Oscar Predictions Galore
You Guessed It - I'm Still Broke

Should be a short one this week. I still have no job, which means no extra money, which means no new music. I should be able to pick up the new Supergrass album by next week’s column, thanks to a few temporary jobs, but after that, I have no idea. I hope you’re all really interested in my thoughts on life outside the music world, ’cause you’re probably gonna get them for a while.

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I am always surprised when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gets it right come Oscar time. By and large, they did a decent job this year, and in fact dropped one or two big surprises. Here are my thoughts and predictions:

As I mentioned before, I think Chicago has Best Picture all but wrapped up. Naturally, the Academy ignored the best and most original picture of the year, Adaptation, offering it only a Best Actor nomination for Nicolas Cage (well deserved) and a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination, which is just plain weird. Adaptation‘s script certainly would not exist without Susan Orlean’s novel, but it uses its source more as a launching pad for a metaphorical and metaphysical head trip. It’s a much more original script, one can argue, than some of the nominees in that category: My Big Fat Greek Wedding, for example, which floats on creaky ethnic humor and low-rent charm, or Gangs of New York, a typical revenge flick.

I’m glad to see The Two Towers nominated, because the second installment in Jackson’s trilogy does the tango all over the first one. For the life of me, I can’t figure out the widespread acclaim that Scorsese’s Gangs of New York is getting, especially since Daniel Day-Lewis (justly nominated for Best Actor) carried the film all by himself. Without his presence, the film would have been just another you-killed-my-father-now-I’m-going-to-kill-you slice of vengeance-schlock. In fact, it still is, but Day-Lewis is mesmerizing, the one bright light in an overwrought, overproduced misfire.

As for The Hours and The Pianist, well, I haven’t seen them, but both seem like prestigious films that won’t appeal to most Academy voters. I think Chicago is going to ride its toe-tapping vibe to a victory, for Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay, at least, and maybe a few acting awards. Those categories are harder to predict, but here goes:

It’s between Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson for Best Actor, I think, unless Adrien Brody’s performance is everything people are saying it is. This category contains five well-respected performances, in fact, including class act Michael Caine’s in The Quiet American (which I also haven’t yet seen), but I’m giving the edge to Nicholson, especially considering that a) the Academy loves him and b) his film, About Schmidt, didn’t ride its positive buzz to Picture, Screenplay or Director nominations. Unless Day-Lewis upsets, Nicholson should get the prize.

Best Actress is similarly close, but I have to go with Nicole Kidman, who has really stepped out in recent years as a superb and fearless actress. Besides, The Hours is not going to win Best Picture, and Zellweger will likely have to make do with sharing in Chicago‘s top honor. I am kind of baffled by Salma Hayek’s appearance here, especially considering her phenomenal Frida co-star, Alfred Molina, is nowhere to be found. The film, unfortunately, concentrated its efforts on Molina’s portrayal of Diego Rivera, and gave short shrift to the title heroine. It’s odd, but Hayek, who did a passable job, was a supporting actress in a film named after her character, and really doesn’t belong here.

Both Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress are up in the air. I hope the Academy follows the Golden Globes in honoring Chris Cooper’s terrific performance in Adaptation, but my money’s on Paul Newman to collect Road to Perdition‘s one Oscar. (More on this later.) Likewise, while Kathy Bates is cleaning up in other awards shows, I think the Academy will go with Catherine Zeta-Jones as the first sign of Chicago‘s sweep. Julianne Moore won’t win here either, which is a shame – she’s swell, no matter what she does.

Sorry, Scorsese, but I think they’re gonna give Best Director to Rob Marshall, and likewise grant Bill Condon a statue for his adapted screenplay for Chicago. (Much as I’d like to see Charlie Kaufman and his imaginary brother Donald collect the award, Adaptation really doesn’t belong here.) And while it’s really cool to see both Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien and Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her nominated here, I think the Academy will hand Scorsese’s directing award to his screenwriters: Jay Cocks, Steve Zaillian and Kenneth Lonergan.

So, to recap, here are my predictions:

Best Picture: Chicago

Best Actor: Jack Nicholson

Best Actress: Nicole Kidman

Best Supporting Actor: Paul Newman

Best Supporting Actress: Catherine Zeta-Jones

Best Director: Rob Marshall

Best Original Screenplay: Gangs of New York

Best Adapted Screenplay: Chicago

Okay, one jeer and one cheer, and then I’m done.

The Academy’s tendency to forget any film released before September often causes good films to go overlooked, but I think this is the first time in recent memory that a great one has slipped through the cracks. Poor Sam Mendes, who snatched up Best Picture and Best Director for his slipshod debut American Beauty, knocked it out of the park on his follow-up, Road to Perdition. As I mentioned earlier, Paul Newman received the film’s only nomination, and that’s criminal. Had this movie come out in late December, it would have undoubtedly nabbed one of the five Best Picture noms. This is one of the few examples I can cite of a film turning out better than its source – in this case, a decent graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner – and should not have been snubbed. Road to Perdition is a great film, perhaps second only to Adaptation as the year’s best.

But they did get one thing very, very right. The Academy gave raconteur Michael Moore his first Oscar nomination for his incredible, searing documentary Bowling for Columbine, and I hope he wins it. I’ve said it before, but Columbine is a film that every American should see – it examines our culture of violence and fear in a frightening, yet surprisingly even handed way. It’s scary, hilarious and moving, and a real achievement for Moore, and he deserves to be honored for it.

Okay, I’m done. Next week, probably Supergrass, and hopefully gainful employment.

See you in line Tuesday morning.