the award for his portrayal of Malcolm X, so maybe some voters will see this as their chance to make amends.

I guess this is wishful thinking on my part, but I’m hoping Crowe and Washington cancel each other out, with the award going to Wilkinson, my pick for best male performance of the year. All the hoopla has been surrounding the obviously wonderful performances of Sissy Spacek and Marisa Tomei for In the Bedroom, but it was Wilkinson who made that film for me.

In capturing the spirit of the greatest boxer of all time, Will Smith gave a strong performance in Ali, although I don’t think he deserves this nomination. There were many far better performances this year.

Finally, if voters should smoke a big bag of crack before casting their ballots, Sean Penn will take home the honors for his frighteningly bad performance as a mentally handicapped man in I Am Sam. Penn is one of the finest actors on the planet, but it would be a shame if his first Academy recognition came for this flagrant scenery chewing. It’s Penn’s worst performance since Shanghai Surprise.

Snubs: Someday, Haley Joel Osment will be appreciated for one of the greatest child performances ever put to screen in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Gene Hackman did career-best funny work in The Royal Tenenbaums, and Guy Pearce scared the hell out of me in Memento. Billy Bob Thornton was magnificent in both Monster’s Ball and The Man Who Wasn’t There, but the Academy would rather pinch Sean Penn’s cheek.

Winner of the biggest snub in this category would have to be Ewan McGregor, who was every bit as powerful as Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge.

Prediction: In the time it took me to type this, I’ve changed my mind and decided that Denzel Washington will take home the Oscar. I’ll probably change my mind a few more times before the show.

My pick: Tom Wilkinson

Best Actress
Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball

Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom

Judi Dench, Iris

Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge

Renee Zellweger, Bridget Jones’s Diary

Tough to call. I believe Nicole Kidman, nominated here for her rousing work in Moulin Rouge, was the actress of the year for her combined work in that film and The Others. She’s my personal pick, but I think this is a four-way race.

Do not ignore the Dench factor. Judi Dench is spectacular in Iris, and the Academy loves this woman like it would love its own grandma. If Berry, Kidman and Spacek should divide the vote, Dench could sneak in there for the upset.

While packing on the pounds was a bold move and the performance was fun, Zellweger’s acting in Bridget Jones’s Diary will not net her an Oscar and probably wasn’t a good idea for her cardiovascular system.

After winning the Screen Actors Guild Award, Berry seems to have the edge. The industry might be a little mad at her for the hit-and-run thing and for flashing her boobs gratuitously in Swordfish, but I think they will go her way on this one. I think Spacek, Kidman and, yes, Dench are close behind.

Snubs: The Academy did a good job here with deserving nominees, going four for five (sorry, Renee). However, one glaring omission, and this year’s most terrible snub, would have to be Naomi Watts not getting recognized for Mulholland Drive. Watts delivered not only the best performance in this category, it was also the single best performance of the year on all fronts.

As a footnote, Zhang Ziyi and Audrey Tautou were magical in their respective films, The Road Home and Amélie. Seeing at least one of them here would’ve been nice.

Prediction: Halle Berry

My pick: Nicole Kidman

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind

Maggie Smith, Gosford Park

Marisa Tomei, In the Bedroom

Helen Mirren, Gosford Park

Kate Winslet, Iris

Jennifer Connelly seems to be a lock for this one, but that’s what they said about Kate Hudson last year. I’m thinking there are many voters who would love a chance to honor Maggie Smith for putting forth one of the few things worth watching in the overrated Gosford Park. If it were my choice, I’d give it to Marisa Tomei for her brave performance in In the Bedroom.

Smith and Mirren have relatively equal shots at the prize for their work, even though Emily Watson out-acted both of them in Park. Kate Winslet was charming in Iris, but Dench and Jim Broadbent stole that picture.

Snubs: Cameron Diaz freaked me out in Vanilla Sky, as did Carrie-Anne Moss in Memento, two performances that definitely deserved recognition. I would gladly trade back any of the Gosford Park women to see Anjelica Huston get some recognition for The Royal Tenenbaums.

Prediction: Jennifer Connelly

My pick: Marisa Tomei

Best Supporting Actor
Sir Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Jim Broadbent, Iris

Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast

Jon Voight, Ali

Ethan Hawke, Training Day

My guess is this will be the tightest race of the evening. Call it wishful thinking, but my gut is telling me Sir Ian McKellen will get the gold. My bet is that there are plenty of voters who wished to reward him for his Gods and Monsters performance a few years back, and that will put him over the top.

Six months ago, Kingsley was the favorite for this award, but if the majority of voters watched their Iris tapes, I think the magnificent work of Jim Broadbent will give him the best chance after McKellen. There’s a semi-large faction of Moulin Rouge fans who appreciated Broadbent’s work in that film, and that should help him in the ballot box.

Voight was uncanny as Howard Cosell in Ali, but the film (and consequently its performances) is under-appreciated. While I don’t think he stands a chance, nominating Ethan Hawke for his excellent work in Training Day was a cool thing. He’s made major advances as an actor.

Snubs: Where the hell is Steve Buscemi (Ghost World) in this category? Freaking sacrilege! It’s also a shame that Joe Pantoliano was passed over for Memento.

Prediction: So close, but I’m guessing it will be McKellen.

My pick: McKellen, who happened to kick ass while hosting SNL last week.

Best Director
Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind

Some art from nominated movies here.

Robert Altman, Gosford Park

Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down

David Lynch, Mulholland Drive

The Directors Guild of America just gave their award to Ron Howard, and that’s often a predictor of who’ll win on Oscar night. Nobody deserves this prize more than Peter Jackson, who helmed the best picture of the year and one of the greatest cinematic adventure-fantasy films of all time. But he’s not exactly a Hollywood son, and Howard has been mistreated in the past (not even nominated for Apollo 13, another DGA win for Howard), and I think the voters will want to make nice.

Altman is an industry favorite, so no surprise if he should get this one. Scott and Lynch have no hope, although my vote for runner-up in this category goes to Lynch.

Snubs: Obvious snubs here are Baz Luhrman and Todd Field, whose pictures, Moulin Rouge and In the Bedroom, were nominated without them. I sing this song every year: How can you nominate a film for best picture without its director? Sometimes, I think this category should be abolished.

Best Picture
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

A Beautiful Mind

Moulin Rouge

Gosford Park

In the Bedroom

Moulin Rouge just got the Producers Guild of America award for best picture, but the Academy didn’t even nominate that film’s director, putting the musical at a major disadvantage.

In the Bedroom, the film that delivered the year’s best emotional punch, deserves its nomination, but Gosford Park does not. I cannot stress enough how much it annoys me that Gosford Park got the nomination.

There’s been a nasty smear campaign against A Beautiful Mind, with allegations that the John Nash biopic was as truthful as Warren Beatty’s pillow talk. With its eight nominations, it received five fewer than the The Lord of the Rings, which led all films this year.

The Lord of the Rings was the year’s best film, hands down. The most-nominated film usually takes the award, and I’m hoping Rings keeps with that trend. It deserves the award, and in a fair world director Peter Jackson would be awarded as well.

Snubs: I would gladly see Gosford Park dropped from this category in favor of Mulholland Drive or A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Hell, I liked Zoolander more than Gosford Park.

Prediction: I’m going to be an optimist and go with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, my personal pick for Best Picture 2001.

Best Original Screenplay

Gosford Park


The Royal Tenenbaums

Monster’s Ball

I think this is where Memento lovers will pay their dues, angry that it didn’t get a Best Picture nod. It also deserves the award.

Best Adapted Screenplay
A Beautiful Mind

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

In the Bedroom

Ghost World


Although The Lord of the Rings is deserving here, A Beautiful Mind will probably take it. Rings fans, start worrying if it wins here, because this sometimes represents a consolation prize.

Best Animated Feature

Monsters, Inc.

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

The only sure thing of the evening, with Shrek trouncing Disney and Nickelodeon.

Best Song
“If I Didn’t Have You,” Randy Newman, Monsters Inc.

“Vanilla Sky,” Paul McCartney, Vanilla Sky

“Until,” Sting, Kate and Leopold

“May It Be,” Enya, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

“There You’ll Be,” Dianne Warren, Pearl Harbor

What a bunch of lousy tunes! Randy Newman keeps getting nominated, and I think he will walk away the victor this time. Sting and McCartney have higher profiles, but their songs suck ass.

Best Foreign-Language Film
Amélie, France

No Man’s Land, Bosnia

Elling, Norway

Lagaan, India

Son of the Bride, Argentina

I have only seen Amélie and No Man’s Land, and although both were very good, the edge goes to Amélie. A notable snub in this category would be the enchanting Zhang Ziyi love story The Road Home.

Other award predictions:
Editing: Memento

Sound editing: Pearl Harbor

Sound: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Visual effects: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Original score: A Beautiful Mind

Makeup: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Costumes: Moulin Rouge

Art direction: Moulin Rouge