Posted on May 14th, 2008
Posted on May 14th, 2008

It’s that time of the year again. The 73rd Annual Academy Awards air on Sunday night, March 25th on ABC. Think you can pick the winners? Here is a bit of info that might help you make a few educated guesses and impress your friends…

First of all, here is how the nominations and final voting works… There are over 5,700 voting Academy members in 24 different voting branches. Most are former Oscar winners that are inducted into the branch in which they received the award. If an actor/actress wins an Oscar for “Best Actor/Actress”, they are inducted as an Academy member strictly within the “Acting” category, although multiple memberships in more than one category are allowed. Nominations are mostly category specific, meaning, for example, that only directors may nominate up to 5 names for the “Achievement in Directing” and so on. One exception is the “Best Picture” category which receives its nominations from all members. Other exceptions include the nominations for awards in the Foreign Language, Short Film and Short Documentary and Feature Documentary categories which are made by large committees of members drawn from all branches. However, ALL members participate in the final voting of the winners in all 24 categories.

Part of the logic behind predicting who might win in each category, is the attitude of the voters. Believing that, there are two conflicting trains of thought within the Academy which make up its voting psychology.

1. Some of the members intend to vote for the best of everything, sometimes even voting against their own personal tastes in order to give the award to the most deserved. 2. The others like to treat the Oscars as a popularity contest, voting their favorite or whom they believe the general audience would like to see win.

Personally, I think it should be a happy medium between the two (leaning a bit more towards the best and most deserved), but it does fluctuate and often produces some worthy winners. I don’t need to remind everyone that no voting system is perfect, but as all Academy Nominees will tell you, it’s a tremendous honor just to be nominated.

So, now it’s time to be the judge. Will the members vote for the artistic choice or simply jump on the bandwagon? Here are some predictions based on the two aforementioned trains of thought…

Best Picture:
The popular vote: “Gladiator”. Its nomination was a surprise to some, being that so many other deserving films were up for it. However, it’s a big, sweeping action epic that turned out to be one of the biggest box-office successes for the year. Just what the general populous (and Academy voters) love.
The deserving vote: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. Another action epic, but it is also up for the “Best Foreign Language Film” award as well, which it is sure to win. Most voters probably felt that the foreign award would be sufficient recognition, giving the Best Picture award to another deserving film.
My money is on: “Gladiator”. Most often, an English-speaking, action epic with big stars and special effects wins over the comedies and sappy dramas.
Others: “Traffic” had all of the right ingredients and probably should win, but I suspect some people were put off by its bold visual style. “Erin Brockovich” turned out to be very good but its ostentatious marketing campaign as a star vehicle for Julia Roberts really got on my nerves. Finally, why “Chocolat” was nominated is a mystery to many people in Hollywood. Even Dame Judi Dench is said to have privately expressed her distaste for the film for which she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination.

Best Actor:
The popular vote: Tie between Russell Crowe in “Gladiator” and Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”. Both are bankable, charismatic stars that the camera and the public seem to love. Either one of them could pull it off this year.
The deserving vote: Javier Bardem for “Before Night Falls”. Absolutely the artistic favorite of the bunch. Although I found the film to be mostly unwatchable, Bardem knocked many acting mavens dead with his performance as the real-life, gay, Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas. From the acting perspective, many say he should win.
My money is on: Ed Harris for “Pollock”. This is a volatile category this year. It could go many ways, but Ed Harris seems to me like the strongest contender. Now that he’s nominated for a third time, without any previous wins, this could be Harris’s year.
Others: Jeffery Rush doesn’t have a prayer this year for his terrifically outrageous role as the Marquis De Sade in “Quills”. Although it was my favorite performance of the year, voters would like to give the award to someone who hasn’t won so recently. He won the Best Actor in 1996 for “Shine” and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1998 for “Shakespeare in Love”.

Best Actress:
The popular vote: Julia Roberts for “Brockovich”. Everyone liked this film. Many movie goers see her as an excellent role model as well as a popular icon that delivers reliably decent romantic films. There is no other female nominee in this category who can compete with that.
The deserving vote: Ellen Burstyn for “Requiem for a Dream”. The most deserving nominee of the year. Burstyn gave the most heartbreaking performance of her career as a lonely widow who becomes addicted to diet pills. The film was hard to watch, but Burstyn could not be ignored. Seeing her lose this one will be just as heartbreaking.
My money is on: Julia Roberts. She’s been nominated twice before, but never won, as well as the most powerful actress in Hollywood. In this film she shows the full potential of her range and it’s clear she’s not going to get anymore diverse than this… so the Academy feels it’s time to finally give her an Oscar. Although I don’t like it, if there is one sure bet you could make this entire year, Roberts winning an Oscar would be it.
Others: Joan Allen (“The Contender”) and Laura Linney (“You Can Count On Me”) often bang out some annoying and overhyped performances. Luckily, both of their films are too weak to win any awards for acting. Juliet Binoche in “Chocolat” typically does good, Oscar-quality work, but I find her more appealing in less comedic roles where she can really show off her dramatic talent.

Best Supporting Actor:
The popular vote: Benicio Del Toro for “Traffic”. Del Toro is certainly the “it” man in Hollywood at the moment. Often the Academy will present the Supporting Actor award to a rising newcomer instead of a hardened veteran and Del Toro fits the bill.
The deserving vote: A tie between Willem Dafoe for “Shadow of the Vampire” and Albert Finney in “Erin Brockovich”. Dafoe made you forget he was even human in his creepy role as the vampire. Surely the performance of his career. Finney has been nominated four times without a single win. He clearly deserves it, even outshining costar, Julia Roberts. Once again, he will fall to the stiff competition.
My money is on: Benicio Del Toro. He was magnificent and has already won several awards for this role. Others deserve it as much, but Del Toro has this one in the bag.
Others: Jeff Bridges was ridiculous as the sleazy, food-obsessed American President in “The Contender”. Also unlikely is Joaquin Phoenix as the Roman Emperor Commodus in “Gladiator”. I hope his silly, over-the-top performance is ignored by the Academy.

Best Supporting Actress:
The popular vote: Kate Hudson in “Almost Famous”. The most overlooked film of the year, “Almost Famous” introduced us to amazing debut of Kate Hudson. The young daughter of Goldie Hawn seems to have inherited some talent from her famous mother.
The deserving vote: both Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand in “Almost
Famous”. Both gave the best supporting performances of the year, yet McDormand won Best Actress in 1997 for “Fargo” and was nominated back in 1988 for “Mississippi Burning”. Something tells me she won’t be too upset when she loses to her deserving costar.
My money is on: Kate Hudson. You can’t take your eyes off of her and neither could the Screen Actors Guild and the Foreign Press Association. She won comparable awards from both this year. Everyone expects to see her win.
Others: Dame Judi Dench (“Chocolat”) won this same category in 1998. Doubtful she would win it again so soon. Marcia Gay Harden proved once again to be a capable and talented actress in “Pollock”, yet she’s just not a Hollywood favorite. Julie Walters certainly deserves special recognition for her role as the surly ballet instructor in “Billy Elliot”, but her screentime was too short and the competition is too tough.

Best Director:
The popular vote: Ridley Scott for “Gladiator”. He directed the most popular films of the year and some of the most poignant films ever made. However, voters don’t care much for windbags who toot their own horn too much.
The deserving vote: Ang Lee for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. Everybody respects Lee and his artistic touch. His gracious attitude and pleasant demeanor can’t hurt either.
My money is on: Ang Lee. Everyone was so enchanted with Lee’s direction in “Crouching Tiger” that they are expected to hand this one to him on a platter, not to mention that the film has already won him numerous directing awards all over the globe.
Others: Stephen Daldry (“Billy Elliot”) has the least chance of winning with his follow up to “The Full Monty”. The movie was a bit weaker than the others. Steven Soderbergh could have possibly won this year, if he hadn’t already beaten himself. The director split his own vote between “Traffic” and “Erin Brockovich”. Voters who wish for him to win weren’t sure which of his films to vote for, ultimately causing him to lose for both nominations.

Other categories in short:
Writing is a tough one to gauge because many of the voters never read the actual screenplay, nor do they know exactly what makes a good screenplay. They often go by what they see which doesn’t serve the goal of the nomination. Besides the writing, these are my best guesses for the rest of the categories…

Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan for “You Can Count on Me”
Best Adapted Screenplay: Ethan and Joel Cohen for “O’ Brother Where Art Thou?”
Best Art Direction: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”
Best Cinematography: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”
Best Costume Design: “Gladiator”
Foreign Language Film: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”
Makeup: “Shadow of the Vampire”
Music (Score): “Gladiator”
Music (Song): “Things Have Changed” by Bob Dylan for the film “Wonder Boys”*
*Be prepared for an interesting acceptance speech if he wins!
Film Editing: “Traffic”

As for the categories of Animated Short, Live Action Short, Sound, Sound Editing, Documentary Feature and Documentary Short, their nominations are very craft-specific and sometimes even inaccessible to the general public. Try picking the one with the catchiest title. Works for me! Do remember that none of these are set in stone and I expect a few big upsets. Don’t be afraid to play along and make your own guesses. You might surprise yourself.

Now for the biggest nominations snubs of the year. These were the films, actors, directors, etc. that should have been nominated, yet were grossly overlooked.

Biggest nomination snubs:
“Almost Famous” and “Finding Forrester” for Best Picture: These were two of the most incredible films of the past couple of years and many critics cried foul when the Academy hardly acknowledged them. See “Almost Famous” on DVD/video right away and look forward for “Finding Forrester” to come out in video stores on April 24.
Sean Connery for Best Actor in “Finding Forrester”: It was the performance of his career. How he was beat out by Russell Crowe, I’ll never know.
Cameron Crowe for Best Director: He proved his worth in directing “Jerry Maguire”, then topped it with the superior “Almost Famous”. I’m not too worried because I’m confident he will eventually win this one.
Guiseppe Tornatore for Best Director, Monica Bellucci for Best Actress and a Best Foreign Film nomination for “Malena”: Tornatore’s work is legendary and “Malena”, his follow up to his Academy Award Winning “Cinema Paradiso” should have been acknowledged. Bellucci created an international sensation with her nearly silent performance as the scandal-plagued war widow. Expect to see her hypnotic presence in many English-speaking films to come.
Zhang Ziyi for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”: It is debatable on whether she was a leading or supporting actress in the film, yet she should not have been ignored.
Oliver Reed for “Gladiator”: He died before filming ended and produced the absolute best performance of the film. It’s a shame that he wasn’t even given a sympathy nomination, even though he was clearly superior to Crowe’s or Phoenix’s performance.

Coop’s top 10 movies of the year 2000:
These were clearly my favorite films of the year, only two of which won Best Picture nominations. I highly recommend you check them out as soon as you can either at the theater, or mostly likely on video and DVD. Enjoy!
1. Almost Famous
2. Finding Forrester
3. Traffic
4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
5. Malena
6. Chicken Run
7. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
8. Quills
9. My Dog Skip
10. Unbreakable

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