Alex's Oscar Column #08: Academy Award Nominee Predictions

February 13, 2000

2000 results
"Big Six": 24 out of 30 (80%)
Overall: 67 out of 94 (71%)

On Tuesday, February 15, 2000, Robert Rehme and Dustin Hoffman will announce the list of nominees for the 72nd annual Academy awards. The following are my predictions / wild flailing guesses.

As always, I feel obliged to note that I would hardly tout myself as some master Oscar predictor (then again, anyone who would has some serious ego problems). I've done reasonably well in the past -- 26 out of 30 in the "Big Six" categories last year, 71 correct selections two years running now -- but as has been widely noted, this year is one of the most competitive and unpredictable Oscar nominee seasons in years; I'll consider myself lucky if I manage to get two-thirds of this year's "Big Six" category nominees correct or anything above 60 correct total picks. (It probably doesn't help my totals that a music category has been removed, either.) I'm bracing myself for a very bad outcome Tuesday morning, prediction-wise. (In previous years, a few people had mentioned that they were using the commentary in my Oscar columns as a basis for their ballots in their office pools; I haven't heard from anyone doing this in 2000 -- they must've learned their lesson the hard way -- so at least I won't have to deal with the guilt of costing people money.)

In almost all categories, I've listed two alternates, and in many categories have listed up to three additional entries -- the aim was to name other performances or works which have a plausible shot for a nomination, although in a most categories I could've listed five or six candidates which genuine could play spoiler roles. In fact, I was itching to create a new "If I could keep rattling off names" header, but I restrained myself.

Thanks to those who sent in their own personal Oscar predictions; while I couldn't make out all of them (I use elm: no attachments, please -- and I don't have MS Word installed, anyway), I certainly appreciate the gesture and briefly skimmed most of them. (I didn't want to examine them too closely in the fear that I'd later get accused of 'stealing' the picks of others.)

Oh yes, the usual disclaimer: these are my prediction as to who will get nominated, not who should.

A final note: while reading various news articles and other Academy Awards-related articles and prediction pieces, I've noticed that many people use guild and critics' awards as precursors in absolute terms. Several writers frequently explain their selections by using variations on the argument that "X will be nominated because it was nominated for a guild award and a Golden Globe, and only three times before has a candidate in this scenario failed to get an Oscar nomination", or "Y received a Golden Globe nomination but no guild award; they won't get nominated because four out of the last six similar candidates didn't either". While you can't really argue with the numbers -- they're presumably fact -- and everyone has their own prediction techniques, I don't really embrace this sort of analysis; instead of examining past track records of candidates with different combinations of guild, Globe and critics' nominations, I prefer to work in terms of what such recognition ultimately signifies. I think it's oversimplification to think that there's a magic formula -- if you have conditions A and B and C from awards earlier in the year, it's a guaranteed Oscar nomination! I think guild and critics' awards can be valuable tools when attempting to predict the Oscar race, but mostly in the sense that some shape and others reveal sentiment towards various achievements. (For example, considering actors nominate actors, a Golden Globe award reveals nothing about how other actors feel about a winning performer -- the Globes are voted by the HFPA. On the other hand, a Globe victory can help shape the perception of a performance. A SAG nomination, which is voted by actors, reveals sentiment towards a performance -- but only to a certain degree, since the nominees aren't selected by the entire SAG body but a random selection of the membership. On top of that, the makeup of the AMPAS Actors Branch differs from that of the Screen Actors Guild. Nothing is cut-and-dried when using any sorts of previous awards to inform one's predictions. But hey, remember, I wouldn't dare call myself an Oscar expert.)

A few readers have kindly pointed me to Harry Knowles' Ain't-It-Cool News site, which features a purported leak of the upcoming final eight or so nominees in each category. I must confess that I'm rather skeptical about the validity of this list; the preface which explains the manner in which the list was generated ("along with massive research with Robogeek, we were able to decode the statistics and make rhyme and reason out of it all") doesn't really follow with my understanding of the PriceWaterhouseCooper tallying, and although the selections appear very sound, there are some jarring entries:

I rather suspect this is a false list. (And after the 1999 edition of the Top 10 Project, I'm initimately familiar with fake lists, and sympathize with Knowles if he's been fed invalid data.) We'll see...

Best Picture Of The Year
American Beauty
Being John Malkovich
The Hurricane
The Insider
The Sixth Sense
Alternates: The Cider House Rules; The Green Mile

Other possibilities: The Talented Mr. Ripley, Toy Story 2, Topsy-Turvy

American Beauty and The Insider would appear to be proverbial locks in this category. I suspected that Being John Malkovich would be strongly supported by actors, who make up the largest voting bloc in the Academy (its strong showing with the Screen Actors Guild, with two Supporting Actress nominations and the ensemble cast pick, seems to affirm this), but its Directors Guild nomination for Spike Jonze and its Producers Guild nomination suggest that its base of support is broader than I'd expected. Although it would've helped a good deal if it had won the high-visibility Golden Globe nomination, it appears that Being John Malkovich is en route to an Oscar nomination.

While there's been a great deal of ink spilled over the so-called The Hurricane controversy, I don't think that it struck early enough to sufficiently impede the film's chances for a nomination; although the Selwyn Raab piece in the New York Times ran in late December, it appears that only in the past two weeks has the matter gotten out-of-hand. (For what it's worth, I feel that Jewison and company have really been mismanaging this controversy, effectively helping to fan the flames.) I won't mind if the film doesn't get a Best Picture nomination (simply because I don't think it's a great film rather than any objection to the fictionalization of certain aspects of the Carter story), but I think it might.

I'm going with The Sixth Sense for the final slot in the Best Picture category. It's a respectable blockbuster, and the M. Night Shyamalan Directors Guild nomination suggests that his work is highly-regarded in elite circles (I was fascinated while watching a talk show where The Sweet Hereafter director Atom Egoyan cited the picture as a particular recent favourite).

There are a number of other strong possibilities which I couldn't find room to cite in either my "Alternates" or "Other possibilities" list; the final three spots in the Best Picture category are very much up-in-the-air. I feel that many have underrated the prospects of The Cider House Rules -- it's received the Miramax push (albeit a rather half-hearted one), and managed to grab a Producers Guild nomination, which is a promising sign. Moreover, it's a picture which definitely plays better to an older contingent, and although the makeup of the Academy is reportedly growing younger, it's still predominantly an older crowd. Similarly, The Green Mile is a picture which probably plays better to a mature audience, and although it strongly stumbled in terms of critics awards and the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild nomination for its ensemble cast suggests that there is some residual support among actors for the picture. It's also a very big, high-profile production, employing scores of A-list talent on both sides of the camera; boosterism may help its chances. I'm really rather startled that The Talented Mr. Ripley was shut out by the Producers Guild, the Screen Actors Guild, and the Directors Guild -- this certainly can't be a good sign. Although I'd originally expected that this would be a surefire Best Picture nominee, the lack of guild support suggests that the project may not have played well enough amongst peers to grab an Academy Award nomination spot (although I can't see why). I continue to believe that Toy Story 2 might surprise, and Topsy-Turvy shouldn't be counted out.

(A cheat, perhaps, but I feel very uncomfortable without suggesting that The Straight Story might be a surprise nominee; just a gut feeling.)

Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role
Jim Carrey, Man On The Moon
Russell Crowe, The Insider
Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story
Kevin Spacey, American Beauty
Denzel Washington, The Hurricane
Alternates: Matt Damon, The Talented Mr. Ripley; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Flawless

Other possibilities: Jim Broadbent, Topsy-Turvy; Sean Penn, Sweet And Lowdown; Anthony Hopkins, Titus

I see the five performances and two alternates which I selected to be the key contenders for the nomination list in the Best Actor category; Broadbent, Penn, and Hopkins appear to be longshots. Kevin Spacey and Denzel Washington appear to be mortal locks for nominations, and Russell Crowe also seems assured of a selection on Tuesday morning. Globe winner Jim Carrey seems on track to get his first Academy Award nomination for his performance as Andy Kaufman in Man On The Moon; I'd originally been more skeptical about his chances, but as the amount of competition in this category has thinned and with his Golden Globe win (and more notably, his Screen Actors Guild nomination), it seems probable that he'll manage to snare a spot. (I don't know how much I believe this "The Academy will want to reward him after snubbing The Truman Show" line of thinking, although it's been repeated so frequently in the media that it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

I'm a little bit uncertain about Richard Farnsworth -- it doesn't seem like he has much momentum, and his omission in the Sceen Actors Guild nominee list might imply that his performance wasn't as beloved by actors as by critics. I think his spot is a little shaky, and could conceivably be usurped by Matt Damon or Philip Seymour Hoffman. I had thought that Damon would be a likely nominee, but the poor recent showing of The Talented Mr. Ripley and his failure to receive a Screen Actors Guild nomination bode unpromisingly. I wouldn't mind seeing him get a third Oscar nomination -- I felt his performance in the Minghella film was far more interesting and accomplished that his work in Good Will Hunting. As for Hoffman, although he received a Screen Actors Guild nomination, I still wonder about whether or not the low-profile and relatively poor showing of his vehicle, the Joel Schumacher film Flawless, will subvert his chances.

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role
Annette Bening, American Beauty
Janet McTeer, Tumbleweeds
Julianne Moore, The End Of The Affair
Meryl Streep, Music Of The Heart
Hilary Swank, Boys Don't Cry
Alternates: Reese Witherspoon, Election; Sigourney Weaver, A Map Of The World

Other possibilities: Nicole Kidman, Eyes Wide Shut; Emily Watson, Angela's Ashes; Cecilia Roth, All About My Mother

The Screen Actors Guild nominees in the Best Actress category lined up with my expectations for the Oscar race, leaving little reason for me to revise them. Hilary Swank and Annette Bening are certain Academy Award nominees, and Janet McTeer seems almost as likely for her performance in Tumbleweeds. Julianne Moore's work in the alternately lusty and icy adaptation of Graham Greene's The End Of The Affair will probably net her a nomination, and it appears probable that the reverence for Meryl Streep held by her peers will sweep her to a record-equaling nomination for Music Of The Heart.

The two performances which would appear most likely to dethrone any of the aforementioned quintet would be Reese Witherspoon for Election and Sigourney Weaver for A Map Of The World. I fear that not enough have seen Weaver's picture -- First Look, the distributor, is notably limited by how much it can spend on P&A -- while I suspect Witherspoon hasn't been able to make up the ground necessary to displace Steep or Moore; Josh Rozett's persuasive letter in Column #07 has also swayed me to conclude that the tone, style and perception of Election may be an overly problematic obstacle.

Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role
Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules
Tom Cruise, Magnolia
Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile
Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense
Christopher Plummer, The Insider
Alternates: Chris Cooper, American Beauty; John Malkovich, Being John Malkovich

Other possibilities: Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley; Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Talented Mr. Ripley; Harry J. Lennix, Titus

The Best Supporting Actor category is clearly the most competitive of the acting categories, with seven or eight names bandied about as top contenders and a handful of others which threaten as potential spoilers. It's hard to call anyone in this group a sure-thing, but I expect that Michael Caine, Tom Cruise, (unfortunately) Michael Clarke Duncan and Haley Joel Osment will make the final cut. Christopher Plummer's chances appear to be in a bit of a tailspin as of late -- no SAG nomination, no Golden Globe recognition -- but I'm guessing that the various critics awards and the publicity surrounding the picture might have given him enough early momentum for a nomination.

Although I've been calling for an American Beauty Chris Cooper nomination since September and was gratified by the recent Screen Actors Guild nomination, I'm nevertheless predicting that he won't make the final nominee list (as much as I hope otherwise); if any of the five I've picked slip, Cooper may fill their spot. Malkovich remains a possibility for Being John Malkovich, although I continue to believe that too much is being made of the possibility that the AMPAS Actors Branch will support Malkovich simply for the novelty of an actor playing "himself". Golden Globe-nominee Jude Law has is a possibility, as is Philip Seymour Hoffman (although The Talented Mr. Ripley seems to be falling apart in the Oscar race stretch run, I think the ubiquitous actor may have a better shot in the Minghella film than for his work in Magnolia) and perhaps even Harry J. Lennix of Titus. A very tough category to call.

Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role
Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted
Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich
Julianne Moore, Magnolia
Samantha Morton, Sweet And Lowdown
Chloë Sevigny, Boys Don't Cry
Alternates: Cameron Diaz, Being John Malkovich, Natalie Portman, Anywhere But Here

Other possibilities: Thora Birch, American Beauty; Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense; Sissy Spacek, The Straight Story

Like the Supporting Actor category, the Supporting Actress category is highly competitive, albeit for different reasons. While there has been a plethora of viable supporting male performances, the supporting actress field is distinguished by a decided lack of strong, award-type prospects, which winds up giving the category a rather shapelessness; indeed, there's not a great deal separating the performances I couldn't fit into my "Other possibilities" section -- Cate Blanchett and Gwyneth Paltrow of The Talented Mr. Ripley, Jessica Lange of Titus, and Kimberly J. Brown of Tumbleweeds -- with the work turned in by my alternate picks, or even some of my predicted nominees.

Operating under the (perhaps invalid) presumption that Being John Malkovich might not have the support required to have supporting actress votes cast split between the two actresses, I'm guessing that Catherine Keener might wind up with a nomination while Cameron Diaz is left off the list; however, it's not inconceivable that, as per the SAG awards, both might make the final cut. Globe-winner Angelina Jolie seems like a probable nominee, as does Chloë Sevigny for Boys Don't Cry. Although Samantha Morton failed to receive a Screen Actors Guild nomination and Sweet And Lowdown hasn't made much of a splash even by Allen standards, I continue to believe that her sweet mute character might be able to survive the trimming of the field. While I wasn't crazy about Julianne Moore's work in Magnolia (and is it just me, or does anybody else think putting her into Hannibal is a bad idea?), she's been in a number of pictures unfurling in 1999, and given her extremely well-respected status among her peers, her ubiquity might be recognized via a nomination. (For what it's worth, I'd pick Cate Blanchett's 1999 body of work -- Pushing Tin, An Ideal Husband, and The Talented Mr. Ripley -- over Moore's entries.)

Other possibilities to sneak in for a nomination include Natalie Portman for her Globe-nominated work in Anywhere But Here as a sullen teen, Thora Birch for American Beauty (it's posible that the Mendes film could manage a nomination sweep in the Big Six categories should she nab a nomination and Chris Cooper or Wes Bentley also wrangle a spot), Toni Collette for her performance as the worried mother in The Sixth Sense, and Sissy Spacek's memorable work as Alvin Straight's slow-minded daughter in The Straight Story. As per above, either of the two The Talented Mr. Ripley actresses might manage to land a nomination as well.

Best Achievement In Directing
Frank Darabont, The Green Mile
Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich
Michael Mann, The Insider
Sam Mendes, American Beauty
M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense
Alternates: Norman Jewison, The Hurricane; Anthony Minghella, The Talented Mr. Ripley

Other possibilities: Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut; Mike Leigh, Topsy-Turvy; Paul Thomas Anderson, Magnolia

The Best Director category is the one in which I suspect I'll shame myself the most horribly come Tuesday morning; other than certain nominations for Sam Mendes' debut work on American Beauty and Michael Mann's work on The Insider, I see the category as totally up-for-grabs. Were you to put the names of the remaining eleven or twelve top contenders in a bowl and randomly draw to pick the final trio of nominations, I wouldn't be surprised if your end result was more accurate than my guesses. My selections essentially mirror those of the Directors Guild of America -- Darabont, Jonze and Shyamalan joining Mann and Mendes -- but all of those whom I've listed as "Alternates" and "Other possibilities" seem to be just as likely to snare nominations as the trio I've picked: Minghella is sorely deserving of a nomination for his superb work in the reeling The Talented Mr. Ripley, while Kubrick still remains a feasible possibility for a posthumous nomination for Eyes Wide Shut. Still, Jonze's film has been very strongly received, Shyamalan's helming has been credited with making The Sixth Sense's twist ending so unexpected, while Darabont is well-respected in the community; the fact that he was able to manoeuver Warner Bros. into giving him a three-hours-plus running time for his picture may earn him kudos from peers. Although lacking the space to list them, I feel that (in order) David Lynch, Lasse Hallström, Pedro Almodóvar, Neil Jordan, and Kimberly Peirce are also possible nominees (particularly Lynch).

Best Achievement In Art Direction
American Beauty
Anna And The King
The Matrix
Sleepy Hollow
Alternates: The End Of The Affair; Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Other possibilities: The Cider House Rules; Topsy-Turvy; Eyes Wide Shut

Best Achievement In Cinematography
American Beauty: Conrad L. Hall
The Insider: Dante Spinotti
Sleepy Hollow: Emmanuel Lubezki
Snow Falling On Cedars: Robert Richardson
The Straight Story: Freddie Francis
Alternates: The Sixth Sense: Tak Fujimoto; The Talented Mr. Ripley: John Seale

Other possibilities: Eyes Wide Shut: Larry Smith; Three Kings: Newton Thomas Sigel; The Green Mile: David Tattersall

I found the Cinematography category deceptively straightforward, as the five achievements listed have been touted as leading contenders for several weeks. Four of the achievements in cinematography -- Conrad L. Hall for American Beauty, Dante Spinotti for The Insider, Emmanuel Lubezki for Sleepy Hollow and Robert Richardson for Snow Falling On Cedars -- were recognized with American Society of Cinematography award nominations (and have been noted in critics' awards), while my fifth pick, Freddie Francis for The Straight Story, has also received attention in critics awards. It failed to receive an ASC nomination -- The Sixth Sense's Tak Fujimoto received the spot -- but I suspect this may be because Francis isn't a member of the ASC and consequently may not be technically eligible for consideration. Previous Oscar winner John Seale might manage to sneak into the final five for his work in The Talented Mr. Ripley, while the cinematography in Eyes Wide Shut, Three Kings, and The Green Mile are also possiblilities should any of the favourites slip.

Best Achievement In Costume Design
Anna And The King: Jenny Beavan
The End Of The Affair: Sandy Powell
Sleepy Hollow: Colleen Atwood
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace: Trisha Biggar
Titus: Milena Canonero
Alternates: Topsy-Turvy: Lindy Hemming; The Talented Mr. Ripley: Ann Roth and Gary Jones

Other possibilities: Cradle Will Rock: Ruth Myers; An Ideal Husband: Caroline Harris; Eyes Wide Shut: Marit Allen

Although they didn't receive nominations from the Costume Designers Guild, I strongly suspect that Milena Canonero's memorable work in Titus and Anna And The King's Jenny Beavan will get serious Academy consideration. Sandy Powell, up for The End Of The Affair this year, failed to get CDG nominations for either of her two Oscar-nominated projects last year (Shakespeare In Love and Velvet Goldmine); her failure to receive a CDG cite for her work in the period Neil Jordan picture as well as these previous two works might suggest that she's simply ineligible for consideration. Trisha Biggar's elaborate work in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace also didn't receive a guild nomination but may score with Oscar. The only CDG-nominated achievement which I've cited in my quintet of picks is Colleen Atwood's splendid work in Sleepy Hollow; she should be a lock for an Academy Award nomination.

Best Achievement In Documentary Features
American Movie
Buena Vista Social Club
Mr. Death: The Rise And Fall Of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.
On The Ropes
The Source
Alternates: Genghis Blues, Amargosa

Other possibilities: Beyond The Mat, Speaking In Strings, Smoke And Mirrors: A History Of Denial

Best Achievement In Film Editing
American Beauty: Tariq Anwar and Christopher Greenbury
The Insider: William Goldenberg, Paul Rubell and David Rosenbloom
The Matrix: Zach Staenberg
The Sixth Sense: Andrew Mondshein
The Talented Mr. Ripley: Walter Murch
Alternates: Being John Malkovich: Eric Zumbrunnen; Three Kings: Robert K. Lambert

Other possibilities: Angela’s Ashes: Gerry Hambling; The Hurricane: Stephen Rivkin; Fight Club: James Haygood

In a fairly competitive category, my selections essentially mirror the American Cinema Editors nominees: American Beauty, The Insider, The Matrix, The Sixth Sense and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Best Foreign Language Film Of The Year
All About My Mother
The Cup
Three Seasons
Under The Sun
Alternates: The Color Of Paradise, Aimée & Jaguar

Other possibilities: Solomon And Gaenor, Earth, Caravan

Best Achievement In Makeup
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Bicentennial Man
Alternates: Life, Blast From The Past

Other possibilities: none

Given that there are only five semi-finalists under consideration, it'd be a pretty sad statement if I failed to successfully pick a majority of the eventual nominees. I've gone with Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me mostly for the significant amount of work done to create the Fat Bastard character; Stan Winston and Mike Smithson were the duo primarily responsible for the recreation of Mike Myers as the grotesque Scot. While I'd hoped that that this would be a Robin Williams-free Oscar ceremony, I've reluctantly selected Bicentennial Man as a projected nominee; its two nominations from the Hollywood Makeup and Hairstylist guild suggest a strong showing from the Academy's Makeup Committee. (Incidentally, I was delighted to read the year-end issue of Film Comment, which featured an interesting section where critics were polled on the most notable film and person of the decade -- a few selected Robin Williams for the latter, and not in a positive manner.)

Although Life features showy aging makeup work as the film follows the Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy characters through some fifty years, I've hesitantly chosen Topsy-Turvy's makeup work for the final nomination spot. I confess to being a little surprised with the achivements passed over during the Makeup Committee screening process -- I thought that the makeup in Sleepy Hollow (particularly on the witch) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (notably involving Kevin Kline's character) would've been strong contenders for nominations.

Best Achievement In Music (Original Score)
American Beauty: Thomas Newman
Angela's Ashes: John Williams
The End Of The Affair: Michael Nyman
The Legend Of 1900: Ennio Morricone
The Straight Story: Angelo Badalamenti
Alternates: The Insider: Lisa Gerrard, Pieter Bourke; The Cider House Rules: Rachel Portman

Other possibilities: The Talented Mr. Ripley: Gabriel Yared; Eyes Wide Shut: Jocelyn Pook; Sleepy Hollow: Danny Elfman

Best Achievement In Music (Original Song)
"How Can I Not Love You", Anna And The King
"Music Of My Heart", Music Of The Heart
"Save Me", Magnolia
"When She Loved Me", Toy Story 2
"You'll Be In My Heart", Tarzan
Alternates: "Beautiful Stranger", Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me; "The Great Beyond", Man On The Moon

Other possibilities: "Then You Look At Me", Bicentennial Man; "Blame Canada", South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut; "(I) Get Lost", The Story Of Us

In the Best Song category, "When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2, "You'll Be In My Heart" from Tarzan, and "Save Me" from Magnolia appear to be certain nominations. Despite its popularity, I've reluctantly shuffled the R.E.M. track from Man On The Moon, "The Great Beyond", onto my Alternates list -- the Music Branch of the Academy has traditionally been loathe to recognize rock songs other than power ballads (the most rockin' Oscar-nominated song in the past five years has been the bubblegum "That Thing You Do" tune, a thoroughly safe song), and I see no reason to expect a shift in taste this year. Similarly, although Madonna has performed Academy Award-nominated songs in the past decade -- "Sooner Or Later" from Dick Tracy and "You Must Love Me" from Evita -- nothing resembling a contemporary pop/dance track has been nominated in recent memory, hence my exclusion of the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me hit "Beautiful Stranger". I've instead chosen a pair of generic adult contemporary tracks -- "How Can I Not Love You" from Anna And The King and "Music Of My Heart" from Music Of The Heart (which can also serve as the annual Diane Warren nomination) -- to fill the Best Song category. I'm really hoping that I get pleasantly surprised with a South Park nomination.

Best Achievement In Sound
American Beauty
Fight Club
The Matrix
The Sixth Sense
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Alternates: Any Given Sunday, The Haunting

Other possibilities: Sleepy Hollow, The Mummy, Three Kings

Best Achievement In Sound Effects Editing
The Matrix
The Mummy
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Alternates: Three Kings, Fight Club

Other possibilities: The Green Mile, Any Given Sunday

As previously mentioned in Oscar Column #06, I'm going with the three big noisy and effects-ladened blockbusters from the seven announced semi-finalists: The Matrix, The Mummy and Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Three Kings also features a wide range of well-executed sound effects and could sneak in.

Best Achievement In Visual Effects
The Matrix
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Stuart Little
Alternates: The Mummy, Sleepy Hollow

Other possibilities: Wild Wild West, The World Is Not Enough

I've previously discussed my thoughts on the Visual Effects category in Oscar Column #06 (and I certainly doubt I'll be more lucid at this hour); I'm counting on the CGI characters in Stuart Little and Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace to guide them to Oscar nominations, and the hulabaloo around The Matrix's use of "bullet-time" visual technology should allow it to snare the final nomination spot.

Best Screenplay Written Directly For The Screen
American Beauty: Alan Ball
Being John Malkovich: Charlie Kaufman
Magnolia: Paul Thomas Anderson
The Sixth Sense: M. Night Shyamalan
Three Kings: David O. Russell & Jim Ridley
Alternates: Topsy-Turvy: Mike Leigh; Boys Don't Cry: Kimberly Peirce & Andy Bienen

Other possibilities: Cradle Will Rock: Tim Robbins; Toy Story 2: Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlin & Chris Webb; The Straight Story: John Roach & Mary Sweeney

It's been clear for months that American Beauty's Alan Ball and Being John Malkovich's Charlie Kaufman are certain Academy Award nominees for their original scripts, and M. Night Shyamalan has joined them as a lock for a nomination for his screenplay for The Sixth Sense. Conventional wisdom has Paul Thomas Anderson receiving his second consecutive Academy Award nomination for his screenplay for Magnolia; although I'm not quite as certain about the likelihood of this as most, his Writers Guild of America nomination makes for an effective case. The fifth spot in the Original Screenplay is essentially the only one that's up for grabs, and the respected Three Kings, which will probably make little ground in other categories, may nab this spot for David O. Russell and Jim Ridley -- they've already received a WGA nomination and have been praised for adeptly combining several genres in their Gulf War piece.

A number of other original screenplays are in a position to threaten to knock Three Kings off and grab a nomination. Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy has been very strongly received and may factor in this race, as might the Boys Don't Cry script penned by Kimberly Peirce and Andy Bienen. Toy Story received an Original Screenplay nomination upon its initial release, and the sequel, Toy Story 2, can't be discounted as a viable contender. In addition to Tim Robbins' Cradle Will Rock script and The Straight Story by John Roach and editor Mary Sweeney, Barry Levinson's nostalgia piece Liberty Heights could grab a spot, and although I could find room for it, you can never count out Woody Allen -- Sweet And Lowdown could surprise.

Best Screenplay Based On Material Previously Produced Or Published
The Cider House Rules: John Irving
Election: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
The Green Mile: Frank Darabont
The Insider: Michael Mann & Eric S. Roth
The Talented Mr. Ripley: Anthony Minghella
Alternates: The End Of The Affair: Neil Jordan; October Sky: Lewis Colick

Other possibilities: Angela's Ashes: Laura Jones and Alan Parker; The Hurricane: Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon; The Winslow Boy: David Mamet

I've deviated by one entry from the corresponding Writers Guild of America nominee list, replacing Lewis Colick's adaptation of October Sky with Frank Darabont for his screenplay of The Green Mile under the reasoning that the Warner Bros. project has received a stronger push and has a higher-profile. John Irving is a lock for a nomination for his adaptation of his The Cider House Rules novel, while Michael Mann and Eric Roth seem on target for a mention for their script for The Insider based on a Vanity Fair article. I'd initially been cool about Election's chances in this category, but subsequent recognition (topped by a WGA nomination) has convinced me that the film's most probable recognition from the Academy will be in this category. Given the poor recent showing by The Talented Mr. Ripley, Anthony Minghella's chances suddenly seem a little shaky, but I think he'll manage to round out the list.

The controversy surrounding the fictionalization of events in The Hurricane may adversely affect the chances for Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon to receive a nomination; then again, this category is voted upon by fellow screenwriters, who should realize that such rewriting for dramatic effect is par for the course. (It should fail to get a nomination for the more laudable reason that it's simply not a very worthy script.) In addition to Neil Jordan's The End Of The Affair adaptation, Angela's Ashes by Aussie Laura Jones and director Alan Parker, and even possibly David Mamet's respectable The Winslow Boy, it's not unfathomable that Stanley Kubrick, along with Frederic Raphael, might score a nomination for the screenplay adaptation for Eyes Wide Shut.

Alex Fung (

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