Academy Of Motion Pictures And Sciences Interview

Chomping at the bit for Feb. 23rd's nominations? Here's the line on where to place your Oscar bets

Chomping at the bit for Feb. 23rd's nominations? Here's the line on where to place your Oscar bets

The burning question about this years Academy Award nominations, to be annouced February 23, 2001, is this: In how many categories will Steven Soderbergh be competing against himself?

The director of "Erin Brockovich," the picture with this year's most enduring Oscar buzz, Soderbergh put his own odds in jeopardy with the release of December's "Traffic," a bold and powerfully-acted drug-trade soap opera that has been receiving loud exaltation from pundits and critics nationwide (although not this critic).

What are the chances these two films will both be in the running for Best Picture? Darn close to 100 percent. And Soderbergh's name should appear twice in the Best Director category as a result.

But he's not the only one competing with himself for recognition in the 73rd annual Academy Awards. Jouquin Phoenix could double-dip a Best Supporting Actor nomination because of his strong performances in "Gladiator" and "Quills." The same category could see double nominees from "Almost Famous" (Billy Crudup and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and/or "The Contender" (Jeff Bridges and Gary Oldman).

Then there's Kate Hudson, whose Golden Globe win makes her a front runner to create the same kind of cozy competition for Best Supporting Actress, where her "Almost Famous" costar Frances McDormand is virtually garunteed a spot.

Here's a speculative breakdown of all the categories for this year's Oscar nominations:

Best PICTURE
Sure Things:
"Cast Away"
"Erin Brockovich"
"Gladiator"
"Traffic"

Even Money:
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"
"Quills"

The Competition:
"Almost Famous"
"Chocolat"

Dark Horse:
"Billy Elliot"
"Thirteen Days"
"You Can Count On Me"

"Crouching Tiger" continues to get so much attention that the Academy may not be able to ignore it, and an innovative historical epic/tragic romance/martial arts spectacular will be more palatable to voters than "Quills," which berates censorship but explores the dark extremes of sexuality. "Almost Famous" stands a chance, but the film didn't exactly do boffo box office. "Billy Elliot" will appeal to the "Full Monty" voters.

Best DIRECTOR
Sure Things:
Steven Soderbergh, "Erin Brockovich"
Steven Soderbergh, "Traffic"
Robert Zemekis, "Cast Away"

Good Bets:
Ang Lee, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"
Philip Kaufman, "Quills"

The Competition:
Cameron Crowe, "Almost Famous"
Ridley Scott, "Gladiator"

Dark Horse:
Darren Aronofsky, "Requiem for a Dream"

It's Soderbergh's prize to lose.

Best ACTOR
Sure Things:
Russell Crowe, "Gladiator"
Geoffrey Rush, "Quills"
Tom Hanks, "Cast Away"

Good Bets:
Michael Douglas, "Wonder Boys"
Ed Harris, "Pollock"

The Competition:
Javier Bardem, "Before Night Falls"

Dark Horses:
Jamie Bell, "Billy Elliot"

This category is close to a lock. Early odds on Rush to win, but the Academy is so easily hypnotized by Hanks, so it might be close.

Best ACTRESS
Sure Things:
Julia Roberts, "Erin Brockovich"
Joan Allen, "The Contender"
Ellen Burstyn, "Requiem for a Dream"
Laura Linney, "You Can Count On Me"

Good Bet:
Juliette Binoche, "Chocolat"

Even Money:
Gillian Anderson, "The House of Mirth"
Cate Blanchett, "The Gift"
Renee Zellweger, "Nurse Betty"

Dark Horses:
Michelle Rodriguez, "Girlfight"
Bjork, "Dancer in the Dark"

Zellweger's Golden Globe win gives her the edge as a spoiler for Binoche. But it hardly matters in the long run -- Roberts has the Oscar pretty much locked up.

Best SUPPORTING ACTOR
Sure Things:
Benicio Del Toro, "Traffic"
Willem Dafoe, "Shadow of the Vampire"
Albert Finney, "Erin Brockovich"

Even Money:
Billy Crudup, "Almost Famous"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Almost Famous"
Joaquin Phoenix, "Gladiator"
Joaquin Phoenix, "Quills"

The Competition:
Jeff Bridges, "The Contender"
Gary Oldman, "The Contender"
Bruce Greenwood, "Thirteen Days"

This race is between the awesome performances of Dafoe and Del Toro. The rest of the field is a little hard to nail down because of the multiple possibilities from the same actors and/or the same movies. Phoenix will probably get the nod for "Gladiator," but he might just cancel himself out.

Best SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Sure Things:
Frances McDormand, "Almost Famous"
Julie Walters, "Billy Elliot"
Catherine Zeta-Jones, "Traffic"

Good Bets:
Judi Dench, "Chocolat"
Marcia Gay Harden, "Pollock"
Kate Hudson, "Almost Famous"

The Competition:
Julie Walters, "Billy Elliot"
Kate Winslet, "Quills"

Dark Horses:
Elaine May, "Small Time Crooks"
Connie Nielsen, "Gladiator"
Zhang Ziyi, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"

Another one all but locked up. McDormand has been the front-runner for months. Although Hudson's Golden Globe win ups the ante.

Best ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Sure Things:
"Almost Famous," Cameron Crowe
"Erin Brockovich," Susannah Grant
"State & Main," David Mamet
"You Can Count On Me," Kenneth Lonergan

Even Money:
"Thirteen Days," David Self

The Competition:
"Billy Elliot," Lee Hall
"The Contender," Rod Lurie

Hollywood adores Crowe, but he has tough competition from "Erin Brockovich" (popularity), "State & Main" (Hollywood also loves to see itself lampooned) and "You Can Count On Me" (for the now-obligatory indie nod in a major catagory).

Best ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Sure Things:
"Traffic," Stephen Gaghan
"Quills," Doug Wright
"Wonder Boys," Steve Kloves

Good Bets:
"The House of Mirth," Terence Davies
"Requiem for a Dream," Darren Aronofsky & Hubert Selby Jr.

The Competition:
"Chocolat," Robert Nelson Jacobs
"All the Pretty Horses," Ted Tally
"High Fidelity," D.V. Vincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack & Scott Rosenberg

Doesn't really matter what gets slots four and five. The race is between the top three here (and probably just between the top two).

Technical ("hard") categories

Cinematography:
Likely noms include "Traffic" (Soderbergh shot the film himself under a pseudonym), "The Perfect Storm," "Quills," "Gladiator" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Editing:
Bank on "Cast Away," "Traffic." "Quills" would be a good bet. And there's an slight chance for "Requiem for a Dream," which really deserves it and "The Perfect Storm," which really doesn't.

Sound Design & Sound Effects Editing:
Other than "The Perfect Storm," I'm throwing darts here. I'll say "Gladiator" and "The Cell," and perhaps a couple more.

Visual effects:
"Dinosaur," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Space Cowboys" and "Hollow Man" will have a hard time beating "The Perfect Storm."

Artistic ("soft") categories

Art Direction:
Definitely "Gladiator," "Quills" and "The Cell," and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Fifth slot, either "The House of Mirth" or "Shadow of the Vampire."

Costumes:
Givens: "Quills," "The House of Mirth." Probable: "Gladiator," "Erin Brockovich." Possible: "Thirteen Days," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

Makeup:
"Grinch" and "Shadow of the Vampire," obviously.

Specialty Best Film categories

Documentary:
You can go to the bank on the usual WWII/Holocaust nods for "Paragraph 175" and "Into the Arms of Strangers." "Dark Days" is likely. Other potential nominees: "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," "42 Up," and "Me & Issac Newton."

Foreign Language:
Besides the given winner "Crouching Tiger," probables include "Malena" (Italy), "Solas" (Spain) and "Yi Yi" (Taiwan).

Music categories

Original Score:
"Erin Brockovich," "Chocolat," "Gladiator," and "The Patriot" are pretty sure things because of their composers' repeat winner status. "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" has a pretty good shot, too. Dark Horse: "Malena."

Original Song:
For once there is a movie with songs integral to the plot that might get nominations: "Almost Famous". Bob Dylan's "Things Have Changed" from "Wonder Boys" won the Golden Globe, so count that in. And, of course, the same old Disney stuff will be there too, like a Sting song from "The Emperor's New Groove."


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