Scott Hardie | December 1, 2003
Is it too early to begin predicting the next Oscar winners? Not for bored obsessives like me, and not when there isn't much else to discuss around here. :-) There are only three months till the awards, since they've been bumped up to February this year. I've been reading some early Oscar predictions elsewhere and I'm ready to make my own. Let's start with the easy ones.

LEAD ACTOR: The Academy has always liked to give Oscars to the people who have been nominated before without winning, but that's been especially true in the past few years: Roman Polanski, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, and even Russell Crowe are considered to have won their recent Oscars because of sympathy for having "lost" in the past, whether or not their current achievements were award-worthy. That's why I see Tom Cruise winning in three months: Like Julia Roberts, he has long been denied credit for his acting talent because he's such a big movie star, and he has been nominated three times now without a win. Besides, his competition is weak: Michael Caine (again), Russell Crowe (again), Jack Nicholson (again), Ben Kingsley (again), Jude Law, Ewan McGregor? None of these guys can stand up to Tom Cruise if the Academy perceives this to be Tom's year. The only spoiler I see is Bill Murray. And don't even consider the guys from "Mystic River;" their politics will be fatal to their chances of winning.

LEAD ACTRESS: Same story. Nicole Kidman has the most Oscar buzz at the moment and she's in a Miramax film, but having just won in 2003 because voters perceived her to have been "robbed" of a deserved Oscar in 2002, she's unlikely to win again in 2004. Jennifer Connelly and Julia Roberts are likely nominations, but also just won recently. Charlize Theron and Uma Thurman are both good in their parts, but the depravity of their films will prevent them from winning. Meg Ryan has probably been forgotten by now. I see Scarlett Johanssen winning (for "Lost in Translation," not "Girl with the Pearl Earring"), with Diane Keaton her only strong competition. Scarlett's age definitely works against her. We might see Keisha Castle-Hughes snag that oddball fifth nomination, but don't count on it.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Here's where the previous-loser trend will help "Cold Mountain" win an Oscar: Renée Zellweger is well-liked by the Academy, and I think the third time will be the charm for her. Jessica Lange, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, Christina Ricci, Amanda Peet (maybe), Tilda Swinton, and certainly any of the young co-stars of "Mona Lisa Smile" are the competition, plus one or two weird nominees from left field.

SUPPORTING ACTOR: This is a harder call at this point. If Albert Finney is seen as a supporting actor instead of a lead, he's probably the early front-runner. (I would assume so, but I thought Nicole Kidman was the support and Meryl Streep & Julianne Moore were the leads in "The Hours.") The other apparent possibilities are all unlikely: Djimon Hounsou? Ian McKellen? Alec Baldwin? Ron Eldard? Ken Watanabe? Keanu Reeves? This may be the first time that this category has less than five nominees. :-)

PICTURE: Cold Mountain, Big Fish, Mystic River, and The Return of the King are the obvious nominees. Lost in Translation, House of Sand and Fog, The Company, The Last Samurai, Mona Lisa Smile, and The Statement are decent possibilities. The long shots are In America, Something's Gotta Give, Master and Commander, and why not, Whale Rider. It's too early to predict a winner with any confidence, so I'll take the easy route and predict the Miramax film, Cold Mountain. The early buzz is on Return of the King, but I doubt it.(This award will get much easier to predict next month.)

DIRECTOR: This list usually matches the Best Picture list, four for five, so expect Anthony Minghella, Clint Eastwood, and Peter Jackson to be nominated. Edward Zwick and Robert Altman are also strong possibilities here. Tim Burton is widely beloved, but I think that may be barely enough to get him nominated; he almost certainly cannot win. The only director who I see beating out her own material (that is, winning Best Director but losing Best Picture) is Nancy Meyers, whose film clearly comes very much from within herself. Unless the Academy just takes it easy and gives the Best Director award to the Best Picture winner like they often do, I see Meyers winning this with a popular upset. Again, the buzz is with Peter Jackson, who does have the previous-loser trend behind him, but it will take some serious campaigning from New Line to make it happen. The Academy didn't deny Jackson the Oscar the first two times because "they're waiting till the third time to honor his trilogy all at once" like some deluded fans have said; they denied him the Oscar because they didn't think he deserved it. If that's true, then he won't get it the third time either.

ANIMATED FILM: "Finding Nemo." What, does "Les Triplettes de Belleville" stand a chance in Hell?

DOCUMENTARY: I don't know enough to predict them all, but I expect to see "Spellbound" and "Capturing the Friedmans" to be nominated, and maybe "Stevie." This category has so many bullshit technicalities in its rules that you never know what will come up.

VISUAL EFFECTS: On Oscar night, I will be rooting in vain for the Matrix sequels. "Return of the King," your Oscar is polished and ready.

Scott Hardie | December 6, 2003
Let the backlash against Cruise (prematurely) begin. This article is one of several recent items I've read that blast Cruise's acting talent. I disagree, but I don't make the buzz, I just observe it.

Reuven Roslynn | December 23, 2003
sean penn is the only lock for his award. i'm in NYU's TISCH, and myself and much of my class was outright blown away by his performance in Mystic River, which is my pick to win best picture with peter jackson winning best director. (eastwood already won in '92) 21 grams is spectacular as well, and with house of sand & fog receiving mixed reviews, 21 grams seems to run the table for the years independent bid. naomi watts wont win, but should for her stunning performance.

mystic river, lotr and cold mountain are locks. i think that 21 grams will take the independent spot and finding nemo will squeeze into the musical or comedy. big fish is more of oscar's type, but tim burton is guaranteed a director nom, but his film wont be enough to get both of them nominated.

director: expect, jackson, eastwood, minghella, burton and alejandro gonzalez innaritu (who rightfully should win but won't.)

jim sheridan may sneak in for in america because it's based on his life's journey which oscar respects. gus van sant is a distant for elephant, but id be happily surpised if hes nominated. zwick and weir's films sucked too much.

del toro should win for 21 grams, but finney will win for a cancer patient (oscar's bitch) for big fish.

gay harden are laura linney will split votes. scarlet johanson is only the second hottest blonde, so zellweger will win for cold mountain.

sofia coppola will win best original, brian helgeland will win best adapted screenplay for mystic river, even though matchstick men deserves the award!

Mike Eberhart | December 23, 2003
I think Tom Cruise is an OK actor. He's in that category of a Kevin Costner. He plays the same character in just about every movie. Don't get me wrong, I like most of Tom Cruise's movies, it's just I don't think he's going to blow anyone away with a performance.

Scott Hardie | December 24, 2003
Welcome to the site, Reuven. Good picks. "21 Grams" is the dark horse... It could get numerous nominations, or it could get none. I think its best bet is Benicio Del Toro, on account of the supporting actor field being so weak.

So much changes in just three weeks. Since I started this discussion, "The Last Samurai" opened to a lukewarm response, and while I still think Tom Cruise will be nominated, I no longer expect him to win. "Mona Lisa Smile" opened to awful reviews and low ticket sales, so Julia Roberts is a real long-shot at this point, as is anyone else associated with that film.

If Nancy Meyers or Sofia Coppola gets nominated for directing (especially if they both do), expect a lot of the buzz this year to be about a female director having a rare shot at an Oscar, like the buzz on Halle Berry two years ago for being a rare black female acting nominee. Personally, I hope they both get nominated.

Stick around, Reuven: When the nominees are announced in one month, this site will have a Predict the Oscars contest; I think you'll do well.

My feeling on Tom Cruise is that he probably is a talented actor (you see glimpses of it in films like "Born on the Fourth of July" and "Magnolia"), but he's become very bankable (literally never starred in an unprofitable movie) by playing the likeable rebel, and he doesn't feel the yearning to break free from his mold that a lot of actors do. That mold has been very good to him, after all. I think he's trying to look for an Oscar-winning role within that mold, so he'll continue to make ostensibly artistic films like "The Last Samurai" that, oh yeah, just happen to be bankable as well. :-)

Jackie Mason | December 25, 2003
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