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The Self-Made Critic's Guide to the Academy Awards 2002

Gather round and hear the voice of truth! And the winners will and should be...

Best Supporting Actor

Let's start by eliminating two actors, Ethan Hawke and Jon Voight. Voight's on screen for 13 minutes and Ethan didn't so much act along side Denzel in Training Day as stay out of his way. Jim Broadbent may have done the best acting of the year, sadly he spread it out over three films, and for my money, his nomination for Iris wasn't even as interesting or memorable as his work in Moulin Rouge. That leaves Gandalf or Gandhi.

Right now, lots of folks will tell you to lean towards Gandalf, and if Lord of the Rings begins to sweep everything under the sun, he may tag along for the ride. But anyone who saw Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast (and not nearly enough of you have done so) knows that this award was his the moment the movie was released. And in a slight upset, I believe the academy will agree.

Who Should Win: Ben Kingsley
Who Will Win: Ben Kingsley

Best Supporting Actress

Your first reaction when scanning the list of nominees in this category is "That's it?" Sadly, none of these performances jumped out at me when I saw the movies. Still we have five to choose from, and so let's take a look. Marisa Tomei already won her award for this film nine years ago, and you can't win twice for the same movie. Kate Winslet is still suffering from Titanic backlash, so she can't possibly win. That leaves us two well-respected Brits and one upstart American. When it comes to voting, the two Brits cancel each other out and the plucky Jennifer Connelly wins in a landslide. However, she doesn't really deserve it, for pretty much the same reason Ethan Hawke doesn't deserve to win for Training Day. How many people walked out of A Beautiful Mind talking about Jennifer Connelly? No, this is between the plucky Brits from Gosford Park, and in a landslide, Dame Maggie Smith deserves the award for being the only character in that movie to stand out from any of the other characters. Tell the truth, you loved absolutely every moment she was on screen. So did I.

Who Should Win: Maggie Smith
Who Will Win: Jennifer Connelly

Best Actress

What was once a one-woman show has become a three-woman race. One month ago, everybody in the world knew without a doubt that Sissy Spacek was going to win this award. But then they nominated four other women, and two of them have caught people's attention. First, the two "Oh, were they nominated as well?" women this year are Judi Dench for a film that no one saw, and Renee Zellweger for a film quite a few people saw. Judi won't win because she's on screen for longer than 8 minutes, and she's not allowed to win an award for any film where she actually has screen time, and Renee won't win because, well darn it, she just looked too cute in the bunny outfit, didn't she?

So, Sissy Spacek, Halle Berry or Nicole Kidman? Nicole Kidman can't win because Hollywood would never give Nicole Kidman an Oscar before it gives one to Tom Cruise. That leaves Halle or Sissy. Before Monster's Ball, Halle was best known for gratuitously showing her breasts in Swordfish. Before In The Bedroom, Sissy was best known for being someone who was popular twenty-five years ago. And we all know the old saying "Age Before Beauty."

Who Should Win: Sissy Spacek
Who Will Win: Sissy Spacek

Best Actor

Last year we had a two-horse race between Tom Hanks and Russell Crowe, and that's exactly what we have this year, if you spell Tom Hanks "D-E-N-Z-E-L W-A-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N."

Oh sure, Sean Penn is a great actor, but just about any actor could have gotten nominated in that role, so what's the big deal? Will Smith certainly deserves praise for his Ali, but we're all much more interested in Men In Black II to pay any attention to his serious roles, and quite frankly, I get more and more annoyed when puts off the fun films to do one of his "Give Me A Damn Oscar!" roles. Any other year, and I would surprise many of you by saying Tom Wilkenson deserves the Oscar. He was brilliant, subtle, powerful, believable. But since his name isn't Russell Crowe or Denzel Washington, he's just one big loser.

So, Denzel or Russell? Pick your poison. If the voters care about the performance, and nothing else, then the winner has to be Russell Crowe. A Beautiful Mind was one of the most amazing portraits we've had in eons. Russell did a lot of acting in this movie, and should therefore get an "Acting" award. But the ultimate irony will befall him on Oscar night, when one year after winning when he should have lost, he will lose when he should have won and Denzel Washington, definitely a great actor in a great role, will walk up to the podium. They'll vote for him, more than anything, because after seeing him in Training Day, they'll be too afraid not to.

Who Should Win: Russell Crowe
Who Will Win: Denzel Washington

Best Director

It is a rule that if your picture isn't up for Best Picture, you can't win Best Director. That actually rules out TWO of the nominees (this makes less and less sense each year.) Since The Best Director Award is voted on by directors, the award tends to go to the director who did the best job under the most difficult of circumstances. That certainly rules out Robert Altman, who, in his own words "Just turned on the camera and waited to see what my great actors gave me." Yeah, that sounds tough.

So what's harder, directing the largest production in the history of film-making, with gazillion locations, actors, costumes, effects, and finding a way to make a fantasy epic a mainstream hit, or working with Russell Crowe? The epic, but just barely.

Plus, if they give him the award this time, they don't have to bother with him for the next two.

Who Should Win: Peter Jackson--Lord of the Rings
Who Will Win: Peter Jackson--Lord of the Rings

Best Animated Feature

New category. Three nominees. Two nominees that actually have a chance of winning. At first, I was all excited about this award. As a big fan of animation, I thought it was great to give animated features a chance to shine. But then someone pointed out that now, animation is going to be relegated to a second class citizen for all time. No longer will an animated feature or performance be up for a regular award (Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture, Robin Williams came very close to being nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Aladdin.) If we have a Best Animated Feature, why not a Best Comedy? Best Horror Flick? Best Film Featuring Pasta? Where does the madness end?

Anyway, Jimmy Neutron is only nominated because they wanted more than two nominations. Monsters, Inc. or Shrek? When Shrek came out, it was great. Have you watched it lately? Already old. If Shrek had been released in November instead of May, it would win, but it has had time to age, time to be shown for what it really is, a very clever version of a story we've seen a hundred times before. Monsters Inc., on the other hand, is still brilliantly original. And I think the Academy will notice this as well.

Who Should Win: Monsters, Inc.
Who Will Win: Monsters, Inc.

Best Picture

Since we have learned that Best Director does not mean Best Picture, we have to actually think about this one. However, the one rule that remains in effect is, if your director wasn't nominated, then you can't win. So buh-bye Moulin Rouge and In The Bedroom. Gosford Park? Hardly. Just like with the directors, there are two true candidates to choose from.

Oscars love a sweeping epic. Lord of the Rings is a sweeping epic. Hence, Oscars love Lord of the Rings. But Oscars also love incredibly moving and surprising dramas about real-life people. A Beautiful Mind is an incredibly moving and surprising drama about a real-life person. Hence, Oscars love A Beautiful Mind. Both movies are fine movies. Both movies have issues. Lord of the Rings is long. And it doesn't so much end as it screams "Come back next year!" A Beautiful Mind has been accused of not being true to the story of John Nash. And it stars Russell Crowe, who is doing all he can to piss everybody off.

Personally, the movie that I enjoyed more was A Beautiful Mind, and that deserves to win, win, win. But I think the voters are going to try to show that they're not a bunch of stodgy, elderly old men with no connection to the public and vote for the movie with elves. If for no other reason than to be able to wear their "I voted for Frodo" buttons at the after-party.

Who Should Win: A Beautiful Mind
Who Will Win: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

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