There are no constants in this year's Oscar race.
But the rest--and I do mean all the rest--is up for grabs. While this may not be a big deal for some, for Oscar fanatics like me, it makes things much more difficult...and interesting. It's kind of like patting your head and rubbing your stomach simultaneously.
Oh well, I guess I'm going to actually have to think, really think, about who is going to get an Academy Award nomination when they are announced on Feb. 12. Watch out, this may hurt a little.
This is not an easy category to pick just five. Crowe is guaranteed a spot for the third year in a row with his brilliant performance as John Forbes Nash Jr. in A Beautiful Mind, as is first-timer Smith for his over-the-top portrayal of the legendary Muhammad Ali in Ali. Golden Globe winner Hackman will probably get a nod for his ailing patriarch in The Royal Tenenbaums.
Washington has been getting the accolades for his complicated villain in Training Day. It could be a good political move to nominate him--and wouldn't the press just buzz about two African-Americans being nominated in the same category?
Finally, I think Thornton will snag a nomination for his work in The Man Who Wasn't There, simply because he's turned in too many good performances this last year, including Monster's Ball and Bandits. He's got to be recognized for something, and playing the barber in the Coens' film noir was the best showcase for the actor.
Others in contention may include Tom Wilkinson's understated performance in In the Bedroom. Wilkinson certainly deserves it but the film's acting Oscar nods may go to its women, Sissy Spacek and Marisa Tomei; see below. Longshot and Golden Globe nominee John Cameron Mitchell may make the list for his colorful work as a transsexual in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but the Academy would really have to swallow hard to allow that one.
The top four are pretty much set in stone, but it's the fifth nomination that's the tricky one. Berry has been praised up and down for her performance as the troubled young widow in Monster's Ball and will most likely get her first Oscar nod. Veteran Dench keeps churning out Oscar-worthy performances year after year, and does so again this year. Dench portrays novelist Iris Murdoch, who was stricken with Alzheimer's Disease, in Iris.
The ever-popular Kidman will probably get her first nomination for her performance as the doomed courtesan Satine in the musical Moulin Rouge. Kidman put in another good turn in the creepy The Others last year, but Rouge will be her signature piece. She sings, for heaven's sake.
Oscar-winning Spacek, however, is the closest thing to a sure bet in this Oscar race. She's won just about every critic's award and the Golden Globe for her tortured mother dealing with grief in In the Bedroom, so don't be surprised if we hear another down-to-earth acceptance speech from the Texan native.
Who will get the fifth nomination? I've picked Zellweger for her chubby, wine guzzling, chain smoking heroine in Bridget Jones's Diary. The Texan was just too convincing as a British lass (think Gwyneth Paltrow). But the incredible breakout performance by Aussie actress Naomi Watts playing duel roles in Mulholland Drive might sneak in there, as might the disturbing turn by Tilda Swinton as a mother protecting her child in The Deep End.
Best Supporting Actress
Yet another really tough category to choose just five nominees: Connelly seems to be the front runner with her Golden Globe win as the patient wife in A Beautiful Mind. Many are touting Mirren's self-sacrificing servant in Gosford Park as the stand out in a cast of thousands.
Also making the cut are Tomei's performance as a mother with a rocky past in Bedroom and Winslet's portrayal of the young and feisty Iris Murdoch in Iris. Blanchett has to make the list due to the sheer volume of work she produced last year (the Billy Bob Thornton syndrome), and it's her hilarious take on a woman torn between two men in Bandits that stands out as her best.
A few others to consider could be Maggie Smith's acerbic matron in Gosford Park, Anjelica Huston and Gwyneth Paltrow as mother and daughter in The Royal Tenenbaums and possibly Cameron Diaz's jealous girlfriend in Vanilla Sky--although that's really pushing the envelope, even if she did get a Screen Actor's Guild nomination.
Best Supporting Actor
Certainly an eclectic bunch of actors, don't you think?
Broadbent leads the pack with several critic's awards and the Golden Globe for his portrayal of the elderly John Bayley, Iris Murdoch's long-suffering husband, in Iris. However, Kingsley as the evil gangster in Sexy Beast and Buscemi as the pathetic loner in Ghost World, have also been racking up points.
Voight's amazing turn as sports announcer Howard Cosell in Ali should give the veteran actor his fourth nomination. Rounding out my list is 20-year-old newcomer Christensen, for his performance as the troubled teen in Life As A House, which gives the category some fresh young meat for the voters to work with.
Ian McKellen may make the list for playing the wizard Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, a part he seemed born for. (It would be the only acting nod that the film might receive.) Jude Law's robotic gigolo in A.I. Artificial Intelligence has also been thrown around as a possibility, and wouldn't it be fun if Carl Reiner got a nomination for his hysterical con man in Ocean's Eleven? I think so.
This could be newcomer Ron Howard's year, though, with A Beautiful Mind emerging as the strong frontrunner. And even though Altman was shut out of the Director's Guild Awards, the 77-year-old Altman is certainly due for an Oscar. He probably shouldn't win for Gosford Park since it isn't his best work, but if Altman does, it'll once again prove how the Academy likes to award people for their body of work.
Although Black Hawk Down didn't ring any bells at the Golden Globes, Scott will probably make Oscar's list for the second year in a row. He's already got the DGA on his side. This leaves Jackson for Lord of the Rings and Luhrmann for Moulin Rouge, a New Zealander and an Australian, respectively, who both directed tremendous films of great undertakings. They each deserve their own spot.
The winds could shift, however, in favor of David Lynch for his twisted Mulholland Drive, or even in favor of first-time director Todd Field for his drama In the Bedroom. Interestingly, the DGA thought to give Christopher Nolan a nod for Memento, but Nolan is more likely to receive a nomination in the Best Screenplay category.
The brilliant A Beautiful Mind is on everyone's A-list and could quite possibly win it all. It'll also be refreshing to see the Academy recognize a good old fantasy epic like Lord of the Rings. Remember Star Wars? Good times...
The tense war drama Black Hawk Down should make the cut now that all the Academy voters have had a chance to see it. It's a film that appeals to the country's patriotism right now. And In the Bedroom will probably edge out Mulholland Drive in the smaller, independent film category. Bedroom is a more mainstream tragic drama while Drive is just too weird for the Academy's taste.
Shrek is definitely a long shot, but so what? If Beauty and the Beast can get an Oscar nomination, than so can this delightful animated comedy, even though it's a lock to win the animation category. Yet, a practical look at the Academy's history tips Moulin Rouge to take the fifth spot. Of course, the British comedy of manners Gosford Park might slip in, as well.
Let's see how close I get.