Try as I might, I just couldn't avoid it. I wore a hat, ate right, washed my hands several times a day, and wiped the phone each time someone else used it. Still … I caught it.
I have Oscar fever!
I am making my predictions early so, if I'm right, you can say you heard it here first. If I'm not right, well … that just can't happen because I've got someone's college tuition and a mortgage riding on my picks. (OK, maybe it's only a crisp $20, but times are tight!)
Chicago went haywire with 13 nominations, one shy of Titanic's record of 14. The only missing nod from the bunch here was one for Richard Gere.
On a high note, it's nice to see women rule as Gere's co-stars Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah all garnered nominations. Everyone in the cast is saying it wouldn't have happened without the uncanny sensibilities of Rob Marshall, the film's director. They're probably right because, although their performances are strong, it's the whole sensory experience that makes this film a classic. We Owe One to Scorsese
Chicago will most certainly win Best Picture (prediction numero uno), but it's not likely that Mr. Marshall will see victory as its director, not because he doesn't deserve it, but because Martin Scorsese is nominated for Gangs of New York and the Oscar has eluded Martin on many occasions.
Whether he deserves it or not for Gangs, Scorsese is the sentimental favorite and he's practically a shoe-in (prediction numero dos). Of course the category is loaded with other talented men including Roman Polanski for The Pianist. No matter how good that film may be, let's face it, he isn't taking a Hollywood Holiday unless he wants to spend his latter days really living the HBO series, Oz.
In 1977, Polanski was embroiled in a scandal over having sex with a 13-year-old model, and rather than face the charges, he fled the country, where he's continued his career. If he steps onto U.S. soil, officials say he'll be arrested immediately. The Academy so poo-poos people who don't pick up their awards in person, so Roman's a no-show/no-go as far as I can see.
The other fellows up for best director, Stephen Daldry for The Hours and Pedro Almodovar for Talk to Her have to be happy just getting nominated. Moore Can’t Be Doubly Disappointed As for the ladies, Nicole Kidman seems, to the awards show novice, the likely frontrunner for best actress for her powerful performance in The Hours. However, Julianne Moore was outstanding in Far From Heaven and with a double nomination (one in the Supporting category for The Hours) she's got to walk away with something.
Moore's career has been stellar, and it is likely she will squeeze by Nicole and win the bigger prize of the two (numero tres).
I said weeks ago that Diane Lane deserved a nomination for Unfaithful. But that's as far as she'll get. Salma Hayek also got the Academy's howdy-do for Frida. That's the Oscar-end for her as well, but the recognition will open a door of juicy acting opportunities for these ladies so that should suffice as just reward. I anticipate though, as a side bet, that Diane Lane will receive an Oscar at some point in her career.
Zellweger's tappin' and tunin' in Chicago was awesome, but you cannot compare a singing and dancing role to the angst-filled, anguish-ridden performances demonstrated by the actresses in the more dramatic roles in this category. Renee is young and she'll recover from the loss. Lucky 13 for Streep Meryl Streep might have joined those other ladies in the best actress category for The Hours. But she had to settle for a supporting actress nod for her work in Adaptation.. But it was a history-making honor. She passed Katharine Hepburn as the most nominated actress in Oscar history with a whopping 13 nominations, 10 in lead categories and three in supporting. I'm such a fan that if Streep read a soup can label, I'm sure her heartfelt rendering of "monosodium glutamate" would make me shed a tear.
I'll tell you now, she'll walk away with this one and becomes the greatest actress of our time. Why? Because the Academy loves to make or break records.
Regarding the other supporting lasses, Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah were fun, but they both already knew how to sing and dance and they had too much fun making the movie. Kathy Bates, on the other hand, couldn't have found exposing her less-than-waifish figure in About Schmidt to be fun, but she did it. This brings her back to people's minds as a solid older actress, but that's all it does. If You Bet Against Nicholson, You Don’t Know Jack Let's face it, folks, Streep owns this one. And speaking of owning, Jack Nicholson is probably clearing his bottle of Valium from the shelf to make room for his next trophy. His About Schmidt performance is perhaps the most talked about of his career. It was "un-Jack" they say, which is quite an accomplishment, if you're as Jack as Jack is.
The other guys are praiseworthy, of course. Michael Caine gets nominated every time he goes to the bathroom practically, so his nomination for The Quiet American validates his work for this calendar year. Nicholas Cage was great in Adaptation, but quirky is recognizable more than awardable.
Daniel Day Lewis was just too dirty for me in Gangs. Although he was excellent, he's seen victory before for roles that many would consider much more memorable (My Left Foot). Adrien Brody in The Pianist was extraordinary, but he's just 29 which makes the Academy figure he'll be around long enough to win in another year. So, it's a Jack attack all the way. (Prediction five for those scoring at home).
For supporting men, reality bites. Chris Cooper in Adaptation was fantabulous. Speaking coherently sans teeth is award-worthy alone, but this is his first nod and the Academy may figure that's enough for now. Ed Harris got a previous nomination — but not a win — for Pollack His role in The Hours ensured him the nomination, but it still might not be enough to get him over the hump.
Christopher Walken got nominated for Catch Me If You Can because the movie had to get something. Walken was good, but hasn't turned out anything spectacular since Deer Hunter and getting a nomination was enough. John C. Reilly is like a Visa … "everywhere you wanna be." The only movie he wasn't in last year I think is Undercover Brother. He's really coming onto the scene heavy and this nomination clearly states that he's an acting force to be reckoned with in the future. The nom will have to be enough for now, though.
This leaves us Paul Newman, the Godfather of 2002 in Road To Perdition. He's old, he's handsome. He's had a banner career. He's a class act. And he's a winner here (Prediction No. 6).
I could grapple with best original song, editing and sound effects, but just like you don't want to wade through them on Oscar night, you probably won't want to read about them now. (U2 for "The Hands That Built America" in Gangs of New York, Chicago, and Lord of the Rings … I'm Just Sayin'!)
So there you have it. If this column seems long, remember, you may already know who the winners are and it didn't take you nearly four hours to find out.
Heidi Oringer is director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio.