Looking Ahead...Next Year's Oscar Race

Hey, it's never too early to talk about the Oscars! There may be very little chance of being accurate (I mean, at this point last year who would have picked the Paltrow-Benigni-Dench-Coburn combo?), but it's fun to speculate.

Last year at this time, the three films which seemed to have a lock on Oscars were Beloved, The Thin Red Line, and Eyes Wide Shut. The first two gathered some nominations, but no awards...the last one still has not made it to theaters. There were some early rumblings about The Truman Show and Saving Private Ryan, but Shakespeare in Love was still seen as the ex-Julia Roberts film, and not one worthy of serious consideration. What a difference a year makes.

In any case, two of the front runners for next year's Academy Awards would be The Green Mile and Man on the Moon. Both are films by respected directors, and each has a big star giving a potentially Best Actor winning performance.

The Green Mile is Frank Darabont's follow up to The Shawshank Redemption. Like that film, it is an adaptation of an uplifting Steven King prison story. However, The Green Mile has one extra bonus: a performance by Oscar-fave Tom Hanks. However, this time out, my gut tells me that The Green Mile will be no Shawshank Redemption, and the Academy may finally deliver the long-expected backlash against Hanks.

I think Man on the Moon has a stronger shot. Milos Forman directs this biopic of Andy Kaufman, starring none other than Jim Carrey. The buzz on this project is very strong, with a hot script, and a performance by Carrey that is reportedly stunning. Carrey could land this year the elusive Oscar nomination he sought for The Truman Show.

In the Best Actor race, a few other actors I'd toss into the mix would be:

Anthony Minghella's next film, The Talented Mr. Ripley has some potential. It's got a hot young cast (including Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett). I can see Paltrow and Blanchett grabbing actress/supporting actress noms from this one. Plus, never forget the power of the Miramax publicity engine.

At this point, I'm not sure about Stanley Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut. I doubt it would get much beyond a token Best Director nod, given its steamy subject matter and Summer release date.

I seriously doubt the Academy will recognize much on Kevin Smith's Dogma. Not only will the Academy shy away from the hint of controversy...but the script itself doesn't seem that good. This one looks much more like a "fanboy" pic, rather than one the Academy is going to favor.

I predict there is going to be considerable backlash against Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace. (Both from the fan population as well as those in Hollywood). Don't get me wrong, it will likely be a huge hit, and probably be an enormously entertaining film. The one thing The Phantom Menace does have are locks on the technical awards: Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Makeup, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction. You can probably toss in Editing and Cinematography as well.

I don't think it will grab any acting noms. Nor will it get a Best Picture or Best Director nomination. Screenplay is possible, but unlikely. John Williams will get a nomination, but not the award, for Best Original Score.

Here are a few more films that have potential:

Okay...that about does it for my 1999 predictions. But, as long as the crystal ball is out, here are my wildly inaccurate 2000 Oscar predictions:

Of course, the early favorite has to be Seed of Chucky. :) Okay, maybe not... Fellowship of the Ring has a good chance of grabbing a good portion of the technical awards, but it has to fight off Speilberg's Minority Report and Travolta's Battlefield Earth. If Scorsese can get his Dino pic off the ground (especially with his dream cast of Hanks, Travolta and Carrey...) that has a good chance of being the front runner for the year. Hanks could get a nod otherwise for starving himself in the Robert Zemeckis film, Castaway. Then, there's Cameron Crowe's new film, and Clint Eastwood's aging astronaut opus, Space Cowboys to liven up the mix.

I'll reserve my 2001 picks for a later article. :)

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