Alex's Oscar Column #07

February 2, 2000

Golden Globe Award Reactions

In my Oscar Column #6, I rattled off a list of Golden Globe predictions but time constraints restricted me from including explanation for my selections prior to putting them up online, so I'm in the position of having to justify them after-the-fact here. In terms of my picks, I went a mediocre 8 for 13 (62%) -- on the other hand, I only missed one of my acting predictions; most of my incorrect selections were in the lower-profile categories.

The first category presented during the ceremony was the Supporting Actress Globe, which I successfully predicted would go to Angelia Jolie for her work in Girl, Interrupted. My reasoning at the time was that she was working with a flashy, attention-grabbing character in a reasonably accessible (albeit sub-par) studio picture, and that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association clearly has a fondness for the actress, having feted her in the previous two years for her work in the TV-films Gia and George Wallace; Jolie's uninhibited nature during in past events has certainly helped the profile of the Globes by providing some newsworthy sidebars. The Supporting Actress category was a fairly competitive and crowded one this year with six candidates in the running, but I felt fairly confident that emerging British actress Samantha Morton (Sweet And Lowdown) stood little chance to nab the Globe, while indie icon Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don't Cry) and rising star Natalie Portman (Anywhere But Here) were similarly longshots. The one actress I suspected might give Jolie a run for the Golden Globe was Cameron Diaz for Being John Malkovich, especially when accounting for her international fame. (Suffice it to say that glitz, glamour and fame tend to factor greatly in on the voting patterns for the Golden Globe Awards.) Jolie towed her brother onstage and delivered an unusually shaky acceptance speech. (While she thanked Girl, Interrupted co-star Winona Ryder, I still tend to believe the reports of strife between the actresses during the film's shoot in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.)

I don't expect that Jolie's Globe victory will have a major impact on her Oscar prospects -- I suspect that she was already a lock for a nomination prior to her recognition from the HFPA, and don't believe that this win necessarily puts her into the odds-on favourite position for the Supporting Actress Oscar. For what it's worth, I was distinctly unimpressed with her work in the James Mangold film -- the magnetism of Lisa is in the writing of the character rather than Jolie's performance; against the tableaux of tepid dullness provided by the rest of the cast, it's difficulty for her to not steal scenes with her character's defined flamboyancy. I think Jolie's an interesting actress, but I'd rate her 1999 performances in the inane The Bone Collector and especially Pushing Tin (again, lousy picture, but some very nice work by her there) far ahead of her rote Girl, Interrupted performance.

The next prize to be presented in the ceremony was the Supporting Actor Globe, which I predicted would go to Tom Cruise for his work as sleazy motivational speaker T.J. Mackey in Magnolia. While this is considered by many to be the most competitive of acting categories in this year's awards race, my selection of Cruise to win the Globe was an automatic one -- he's arguably the biggest star in the world, so given the HFPA's susceptibility to celebrityism, this seemed like a fairly straightforward pick. He was indeed announced as this year's Globe victor, and climbed onstage in typical Cruise fashion, flashing his zillion-dollar grin and repeatedly mouthing "Wow" as he made his way through the crowd.

As with Jolie, I think that Cruise was already earmarked for an Oscar nomination prior to his Globe victory, and I don't feel that the Golden Globe definitely cements his position as frontrunner among the candidates (although he probably is among the top contenders for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, and arguably is in the lead position). While I was intrigued with the premise of Cruise's character in Magnolia -- I recall incredulously seeing similar "Seduce & Destroy" types canvassing the newsgroups four or five years ago, and marvel that nobody had thought to put this bizarrely intriguing material into a movie until now -- I actually wasn't especially wowed by Cruise's against-type onstage strutting and misogynistic rants while in motivational speaker-mode; where his performance really clicked, I felt, was during his scene opposite Jason Robards, and especially during the interview segment with April Grace (who's been unfairly neglected in the Magnolia hoopla; she was very good). One of the most devastating moments in the film is Cruise's pitch-perfect delivery of the "quietly judging" line. (I also liked his exchange with Philip Seymour Hoffman -- the repeated drop-kick references are quintessential Paul Thomas Anderson.) Incidentally, it's worth noting that Magnolia, like Boogie Nights before it, features Anderson evoking emotional pathos by holding on a character's increasingly embarassed and uncomfortable reaction as the past is humiliatingly unearthed -- see Rollergirl during the On The Lookout sequence.

After a series of television awards, the Best Actress - Musical or Comedy Globe was the next film-related category to be presented. I picked Tumbleweeds' Janet McTeer to win the prize, which runs counter to my general prediction strategy that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association embraces big, famous stars. (Case in point: they picked Madonna in Evita over eventual Oscar-winner Frances McDormand from Fargo a few years ago.) Given the illustrious nature of the other nominees -- Sharon Stone, Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon make up the quartet -- McTeer's by far the most obscure member in the group, but I made her my pick nonetheless under the presumption that the HFPA generally seems to prefer to cite winners that will probably go on to nab Oscar nominations. (Their last Globe winner in this category who failed to score an Academy Award nomination was the aforementioned Madonna, but they haven't given the Globe to an actress with clearly no shot at an Oscar cite since Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies.) While Stone is a perennial favourite in this group, the much-publized brouhaha about her gifts to the association and their desire to avoid the appearance of impropriety assured the likelihood that she wasn't going to win the Globe for her work in The Muse. Roberts is a huge star, but I'm certainly not expecting her to grab an Oscar nomination for Notting Hill (I see that Entertainment Weekly's Benjamin Svetsky's making a pitch for her), so to give her the Globe would be akin to throwing it away if one operates under the assumption that the HFPA want to make their winners appear to count. Similarly, odds are very long for Julianne Moore to get a Best Actress Oscar nomination for An Ideal Husband (The End Of The Affair seems to be her best bet in this category), so I felt confident in crossing her off the list. The Globe, I reasoned, was between Election's Reese Witherspoon and McTeer, and given that the HFPA has never recognized smart, sharp-edged satirical comedies in the past with prizes -- perhaps this indicates something about their sensibilities -- I suspected that McTeer's more accessible work in Tumbleweeds would take the Globe. The British actress was awarded the statuette and delivered a very quiet and undistingushed speech. She's probably a cinch to score one of the five Best Actress Oscar nominee spots.

(I got a chuckle out of one snide news report on the Golden Globe results: "British actress Janet McTeer won best actress in a comedy or musical for her role in Tumbleweeds, edging out Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts, and expensive watch-giver Sharon Stone.")

I felt that my guess of Jim Carrey as the Best Actor - Comedy Musical Globe victor for his performance in Man On The Moon was a fairly safe one; Robert De Niro, Rupert Everett and Hugh Grant are almost certainly not going to be seriously considered for a Best Actor Oscar nomination, and Sean Penn's relationship with the media has always been rather tempestuous. Carrey, who's perpetually friendly and at ease with the press, seemed to be an automatic choice; he indeed went on to win his second Golden Globe in as many years and delivered by far the most entertaining acceptance speech of the evening. (The self-described "Tom Hanks of the Golden Globes" also instigated one of the telecast's more ghastly moments when his cheery compliment to Man On The Moon co-star Courtney Love instigated an unsightly on-camera laughing fit that suspiciously resembled the bleating of a seal.) It's unclear how much weight Carrey's Globe victory will have on his Oscar prospects mostly because he wasn't in direct competition with any of the top contenders vying for the five slots in the Best Actor race; of course, the high visibility recognition certainly doesn't hurt his chances either.

At this point in the telecast, I'd gone a perfect four-for-four in the announced acting categories, some of which were rather competitive, and had begun to have (premature and grandiose) visions of a perfect 13 sweep. This, of course, was not to be, as the Best Screenplay Globe to Alan Ball of American Beauty broke my streak. Concluding that the Globe race would boil down to Charlie Kaufman's script for Being John Malkovich and Alan Ball (although, come to think of it, I should perhaps be considering M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense script as a stronger contender than I have been), I sided with the former for reasons which aren't immediately clear to me now -- probably the strikingly offbeat and original premise, which in retrospect may have been too excessively unusual for the capacity of the HFPA constituency. Both Kaufman and Globe-winner Ball remain frontrunners for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, with the latter delivering a profusely grateful acceptance speech which Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker described as "nebbish".

I fully expected that American Beauty would score a fairly substantial sweep at the Golden Globes, and thought that this would extend to Thomas Newman's score. The prize was instead awarded to Ennio Morricone for his score for Giuseppe Tornatore's little-seen The Legend Of 1900, a result which I found rather surprising -- among the nine nominees (why so many?) under consideration in the category, I thought that Morricone's work would've been one of the longer shots for recognition (even when considering the composer's legendary status, with an astonishing 363 credits to his name). Despite the Globe recognition for the score, I'm still rather wary about Morricone's chances to net an Oscar nomination -- the Fine Line film didn't attain a great deal of visibility during its limited release, and in the past four years, two of the HFPA's Globe-winning scores (The Truman Show and A Walk In The Clouds) have failed to even get nominated for Academy Awards, which may be indicative that their musical sensibilities significantly differ from those in the AMPAS Music Branch. On the other hand, elder statesman Morricone is revered by many younger composers and has spoken out this year about his as-of-yet unfulfilled desire to win an Academy Award -- he's oh-for-four to date.

My streak of bad luck continued in the Best Original Song category, which I'd fully expected to go to the ballad from Toy Story 2, "When She Loved Me". Indeed, from the moment I heard the song during the screening of the film, I had mentally declared the Oscar race for the Best Song category to be all but closed -- this tune, I figured, was exactly the sort of song which would sweep its way to an Academy Award. The unexpected awarding of the Golden Globe to Phil Collins for his Tarzan power ballad, "You'll Be In My Heart", served as a bucket of cold water -- for the first time, I began to seriously question whether I'd been excessively optimistic about the chances of "When She Loved Me". Both songs will almost certainly receive Academy Award nominations, but perhaps the race for the golden statuette isn't as uncontested as I'd originally thought. I continue to believe that "When She Loved Me" is the odds-on favourite, but am no longer consider the outcome of the category to be a certainty.

The Globe Best Director prize went to Sam Mendes for American Beauty, which should probably come as no surprise -- he's a lock for an Academy Award nomination, and will likely win both the Oscar and the Directors Guild of America prize for his helming of the DreamWorks picture. His Globe victory unfortunately sheds little light on the Oscar race in the Director category. Mendes delivered a polite, clearly rehearsed acceptance speech, citing fellow nominee Norman Jewison ("who made In The Heat Of The Night, for goodness sake") and DreamWorks mogul Steven Spielberg (who presented this category).

Hilary Swank won the Best Actress - Drama Golden Globe for her performance as Brandon Teena in the Kimberly Peirce film Boys Don't Cry. At this point, after a number of critics' awards and other high-profile recognitions, it appears inevitable that she will go on to win the Best Actress Oscar. She clearly has the momentum and it does not seem like any of the other likely competitors in the category (Bening, Streep, Moore) has attained the degree of support in the community for their respective works that Swank has for her attention-grabbing role. (I remain extremely dubious that Drew Barrymore, who had planned to play Brandon in a Diane Keaton version of the story, would've been able to pull it off.) Swank's career turnaround as a result from her acclaim in Boys Don't Cry is one of the most dramatic in recent years.

The Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film predictably went to All About My Mother, which allowed Almodóvar to take the stage and deliver a rambling, decidedly wacky acceptance speech which had the audience in stitches. (I liked how he randomly threw in mention of his chest cold -- you ain't gonna get stuff like this in a Spielberg speech, folks.) In this post-Benigni era, is it now the strategy-of-the-moment that directors of foreign-language films are going to behave irreverently during award ceremonies? Almodóvar's speech was one of the more interesting of the evening -- he cited his former star Antonio Banderas (who seemed curiously ambivalent) and one of his current muses, the ravishing Penelope Cruz, and, in a reference to Barbra Streisand's fondness for collaboration between actors and directors, cheerfully deemed himself to be a dictator on the set. While two of the other four nominees in the HFPA's Foreign Language Film category are ineligible for Academy Award consideration, having not been submitted by their respective nations, the Globe victory for All About My Mother serves to reinforce my opinion that the film is both a lock for an Oscar nomination and the clear frontrunner in the category.

In one of the more surprising moments of the ceremony, the Best Picture - Comedy or Musical prize went to the animated picture Toy Story 2; I'd expected this prize to go to Spike Jonze's film Being John Malkovich. (The remaining three nominees in the category -- Man On The Moon, Notting Hill, and particularly Analyze This -- didn't appear to be legitimate contenders.) While I didn't expect that the various entertainment correspondents of the HFPA would embrace Being John Malkovich to the degree that most film critics in North America have, I incorrectly presumed that the raves the picture received as well as an unspoken aversion to animated pictures would result in the Globe being assigned to the offbeat Jonze film. Out of all of the prizes issued during the ceremony, I suspect this selection might have the greatest ramifications to the Oscar race. Being John Malkovich was steadily gathering momentum on its run for a Best Picture nomination, even nabbing a PGA nomination shortly prior to the Globe ceremony, and the resultant publicity from a victory here would've strongly assisted its chances to place in the final five; its failure to do so cuts the wind from its sails. Being John Malkovich certainly isn't a non-factor yet, but the Globe would've really helped. On the other hand, the Golden Globe prize is a coup for the Disney camp supporting Toy Story 2 and reenergizes the film's chances; they really ought to have taken this high-profile recognition and made an enormous promotional blitz to push the picture into the minds of Academy voters as a feasible Best Picture candidate. (Incidentally, it was a little appalling that the ceremony would allow Shirley Maclaine and Barbra Streisand to ramble on for thirty-odd minutes during the Cecil B. DeMille presentation, but cut off the producers of Toy Story 2 after 35 seconds. Granted, Helene Poltkin and Karen Jackson aren't celebrities, but they did produce the film the HFPA just declared as the Best Comedy or Musical of 1999 -- at least give them a minute.)

I had predicted that Kevin Spacey would win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Drama for his work in American Beauty, but my one incorrect acting prediction occured here as the prize instead went to Denzel Washington for his portrayal of Rubin Carter in the Norman Jewison film The Hurricane. His acceptance speech was one of the more original and personal of the evening -- instead of the typical barrage of thanks to co-stars, filmmakers, publicists and agents (and teamster drivers), Washington towed Carter onstage and declared the former middleweight boxer to be "all love". (I also got a kick out how the activists which assisted in the freeing of Carter continue to be monolithically deemed "the Canadians".) A lot of people believe that the Best Actor Oscar race is hotly contested, with three or four performers with good chances to win the Academy Award come March; I tend to believe that this is essentially a showdown between Spacey and Washington, with the latter holding the lead. (Although I certainly wouldn't mind it, I just can't see The Insider's Russell Crowe beating out these two for the Oscar -- although there's still lots of time to turn things around for him.) If nothing else, the Golden Globe suggests that Washington has to be considered one of the top contenders in the category.

To conclude the ceremony, American Beauty completed its dominance of the ceremony by capturing the Golden Globe in the Best Picture - Drama category. This wasn't much of a surprise; I'm still bewildered as to how many entertainment writers and film columnists are declaring the winner of this year's Best Picture Oscar to be completely up in the air -- it seems to me that it'll take a major shift in the winds for American Beauty to fail to nab the coveted Academy Award. The producers of the DreamWorks picture, Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinx, excitably dashed onstage and blurted an acceptance speech that was enthusiastic if not especially affecting.

Other comments about the event:

Memo To The Academy

Like many, I'm a regular watcher of the "Siskel & Ebert" television program, and continue to follow the show in its new incarnation, "Roger Ebert & The Movies". (Yes, I know I'm behind in my capsules.) Aside from the regular discussion of current releases, one of the bits of the show which usually piques my interest is the annual "Memo To The Academy" telecast, where Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel would rattle off a list of performances and achievements which they considered award-calibre in the hopes that these mentions would influence AMPAS members to consider throwing their support behind these candidates. (This year saw David Poland, daily columnist of, sit opposite Roger for this show.)

I typically find the "Memo To The Academy" show to be alternately fascinating and frustrating; while many of the picks are often inspired, there are often selections made which are either a) already more than likely to receive nominations (Judi Dench for Mrs Brown; Billy Bob Thornton for Sling Blade; Elizabeth's art direction), or b) candidates which have no realistic hope for Oscar nominations (James Woods for John Carpenter's Vampires; Annabella Sciorra for What Dreams May Come; Demi Moore for G.I. Jane). I don't intend to denigrate either their selections or the achievements being cited -- if they deeply appreciate these works, more power to 'em -- but if the primary purpose is indeed to influence the Oscar nomination process, as has been declared, to suggest candidates which are likely or, conversely, terribly unlikely to score nominations seems both futile and an ineffective use of the high-visibility forum; the resultant impact in either case is minimized.

Given the mission statement of the "Memo To The Academy" show, I'd prefer that Roger Ebert and his future guest hosts focus on performances and achievements which are genuine underdogs in their respective Oscar races -- legitimate possibilities, but sorely in need of an assist -- and neglect mention of the sure-thing candidates and the extreme longshot possibilities. I've often considered what I would tout given the opportunity, and since it's a colossal understatement to note that I obviously won't be guesting on the "Roger Ebert & The Movies" show any time soon, I thought I'd dash off my own Memo To The Academy.

One of the more perceptive comments I've received as of late regarding my Oscar coverage (other than a letter which began "Who are you? Why do you run this web page?": two questions I ask myself constantly) remarked "You definitely seem like you try to bite off more than you chew", and such is the certainly the case for this feature of Oscar Column #7. I'd hoped to elaborate upon my selections here with detailed commentary and justifications; instead, due to various time constraints, I was unable to even complete this section prior to the deadlines for Oscar nominee balloting (February 5th, 2000). So, needless to say, this is all pretty moot, but the idea has been bouncing around in my head long enough that I figured I'd rattle off this list sans comments all the same. Note that these are not necessarily my favourites in each category -- they're essentially achievements which aren't strong contenders and can't be considered as likely nominees but I feel have a fighting chance and could've benefited from the spotlight that a MTTA mention would've provided. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing any of them as Oscar nominees.

The abbreviated list:

(I seem to recall that David Poland cited "Blame Canada" during his portion of the "Memo To The Academy" telecast this year -- kudos. On the other hand, he also suggested "What Would Brian Boitano Do?", a peppy little ditty which hasn't been actively promoted to the Academy and hence stands almost no shot.)

A lot of mixed signals in the following recently-announced guild award nominations:

Directors Guild of America Nominee Reactions

I'd begun to question whether or not the wildly popular The Sixth Sense would indeed manage to grab a Best Picture when the Directors Guild of America announced their list of nominees for their 52nd annual awards. There's generally a fairly strong correlation between the DGA picks and the Academy Award nominees in the Direction category, and films nominated for Best Picture Oscars usually feature a matching director nomination, so I was intrigued to see The Sixth Sense director/writer M. Night Shyamalan recognized with a DGA nomination. Although his film failed to get a Producers Guild of America nomination (another strong precursor for a Best Picture Oscar nomination), this recognition suggests that one shouldn't discount the possibility that both Shyamalan will manage to grab a Director Oscar nomination and that his picture may also win a nomination slot.

After its failure to pick up substantial support with the Golden Globes, perceived one-time Oscar heavyweight The Green Mile was written off by most as a strong contender, but Frank Darabont's DGA recognition would appear to revitalize the film as a possible spoiler in the Best Picture category and suggest that the director himself might get an Oscar nomination. I wouldn't vote for him, but he's achieved a degree of respectability among his peers over the past few years and is a viable Best Director candidate.

The nomination for Spike Jonze's debut work in Being John Malkovich is a very promising sign for both the filmmaker and the film's chances to net Oscar nominations; I'm ready to pencil them both down. The other DGA nominees -- Sam Mendes of American Beauty and The Insider director Michael Mann -- are locks for directing Academy Award nominations, as are their respective films in the Best Picture category.

The directing category is extremely competitive this year, with a number of filmmakers at about an even level competiting for two or three nomination spots. Missing from the DGA list were The Hurricane's Norman Jewison, Topsy-Turvy director Mike Leigh, David Lynch of The Straight Story, The Talented Mr. Ripley's Anthony Minghella (I was shocked by his exclusion), Paul Thomas Anderson for Magnolia, David O. Russell for Three Kings, and even Stanley Kubrick for Eyes Wide Shut. (I suspect Kubrick may fare better with AMPAS than with the DGA, although this may not necessarily meet the required number for an Oscar nomination.)

Screen Actors Guild Nominee Reactions

This year's Screen Actors Guild nominees featured some surprise inclusions and notable exclusions. The most notable of the latter would probably be the complete lack of representation of The Talented Mr. Ripley, which could've seen Matt Damon in the Lead Actor category, Jude Law or Philip Seymour Hoffman in the Supporting Actor category, or Gwyneth Paltrow or Cate Blanchett in the Supporting Actress category -- it instead received nothing and even failed to score a nomination for its ensemble cast. This bodes particularly unpromisingly for Damon's chances; there may indeed be credence to the train of thought that the unpleasant nature of his character may be adversely affecting his Oscar prospects, as his work was otherwise superb in the picture.

Instead, the SAG nominees in the lead actor category included Jim Carrey for Man On The Moon, Russell Crowe for The Insider, Philip Seymour Hoffman for Flawless, Kevin Spacey for American Beauty, and Golden Globe-winner Denzel Washington for The Hurricane. (The Straight Story's Richard Farnsworth was also conspicuously absent from the list.) The most unexpected nominee here would have to be Hoffman for his performance as a savvy transvestite in the Schumacher box-office dud; I have to hand it to Mr. Ken Rudolph, who'd been touting Hoffman for months and had reportedly that there'd been no other 1999 acting performance that had received a better Academy screening reception -- this SAG nomination would seem to reinforce the notion that Hoffman's work was disproportionately well-received. While I remain uncertain as to whether or not he'll be able to snare an Oscar nomination for his work in Flawless, he can't be discounted as a possibility.

The five nominees in the lead actress category were Annette Bening for American Beauty, Tumbleweeds' Janet McTeer, Julianne Moore of The End Of The Affair, perennial fave Meryl Streep for Music Of The Heart, and Hilary Swank of Boys Don't Cry. My guess is that these actresses will also receive matching Oscar nominations.

The SAG supporting actor category also featured a nomination that must be considered as a minor surprise -- Chris Cooper's work as the strict Colonel Fitts in American Beauty was recognized by his peers with a mention. I've been praising Cooper's work since I first saw the picture, so I'm very pleased with this cite; whether or not it serves as an early warning of an upcoming Oscar nomination will be seen shortly. The other SAG nominees -- Michael Caine of The Cider House Rules, Tom Cruise of Magnolia, Michael Clark Duncan for The Green Mile, and Haley Joel Osment of The Sixth Sense -- all are likely Oscar nominees. Those who failed to make the list include Christopher Plummer of The Insider (who disturbingly seems to be losing momentum), Jude Law of The Talented Mr. Ripley, and John Malkovich of Being John Malkovich). It will certainly be interesting come February 15th to see what combination of possibilities will make up the Supporting Actor Oscar category.

The Screen Actors Guild failed to cite British thesp Samantha Morton for her performance as mute Hattie in Sweet And Lowdown as a supporting actress nomination. The quintet of actresses recognized with SAG nominations include Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener from Being John Malkovich, Globe-winning Angelina Jolie of Girl, Interrupted, Chloë Sevigny of Boys Don't Cry, and Julianne Moore of Magnolia. While the matching Oscar category may be similarly made up of identical candidates, I suspect that Morton still might crack the list -- my guess would be that Moore or one of the Malkovich actresses (likely Diaz) would be most vulnerable to be bumped should this scenario arise.

Writers Guild of America Nominee Reactions

While the Writers Guild Of America have traditionally been one of the most adventurous of guilds in terms of recognizing offbeat and eclectic fare, the WGA award nominees this year are surprisingly conventional, with only one selection which could be considered a minor surprise: I refer to the adapted screenplay nomination for Lewis Colick's reworking of "Rocket Boys" into the October Sky script. While the Joe Johnston film was well-received by those who saw it during its theatrical release, it wasn't able to capture the imagination of a wider audience and quickly fell by the wayside. After it was ignored by various critics groups in December and January, October Sky seemed consigned to dusty video shelves, but this WGA nominee might bode the promise of an Academy Award nomination, which may prompt more people to check out the film. (I personally found the movie to be well-intentioned, but unbearably hokey.)

It's questionable whether or not October Sky will be able to grab an Oscar nomination -- four of the adapted screenplay nominees seem more or less set -- John Irving for The Cider House Rules, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for Election, Michael Mann and Eric Roth for The Insider, and arguably Anthony Minghella for The Talented Mr. Ripley, all of whom received WGA nominations. It's the fifth slot which is hotly contested, with the strongest possibilities coming from Colick, Neil Jordan for The End Of The Affair, Frank Darabont for The Green Mile, Laura Jones and Alan Parker for Angela's Ashes and perhaps even David Mamet for The Winslow Boy. Some felt that the October Sky nomination came at the expense of Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon (also in the running) for their The Hurricane script and pointed at this as proof that a backlash was taking effect against the film; I'd argue that their screenplay simply wasn't deserving of a nomination.

In the Original Screenplay category, Alan Ball (American Beauty) and Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) predictably made the cut, as did M. Night Shyamalan for The Sixth Sense and Paul Thomas Anderson for Magnolia. (I'm not as certain as most that Anderson is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination; I wonder if the fact that his Short Cuts-like vignettes feature largely predictable story arcs will subvert his prospects. The fifth WGA nomination went to David O. Russell for the well-reviewed Gulf War adventure Three Kings. It wouldn't surprise me if the nominees in the Academy Award Original Screenplay mirrored those of the Writers Guild; other possibilities to sneak in include the Toy Story 2 screenplay, Barry Levinson for Liberty Heights, Kimberly Peirce and Andy Bienen for Boys Don't Cry and perhaps Pedro Almodövar for All About My Mother. (One should never count out Woody Allen, who's up for Sweet And Lowdown.)

Curiously, this year featured a perfect 50-50 split of original and adapted screenplays considered by WGA for their year-end awards; there were 101 of each.

American Society of Cinematographers Nominee Reactions

The most notable aspect of the American Society of Cinematographers nominee listing for their 14th annual awards was the omission of Freddie Francis for The Straight Story, who was previously cited by the New York Film Critics Circle, in favour of Tak Fujimoto for his atmospheric work in The Sixth Sense. (I presume that this is due to Francis' non-membership with the ASC -- he's a card-carrying member of the British Society of Cinematographers.) While Fujimoto's a splendid cinematographer and I welcome his recognition, I suspect that Francis will prevail with an Oscar nomination for his work in the David Lynch film -- then again, Fujimoto's admired status among his peers may allow him to play spoiler. The other four ASC nominees -- American Beauty's Conrad L. Hall (whose mention during Sam Mendes' Globe acceptance speech drew a round of applause), Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki of Sleepy Hollow, Robert Richardson of Snow Falling On Cedars, and The Insider's Dante Spinotti -- seem like certain Oscar nominees.

Motion Picture Sound Editors Nominee Reactions

For their Golden Reel Awards, the Motion Picture Sound Editors recognize achievements in feature films in four different categories: for domestic features, sound effects and foley, dialogue and ADR, sound editing in animated features, and sound editing in foreign features. (Note that the latter category is not restricted to foreign language films -- The World Is Not Enough, Entrapment and Pushing Tin have been placed in this category alongside Run Lola Run and The Emperor And The Assassin.)

Nine different domestic films were represented in the sound effects and foley category -- End Of Days, Fight Club, The Green Mile, Inspector Gadget, The Matrix, The Mummy, Sleepy Hollow, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, and Three Kings. Among the seven films whose sound effects editing qualified for the semifinals with the Academy, six are represented here: the sole exception is the work in Any Given Sunday. As mentioned in Oscar Column #6, I continue to think that The Matrix, The Mummy and Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace will be the three films who are recognized with Academy Award nominations in the Sound Effects Editing category.

Society of Motion Picture and Television Art Directors Nominee Reactions

Do note that the Society of Motion Pictures and Television Art Directors (IATSE Local 876) have officially changed their name to the shorter and snappier Art Directors Guild as of early February -- in the future, I'll refer to them by their new monicker.

The nominees for the fourth annual Excellence in Production Design Awards in the feature film division were Naomi Shohan for American Beauty, Lucianna Arrighi for Anna And The King, Owen Paterson for The Matrix, Rick Heinrichs for Sleepy Hollow, and Dante Ferretti for Titus.

I'm terribly pleased about Heinrichs' nomination -- he'd be my pick -- and feel that the Sleepy Hollow, Titus and Anna And The King are all very likely to receive Oscar nominations in the Art Direction category. (The Anna And The King cite could possibly be the only Academy Award nomination the costly Fox Oscar vehicle receives.) I was intrigued by the American Beauty SMPTAD / ADG nomination -- boy, they must've really liked that red door. Seriously though, I can sort of see where they were coming from on this (particularly with the windows and mirrors), but I would've cited several works (including but not limited to Eyes Wide Shut, An Ideal Husband and Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace) before thinking about Ms. Shohan's work. That being said, given the likelihood of an American Beauty Oscar nomination onslaught, this guild recognition suggests that the Mendes film may very well strike in this category as well.

Costume Designers Guild Nominee Reactions

Perhaps in recognition that costume work in period films tend to dominate nominee lists, the IATSE Costume Designers Guild Local 892 divided their film awards into two divisions -- contemporary costume design and period/fantasy costume design, each with four nominees -- for their second annual awards ceremony. I think this is a prudent decision -- period work tends to allow for more glamorous and eye-grabbing designs -- although it muddies the picture a bit when used for Academy Award nominee projection purposes.

In the Best Achievement in Contemporary Costume Design category, the Costume Designers Guild recognized Julie Weiss for American Beauty, Dona Granata for Cookie's Fortune, Marit Allen for Eyes Wide Shut, and Michael Kaplan for Fight Club. Over in the Best Achievement in Period/Fantasy Costume Design category, the nomimees were Deena Appel for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Kym Barrett for The Matrix, Colleen Atwood for Sleepy Hollow, and Ann Roth and Gary Jones for The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Last year's CDG nominee list, which excluded Alexandra Byrne's Oscar-nominated work on Elizabeth and Sandy Powell's Oscar-winning designs in Shakespeare In Love and Academy Award-nominated work on Velvet Goldmine, suggested that a policy may be in place which prevents non-Guild members from being nominated. I presume this may be the cause for the omission of Milena Canonero for Titus, who seems like a likely Oscar nominee. Other conspicuous absences are Trisha Biggar for her work in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Jenny Beavan for Anna And The King. (I don't have a CDG roster listing, so this is all speculation).

Among those cited with Costume Designers Guild nominations, the splendid Colleen Atwood should be a lock for an Oscar nomination for her terrific Sleepy Hollow designs. While I'm uncertain if they'll manage to receive Academy Award nominations, I also liked the CDG recognition for the costumes in Eyes Wide Shut and, believe it or not, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (although Appel largely repeated herself from the first picture). Ann Roth and Gary Jones' The Talented Mr. Ripley work could be considered an Oscar nominee conteder, and given the strong sentiment in the community directed at American Beauty, I suppose one shouldn't count out Julie Weiss (although I find it hard to make a convincing case for an Academy Award nomination for the work on display there).

Oscar Presenter Contest Update

Well, as I write this, I'm currently in dead last place in this contest. (Okay, tied for last.) So far, I've only gotten Gwyneth Paltrow, Steven Spielberg and James Coburn. (The Alex Factor suggests that the DreamWorks mogul will take awhile to recover from his recent surgery and won't make it for the Oscars, thereby dropping my point total even lower. Get well Steven!)

Things are not looking good for me -- the current leader already has eight correct picks, presuming everyone announced actually shows up (which isn't a certainty -- I was especially fascinated by Jason Priestly's recent non-appearance at this year's Genie Awards; he was invited as a presenter and even flew in to Toronto, and then reportedly never bothered to show up, instead hanging out in his hotel in an apparent snit), I'm got some serious catching up to do.

(Subtle and mildly desperate hint/plead to Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck: if you guys invite Renee Zellweger and Meg Ryan, I'll be back in the thick of things -- I'm the only contest participant to pick either of them. Try to avoid Jodie Foster or Tobey Maguire or Robin Williams or Catherine Zeta-Jones, though. Please? I liked Rush!)

The Hurricane Controversy

I'm going to defer this until my Oscar nomination reaction column, at which point this controversy will have either crescendoed or become a moot point. Regardless, as I write this, it's 4 in the morning on the Sunday before the Oscar nominations are announced, I'm off to catch the four-hundred-plus minute Sátántangó this afternoon, and then I have to somehow write up my Oscar nominee prediction column, so it can't be helped.


I am so far behind, both on this Mailbag section as well as my own e-mail; anyone reading who hasn't received a response to their correspondence in the past month, err, thanks for your patience. For now, I'll put up all of the Mailbag correspondence and answer as much as I can now, and then get back to the rest shortly.

(Incidentally, while I certainly find them interesting, I won't be able to include massive prediction lists and other copious amounts of correspondence in the Mailbag section. I'm pained to exclude one piece in particular -- Mr. Mark Tucker fired off a comprehensive letter including his Oscar nominee predictions in all categories, his own preferred Oscar nominees in all categories, an extensive, near-complete list of achievements touted in trade advertisements during this year's Awards Season, as well as a list of every film he saw in 1999, ranked by preference. Whew! It's interesting material, but it's unfortunately too damned big to append to my Oscar column -- one reader commented that Oscar Column #6 was already a Green Mile long.)

Q: "I had 2 comments on the best song category. There is a bylaw in the Oscar rules which says a song must be wholly original -- in other words, no sampling. I wish I could remember where I heard about the no sampling rule, but I remember it was when "Gangsta's Paradise" from Dangerous Minds was disqualified since it was based on Stevie Wonder as well. In reality, though, it will be at least 20 years before a rap song gets nominated for an Oscar.

One song I believe is eligible that is getting overlooked is "Woody's Roundup" from Toy Story 2. Randy Newman is well liked -- he got 3 noms just last year. While he's a lock for "When She Loved Me", I think he's got a shot at 2 song noms. He nailed this song, too. And it would be a hell of a lot better choice than the Anna & The King of Music of My Heart snoozers."

- Scott Copeland

A: For my money, Randy Newman should've won a Score Oscar last year for his work on Pleasantville. (Incidentally, he really seems to have a knack at reproducing these 1950s-style TV themes with both "Woody's Roundup" and the Pleasantville theme. I agree that the other Toy Story 2 song would make a better nominee than "How Can I Not Love You" or "Music Of My Heart", but I suspect it's pretty unlikely that this'll get a nomination; it doesn't appear to have been actively promoted by Team Mouse. ("When She Loved Me", of course, is a lock.)

Scott's comments regarding sampling are in regards to one reader's early musings of the Will Smith title track from Wild Wild West as a possible nominee (which, let's face it, probably isn't going to happen). The Academy rule dictates that a song candidate's lyrics and the music both must be original and written specifically for the film, so the case could be made that sampling disqualifies the "music" portion. If anyone could elaborate further on this -- specifically the degree of sampling which renders a song ineligible for consideration -- I'd love to hear about it. (The Coolio track "Gangsta's Paradise" samples liberally from Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise", as mentioned by Mr. Copeland.)

Q: "Although it is unlikely that Meryl Streep will get nominated for Music Of The Heart this year, (but then again who knows?, Meryl Streep is always a factor in any acting award race whenever a film of hers is released. I can't think of any recent performer who is more immediately identifiable with the Oscar) but if she does get nominated, I hope the Oscar producers will consider her in presenting Best Picture, as she will tie Katharine Hepburn's record of most nominated performer. Nobody deserves this honor more.

The Best Actress category, in my opinion, is quite weak this year (whereas Best Actor seems particularly strong this year). Hilary Swank, by far, gave the best performance by an actress last year and I am quite fond of Reese Witherspoon in Election and Annette Bening in American Beauty. The other possible nominees, Julianne Moore and Janet McTeer, while respectively good, in The End Of The Affair and Tumbleweeds, respectively, left me quite indifferent and unexcited about their possibility of getting nominated.

Best Actor is quite intriguing. Never liked Matt Damon before but was very impressed with his performance in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Russel Crowe definitely gave one of the best performances of 99 with his multi-layed performance of a whistle-blower in The Insider. Though not a particularly good movie, I admired Jim Carrey's technical brilliance in Man On The Moon. I have not seen the acclaimed performances of Denzel Washington and Richard Farnsworth in their respective films, but the buzz and critical reactions for their work are particularly strong. Though it will take a miracle for Matthew Broderick to get a nomination for Election, I thought he more than matched Reese Witherspoon's solid performance in that film.

But still, the Oscar in my mind, already belongs to Kevin Spacey. His performance in American Beauty still haunts me to this day and I saw the film in September. If American Beauty prevails as Best Picture, it will mainly be because of him, though I acknowlege the contributions of director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Alan Ball in making this brilliant film. This will be his trademark film for a long time and he is one of the few actors who is deserving of the description "Two Time Academy Award Winner". Yet the race is too tight with Mr. Crowe to ensure that he will prevail March 26."

- Al Garcia

A: Hmm, I don't think there's ever been a case where a nominated performer also doubled as the Best Picture presenter, but perhaps I'm missing somebody. (I'm assuming that Meryl Streep will get a nomination for Music Of The Heart.) While she has the elite reputation within the community to warrant an assignment as Best Picture presenter, I'm guessing that Clint Eastwood's invite to the ceremony is a tip-off that he'll be handing out the final Oscar of the evening. (He might do Best Director, but last year's winner, Steven Spielberg, was also invited and will probably crown the winner in this category.)

While I'm relatively enthusiastic about Hilary Swank's work in Boys Don't Cry and Reese Witherspoon's performance in Election (I'm beginning to think the Alexander Payne picture is destined for cult status), I'm rather unexcited about the prospects of American Beauty's Annette Bening and Julianne Moore of The End Of The Affair nabbing Oscar nominations; while I've liked previous performances by these two actresses (and continue to be a card-carrying member of the Julianne Moore Advocacy Committee), neither of these turns struck me as particularly impressive. Bening and Moore probably will be able to add another Oscar nomination to their respective resumes come February 15th, but I won't exactly be rooting for them.

Interesting comment about Matthew Broderick in Election, who indeed was very good in the picture. A number of his peers consider Broderick to be a genuine Great Actor -- I recall listening to no less of an icon than Jack Lemmon raving about Broderick's acting prowess, and indeed, he's won two Tony Awards, so it was rather distressing to see him bouncing off the walls in promotional material for stuff the calibre of Inspector Gadget last summer. I agree that Broderick won't get a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Election, but this in no way denigrates his achievement in the film.

Q: "After turning out a fairly respectable list of nominees, the anonymous hacks of the HFPA were once again thoroughly unadventurous in their choices. What's especially irritating about the results is how they might influence the Oscars: Denzel Washington's surprise victory might seal the deal for The Hurricane being nominated in all the major categories; as much as I enjoyed Toy Story 2, its Best Musical or Comedy win may significantly damage Being John Malkovich's Oscar run (as will Alan Ball's American Beauty script winning over Charlie Kaufman; though Kaufman's nomination is a sure thing, I question his chances of winning) and Jim Carrey's win was expected, but he may ride it to a nomination, especially after last year's Truman Show snub. In other notes, the HFPA's choices for Song and Score were both dreadful. Ennio Morricone could have written the treacly score for The Legend Of 1900 in his sleep and I don't want to hang out with anyone who'd rather listen to Phil Collins' banal pap than to Aimee Mann's "Save Me" or R.E.M.'s not-nominated "The Great Beyond." (Courtney Love apparently agrees with me on this point) Given the extraordinary number of awards handed out each year, I generally like the award-speech-award-speech efficiency of the Globes, but no one, with the possible exception of Carrey, had anything interesting to say. Bummer."

- Scott Tobias

A: I largely agree with your assessments -- the Toy Story 2 Globe win came at the expense of Being John Malkovich's Oscar momentum, and Jim Carrey's Man On The Moon turn now seems to be en route to an Oscar nomination. (I'd felt earlier that Matt Damon would nab a slot for The Talented Mr. Ripley, and am mystified by the apparent lack of support for his work; the end result is that Carrey may grab the nomination.) Charlie Kaufman's nomination for his Being John Malkovich script is all but assured, but it appears to me that it'll be a duel to the finish between him and Alan Ball for the Original Screenplay Academy Award.

Not quite sure about the Denzel Washington win leading to a significant The Hurricane presence in the remaining major categories, though. It's hard to say at this point, given that the controversy/smear campaign against the film has unduly coloured its chances, but I wouldn't have expected that the Globe victory would've necessarily ensured a Norman Jewison direction nomination, or in particular, an Adapted Screenplay nomination. We'll never know now, though.

Q: "It's about time for Peter O'Toole to receive an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar. It seems that every year, the Academy selects someone only middle-aged who already has a couple of competetive trophies to their name. I say why not honor O'Toole, the most nominated non-winner, and someone at that exact age and state of health that if they wait any longer, it could be too late. Sure, his career has slidden off into the abyss in the past few years, what with movies like Phantoms, King Ralph, and High Spirits on his filmography, but given his body of work, the award would surely be justified. I was wondering what your thoughts on the idea were. I know that a lot of people who take movies seriously read your site and that if you were to bring up the topic, it would foster some interesting discussion & debate."

- Jonathan Cullum

A: I can't say that I really have any strong feelings about the recognition of Peter O'Toole with a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award either way, and in fact confess to being somewhat ambivalent to the whole politicized nature of honourary awards; it often strikes me as a bit of a concession. While O'Toole has done his share of sub-par pictures -- there's also Supergirl and Caligula in his filmography -- his run of eight nominations without a win and his advancing age (now 67) does appear to have made him a strong possibility for an honorary Oscar; there was even mention about him last year. The obstacle he faces is that the allocation of lifetime achievement Academy Awards are controlled by the Board of Governors as opposed to the AMPAS constituency, and consequently a small number opposed to the idea can effectively block O'Toole from scoring this prize.

Any thoughts about O'Toole for an honourary Oscar? Write in!

In response to one of my musings in Oscar Column #6 ["Is Ghost the absolute nadir of 1990s Best Picture nominations?"]:

Q: "I liked Ghost better than both Shine and The Godfather Part III, personally. But the nadir has gotta be The Prince Of Tides, in which a fine performance by Nick Nolte is overshadowed by Barbra Streisand's fingernails. All I can say is: Lowenstein...Lowenstein..."

- Mike D'Angelo

A: I know that many people seem to be fond of the picture, but I really hated Scent Of A Woman and was appalled that it received an Oscar nomination (and won the Golden Globe!)

Q: "With Angela's Ashes' (somewhat) surprisingly strong take at the box office weekend, I think Emily Watson might step into one of the remianing Best Actress nominations, especially if the film holds well. The Academy does like her and with the category as weak as it is this year, she could squeak her way in.

I'd love to see the scores for both End Of The Affair and Ravenous get nominated; they were truly the two best of the year. Ravenous, however, has the double disadvantage of A) being in a film that took in just a couple M, and B) being truly unique and interesting (Gee, was that cynical? Sorry). End Of The Affair is a little more traditional and is in a 'respectable' film and I think it might be able to grab one of the 5 slots."

- Reagen Sulewski

A: Note: Reagen wrote the above in late January, when Angela's Ashes had just expanded out of limited release and surprised with a strong $3.2 million take at 610 locations to rank tenth in the weekend tally; it's since fell out of the Top 10. Given the film's lack of star power -- Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle aren't exactly household names yet -- and the ostensibly dour subject material, its strong faring that week was rather unexpected, but I attribute its success that weekened largely due to a lack of competition in the market. (Next Friday topped that period with a meager $8 million domestic gross.)

While Watson does appear to be a bit of an Oscar magnet, with two Best Actress nominations already to her name in her short film career, I'd be a little surprised if was able to nab a third nomination in the category for Angela's Ashes. I thought she was reasonably solid in the picture -- much to my disappointment, Watson hasn't really wowed me in any of her subsequent film performances following her spectacular Breaking The Waves debut -- but it's a rather understated role, lacking in the sort of showy histrionics which have worked well for her in the past; she's essentially in another martyr role, stuck in a monotonous cycle of endless suffering. More significantly, while Angela's impact can be felt throughout the picture, it's a relatively minor role -- I feel that Paramount erred by promoting Watson in the Best Actress category, and should have instead touted her as a Supporting Actress candidate. I don't feel her part was substantive enough to gain a lot of support in the lead actress category (and think that she'd be an underdog even in the supporting actress field).

I can't really comment on the Ravenous score, as I haven't seen the film (it sounded terribly intriguing, but the barrage of negative word upon its theatrical release scared me off -- I gotta catch up with it on video, though), but there's been much mention of Michael Nyman's score for The End Of The Affair as a potential Score nominee. (It certainly doesn't hurt its chances to be included in a high-profile year-end Oscar-bait picture, as is the Neil Jordan film -- at least a good number of people will be exposed to it.) I wasn't struck by the Nyman score at the time I saw it, and can barely remember it now; on the other hand, his bombastic work in the upcoming Michael Winterbottom film Wonderland may turn heads.

(For my money, being wary of something unique and interesting failing to get nominated isn't cynical -- it's shrewd. More often than not, conventionality rules, especially in cases where a large bloc of people are voting on something.)

Q: "There was only one shocker for me during the Golden Globes, and that was the award for best score. The Legend Of 1900?! Who'da thunk? Maybe it's because there were so many nominees, and it snuck through. Or maybe it's because it's Ennio Morricone. Anyway, I nearly had a heartattack when they announced this one.

I was mildly surprised by the best song winner--but maybe I was just hoping Aimee Mann would win. Angelina Jolie was also a tad unexpected, though I suppose she's considered a bit of a darling by the HFPA. I noticed that many of the winners in both the film and tv categories were veteran winners of the GGs.

I guess some would consider Denzel to be a bit of a shocker, but I predicted he'd win. The man whom he is portraying is revered as a civil rights hero, he puts in a solid performance, and a win for him helps to address the lack of recognition for minority actors in Hollywood--a hot issue right now, for those following the NAACP vs the major television networks debate.

Out of all of the winners, I would say Hilary, Denzel, and Tom will most likely walk away as definite winners, as well as American Beauty. Sam Mendes and Alan Ball are slim possibilities, though I think Charlie Kaufman is neck and neck with the latter..

Do you think the quality of acceptance speeches given at the Golden Globes by winners affects their chances of winning at the Oscars (Hilary Swank just went on and on and on)."

- Alan Wong

A: While I picked Kevin Spacey to grab the Globe, I don't think that Denzel Washington's victory is a real shock -- he's been rumoured in some industry circles as the likely Oscar winner for months. Also, I wouldn't really classify Rubin Carter as a civil rights hero -- he's become a famed crusader and serves as executive director for the Associaton of the Wrongfully Convicted, but wasn't involved in the civil rights movement to any significant degree.

Believe it or not, I do think that acceptance speeches at awards ceremonies have a discernable impact on the Oscar race; while much effort is spent to publicize and promote a potential candidate worthiness for an Oscar nomination (or the Academy Award itself), there is no other forum that's as highly visible, immediate and effective than when a candidate is given the opportunity to directly address his peers and indirectly endear himself to them. If an actor is able to get onstage and successfully entertains and delights the same group of people who have the opportunity to vote for him (or some subset thereof), it can't help but boost his chances. (As an example, if Roberto Benigni stayed in Italy during last year's awards season and never attend any of the awards ceremonies or did the promotional circuit, I question whether he'd have won the Best Actor Oscar for Life Is Beautiful.)

As for Hilary Swank's acceptance speech, it didn't strike me as excessively long, but perhaps I just wasn't impatient as many because I recognized most of the names she mentioned; I find that it's much less interesting when award winners rattle off a list of thank-yous to people whose names fail to ring a bell.

Q: "Along with surefire best pic noms American Beauty, The Insider, and Mr. Ripley, the movie I would second most like to see make the cut is Toy Story 2. In a year in which the race for a couple slots is wide open, the incredibly entertaining and inventive Toy Story 2 ought to be on Academy voters minds if they simply ask themselves what movie entertained them the most in 1999. TS2 is "second most" because my answer to that question would be Being John Malkovich. However, despite many peoples hopes, I believe BJM will prove to be just too "out there" for an Academy membership that so often proves to be staid.

I really hope that John G. Malkovich will get a supporting actor nod for playing John H. Malkovich. That (literally) mind-bending run through his unconscious should warrant him a special Oscar statuette with prominently displayed brass balls. American Beauty's Wes Bentley also deserves a slot in this category, and I would much rather see him join T Cruise, J Law, and C Plummer in the final list of Sup Actor noms than H J Osment. [And those folks pushing The Sixth Sense for best picture need to put down their bongs.]

Hilary Swank is a lock not just for a Best Actress nomination but for the Oscar if Academy voters watch the free videotape that Fox mails to them; the performance was simply amazing (is that an oxymoron?). Reese Witherspoon is the bomb, but Election is not all that (sorry). Don't count Meryl Streep out of the running. The actors who do the nominating worship her, and she did learn to play the violin for the movie.

With regards to those videotapes the studios send out: The spate of super-long running times could work against some movies if voters just refuse to put in the time to watch them. I fervently pray that this is not the case with The Insider. It has become conventional wisdom that it will get a best pic nod, and the Russell Crowe will get a Best Actor nod; but nobody seems willing to give this great (that's right I said GREAT) film much of a shot at winning. The Insider didn't do much at the box office, and its David doesn't defeat Goliath storyline is somewhat of a downer in Hollywood's happy ending at all costs atmosphere; but I'll say it again The Insider IS A GREAT FILM!

One post-Golden Globe note. I can't believe that "When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2 did not win the best song award. Everyone I know who saw that movie made special mention of how that sequence in the movie either moved them to tears, or almost did so. And Sarah Maclachlan's performance is truly lovely.

Finally Alex-- Keep your fingers crossed for Sarah Polley (for Go) to be named in the Best Supporting Actress Category.

PS: Haley Joel Osment will introduce the "IN MEMORIAM" reel at the Oscar ceremony.

- Phil Riley

A: Gee, I thought it would've been far too tacky to use young Osment in this capacity. Then again, it is the Academy Awards ceremony. And he has now been invited. Hmm, maybe you're onto something here.

I'm certainly with you on your praise of Toy Story 2, and would in fact answer your rhetorical query with the response that the Pixar / Disney collaboration was the most entertaining film experience I had last year; more excitingly, it wasn't frivolous escapism -- the film has a lot going on with its existential exploration and ethical dilemna. I also greatly enjoyed Being John Malkovich, although my reaction while watching it was largely one of wonderment rather than sheer exhiliration -- I found myself awed by its liberating unconventionality and wondered where it would go next on a moment-by-moment basis.

I really don't know about Malkovich's chances -- his momentum does appear to have greatly withered over the past few weeks, and I do think that perhaps too much has been made about AMPAS members finding the opportunity to nominate an actor for playing "himself" too irresistable to pass up. Personally, I'd vote for Osment over both Malkovich and Wes Bentley.

You're probably right about Meryl Streep's chances for Music Of The Heart; I agree that the admiration of her peers is too substantial to be overlooked. If she grabs (yet) another Oscar nomination, this will not only tie Katherine Hepburn's mark for most acting nominations, but also make it two years running where a Best Actress candidate displays proficiency with a string instrument. (Useless trivia; I had to fill in this paragraph.)

Long running times for Academy screeners certainly could work against some films -- while slapping in a brisk 90-minute film isn't a problem, one almost has to schedule time out to take in the screener for films like The Green Mile, Magnolia, Topsy-Turvy, Any Given Sunday, Angela's Ashes, Anna And The King, and The Insider. (One could also watch these on video in fitful starts and stops, but in my book that's almost as bad as not seeing the picture at all.) Still, I think that The Insider is a lock for a Best Picture nomination. I've had the opportunity to rewatch the film a few more times recently and find that it holds up well; the second half, in particular, is compulsively watchable. (I was properly chastised by a reader a few columns ago for failing to recall the score by Lisa Gerrard and Pieter Bourke; I won't make that mistake again.) You have to savour a film that balances its wide-reaching weighty themes with smaller, more revealing moments -- I love that Michael Mann reinforced the sheer humanity of Wigand by allowing his camera to stay on Russell Crowe as he pursued FBI agents out of his house to the point where we saw him tumbling into the ditch. And while Crowe was terrific and Al Pacino was also very good, allow me to throw in a kind word to Bruce McGill, who delivered one of the year's most vivid moments during his brief running time. (I was a little disappointed with the usually-reliable Diane Venora in this Mann stint, though; then again, it wasn't much of a part to work with.)

Sarah Polley for Go? Hmm, interesting idea. I hadn't really thought about it and don't expect that this'll take place, but she has received a remarkable amount of glowing praise for her work in the Doug Liman film and is one of the more highly-coveted and gifted young actresses in the North American film industry as of late. It'd be a little ironic if her first Oscar nomination was for a performance she found unfulfilling, though.

Q: I couldn't disagree more about the Blair Witch companion CD. I thought it was an ingenious tie-in, especially considering it's not just a tossed together collection of songs but a well thought-out collection of gothic rock and dark metal.

I also want to register my disagreement about your assessment of The Sixth Sense. The twist is fine and all, but really, the film revolves not around it but the palpable sense of terror that Haley Joel Osment brings to his performance. I'm also perplexed by your comments that M. Night Shyamalan's direction of the film is not particularly distinguishable. Every moment while watching it, I could sense his directorial hand at work. I can't imagine it looking and feeling at all similar in the hands of your average Hollywood hack.

- Don Marks

A: With regards to the Blair Witch CD, I'm not really addressing the calibre of the collection of the tunes -- for all I know, it could be a kick-ass album -- as I am the transparent arbitrariness of the tie-in; I mean, not only is the music not actually used in the picture, it's not even alluded to in the most fleeting manner. And yet a ridiculously desperate backstory is invented to justify the CD's arrival on the marketplace, emblazoned with the familiar Blair Witch stick-figure imprint in order to capitalize on the Blair Witch Project craze. I mean, I don't have a problem with most of the other BWP merchandising (which includes such diverse product as glass ashtrays, bottle openers, key chains, incense burners, shot glasses, flasks, cigarette lighters, and of course the inevitable clothing line), which have been launched in more traditional fashion, but that such a feeble excuse was issued to explain the release of the compilation album is bemusing; as per the other merchandise, there was no need to invent an insultingly inane backstory to innoculate themselves from cash-in accusations. What's next -- Blair Witch Fruit Loops? "This is the cereal that Josh ate during the camping trip!"

I can see where you're coming from with regards to The Sixth Sense, and should probably reword my stance on the picture -- the film doesn't revolve around the twist, but the film project and film experience does. By definition, the movie can't hang on the surprise twist: it's an unexpected revelation. On the other hand, if Shyamalan's spec-script hadn't featured its startling conclusion, I think it would be debatable whether or not the project would've necessarily been sold (I'm almost certain it wouldn't have gone for $2.25 million and with Shyamalan attached to direct, and would bet that the project wouldn't have been fast-tracked) -- it would've simply been a psychological thriller screenplay. The surprise ending is the hook which has transformed the project into such a phenomenal commercial and popular success; it's hard to see how The Sixth Sense would've become the word-of-mouth hit of 1999 without the twist. I thought Osment was terrific -- in my opinion, it's one of the best performances of the year -- but I think it's the ending which left audiences buzzing the most and which has seared the picture into the public consciousness. As for Shyamalan's work, I suppose it's a difference of opinion -- he certainly deserves kudos for successfully foisting the twist on the audience and making it work (one can see how this could've turned out very badly), but I didn't find his work behind the camera to be anything other than very competent filmmaking; it's hardly a work of a hack, but I never felt like I was watching the emergence of an exciting new Great Director.

Q: "I know you must have been pretty damn excited about Toy Story 2 winning the Golden Globe. Caught me completely off guard, as I thought either Being John Malkovich or Man On The Moon had it locked. I won't argue, of course.

As for the Globes, I think the picture is beginning to clear up drastically for the Oscars.

One of your readers said The Hurricane reminded them of The Boxer. I see it quite differently. The Hurricane is exactly the type of film the Academy will endorse. After the Globes gave so much time to Ruben Carter himself, I'm guessing The Hurricane will end up being a lot like Shine, in how the Academy will love to pat themselves on the back for rewarding the life story of David Helfgott with a nomination.

If anything is this year's Boxer, I'm guessing it's The End Of The Affair, which hasn't rallied much of a campaign in my opinion.

The Hurricane and American Beauty seem like the only two real locks for nods right now. I don't count out Ripley, but it's certainly not a sure bet. As for the other two slots, there's a half dozen or so contenders, but it's still a complete guess right now.

As for other categories, I can't really see much to say that I haven't all ready read in your columns. I hesitate in saying Jim Carrey has a good shot at a nod, despite another Globe (did nothing last year, after all). My guess is that most Academy members will see his performance as just a good impersonation. However, that fifth Actor slot is really up for grabs.

Oh, and I was reading predictions for the nods in Premeire. They have Nicole Kidman in their Best Actress nods. Now, I know this has been debated heavily about where she should be placed, but in all honesty, is she really one of the favorites to get a nod right now? I mean, if so, then why isn't Kubrick being talked about for Best Director, considering how the directors' branch of the Academy usually picks legendary comrades, and a nomination for the guru would be a nice gesture.

Keep up the good work on the columns. I'm keeping fingers crossed for Reese Witherspoon, too. Election was great, and I'm disappointed that nobody has given more kudos to Chris Klein's great performance as the meathead jock. His turn was funny, sincere, and much better than I'd expect most young actors to pull off in a small role."

- Derek

A: Despite a good deal of effort by Sony, The End Of The Affair doesn't appear to have taken off. Although it nabbed a number of Golden Globe nominations, I'm not counting on the film to make a big dent in terms of Oscar nominations.

I'm a little bit surprised about Premiere's pick of Nicole Kidman as a likely Best Actress nominee for her Eyes Wide Shut work. Quality of performance aside, there's little in the way of preceding indicators which suggests that she has the momentum and support necessary to crack the top five -- I'd consider her a longshot. Stanley Kubrick was a director whom I'd initially expected to be a likely nominee for the reasons you describe, but the field of candidates has grown so crowded in this category -- Sam Mendes and Michael Mann are probably locks, but then there's Jewison, Jonze, Darabont, Lynch, Minghella, Russell, Shyamalan and Leigh (as well as Kubrick) vying for spots -- that there simply may not be enough room for cronyism to effectively factor into the results.

I'm glad that you mentioned Chris Klein -- I liked him in both Election and American Pie, and am amazed that he went into the Alexander Payne picture with no previous acting experience. (He reportedly literally ran into Payne while the director was doing some location scouting.) At this point, I'm unsure whether Klein has much of a range, but I've found him to be an especially endearing presence. (He won't get a Supporting Actor nomination, of course.)

Q: This may well be your first email discussing Tarzans Oscar prospects, but it was undeniably my favorite movie of 1999! Disney has really outdone itself with this film. I was very content and very satisfied with its box office performance (including overseas tallies, which has already surpassed its domestic gross) as well. If I do recall, most of the critics embraced this film when it was released in June. I know it has no shot at garnering a nomination in the Best Picture race considering the plethora of creative and top-quality fare, but I would definitely recommend it to any Academy voter out there. The animation, story, music, everything! It was all breathtaking and groundbreaking, just as "Beauty and the Beast" was the year it was released. After watching Tarzan (twice) in the theaters, I decided to go ahead and formulate a tentative top ten list, including Tarzan on top. I had a unrestful feeling that it would be upset by product like American Beauty, Talented Mr. Ripley, Toy Story 2, and even Being John Malkovich. Low and behold, Tarzan remains on the summit of this year's films. In fact, my favorite four movies of the year were all released during the off-Oscar season (Tarzan, Notting Hill, Election, and October Sky all made my final five cut with the fifth spot going to The Green Mile). Just thought I'd give you my opinions of what I feel is the Best Picture of '99: Tarzan. Swing on, dude!

- Shawn Stingel

A: While I was mildly irritated with some cartoonish elements in the picture (especially Rosie O'Donnell's exasperating work) and felt like it was a minor step down from Mulan, I was positive on Tarzan and particularly liked Minnie Driver's work as Jane; I think it's one of her best performances to date. (I understand that her voice work in the Miramax version of Princess Mononoke was also excellent.) However, one of the techniques in the film which didn't work for me was the one which had most writers scurrying for glowing adjectives -- the (over)use of the Deep Canvas innovation, which allows for such kineticism that it had Tarzan surfing through the jungle canopy. Call me out of touch, call me a traditionalist, but when I watch an animated film, I don't want to see footage resembling a video game.

Q: Just thought I'd share some Oscar thoughts in light of last Sunday's Golden Globes.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: It looking increasingly likely that Angelina Jolie will take this in March, though if the Academy decides not to give Hilary Swank best actress (very unlikely), Chloe Sevigny might just grab it. Plus, I think Toni Collette will deservedly sneak a nomination.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: I think the fact that Tom Cruise won the Golden Globe increases Haley Joel Osment's chances of winning this category. They're going to want to give The Sixth Sense something. I reckon Hollywood wants to split this award 50/50 this year and they were just waiting to see who won the Globe. Then again, Cruise has lost twice before and it would be interesting to see him win a supporting award. Everybody could vote for Malkovich, I suppose - for novelty's sake.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: I thought Julia Roberts might have a shot when I first saw Notting Hill but now it's like 'Two words: Hilary Swank'. Could we see Reese Witherspoon in the final five instead of Janet McTeer? Dinstict possibility.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: Tough one this. Personally, I think Carrey is a sinch for a nomination (the Academy got a good amount of criticism for leaving him out for The Truman Show). But it's between Crowe, Spacey and Washington (forget Farnsworth - the sentiment doesn't seem to cut it anymore - plus they gave one to James Coburn last year). I think there could be a surprise in the shape of Russell Crowe here.

BEST DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes but watch out for Pedro Almodovar - they gave Kieslowski a director nomination a few years ago and his country didn't even put that film in for the Foreign Language Category.

BEST PICTURE: In the tradition of Ghost, The Fugitive, Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Full "what were they thinkin'?" Monty, I'm nearly certain The Sixth Sense will get a nomination for being both a blockbuster and critically acclaimed. American Beauty is looking a certainty at this stage.

Steve Dawn.

P.S. Toy Story 2 as best comedy/musical motion picture? What's that about? Did they not watch Being John Malkovich?

A: Interesting analysis. I think that Sevigny will have a much better chance with the Academy than she did with the HFPA in the Supporting Actress category, and that Cruise will face less of an impediment when competing in the Supporting Actor category. If Reese Witherspoon knocks out someone to score a Best Actress nomination, I don't think it'll be Janet McTeer (whom I consider a lock alongside Annette Bening and Hilary Swank). I was intrigued by your comment on Richard Farnsworth; while I'm not thinking of any recognition he receives in terms of sentimentality, it does call to attention that his momentum seems to have waned over the past month or so.

I suspect that Krzysztof Kieslowski's nomination in the Director category for Three Colors: Red was actually improved by the film's ineligibility for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category; the subsequent controversy improved the picture's visibility and boosted the sentiment that it needed to be acknowledged in some form. Incidentally, Red was submitted as the Swiss foreign-language entry, but since none of the major creative team members on the project were born in Switzerland, the Academy ruled the film was multi-European and refused to accept it for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category.

Q: I have to say that I do share Randall Cook's concerns about Julianne Moore - perhaps she has too many different performances vying for attention right now. While I agree with your view that End of the Affair, and, to a lesser degree, Magnolia, probably provide the best shots she has at landing a nomination, the fact that she's been touted as a lead for what could arguably be considered a supporting role in An Ideal Husband may only serve to confuse the issue. It's conceivable that competing roles could split the vote in both the the lead and supporting categories.

Anyway, I was glad to see you make mention of her performance in Safe, which along with Vanya On 42nd Street sowcases some of her best work to date. And more people should know about them! (Go forth and rent!)

Two questions - if, however unexpectedly, Julianne Moore does manage to sang Oscar nominations in both the lead and supporting categories (presumably for Affair and Magnolia), will this improve her chances of winning an award? It seems that double nominees tend to make strong showings, although I do recall that in the case of Sigourney Weaver, it all came to naught. Secondly, will the fact that Map of the World may be the last Julianne Moore performance most Academy members will be seeing and evaluating during the voting period have any impact on how consensus shapes up? It's hard to imagine how much more fractured the Moore vote can get - shame on her for being so prolific!

Also, a sidebar: One of the films that practically no one has been talking about is Besieged, which I absolutely loved. It didn't seem to cause much of a stir when it came out, and I realize that its chances of being recognized by the Academy seem virtually nonexistant at this stage of the game. Still, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the film, and on why so little effort was put into promoting it.

- Josh Rozett

A: In addition to Julianne Moore's work in Vanya On 42nd Street and Safe, I'd also cite her performance in Robert Altman's Short Cuts. While her dress-washing marital spat scene there opposite Matthew Modine has achieved a certain degree of notoriety, what most fail to mention is how she splendidly delivered a mesmerizing monologue tinged with longing, guilt and anger. She's eminently watchable -- it's worth checking her out in her partner Bart Freundlich's film, The Myth Of Fingerprints and she's a scream in Psycho ("I'm playing her as a lesbian, but I don't think anyone will notice" ... umm, right) -- although Moore's appearance in Body Of Evidence (a truly wretched film; what was Uli Edel thinking?) must be considered a low point in her career.

It's certainly possible that her An Ideal Husband performance might cannibalize support from her work in The End Of The Affair and, to a lesser degree, whatever supporting performance of hers gets the most attention (probably Magnolia), but I'm of the thought that the Oliver Parker picture won't get a considerable degree of attention and hence any detrimental effects to Moore's Oscar campaign(s) will be minimal.

I believe that performers who manage to get nominated in multiple acting categories in the same year do see a minor positive effect on their chances, if mostly for psychological reasons ("Didn't vote for her there, so I might vote for her here") -- Moore, as a actress well-respected by her peers (as reinforced by Tom Cruise's Golden Globe speech where he commented "I almost got to do a scene with Julianne Moore"), should benefit from this generous spirit -- but in general I would contend that the multiple nomination phenomenon hardly makes for an automatic Oscar for the recipient: I suspect that the nominated performances are considered on an individual basis. She won't win the Best Actress Oscar over the likes of Hilary Swank for The End Of The Affair, but a Magnolia victory is a more realistic scenario -- presuming, of course, that she gets nominated at all. (And given that Magnolia and A Map Of The World came out on the heels of each other, I doubt that timing or ordering will come into play.)

I must confess that I didn't much care for Benardo Bertolucci's Besieged. While I think that the accusations of racism levelled at it are unjustified, I did find the whole master / servant dynamic somewhat uncomfortable, and found the characters and their relationship to be overly opaque. While Besieged has received a minimal Oscar campaign from Fine Line, it would've been a very tough sell to promote a mosaic-like chamber drama with long stretches of dialogue-free running time for serious Academy Award consideration, particularly given that this small, low-profile film divided critics. (The trade advertisements on behalf of the film focused on Bertolucci in the Best Director category, but that's not going to happen.)

Q: I'm not as optimistic about Reese Witherspoon's Oscar prospects as some of your other correspondents. Although I think she gave a fine comic performance in Election, I don't think it's a film that the Academy will readilly embrace. Last year, performances given by Christina Ricci and Lisa Kudrow in The Opposite of Sex and Bill Murray in Rushmore generated a ton of awards buzz and were duly rewarded with several critics citations. Since Election belongs to roughly the same genre, resembling both film in terms of style, tone, and subject matter, I wouldn't rate Witherspoon's chances too highly.

Perhaps the comedy in these films is just a little to broad, or the humor a too sharp (acidic, even?), to appeal to mainstream Academy tastes. And as you have mentioned, the fact that all three of these films feature juvenile leads creates a perception that the films are intended for teenage audiences. Some people may view them as the modern-day equivalent of the John Hughes films of the mid-eighties, the type of movie that skewers towards the teenage crowd and shouldn't be allowed to compete in the "adult" arena. Molly Ringwald wasn't nominated for Sixteen Candles. Winona Ryder wasn't even nominated for Heathers, arguably the best performance she's ever given. True, neither of them won the National Society of Film Critics Award...but Bill Murray did, and both he and Lisa Kudrow won in NY. If the actual grown-ups can't even make the ballot, it doesn't leave much hope for the kids.

I've spoken to many people who expect Witherspoon to make the cut, and I think you're right in saying that some Academy voters will feel inclined to reevaluate the film based on the success it's had with film critics. There's a chance, but I think it would have to considered a very slim one. Old prejudices die hard, and the Acadamy has yet to correct a trend that's been in effect since I first starting going to the movies.

- Josh Rozett

A: I can't disagree with anything you've written, although I would've never thought that The Opposite Of Sex and Rushmore shared the same sensibility. You make a good case against Reese Witherspoon's chances for a Best Actress nomination for her work in Election. If she'd converted her Golden Globe nomination into a trophy or had been nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award, I'd feel more confident about her prospects; the line of thinking described above is quite persuasive in considering Witherspoon as an underdog.

Q: "You wrote:

I don't think I've ever seen the KC group cited by a publicist in a trade advertisement -- I'd be curious to see whether or not DreamWorks includes their awards in their American Beauty promotion.

They have at least once. On the front cover of Daily Variety (Jan. 17), there is a full page ad promoting Kevin Spacey for Best Actor, which lists among his Best Actor citations the Kansas City Film Critics (as well as the San Diego, On-Line, Las Vegas, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Southeastern, and Toronto groups, with the Golden Globe nomination above all of them). I haven't seen Kansas City cited in any of the many other American Beauty ads.

On that note, I see that Mark Mancina's score for Tarzan is being touted for Best Score in Disney trade ads. However, it was announced in early December that his Tarzan work was shut out of Oscar contention due to its submission for consideration in the Original Song Score category, which was later eliminated. What's going on here? Anybody?

This doesn't really answer your question, but I don't think Tarzan should even have been up for consideration for Best Original Song Score on the grounds that it didn't have five original songs as the rules require. (I count "You'll Be in My Heart," "Two Worlds," "Son of Man," and "Strangers Like Me." "Trashin' the Camp" may be listed in the credits or on the soundtrack as a song, but it has no lyrics.) *Maybe* Disney realized this and decided to submit the Mancina underscore in the Score category.

Aside for the Best Song category: the new rules require that a song be used no later than the first song in the closing credits. So, for example, "Eyes of a Child" from South Park would be ineligible. In general, though, this is a good rule, as 95% of the audience usually has already left before a second song starts in the closing credits."

- Joshua Kreitzer

A: Thanks for the info, Joshua. I'm frankly a little amazed that an instrumental song no longer constitutes a "song" with the definition employed by the AMPAS Music Branch; this strikes me as terribly wrong-headed. Regarding the Tarzan mix-up, the thing which I find confusing is that reportedly both Mark Mancina's Tarzan score and the Parker / Shaiman South Park collaboration were originally submitted for consideration in the Best Original Song Score category; after this category was scrapped, the two scores were resubmitted for Best Original Score but were deemed ineligible -- so it apparently was already submitted in the Score category and scratched. Anybody have a clue about this?

I do like this closing credit rule, and although it'd make it terribly difficult in terms of eligibility, I'd like to see the rules eventually extended to the point where the song actually has to be played within the body of the film, at the exclusion of the end credits, in order to qualify for consideration.

Q: "multiple times now you have mentioned the various films vying for the FIFTH best picture slot. my question is: what are the four films that you think are safe bets? to me, only American Beauty and The Insider are guarantees. i am very very curious to see which films have your confidence. Mr. Ripley? Hurricane? Magnolia? what?

- Richard

A: At the time, I'd expected American Beauty and The Insider, as you'd mentioned, to be guarantees for nominations. The other two films which I thought would score Best Picture nominations were The Hurricane and The Talented Mr. Ripley -- but recent developments have shaken my confidence in the chances for these films to varying degrees. I was startled that The Talented Mr. Ripley's director, Anthony Minghella, was inexplicably left off of the Directors Guild of America nominee list, and that its producers, William Horberg and Tom Sternberg, were not cited as nominees for the Darryl F. Zanuck award from the Producers Guild of America. This bodes very ominously for the awards future for the Paramount / Miramax collaboration. While this doesn't doom the film's chances -- eventual Best Picture nominee Elizabeth failed to be represented on either list only last year -- top Best Picture contenders usually register as nominees for one (or both) of these guild prizes.

While the producing team behind The Hurricane received a PGA nomination, director Norman Jewison (deservedly) failed to receive a nomination from his peers in the Directors Guild of America. Moreover, the unwarranted "controversy" surrounding the dramatic liberties taken with the film's real-life story seems to be coming to a head, with some expecting that this bout of negative publicity will adversely affect its chances for a Best Picture nomination. I still expect that this will be cited come February 15th, but I'm no longer nearly as confident. The Best Picture race seems to be much more volatile than I'd originally projected; it appears that several spots may be up for grabs.

Q: "It is a shame that Being John Malkovich is not getting more recognition from the film community. Every performance, with the notable exception of Cameron Diaz who only perked up halfway through the movie, was flawless. The direction, script, and acting were seamless. It was one of the most original and intriquing ideas in recent cinematic history. John Malkovich giving his most dead on performance makes bath towels interesting. It is a shame that it is only going to get a screenplay nod at the Oscars. What a damn shame."

- The Don

A: Gee, I thought that Cameron Diaz was pretty good in the film; her role was a rather thankless one prior to her pre-Malkovich venture, but I thought she managed playing dowdy quite well. When you say 'nod', I presume that you're referring to an actual Academy Award win -- I'm certainly hoping (and expecting) that it'll at least receive multiple nominations. (Original Screenplay does seem to be its strongest chance for an Academy Award victory; it's almost certainly between Alan Ball and Charlie Kaufman for the statuette.)

Q: "How much importance do you think critics' organizations' Top 10 lists have on the Academy's choices? I was appalled to see the Online Film Critics Society implicitly encourage its members to make or alter their Top 10 lists in order to get quoted in an ad, but I wonder if such decisions really have much influence."

- Steve Erickson

A: ...

Next Column: Oscar nominee predictions (hopefully with commentary). Feedback? -- e-mail me. (Oscar-related correspondence received may be used in future columns with the originator cited, unless preferred otherwise.)

Alex Fung (

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