FINAL PREDICTIONS:
THE 2002 OSCAR NOMINATIONS


February 4, 2002: Exactly two months after my early predictions were posted, and exactly one week before the nominees are revealed. My annual coffee date with Good Morning, America is inked right there on my desk calendar. Shivers!

If you ask me, this has been a particularly good year for American film—actually, for film everywhere, but Oscar's a bit of a hometown player—so there should be a particularly tempting array of movies from which to choose. Unfortunately, this often results in a particularly galling array of rejected possibilities; for a precedent, one need only hark back to 1999, which produced Eyes Wide Shut, Being John Malkovich, Boys Don't Cry, The Straight Story, Magnolia, Man on the Moon, and Topsy-Turvy, and still managed to nominate sugar-syrup like The Cider House Rules and The Green Mile for Best Picture. Thankfully, few of the films still being touted as top-line possibilities venture so far into mediocrity.

Several nominees in major categories have started to settle into place, partly through the tiresome proliferation of awards ceremonies and the unimaginative orientations of their voters. But Oscar has come up with some surprises in recent years (Ethan Hawke and Renée Zellweger last year, the Pollock nominees and Chocolat the year before), so hopefully he'll still call our bluff. Here, in the meantime, are my best surmises of the hand he's holding:


Picture     Director     Actress     Actor     Supporting Actress     Supporting Actor

Original Screenplay     Adapted Screenplay     Cinematography     Foreign Film     Other Categories



BEST PICTURE

Chicago
Gangs of New York
The Hours
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Pianist


Nearest Challengers
Road to Perdition
About Schmidt
My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Dark Horses
Adaptation
This list is almost unbelievably unimaginative, considering recent awards. My five front-runners are the same ones competing for Best Film at the British Academy Awards (BAFTAs). All of them were Golden Globe nominees for Best Picture in their respective categories. The two Producers Guild nominees that aren't included in my top five are Road to Perdition and Greek Wedding, which I list among the Nearest Contenders, along with About Schmidt, the fifth Globe nominee for Best Picture (Drama). I would be amazed if the Academy's five slots were filled by any films outside this steady coterie; Adaptation is the only real dark horse as far as I'm concerned, and if Malkovich couldn't get nominated, this one won't have any easier path. (Far from Heaven, meanwhile, is too academic and, in director Todd Haynes' own memorable phrase, too "girly-swirly" to work here.) If my five nominees comprise the ballot, Miramax will boast half of the rosters: they produced Chicago and Gangs and split those duties with Paramount for The Hours. Variety will thus look more than ever like a vanity rag for the Weinsteins. The voting itself will be interesting, since all five films have die-hard loyalists and bitter detractors. (Even if one of my four alternates scores a nod, it cannot win.) I'm going with Chicago for now, but nothing should be discounted.
Early Winner Prediction: Chicago


BEST DIRECTOR

Alfonso Cuarón, Y tu mamá también
Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings: Two Towers
Rob Marshall, Chicago
Roman Polanski, The Pianist
Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York


Nearest Contenders
Spike Jonze, Adaptation
Stephen Daldry, The Hours
Pedro Almodóvar, Talk to Her

Dark Horses
Alexander Payne, About Schmidt
Todd Haynes, Far from Heaven
If Best Picture feels pretty settled, Best Director seems ripe for an upset. Every year except three in all of Oscar history, at least one Best Picture nominee is stranded without a Director nod, and it's usually someone the Director's Guild included (think of Baz Luhrmann last year, or Ron Howard and Ang Lee in 1995). I think Daldry is the most vulnerable "shoo-in" this year: his film is divisive, with his directorial choices drawing some of the most vocal skepticism—plus it's a woman-centered, female-skewing picture, which has been true of at least one Picture nominee whose director was snubbed in '01, '00, '98, '95, '94, '91, '90, '89, and '86 (even '97 and '96 are arguable). Predicting Cuarón is even loonier, probably, than doubting Daldry, but Y tu mamá was a huge, sexy arthouse hit, ineligible for foreign film, and Hollywood has already shown enthusiasm by handing him the Harry Potter franchise. Pedro Almodóvar, another foreign artist, could also grab a surprise spot, as could local mavericks Spike Jonze (who pulled this off in '99, when BJM itself was ignored) or Alexander Payne. If two Picture nominees are omitted here, the other casualty will be Polanksi, that rascal.
Early Winner Prediction: Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York


BEST ACTRESS
Salma Hayek, Frida
Nicole Kidman, The Hours
Diane Lane, Unfaithful
Julianne Moore, Far from Heaven
Renée Zellweger, Chicago


Nearest Contenders
Nia Vardalos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Meryl Streep, The Hours

Dark Horses
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Secretary
Kidman and Moore are non-negotiable; the race itself comes down to them. Lane is extremely likely, based on her success with Oscar precursors; apparently, the vaguest aura of class in a vehicle this debased looks to many like a major achievement. Zellweger is only vulnerable if there's backlash about her hoofing and singing, but she's been scoring all over the place lately (including her second Golden Globe). Hayek is probably the riskiest of the five leading contenders, but SAG and the BAFTAs both included her on their lists, and her would-be rivals are trailing by considerable margins: Vardalos, a possible crowd-pleaser (like Zellweger last year in Bridget Jones, though far less deserving), feels like a TV-land impostor, and Streep has received but a fraction of Kidman's Hours advertising. The darkest dark horse, and only other remote possibility, is Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose gutsy, agile, extraordinary work in Secretary will only go over with AMPAS fuddy-duddies if they're in the mood to honor fearless, strange new talent (as they did in '96, picking Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves over softer choices like Debbie Reynolds, Meryl Streep, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Early Winner Prediction: Nicole Kidman, The Hours—but please don't do this to Julianne!


BEST ACTOR

Adrien Brody, The Pianist
Michael Caine, The Quiet American
Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
Hugh Grant, About a Boy
Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt


Nearest Contenders
Campbell Scott, Roger Dodger
Nicolas Cage, Adaptation

Dark Horses
Richard Gere, Chicago
Edward Norton, 25th Hour
Robin Williams, One Hour Photo
Three locks, in order of lockdom: Nicholson, Day-Lewis, Brody. Michael Caine enjoyed this status until recently, but SAG passed. I still think, though, that actors will catch up on their Quiet American screeners, love the story about Caine browbeating the Weinsteins into releasing this film, and continue their historic affinity with this affable bloke. (He may also have the Robbins-Sarandon ardent liberal contingent sewn up.) Like Best Director, though, this race seems ripe for a surprise: Nicolas Cage is a reflex choice for his much-nominated double role in Adaptation, but I think the Academy might want to teach him a lesson about all those Con Air forays. Plus, perceived "trick" performances (Carrey in Man on the Moon, Malkovich in Being John Malkovich) don't always work here. Gere is also a knee-jerk choice given Chicago's hype, but he's not, in strict terms, a leading man, and I'm not sure he's sufficiently well-liked. I'm thinking that some underseen but fiercely loved performers have a shot, especially Scott and Norton, but I'm giving Slot #5 to Hugh Grant, who thrilled his fans and won over lots of detractors in About a Boy. Perhaps no one will think this the best performance of 2002, but many will remember it as one of their five favorites, and that's how this balloting works.
Early Winner Prediction: Adrien Brody, The Pianist—crazy, I know, but I'm starting to imagine a Jack/Daniel split...


BEST SUPP. ACTRESS

Kathy Bates, About Schmidt
Queen Latifah, Chicago
Julianne Moore, The Hours
Meryl Streep, Adaptation
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago


Runners-Up
Samantha Morton, Minority Report
Michelle Pfeiffer, White Oleander

Dark Horses
Susan Sarandon, Igby Goes Down
Patricia Clarkson, Far from Heaven
Edie Falco, Sunshine State
Toni Collette, About a Boy
A very volatile category, though Bates' dinner and hot-tub scenes assure her a spot, as does Streep's Globe win and double duty in The Hours. Zeta-Jones could stand to have more friends in town, but her Chicago razzle-dazzle should outweigh her haughty comportment this once. After that, it gets harder. Latifah has a knockout number in Chicago, which is simply a more popular film than anything she's competing against. Moore got mixed notices in The Hours, and Oscar denied her a double nod in '99; but, as Kidman gains ground in Best Actress, I think voters will want to leave room for consoling Moore here. Among the rest of the pack, Pfeiffer, long ago a projected shoo-in, lost steam completely until SAG recently boosted her chances. Morton has the benefit of appearing in a blockbuster. Everybody else here will draw strength from being so publicly prolific in '02: Sarandon redeemed three movies (though none of them were loved), Clarkson's suddenly in everything (winning two critics' prizes and a Sundance award), Collette darkened About a Boy and lit up The Hours, and Falco, beyond her LAFC-winning role in Sunshine State is a weekly guest in the homes of most voters, care of The Sopranos. This list could be anywhere from wholly predictable to utterly surprising: exciting after last year's complete lack of a contest.
Early Winner Prediction: Meryl Streep, Adaptation


BEST SUPP. ACTOR

Chris Cooper, Adaptation
Ed Harris, The Hours
Alfred Molina, Frida
Dennis Quaid, Far from Heaven
Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can


Nearest Contenders
John C. Reilly, Chicago
Paul Newman, Road to Perdition

Dark Horses
Michael Constantine, My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Ray Liotta, Narc
Cooper and Quaid need no defense. After three consecutive losses in very close races, Harris could probably squeak in for almost anything, like Robert Duvall did for A Civil Action; that The Hours is a powerhouse in itself will only help. Molina and Walken are iffier, since neither scored a Globe nod, though they both did at SAG (which, incidentally, came up with this same list of five). Reilly could still factor in, if Chicago is a total landslide (and in honor of a wide 2002 portfolio), and anyone as legendarily decent and revered as Newman shouldn't be dismissed, even if Road is no longer a juggernaut. Drawing the category from beyond this septet would constitute an eye-opener; if it happens, zany, Windex-spraying Michael Constantine or boiling, bile-spewing Ray Liotta is the likely culprit.
Early Winner Prediction: Ed Harris, The Hours


BEST ORIG. SCREENPLAY

Antwone Fisher, Antwone Fisher
Far from Heaven, Todd Haynes
Gangs of New York, Cocks/Zaillian/Lonergan
Igby Goes Down, Burr Steers
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos


Nearest Contenders
Monsoon Wedding, Sabrina Dhawan
Y tu mamá también, Alfonso & Carlos Cuarón
Talk to Her, Pedro Almodóvar

Dark Horses
Punch-Drunk Love, Paul Thomas Anderson
Roger Dodger, Dylan Kidd
Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore
Signs, M. Night Shyamalan
Sunshine State, John Sayles
The Nolan brothers are kicking themselves: Memento, which was upset last year by late arrival Gosford Park, would have waltzed to the prize this year, when Far from Heaven and My Big Fat Greek Wedding are the only definite contenders. Gangs should qualify on sheer prestige, as long as enough voters realize this is the category Miramax is pulling for; category definition is also blurry around Antwone Fisher, though sentiment for its story and its backstory will help. The year's breakout foreign films will compete for a spot, very possibly splitting the votes to evenly; Y tu mamá and Talk to Her are strong possibilities, though I'm giving the edge to the spritelier, multilingual Monsoon Wedding. But they'll also have the homegrown "independent spirit" contenders to reckon with: Roger Dodger would be a likely pick if more people saw it, or Punch-Drunk Love if fewer people hated it. For now, I'm putting money (metaphorically!) on Igby Goes Down, a prickly little pear that put me off completely, though Hollywood has buzzed about it for months. Them or me—guess whose opinion matters more?
Early Winner Prediction: My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos (that sound is me, weeping...)


BEST ADAP. SCREENPLAY

About Schmidt, Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Adaptation, Charlie & Donald Kaufman
Chicago, Bill Condon
The Hours, David Hare
The Pianist, Ron Harwood


Nearest Contenders
Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, F.Walsh, etc.

Dark Horses
Road to Perdition, David Self
Minority Report, Scott Frank & Jon Cohen
Catch Me If You Can, Jeff Nathanson
About a Boy, Hedges/Weitz/Weitz
25th Hour, David Benioff
In most years, the five "dark horses" I have listed would comprise a more than honorable field. In 2002, though, Adapted Screenplay is Oscar's most overcrowded derby, meaning not only that all five will likely be passed over, but that at least one of the six leading contenders, any of which could win, is bound to get lost. Betting against Chicago seems like a fool's errand almost anywhere, and Condon's script has received some deserved accolades—but I have a hunch that, as a musical, the material won't be received as word-driven (unlike Schmidt, Adaptation, or The Hours, none of them budging). Chicago also lacks the eloquent gravitas of The Pianist, which the Writers Guild omitted but the Academy seems less likely to. If Chicago does score here, it will be at the expense of The Two Towers, which may be penalized because most of the same adapters were nominated (and lost) last year. Tolkien purists may also be split on TTT's innovations, but the three-story balance is still audacious; meanwhile, if the rapturously beloved The Sound of Music couldn't get any love from writers in 1965, why should the darker, more divisive Chicago meet a happier fate? Almost too close to call.
Early Winner Prediction: The Hours, David Hare


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Chicago, Dion Beebe
Far from Heaven, Ed Lachman
Gangs of New York, Michael Ballhaus
Monsoon Wedding, Declan Quinn
Road to Perdition, Conrad L. Hall


Nearest Contenders
Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, Andrew Lesnie
The Pianist, Pawel Edelman
Frida, Rodrigo Prieto
Rabbit-Proof Fence, Christopher Doyle

Dark Horses
Minority Report, Janusz Kaminski
The Quiet American, Christopher Doyle
Catch Me If You Can, Janusz Kaminski
Cinematography is one of the tightest, closest races almost every year; maybe one year, the TV audience will start caring. As in Adapted Screenplay, a sterling list could be derived from my five weakest contenders here: if anything, though, the double-feats of Doyle and Kaminski will split their respective votes, to say nothing of Rodrigo Prieto, who is getting the loudest acclaim for Frida but excelled himself in 25th Hour and 8 Mile, too. Meanwhile, the top seven contenders are so preternaturally strong that any of them could win—meaning, too, that any could drop out. Lachman and the late Hall seem like the best bets. Ballhaus has the strangest track record here (nominated for Broadcast News, but not for Goodfellas, Dracula, or The Age of Innocence???), so Gangs could miss. Chicago's chances are helped by the nod afforded the even more frantic Moulin Rouge last year, and Monsoon Wedding virtually comes alive through its photography. Lesnie would be an insane omission if he hadn't won last year for essentially the first half of the same film; Edelman could easily appear, but he'll have to topple the highest-level talent in order to pull it off.
Early Winner Prediction: Road to Perdition, Conrad L. Hall (another inglorious Far from Heaven snub?...)


BEST FOREIGN FILM

Aime ton père (Switzerland)
The Crime of Father Amaro (Mexico)
Hero (China)
Kamchatka (Argentina)
Nowhere in Africa (Germany)


Runners-Up
City of God (Brazil)
The Magic Box (Tunisia)
8 Women (France)

Dark Horses
Fine Dead Girls (Croatia)
Rachida (Algeria)
Zus & Zo (The Netherlands)
Broken Wings (Israel)
Small Voices (The Philippines)
Mondays in the Sun (Spain)
The Clay Bird (Bangladesh)

Perennially a tough category to predict, since so few of the films have played commercially in the United States; I predicted four of the five correctly in 1998, but otherwise have never called more than two correctly. This year, I'm most confident about Nowhere in Africa, reputed to be beautiful and exciting, and Hero, given the committee's past enthusiasm for Zhang and its more recent smittenness with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Father Amaro is provocative and timely, and Aime ton père features the familiar faces of Gérard Depardieu and son, always a plus. The fifth slot, which I am assigning to Argentina's Kamchatka based on strong buzz around the committee screening, could go to the higher-profile City of God if it isn't too brutal; to 8 Women if the committee likes known faces and bouncy decor (worked for Amélie); or to The Magic Box if, as they so often do, they spring for a film about filmmaking. Actually, these nominees could go anywhere, though I'm at least inclined to discount festival hits like The Man without a Past, Devdas, The Son, and Lilja-4-Ever as either too dark or too strange for this demographic.
Early Winner Prediction: Nowhere in Africa (Germany)



Click here for my predictions in the other major categories...


CORRECT MAJOR-CATEGORY PREDICTIONS: 39 / 50 (78%)
(Past success rates with the top 10 categories: 78% in 2001, 70% in 2000, 74% in 1999, and 76% in 1998.)
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