Although my editor wanted me to write a “fashion at the Oscars” article for scene’s fashion issue, I quickly reminded her that I can barely dress myself. Not even to mention that besides the occasional swan dress, Oscar clothing rarely pushes the limits of absurdity as far as it could. Instead, it’s the telecast’s self-congratulatory tone, its egoism stretched to the four-hour limit, that reminds us why we worship, loathe, obsess over and mock the entertainment industry, often in the same conversation. It’s the “what will the dumb celebrity say next” factor that keeps me tuning in.
So here’s to Oscar being his same overblown, embarrassing self on March 23. And in the spirit of the awards’ true motive — to give audiences “great moments” rather than always honor great work — here are my picks for who will win and who should win in the top six categories:
Salma Hayek for “Frida”
Nicole Kidman for “The Hours”
Diane Lane for “Unfaithful”
Julianne Moore for “Far From Heaven”
Renee Zellweger for “Chicago”
Who will win: That would be Nicole Kidman, not so much for her performance in “The Hours” but for her divorce to Hollywood heavyweight Tom Cruise a couple years back. Not to detract from Kidman’s talent: she is a great actress, and she does fine work in the film adaptation of the Michael Cunningham book. But the Academy loves the face-personal-difficulties-and-triumph arc, and Nicole played that real-life role to even stronger reviews.
Who should win: Close behind Nicole in this competitive category is Renee Zellweger for her razzle-dazzle “Chicago” murderess. Even though Renee’s song-and-dance chutzpah is a stunner, I have to go with Julianne Moore for her tragic ’50s housewife in “Far From Heaven.” She supplies the touching reality and humanity in a film that styles itself (only in basic form) on over-the-top Douglas Sirk melodrama.
Adrien Brody for “The Pianist”
Nicholas Cage for “Adaptation”
Michael Caine for “The Quiet American”
Daniel Day-Lewis for “Gangs of New York”
Jack Nicholson for “About Schmidt”
Who will win: Jack Nicholson, without a doubt in my mind, will take home his fourth Oscar for his no frills, simple Mid-western retiree. Why? Because he is the great Jack Nicholson, of course.
Who should win: Yes, Nicholson is his usual brilliant, perfect self, and Caine and Cage are also captivating, but is there really any doubt that Daniel Day-Lewis’ terrifying physical and ideological spitfire was the only thing saving that dismal train wreck of a movie from complete implosion? It is hands down the best acting I’ve seen all year.
Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Bates for “About Schmidt”
Julianne Moore for “The Hours”
Queen Latifah for “Chicago”
Meryl Streep for “Adaptation”
Catherine Zeta-Jones for “Chicago”
Who will win: Catherine Zeta Jones, because she proved that she is multitalented (singer, dancer, and actress in one), but also because she is glamorous Hollywood royalty (Mrs. Michael Douglas) made good.
Who should win: Kathy Bates and Queen Latifah show a lot of skin (for worse and a little better), but does physical daring equal performance daring? They’re both very good, but neither made a very deep impression in their films. Catherine and Meryl are both wonderful, but their co-stars overshadow them. So whom are we left with? Julianne Moore, for her quiet, subtle, wordless turmoil in “The Hours” (the only thing quiet in that excessively explanatory movie). Only today’s greatest working actress could give audiences two emotionally damaged ’50s housewives with such different packaging. And if the Academy is smart, they’ll give her both Oscars (but sadly, she will probably win neither award).
Best Supporting Actor
Chris Cooper for “Adaptation”
Ed Harris for “The Hours”
Paul Newman for “Road to Perdition”
John C. Reilly for “Chicago”
Christopher Walken for “Catch Me If You Can”
Who will win: Chris Cooper will continue his Awards sweep for his charismatic performance as toothless flower boy John Laroche. It’s hard to argue with the Academy on this one.
Who should win: Of the five nominees, Cooper is the most deserving, but only because Dennis Quaid’s fearless inhabiting of a gay husband in “Far From Heaven” was oddly removed from the competition. How can you not award a man who can play brave and cowardly in the same second?
Pedro Almodovar for “Talk to Her”
Stephen Daldry for “The Hours”
Rob Marshall for “Chicago”
Roman Polanski for “The Pianist”
Martin Scorsese for “Gangs of New York”
Who will win: A toss-up between popular old pro Scorsese and heralded newcomer Marshall. Expect Marshall to ride the “Chicago” wave to victory.
Who should win: I’ll tell you who shouldn’t win, and that’s Scorsese. How unfortunate (yet strangely fitting) would it be if the man who made “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Mean Streets,” and “GoodFellas” finally won his Oscar for “Gangs of New York”? The movie that featured Cameron Diaz trying to bite off Leonardo DiCaprio’s lip? The movie that turned a gritty gang war into an MTV generation, overly-edited mess? I’m sorry, this film is far from his crowning achievement. I’ll give the kudos to Marshall for executing a brilliant stage-to-screen transition in “Chicago.”
“Gangs of New York”
“The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”
What will win: “Chicago” will triumph. For one, it is a great movie. For another, it offers the Hollywood nostalgia factor to voters (the movie musical returns!) in a safe, traditional vehicle (meaning it’s not “Moulin Rouge”).
What should win: “Chicago,” for reminding us that there is nothing wrong with traditional if it is well-made, thrilling, rousing entertainment. It also has zero competition in my mind: “The Hours” and “Gangs of New York” are too self-conscious and “The Two Towers” has, by virtue of being the middle film in a trilogy, no beginning or end, which makes it a bit unsatisfying despite its many feats. I have yet to see “The Pianist,” so I’ll reserve judgment — although I hear it is remarkable.