OSCAR 2000: MORE WINNER PREDICTIONS

Following are my ranked predictions of winners in the "technical" categories, defined here as all the races beyond those nine which I have profiled in detail on the Oscar 2000 Main Page. For each category, I've listed a brief description of exactly what aspect of filmmaking is being rewarded, followed by a list in descending order of who's likely to win, an indication of my own vote, and some brief comments in the way of rationalewhy I have forecasted the winners I have. (P.S. I hate to perpetuate the myth that the Documentary and Short Film categories are of secondary importancethey clearly reward vital areas of cinemabut I'm always in a position of complete ignorance about most or all of the nominees. I apologize for being unable to illuminate those races or recognize those accomplishments in any sincere, non-poseur way.)


BEST ART DIRECTION
Quality and coherence of sets, props, locations, color schemes, etc.; the overall "look" of the picture and creation of its visual world.

Gladiator, Arthur Max

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Michael Corenblith

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Tim Yip

Vatel, Jean Rabasse

Quills, Martin Childs

Though I think Crouching Tiger will emerge victorious in the Cinematography category, which is usually a beauty contest, I'm betting that Gladiator will corner the market on Art Direction, where size and scope can be more appropriately rewarded. Though you'd have a hard time convincing me of the excellence of Gladiator's unpersuasive matte backgrounds, bored-looking extras, and temporary-looking setsdoes Oliver Reed's slave market look like anything but a movie set?I'm confident that voters will tip their hats somehow to the film's epic aspirations. This is where they'll do it. Even The Grinch, with its candy-colored fantasy world, has a great shot here, especially since past winners like Batman and last year's Sleepy Hollow have approximated its stylized-pop aesthetic.

My Vote: VatelI admit, I haven't even seen it, which plagues the conscience a bit, but the still shots are far more impressive than what's on display elsewhere among these lackluster nominations.


BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Quality and coherence of the garments worn by characters in the film; approximation to historial periods, unity of fantasy or imaginative visions, and especially the costumes' ability to "express" aspects of character or mood are most important.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Tim Yip

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rita Ryack

Gladiator, Janty Yates

Quills, Jacqueline West

102 Dalmatians, Anthony Powell

Quills, where almost everyone wore a bedsheet, and 102 Dalmatians, which smacked suspiciously of 101 Dalmatians, are automatically out of the running. (What's with these nods, anyway?didn't the costumers attend those Vatel screenings? How about The Cell or The House of Mirth?) Anyway, the credentials of The Grinch and Gladiator are also harmed by a sense of déj vu, derived respectively from Dr. Seuss and from every film where Charlton Heston wore a burlap gunny sack. Therefore, by all counts, I'd assume Crouching Tiger has a wide lead in this field, which is as it should beTim Yip (yep, the same guy who did the art direction) had to create clothes that looked great and gave enough for the acrobatics.

My Vote: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, for the reasons just listed. Also doesn't hurt that Asian films tend to thrive here (Ran and The Last Emperor both won this prize), even when the Academy has been slow to recognize their achievements in other arenas.


BEST FILM EDITING
Precision and eloquence with which the film is assembled: how shots and sequences connect, how plotlines are arranged, pace preserved, and meaning communicated.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Tim Squyres

Gladiator, Pietro Scalia

Traffic, Stephen Mirrione

Almost Famous, Joe Hutshing & Saar Klein

Wonder Boys, Dede Allen

Certainly a race among the eligible Best Picture nominees, which is a shame in a way because Almost Famous and Wonder Boys are deserving nominees of a type that don't often get rewarded in this categoryunflashy dramas whose offbeat rhythms not only enhance the storyline but in many ways are the storyline. Nonetheless, it's flash that tends to win this award, as, ironically, does length: a 2 hour film with kinetic action sequences or complex, interwoven plotlines are dream contenders, which is why Gladiator and Traffic are very much in the race. Still, those kung-fu showdowns in Crouching Tiger are attention-grabbing feats that will likely command the most votes.

My Vote: Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonI hate to vote against Wonder Boys, especially since Allen is one of the few living geniuses of the field (and scandalously un-Oscared!), but not only is Squyres a hometown hero and Cornell alum (yay!), he had the toughest task of shaping a movie without any generic precedents. Plus, that elliptical ending is beautifully handled.


BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Rewards the composers and lyricists of songs that were written explicitly for use in a motion picture. Service to story is a bonus, but not required, since many tunes appear only over credits.

"Things Have Changed," Wonder Boys

"I've Seen It All," Dancer in the Dark

"A Fool in Love," Meet the Parents

"A Love Before Time," Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

"My Funny Friend and Me," The Emperor's New Groove

I don't mean to hold any grudge against The Emperor's New Groove, which I didn't even see, but it's thrilling to know with such certainty that, for once, the default decision to reward an animated film won't transpire. The only true contenders are a resolutely mature comedy-drama and a berserkly effective musical tragedy created by a Danish director and his Icelandic composer-star. If enough actors wanted to applaud Bjrk for all of her contributions to Dancer, she'd be a threat, but you know what? If actors had been anxious to recognize Bjrk, they would have nominated her for Best Actress. You know what else? NO ONE is going to vote against Bob Dylan, who has to be among the two or three indispensable American popular songwriters of the last fifty years. No amount of Scandinavian pixie dust, and not even Randy Newman's Lucci-esque string of 13 losses, can compete with prestige like that.

My Vote: "I've Seen It All"I adore having two supremely worthy entrants in a category I'm usually content to cancel, and Dylan really wrote a perfect Wonder Boys song, a smooth but raspy shuffle. Still, at least five of the seven songs, including "I've Seen It All," that Bjrk wrote for her film are award-caliber work, not to mention the foundation of the whole movie. Take "Things Have Changed" away and you lose a great song; take "I've Seen It All" away, and you lose a whole movie, and a great one at that.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Quality of the instrumental music used within a film and composed specifically for that purpose.

Malna, Ennio Morricone

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Tan Dun

Gladiator, Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard

Chocolat, Rachel Portman

The Patriot, John Williams

I'm not making a popular prognostication here, but I'm sticking by it, for several reasons. One, Ennio Morricone belongs among a handful of legendary film composers (think Sergio Leone, think The Mission), but he still doesn't have an Oscar, and people know that. Two, a big reason why more and more people know that is because Miramax is telling them, and when Miramax speaks, people often listen, even when they don't want to. Three, strange things have a way of happening in this category, particularly recently, when predominantly or fully foreign-language pictures like Life Is Beautiful, Il Postino, and The Red Violin have scored upset wins over Best Picture champions. Four, isn't everyone going to get tired at some point of only voting for Crouching Tiger or Gladiator in every single category? Both of those films have strong possibilities of victory, and Yo Yo Ma's involvement in Crouching Tiger's recording helps a lot, but I'm still betting on the legend.

My Vote: Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonAs in the song category, I'm pleased at the unusually high standard of all the nominees, but Tan Dun's mournful music helped both to underline Ang Lee's sequences and to clarify what the film actually is, which is an opera on film. Ennio Morricone also clarified what Malna isa wallow in bombastic, slummy nostalgiabut the less said there, the better.


BEST FOREIGN FILM
Overall quality of motion pictures; only one submitted film from each nation is accepted for consideration, from which this list of finalists is culled by a special Academy committee.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan)

Amores Perros (Mexico)

Everybody Famous! (Belgium)

The Taste of Others (France)

Divided We Fall (The Czech Republic)

It's a toss-up whether Julia Roberts' Best Actress bid or Crouching Tiger's Foreign Film nomination qualifies as the night's most foregone conclusion. Sure, it deserves to be said that foregone conclusions have a way of going elsewhere, as when Switzerland's totally unheralded Journey of Hope defeated 1990's Cyrano de Bergerac, which had scored four additional nods in mainstream categories. The very nature of dark horse winners makes it hard to determine which of the other nominees would pull off an upsetthe gory-funny Amores Perros has the most offbeat and notorious reputation, but the Belgian and French submissions fit Oscar's appetite for sweet comedies. (Foreign Film tends to be the opposite of the Documentary Race, where Serious and Important win the race, so Divided We Fall is out.) Still, the last two years have seen the high-profile films Life Is Beautiful and All About My Mother cruise to victory, so there's no reason to expect Ang Lee's opus won't do the same.

My Vote: AbstainWith only two of the films having so far reached American shores, and The Taste of Others nowhere near my town as of yet, I couldn't possibly make a responsible pick.


BEST SOUND
Clarity, richness, and power of the entire sonic regime of a filmthe combination of the dialogue, the music, the effects, and every other aural element as they are laid over each other.

Gladiator

U-571

Cast Away

The Perfect Storm

The Patriot

An easy place to reward the multi-nominated Gladiator, and in this case, the recognition seems to me well-earned. The confluence of mob sounds, clangs and clashes, dialogue, and an authoritative music score was well-negotiated throughout most of the picture, even when one wished the dialogue weren't so easy to hear. U-571 is hard to ignore if you've seen it, but many voter's will not have, and Cast Away could pick up gimmick votes as a film whose most stunning sound is conspicuous silence. No truly undeserving entrants, though citing The Patriot for anything seems beneath the dignity of even so dubious a body as the Academy.

My Vote: Gladiator, for reasons just given: the soundtrack commands respect even when the visuals and the screenplay deflect it.


BEST SOUND EFFECTS
Quality of the specific noises and sounds that are used to enhance the sonic dimensions of key scenes or objects: explosions, snaps, crackles, pops. The aural equivalents of Visual Effects.

U-571

Space Cowboys

If I can't correctly predict a two-entrant category, I should just hang it up. True, I didn't see Space Cowboys, so I don't know what the fuss is about, but the depth charge explosions in U-571 were so theater-shaking that they redeemed the whole film into believability. Submarine pics do well here (The Hunt for Red October won in 1990), as do nominees for Best Sound.

My Vote: U-571Yes, by default, but at least on this occasion with genuine enthusiasm. This movie sounded great.


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Power and believability of the devices by which a film portrays impossible events or other components of a story that cannot be filmed directly. Achievements include everything from models to computer-generated images, or CGI.

Hollow Man

The Perfect Storm

Gladiator

I haven't seen such a desolate ballot since last November, but don't get me started on that can of worms. For the time being, suffice it to say that "can of worms" is a pretty good description of Kevin Bacon's innards, whose frequent display in Hollow Man is probably the most interesting effect in this bunch, and therefore the most likely to win. Even voters who don't want to sit through all of the films can see a few seconds of Kevin's many evaporations and check this box. The Perfect Storm might win if the sexual sadism or smallish audience of Hollow Man work against it. Gladiator might win if support for that film runs to utterly absurd extremes. (Those beheadings, and those birds flying over Rome? Please.)

My Vote: Hollow Man, in the year's most dismal competition among unworthy entrantsand given the Supporting Actress and Art Direction races, which at least scrounged up one or two genuine feats for their lists, that's saying something. Hollow victory, indeed.


BEST MAKEUP
Quality of the cosmetic enhancements, including hairstyling, prosthetics, and more standard makeup products, that create a character for the viewer.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Cell

Shadow of the Vampire

Remember what I was just saying about Best Actress and Best Foreign Language Film boasting the night's most certain outcomes? Add this race to the list. Rick Baker, who made Jim Carrey's heart three sizes too small (but hopefully did not do the same for his masks, contact lenses, and rubber suits), is the perennial king of this category. He won most recently for The Nutty Professor in 1996, and he'll likely be back next year for Planet of the Apes. For now, his victory is ensured not only by his reputation, but by the far greater prevalence of makeup effects in his film than in the other nominees. Voters want all latex, all the time, and Baker gives it to 'em. Above all, he doesn't give them the bleached and Frankenstein-stitched corpses of nude girls, which will steer tape-watchers far from The Cell, and he doesn't reprise, as Vampire seems to do, the backlot horror-satire macabre of Ed Wood, which won the Makeup Oscar in 1994for Rick Baker.

My Vote: The CellSure, The Grinch has more makeup, but The Cell is working without a net (we already knew what the Grinch, the Whos, and Nosferatu looked like) and to greater creative effect. Turning Willem Dafoe into Max Schreck, or Jim Carrey into a green Flokati rug, is a parlor trick; imagining the rococo delusions of a psychotic mindscape, however unsettling, is helping to tell a story.


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