Showbiz Commentary: Heidi Oringer

It's all about love, baby. Not leftover Valentines kind of love, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' love for the nominees for the 73rd annual Academy Awards.

The list of hopefuls was announced Wednesday at the very crack of dawn Pacific Time, with Academy honchos and "Geez, where's SHEEEE been?" actress Kathy Bates doing the honors.

There were no big surprises, no glaring omissions, no startling revelations, nothing that Hollywood thrives on. The Best Picture nominees are Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Gladiator and Traffic.


Not a Lot to Choose From …

From a personal standpoint, I don't think they had much to choose from to begin with. As I have said before, 2000 was not the best year for flicks. Many would disagree, of course. (Anything to pick a fight with me.) Obviously the academy agrees somewhat, because it bestowed 12 nominations on Gladiator and 10 on Tiger.

Gladiator was good. Epics are always good. There's the tremendous production package, which is always sure to please for its sheer grandiosity. After all, everyone lost their water over Titanic just a few years back, and it swept the Oscars. Again, it's an epic. But, I ask you, had it not been for RUSSELL CROWE being THE Gladiator, would the movie have been given such kudos, epic or not? Do you think Woody Allen would have commanded the same attention if he had been the one clad in armor and brandishing a sword?! Nuh-uh! "Oy, get this helmet off of me. I'm getting a migraine. Call my neurologist!"

Then, take away Hans Zimmer's sweeping score, the Coliseum set and what are you left with? Lots of dirty extras, lots of weapons, lots of clanking noises, a fair script at best. Take a closer look and now it's a violent Robin Hood sans the tights.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is another good movie, but I'm spoiled. I like my films in English. This movie certainly deserves awards bestowed upon it for direction, effects and the like, but is it really the BEST motion picture of the year? This is another case where Hollywood takes something exciting and turns it into the be-all and end-all. Give this movie too much steam and all you'll see is Crouching This and Hiding That films in the future. (Actually this sounds more like the sure-win formula for the porno industry ?) Remember, what the academy rewards today is what the moviegoer gets in quadruplicate tomorrow.

Too Much Tom!

On the acting front ? Tom Hanks picked up a Best Actor nomination for Cast Away. Yawn! Before you all start pulling out your soccer balls to bean me in the head, let me say I love Tom and think he's an amazing actor. But, enough already! The academy members would nominate this guy if he went to the bathroom on film. They'd probably give him a nomination for the re-release of Bachelor Party. Forget film, they'd nominate him for work on Viewmaster.

Russell Crowe deserved his Best Actor nomination, but won't win because he's seen as destroying Meg Ryan's marriage. The academy can punish, you know. Ed Harris is great in Pollack, but in order to win an Oscar, people have to see the movie. Geoffrey Rush is a genius in Quills, but again, in order to win, the movie's got to be viewed. Javier Bardem is nothing less than stellar in Before Night Falls. But when the movie-going public hears the nomination and says "Before Mice Fall ? what's that?," it means the film didn't get enough publicity. Therefore its stars don't have a great chance at winning Oscars.

Actresses: Joan Allen in The Contender, Juliette Binoche for Chocolat, Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream, Laura Linney for You Can Count on Me and Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich. All these women were excellent in their roles. There was no one else TO nominate in this category. Here's how I see this playing out: Joan Allen, not enough hype. Juliette Binoche, too much hype. Ellen Burstyn, not enough people know the movie. Laura Linney, not enough people know her. Julia Roberts, given. Sorry, but it's a snore, folks.

I'd like to get everyone juiced about the Best Director category, as Mr. Steven Soderbergh socked away nominations for TWO, count 'em, two, films — Erin Brockovich and Traffic. A director nominated twice AND both films nominated for Best Picture as well — that's never happened before. I'd give you a chance to catch your breath from the overwhelming excitement of this, but there's no point getting worked up for nothing. You see, Soderbergh is likely doomed.

Logically, you'd think he'd have a double shot at gold, but there's a little hitch. If some academy members give him nods for one movie and some for the other, they could cross each other out, wherein that leaves Ang Lee for Tiger, Stephen Daldry for Billy Elliot and Ridley Scott for Gladiator. The dog was merely thrown the bone in Daldry's case, as the academy had to recognize Elliot for something. Scott's got a good chance, but if the academy holds him responsible for Crowe's bad behavior (grudges are nasty, especially academy grudges), then he gets shafted by Oscar instead of getting a ride home with him. I say Ang's gonna be a happy camper on this one.

Hoping for Fashion Faux Pas

Of course, there may be no big thrills from the actual awards, but there's always the good and BAD fashion, the likelihood that it will actually be the longest show in the history of television broadcasting, and funny quips from a brand new host (we hope). Steve Martin is taking on the master of ceremony responsibilities, which could prove to be one of the best or worst (i.e., remember David Letterman and Whoopi Goldberg?) things about the entire event.

Guess we have to sit and wait. No need to bite our nails, develop ulcers or try to masquerade the nervous twitch. We can leave that to the Oscar contenders because it's not our hinds on the line.

All we have to do is reserve the Barcolounger and the remote for March 25 and hope, for their sake, the satisfaction is really in just being nominated. Because come night's end, that's all many of these people are going to be left with.

CORRECTION: In my last column, I mistakenly described Survivor II cast member Jeff Varner as a homosexual. I regret the error.

Heidi Oringer is director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio.