March 24, 2000
Previewing Oscar 2000 - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER -- This Sunday, a billion people across the world will tune into the 72nd Annual Academy Awards. Those reading the column for a while will note the only other piece Iíve done about the Oscars was about a month ago when the nominations came out. Why a lack of columns on the Oscars, The biggest showbiz event in all of showbiz? Well, for one thing itís been a bit yawner, there isnít a Titanic in the running. Last yearís race had a bit of suspense, even though Shakespeare In Love would cart away the big winner. Shakespeare had 13 nominations (the most) going into the race. This year the big nod-getter is American Beauty with 8 nominations.
The race is interesting to say the least. The Green Mile and The Cider House Rules were the real shoo-ins three months ago. The buzz died, and just before nominations morning it was considered that their fate was sealed and some other pictures would be getting major nods. Alas, Mile and Cider came in with seven nominations each, 2nd only to American Beauty. American Beauty is seen as the masterpiece of the year. Itís destined to win Best Picture, simply because of itís terrific direction by Sam Mendes, performances by Annette Bening and Kevin Spacey. It also made people think and the audience come to the local cineplex. Itís the biggest shoo-in for Best Picture right behind Sam Mendes winning for Best Director.
One scenario popped up this past week from TV Guide. I hardly hold any stock in what they have to say, but their little situation does seem intriguing. In the Best Picture race they handicap the race by having The Cider House Rules and The Green Mile at 3-1, while American Beauty at 4-1! Entertainment Weekly the most trusted of show biz sources handicaps the race differently. It pegs Beauty at 2-1, but puts Cider House at 5-2. It sides with Beauty winning, but warns us not to count out Cider House. EWís diagnosis is much more bearable and acceptable, as they handicap Mile at 15-1 with The Sixth Sense and The Insider in-between. TV Guide is out of whack and off their rocker.
On the Actor front, it looked like Denzel Washingtonís to lose, and guess what? It is. After winning the Golden Globe and the stink over the filmís ďpoetic licenceĒ, Washingtonís chances for the Oscar have diminished. Kevin Spaceyís win of the Screen Actorís Guild award (the most accurate determiner of Oscar winners), will win Spacey the Oscar handily. The other one that folks are trying to say has the second best chance is Russell Crowe for his work as The Insider. His chances are better than Washingtonís, as what the bookies are saying. Spacey will become a two-time Oscar winner come Sunday night. Others in the category: Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story and Sean Penn for Woody Allenís Sweet and Lowdown.
Both Janet McTeer for Tumbleweeds and Hilary Swank for Boys Donít Cry, won Golden Globes for Best Actress. But as is the bating average for the Globes, their winners never seem to go on to get Oscars, save Helen Hunt and Gwyneth Paltrow who won Globes for Comedy. McTeer won the Comedy actress Globe, but her chances for the Oscar are slim. Count her out. The race is simply between Annette Bening (American Beauty) and Hilary Swank who won the Drama Globe, but the Drama winners havenít won Oscars in years. Swank has won rave reviews for playing a gender-confused murder victim, but Bening won that all-important SAG award last week. Iíve put money on Swank, but I think itís still up in the air. Iíd pick Bening if I were you.
Supporting Actor is an interesting race, because itís got a great mix of actors. Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile) and Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley) have had good performances this year, but they arenít really worth considering since theyíve got careerís ahead of them. Why reward them now, when they have forever? Michael Caine, whoís won before, is nominated this year for The Cider House Rules. Heís already taken home the SAG award, so heís got a decent chance for the Oscar. Tom Cruise is being hailed for his small role in Magnolia, plus heís won the Golden Globe. But, Tom also fits in the category of Duncan and Law. Heís been nominated before and yet has had the chance to win. This doesnít seem like the role an actor would want to get an Oscar for. (See: Paul Newman who failed to win until he reached sixty, or Richard Burton who croaked before he could win.) Then again, he could win just because. The other nominee is the one folks are watching for. 11-year old Haley Joel Osment who wowed folks in The Sixth Sense. People are saying heís got a good shot at it, and itís really between him and Cruise. Iíve put dough on Michael Caine, just because he wasnít nominated last year for Little Voice. I think it should be Osmentís Oscar, just because that big big role that Tom will do years from now, will be his Oscar winner.
In the Best Supporting Actress category, Iíve picked Angelina Jolie, because sheís won the Golden Globe, the SAG and everything else in sight. EW says that Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense) has a bigger shot than Jolie, which is baffling, because her profile only surfaced after the nods were handed out. The real second shot, shoo-ins are Chloe Sevigny for Boys Donít Cry or Catherine Keener for Being John Malkovich. Keener is a relative unknown, so her chances are shot, Sevigny is really riding on the coattails of Hilary Swankís attention. I canít really see anyone but Jon Voightís daughter winning. (Angelina Jolie.)
Donít think Iíll be right, because I was the guy who said Gordon Wilson would be Premier right now and that Jean Chrťtien would have retired. Ah, well.
Anyways, I started off the piece saying it would be a lacklustre year. (The Oscarís lacklustre?) But, itíll be an exciting evening. In dissecting the major races, itíll be interesting. Billy Crystal is back as host, plus theyíve dumped Gil Cates, the showís long-time producer and replaced him with Richard and Lili Fini Zannuck, film producers. Dick and Lili have already added their own touch by gutting the annoying dance numbers and adding a full-time announcer.
One of the things that make the Oscars a worth-while show are the celebrities. Sure, they have celebs all the time, but Iím talking of big-time celebs like Sophia Lorenís triumphant appearance last year, or walk-onís by Jack Nicholson or Barbra Striesand. Those booked already to make an appearance: Chow Yun-Fat, Samuel L. Jackson, Heather Graham, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Brad Pitt, Roberto Benigni, Jim Coburn, Mike Myers, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Steven Spielberg, Tobey Maguire, Cate Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Kevin Spacey, Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore, Keanu Reeves, Haley Joel Osment and Jane Fonda. (Fonda will make her first appearance as a presenter since the late 80ís.) Stay tuned for surprises, as are the Oscar custom.
Warren Beatty will receive the Irving G. Thalberg award and Polish director, Andrezj Wajda will win the Honorary Oscar. A surprise musical number will star Garth Brooks, Ray Charles, Issac Hayes, Whitney Houston and Queen Latifah doing a medley of love songs that have previously won Oscars. That number has been conceived by Oscar-winning song writer Burt Bacharach and Don Was. Stay tuned for that, as well as Billyís opening film and opening musical number. Watch the damned show, anyways. Itíll be boring, yet fun. Youíll kick yourself if you miss it, Iím sure.
The Oscars are this Sunday, March 26th with a 30-minute pre-show hosted by Meredith Viera, Tyra Banks and Chris Connelly at 5:00 PM, precisely on ABC.
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