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Academic Pursuit 

I like the ritual of the Academy Awards as well as anybody. If I can, I usually watch. But I must quickly add that Hollywood's judgment about whom and what to celebrate is no sounder than its judgment about most of the product it produces. Yes, the Academy has selected well at times. Shakespeare in Love, for instance. Schindler's List. But the voters are just as often almost laughably wrong. It's hard to take an awards process seriously that can give a Best Picture Oscar to either Braveheart or Gladiator. And that should tell you something about my skills as a prognosticator. The taste of the Academy is at such variance with my own that I'm a notoriously bad barometer of what's going to happen on awards night. Nonetheless, in the spirit of the season, I offer the following observations.

Best Picture: A Beautiful Mind, Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and Moulin Rouge. Who will win: From all indications, the Oscar will go to A Beautiful Mind. Concerns have been raised about the picture's skewing of facts, but a late campaign blitz seems to be turning the tide. Who should win: Gosford Park. What should have been nominated that wasn't: Ghost World and Memento.

Best Actor: Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind; Sean Penn, I Am Sam; Will Smith, Ali; Denzel Washington, Training Day; Tom Wilkinson, In the Bedroom. Who Will Win: Crowe got the Screen Actors Guild Award, so he's the clear favorite. He's not particularly popular, though, and he won last year. Who Should Win: In a very strong field, I'd vote for Tom Wilkinson.

Best Actress: Halle Berry, Monster's Ball; Judi Dench, Iris; Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge; Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom; and Renee Zellweger, Bridget Jones' Diary. Who will win: Berry won the Screen Actors Guild Award and will win the Oscar, too, as she should despite strong competition from Spacek and Zellweger. Who should have been nominated but wasn't: Thora Birch, Ghost World.

Best Supporting Actor: Jim Broadbent, Iris; Ethan Hawke, Training Day; Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast; Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; and Jon Voight, Ali. Who will win: The word on the street is Ian McKellen, both to reward him for a long distinguished career and to reserve at least one major award for his film which will otherwise be confined to the technical categories. Who should win: hands down, Ben Kingsley. His was one of the most galvanizing performances of the year, lead or supporting. Missing: Steve Buscemi, Ghost World; Golden Globe winner Gene Hackman, The Royal Tenenbaums.

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind; Helen Mirren, Gosford Park; Maggie Smith, Gosford Park; Marisa Tomei, In the Bedroom; and Kate Winslet, Iris. Who will win: Helen Mirren will have to overcome the drag of Maggie Smith's nomination from the same film, but I think she'll prevail in a squeaker over Jennifer Connelly. Who should win: Mirren, who has never been accorded the recognition her vast talent deserves.

Best Director: Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind; Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down; Robert Altman, Gosford Park; Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; and David Lynch, Mulholland Drive. Who will win: Ron Howard captured the award from the Director's Guild and is a heavy favorite in a town where he's always been popular. Who should win: I'd vote for Altman because he ought to get this award at least once. The real best director, though, was probably Jackson. Who should have been nominated but wasn't: Terry Zwigoff, Ghost World; Christopher Nolan, Memento.

Animated Film: Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius; Monsters, Inc.; and Shrek. What will win: Shrek. What should win: Count me among those who don't give a muskrat's toenail. No Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King in this contest.

Best Foreign Film: Amelie, France; Elling, Norway; Lagaan, India; No Man's Land, Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Son of the Bride, Argentina. Who will win: almost certainly Amelie, the only film with wide play. Who should win: Who knows? Only Amelie has opened here, and besides that, only No Man's Land has received much notice anywhere.

Adapted Screenplay: Akiva Goldsman, A Beautiful Mind; Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff, Ghost World; Rob Festinger and Todd Field, In the Bedroom; Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; and Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman and Roger S.H. Schulman, Shrek. Who will win: Festinger and Field. Who Should Win: Clowes and Zwigoff.

Original Screenplay nominees: Guillaume Laurant and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Amelie; Julian Fellowes, Gosford Park; Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, Memento; Milo Addica and Will Rokos, Monster's Ball; and Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, The Royal Tenenbaums. Who will win: Addica and Rokos. Who should win: the Nolans.

click to enlarge Gosford Park, featuring Ryan Phillippe and Kristin Scott Thomas, deserves (but won't win) Best Picture honors.
  • Gosford Park, featuring Ryan Phillippe and Kristin Scott Thomas, deserves (but won't win) Best Picture honors.
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