Some time in the past few weeks, Oscar prognosticators and other film wags have changed their tune from the traditional dirge of "What Is There To Nominate?" to the more exuberant jubilee of "How Will We Fit All These Great Films?" I am still not convinced that history will echo the notion that 2001 was a banner year in film. A few of this year's critical darlings, like Shrek and In the Bedroom, already seem like dubious objects of praise, and even the comparatively cleverer A Beautiful Mind and The Royal Tenenbaums bear the sheen of superficial polish more than they do the glow of methodical vision.

Still, it's pleasant to find the Picture, Director, Actress, and Actor races all hard-pressed to accommodate their broad fields of solid contenders. The Supporting Acting pools are a little shallower, and the prizes for screenwriting—probably the most underserved aspect of filmmaking in the last 12 months—would, in a fair universe, boil down to one or two of the probable contenders. But, allowing that everyone does it, bitching about the inadequacy of this or that nominee is not the fun part of Oscar season, which is best approached as a wildly over-invested craps-game of prediction and deduction. So, let's play—and, if you think I'm reading the cards all wrong, I hope you'll let me know!

** Successful Predictions To Be Denoted By Red Asterisks **


**A Beautiful Mind**
Black Hawk Down
**In the Bedroom**
**The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring**
**Moulin Rouge**

**Gosford Park**

Dark Horses
The Royal Tenenbaums
Mulholland Drive
The Shipping News
Proving once again that there's a short way and a long way to reach the same destination, I hemmed and hawed for weeks over these picks, only to discover that the Final Five conforms identically to Entertainment Weekly's prognostications from nearly a month ago. So much for being an individual. A Beautiful Mind or Lord of the Rings seem like the surest bets, while Moulin Rouge will draw on mutual support from actors and technicians. (Three Golden Globes won't hurt, either.) I'm not sure In the Bedroom isn't too dark, aside from the fact that I think it's a sell-out, and Black Hawk Down was drawing enough accusations of blind jingoism during the voting period that its prospects aren't assured. Widespread retro-vision that last year's Gladiator win was the outrage it clearly was also doesn't help the new Ridley Scott pic. The strongest challenger among the runners-up is probably Shrek, though the equally popular Lion King failed a Best Pic nomination in '94 despite a Best Picture Golden Globe and no Best Animated Film Oscar as a consolation prize. Gosford Park has treats for film artists of all kinds, and its momentum has only increased in recent weeks, but past Altman "comebacks" like The Player and Short Cuts impressed auteurs more than general-body voters. Meanwhile, the only reason the deservedly defunct Shipping News is still on this list is because, as The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, and Chocolat have proven in recent years, zero pre-Oscar awards and diminishing audience favor doesn't always mean the anticipated shutout.
Early Winner Prediction: A Beautiful Mind


**Robert Altman, Gosford Park**
**Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind**
**Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship...**
Baz Luhrmann, Moulin Rouge
**Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down**

Christopher Nolan, Memento
**David Lynch, Mulholland Drive**

Dark Horses
Todd Field, In the Bedroom
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Amélie
Wes Anderson, The Royal Tenenbaums
Alejandro Amenábar, The Others
Essentially the same group implied by my Best Picture lineup, except for the absence of Todd Field, whose film's popularity will be much more strongly supported by actors and writers. The DGA left him out, too, including tale-twister Christopher Nolan instead, and Nolan is a way-viable contender. Neither of these goslings, however, seems deserving of supplanting Robert Altman. Not only is Gosford Park a superior film to Field's or Nolan's efforts, but for Altman to be working so well at such an age, and to have zero statuettes after four nominations, is one of the great Oscar crimes. (Maybe next year we'll compensate his only rival as an Academy unsung, Martin Scorsese.) For now, Altman has an even stronger claim to the Overlooked Genius award than does David Lynch, though Mulholland Drive is clearly a triumph more of direction than of any other single creative contribution. The other possibilities I've listed will only be realized if their films garner unanticipated groundswells. Meanwhile, if there's a major upset in this category, Ron Howard could be omitted, just as he was for 1995's Best Picture nominee Apollo 13; even if this comes to pass, I wouldn't pronounce the film's overall chances as dead in the water. (Think Driving Miss Daisy.)
Early Winner Prediction: Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind

**Halle Berry, Monster's Ball**
**Judi Dench, Iris**
**Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge**
**Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom**
Audrey Tautou, Amélie

Tilda Swinton, The Deep End
Nicole Kidman, The Others

Dark Horses
Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive
Stockard Channing, The Business of Strangers
Cate Blanchett, Charlotte Gray
**Renée Zellweger, Bridget Jones's Diary**
Berry, Dench, and Spacek are in; it will be plain weird if their names don't pop up. Here's my thinking down the rest of the line, which I'm couching in negative terms even though the performances are in general so exemplary. Stockard Channing and Cate Blanchett just haven't gotten much early notice, passed up even by the Independent Spirit folks. Tilda Swinton did manage an IFP nomination, but her film opened a while ago, her name lacks much Hollywood caché (outrageously enough), and she isn't a French pixie. Watts is still hard to recognize in public, and Universal has shifted their advertising so often that no one may know where to list her. (Think Courtney Love.) And Zellweger gave the best romantic comedy performance of the year, but—well, that's how most people will see it. I think the Moulin Rouge juggernaut will qualify Kidman, SAG notwithstanding, while all the voters who discovered Audrey Tautou on their screening videos will find her a more winning, dimplier contender than the spikier Swinton or Watts.
Early Winner Prediction: Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom


**Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind**
Gene Hackman, The Royal Tenenbaums
**Sean Penn, I Am Sam**
**Denzel Washington, Training Day**
**Tom Wilkinson, In the Bedroom**

John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Billy Bob Thornton, The Man Who Wasn't There

Dark Horses
**Will Smith, Ali**
Guy Pearce, Memento
Kevin Spacey, The Shipping News
Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge
Billy Bob Thornton, Monster's Ball
Crowe, Washington—in. If Penn qualifies also, and strong SAG support plus months of enthusiastic buzz (despite a GOD AWFUL film) make it a likely prospect, than we'll have a rematch among all the surviving losers from 1999's astoundingly strong field. (Kevin Spacey, the victor from that race, is living on a prayer this year.) Meanwhile, Gene Hackman is still the actor most of Hollywood wants to work with, and as long as no one thinks he's a supporting actor, I'm not worried. I'm handing the fifth slot over to Wilkinson, especially since Miramax has done a good job of selling In the Bedroom as a shared triumph for its leads. For a while, I had an impulse to call John Cameron Mitchell as a dark horse, one of those crowd-pleasing oddballs that often sneak in at the last minute, like Penn in '99 or Dustin Hoffman in '97...but Hackman probably fills that role. Ali might be 2001's big Oscar bust, this year's Amistad or People vs. Larry Flynt, though Woody still got a mention in '96. Billy Bob Thornton has even more cancelling-out threat than Nicole Kidman does, and Guy Pearce seems destined to be underrated as the crucial ingredient in Memento's remarkable success.
Early Winner Prediction: Denzel Washington, Training Day


**Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind**
**Helen Mirren, Gosford Park**
**Maggie Smith, Gosford Park**
**Marisa Tomei, In the Bedroom**
**Kate Winslet, Iris**

Dakota Fanning, I Am Sam
Cate Blanchett, Bandits

Dark Horses
Emily Watson, Gosford Park
Anjelica Huston, The Royal Tenenbaums
Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive
Cameron Diaz, Vanilla Sky
Judi Dench, The Shipping News
A pretty boring, transparent affair until the SAG nominations mixed it all up. Suddenly front-runner Connelly was a lead, Old Guard Maggie Smith had vanished, and 7-year-old Dakota Fanning was holding court over Tomei and Winslet. I invite you to recall, however, 1996, when the same wild ducks over at SAG suddenly had us believing that Tomei in Unhook the Stars, Gwen Verdon in Marvin's Room, and Renée Zellweger in Jerry Maguire were posing a threat...and then Oscar essentially xeroxed the Golden Globe roster anyway. I'm looking for a repeat of that pattern, especially where Connelly, Smith, and Winslet are concerned, though it would be nice to feel that Cate Blanchett hasn't run around proving herself as the industry's most reliable character actress for absolutely nothing. Final note: if Cameron Diaz, whom I normally like, gets a nod for the incoherent Vanilla Sky, I'm going to take out ads for my own nomination next year, even if I'm not in anything.
Early Winner Prediction: Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind


**Jim Broadbent, Iris**
Steve Buscemi, Ghost World
**Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast**
**Ian McKellen, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship...**
**Jon Voight, Ali**

Eddie Murphy, Shrek
Carl Reiner, Ocean's Eleven

Dark Horses
Hayden Christensen, Life as a House
Ed Harris, A Beautiful Mind
Brian Cox, L.I.E.
Tony Shalhoub, The Man Who Wasn't There
Sam Shepard, Black Hawk Down
Joe Pantoliano, Memento
Broadbent and Kingsley seem to have smooth sailing, and Steve Buscemi should be cruising not too far behind. I am one of those people who agrees that Ian McKellen really did act in Lord of the Rings, and I would be delighted to see him recognized—though I suspect that, if he is, he'll owe the honor to the same feeling of collective hero-worship and compensation for past neglect that put Judi Dench in the ring for dying scrappily in Chocolat. The last slot I'm giving to Voight, even if Ali is a dead fish, because even the people who found the movie long and the narrative diffuse seem to have enjoyed his able mimicry and merry bantering. Besides which, even the closest runners-up seem to me like pretty half-baked propositions: Cox would be the most deserving spoiler, but the NC-17 rating won't help, nor will more of that lead/supporting confusion. Eddie Murphy would be a shoo-in if actors, especially in the year of Final Fantasy, weren't a little loath to give acting nods to animated drawings, and Carl Reiner seemed like the ideal Palance-style candidate until Ocean's Eleven seemed to entertain everyone but the (jealous?) Hollywood establishment.
Early Winner Prediction: Jim Broadbent, Iris


**Amélie, G.Laurant & J.-P.Jeunet**
**Gosford Park, Julian Fellowes**
**Memento, Christopher Nolan**
**Monster's Ball, Milo Addica & Will Rokos**
**The Royal Tenenbaums, W.Anderson & O.Wilson**

The Man Who Wasn't There, Joel & Ethan Coen
The Others, Alejandro Amenábar

Dark Horses
Moulin Rouge, B.Luhrmann & C.Pearce
Mulholland Drive, David Lynch
Monsters, Inc., A.Stanton & D.Gerson
Ali, S.J.Rivele, C.Wilkinson, E.Roth & M.Mann
Waking Life, Richard Linklater
L.I.E., Michael Cuesta
Fellowes, Nolan, and the Tenenbaums duo seem unquestionable, even if the Memento nod relies on a so-strict-it's-loose understanding of the category. Monster's Ball has come out of nowhere since the NBR awards to ride a buzz-wave that won't quit, with frequent citations of the screenplay. The fifth spot seems to me like a duel between Amélie and The Man Who Wasn't There, but the Coen Brothers' film seems to have diminished in everyone's memory (or maybe I'm just projecting?) while Amélie, like a good little Miramax project, has curred more and more favor. I was fairly surprised when the Writers Guild threw their weight behind Moulin Rouge, which still makes me cry on DVD, but not because it seems like a wordmeister's triumph. I'd love to see Mulholland Drive make the cut, but if Blue Velvet got shut out in favor of Crocodile Dundee, I don't see reason to be optimistic now.
Early Winner Prediction: Memento, Christopher Nolan


**A Beautiful Mind, Akiva Goldsman**
Bridget Jones's Diary, A.Davies, H.Fielding & R.Curtis
**In the Bedroom, Rob Festinger & Todd Field**
**The Lord of the Rings..., F.Walsh, P.Boyens & P.Jackson**
**Shrek, T.Elliott, T.Rossio, J.Stillman & R.S.H.Schulman**

Black Hawk Down, Ken Nolan & Steven Zaillian
**Ghost World, D.Clowes & T.Zwigoff**

Dark Horses
The Shipping News, Robert Nelson Jacobs
Lantana, Andrew Bovell
Iris, Richard Eyre & Charles Wood
Last Orders, Fred Schepisi
A Beautiful Mind, In the Bedroom, and The Lord of the Rings are foregone conclusions, while my other two finalists feel like tributes to popular charmers from earlier in the year. Writers have longer memories and bolder tastes than most of the other craftsmen, which is why a Ghost World or a Lantana isn't an impossibility, though they also have been known to support high-profile projects like Black Hawk Down whose momentum reaches a certain crescendo: the Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, and Crouching Tiger scripts were all nominated, even if none of them pushed the envelope with an actual win. Goldsman's victory here seems like one of the surest bets for March 24, but it will still be an interesting category to keep an eye on.
Early Winner Prediction: A Beautiful Mind, Akiva Goldsman


A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Janusz Kaminski
**Black Hawk Down, Slawomir Idziak**
**Lord of the Rings: Fellowship..., Andrew Lesnie**
**The Man Who Wasn't There, Roger Deakins**
The Others, Javier Aguirresarobe

**Amélie, Bruno Delbonnel**
**Moulin Rouge, Donald McAlpine**

Dark Horses
Pearl Harbor, John Schwartzman
The Shipping News, Oliver Stapleton
A Beautiful Mind, Roger Deakins
Captain Corelli's Mandolin, John Toll
Mulholland Drive, Peter Deming
The Deep End, Giles Nuttgens
Hearts in Atlantis, Piotr Sobocinski
One of the dumber impulses I'm following is leaving Moulin Rouge off this list, though grand pageants like Bram Stoker's Dracula and The Age of Innocence have been ignored before. If Don McAlpine's bursting-color compositions do make it on the list, the likely trade will be for A.I.'s Janusz Kaminski, whose cause I am supporting half out of Academy tradition (his Amistad photography made the grade even when the picture fell out of favor) and half out of allegiance to that uneven but highly involving movie. I'm also aware that there's always one left-field nod in this category that was impossible to see coming—the most recent instances were Malèna, The End of the Affair, and A Civil Action in 2000, 1999, and 1998. I'm placing Javier Aguirresarobe's moody, goose-pimply chiaroscuro in The Others within that unheralded tradition, though John Toll's picture postcards or the late Piotr Sobocinski's swan song would not be shocking in its place.
Early Winner Prediction: The Man Who Wasn't There, Roger Deakins


**Amélie (France)**
Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) (Canada)
Italian for Beginners (Denmark)
**No Man's Land (Bosnia & Herzegovina)**
The Son's Room (Italy)

Behind the Sun (Brazil)
Baran (Iran)

Dark Horses
Dark Blue World (The Czech Republic)
The Piano Teacher (Austria)
Our Lady of the Assassins (Colombia)
Mad Love (Spain)
The Experiment (Germany)
L'Éloge de l'Amour (In Praise of Love) (Switzerland)

Okay—consider this category the tiebreaker. Let's assume that a little film named Amélie is a shoo-in, and since No Man's Land scored upsets at the Golden Globes and the Golden Satellites, let's call it neck-and-neck. Meanwhile, Italian for Beginners, judging from the trailer, is about pretty Nordic people recreating in beautiful Venice; this is the sort of concept that gives Foreign-Film voters the frissons. Nanni Moretti's The Son's Room was a Cannes winner and companion piece to In the Bedroom, plus Italy has always been a fave in this race. I'm giving my fifth slot to Canada's Genie-sweeping Atanarjuat, but here's some hard truth: this category never hews to the obvious front-runners. Not since 1994's surprisingly predictable field have I had more than 50% luck, so why expect it now?—even if Dark Blue World is from the Oscar-winning filmmaker of Kolya, Behind the Sun from the maker's of '98's near-winner Central Station, Baran is a topical testament, The Piano Teacher scored three Cannes prizes, and Our Lady of the Assassins was directed by Barbet Schroeder, a Best Director nominee from 1990. L'Éloge de l'Amour is by Godard, for crying out loud, but that's getting a little egg-heady for the people who couldn't even take The Celebration.
Early Winner Prediction: Amélie (France)

Click here in the coming weeks for my (more hesitant!) predictions in the other major categories...


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