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Inside Oscar's arena

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a member of the Academy on a night like tonight? Wonder no more. Here's an insider's look.

By ED. CASSIDY

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 25, 2001


photo
ED. CASSIDY

Editor's note: Ed. Cassidy is marketing director of the St. Petersburg Times and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


You know those 15 minutes of fame we're all promised? Well, I've been thrilled to get my dose of fame every March since 1987, the year I was voted in as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences because of my feature film marketing work.

Granted, my fame extends only as far as my family and friends, who think it's pretty exciting (and bizarre) that I'm an Oscar voter. And for a few moments every year, my fame also extends to the Academy Awards ceremony, since anyone who's on the red carpet is presumed to be a Hollywood somebody.

Throughout the years, I've had some wondrous 15 minutes partying with the Hollywood elite at the Oscars.

I've been in the men's room with an emotional Ed Harris after he lost his Apollo 13 bid, and with an elated Clint Eastwood after he racked up the awards for Unforgiven.

I've felt my blood boil as Sean Connery brushed me aside on his way to the bar and felt my knees grow weak as I fetched a napkin at the request of Faye Dunaway.

I've accepted congratulations from Robin Williams as he mistook me for one of The Full Monty actors (no doubt the chubby, balding guy; gee, thanks, Robin). And I've asked Kim Basinger if I could touch her Best Supporting Actress trophy, which she graciously let me hold for a few moments.

The Oscars
Coverage from AP

Oscar Nominees list
Best picture

Oscars 2001 A.D.
When the Gladiator meets the Tiger tonight, the traditions of the academy will prevail.

E! stays with Oscar all day
Broadcast of the 73rd annual Academy Awards begins at 8 tonight on WFTS-TV Ch. 28, and is bound to go past midnight.

Famous last words
Winning an Academy Award is easy compared to figuring out what to say after your name is announced.

And the winners are . . .
Check the Oscar predictions by St. Petersburg Times film critic Steve Persall, academy member Ed. Cassidy and readers who entered the Times Oscar Contest, predicting the winners as well as picking their favorites. And for those of you keeping score at home tonight, there's room to pencil in your vote. Speaking of winners, we'll announce the winners of our Oscar contest in Thursday's Weekend section.

I've been squeezed through security metal detectors in between Elton John and Kathy Bates and received a friendly hug from Angela Bassett who was "glad to see me again" (she, too, must have thought I was that Full Monty guy).

I've nodded in agreement with Sally Field and Shirley MacLaine about how tough it is to get a glass of Champagne at the reception, eavesdropped on Madonna's reaction at seeing ex-beau Dennis Rodman show up unannounced and listened to Jack Nicholson cuss about the traffic jams outside the Shrine Auditorium.

I've been ignored by Tom Cruise after offering congrats on his nomination and been slapped on the back by Cuba Gooding Jr. after offering congrats on his win.

I still recall those good old days, sitting around the television with friends in the living room, trashing some of the gowns, cheering my favorites as they won the gold and booing when they didn't. I do pretty much the same thing these days from my seat in the Shrine Auditorium, except my booing is silent.

So what do I expect this afternoon when I hit the red carpet around 4:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time?

Really tight security because the Academy is taking the Russell Crowe death threats seriously.

Really colorful evening gowns with bronze, gold and red dominating the designer duds.

Really bloodshot eyes on attendees as many of the studios' Saturday night parties will have lasted way too long.

A really long awards telecast (probably close to last year's record-breaking four-hour-and-six-minute marathon) because I think Academy voters will generously spread the 24 awards among the 39 nominated films this year.

And really, really nervous nominees, since most of the categories are simply too close to call this year.

I expect Gladiator to take home the Best Picture prize, and three more besides. But Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will get the most awards -- I predict five. I think Traffic, Almost Famous and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas will each get two Oscars as the evening's only other multiple winners. And I'm afraid that my favorite film of 2000, Chocolat, will go home empty-handed.

I can promise next year it will be a lot easier to guess winners with Pearl Harbor looming as the next Titanic. But for now, your guesses are as good as mine:

* * *

Picture: Everything seems to point to Gladiator. The Academy loves spectacles, and this one is right up there with recent winners such as Braveheart and Titanic. But I hope it won't. I've seen Ben-Hur. Ben-Hur is a favorite of mine. And Gladiator, you are no Ben-Hur.

Foreign language film: You can bank on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Actor: Russell Crowe in Gladiator. But this is really a close-call over Ed Harris' stunning labor of love with Pollock.

Actress: This third nomination will be the charm for Julia Roberts -- her win tonight for Erin Brockovich is one of the evening's sure bets. Hollywood's highest paid female star is also one of its most loved, most cooperative, most glamorous and most genuine -- and most talented.

Supporting actor: Benicio Del Toro should grab the award for his tough Mexican drug cop in Traffic.

Supporting actress: It's the Oscar's "pedigree" category: Angelina Jolie, daughter of Jon Voight; Mira, daughter of Paul Sorvino; etc. This year, the award goes to Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn, for what is actually a deserving performance as a rock band groupie in Almost Famous.

Director: Ang Lee for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Used to be that a win for a picture was married to a win for its director on Oscar night. Not this year. Lee has created a dizzying action epic within a tear-jerking love story, a feminist statement within a martial arts extravaganza.

Adapted screenplay: Stephen Gaghan for the drug-driven Traffic. How can the Academy resist the opportunity to make a statement against drugs and "Just Say No"?

Original screenplay: Cameron Crowe for the clever, fascinating Almost Famous.

Cinematography: Have you ever watched an artist paint a watercolor or do calligraphy? The same sweeping gestures can be found in Peter Pau's camerawork for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Film editing: I have to give this one to Gladiator's Pietro Scalia (a previous winner for JFK).

Original score: For his blend of eastern music and western pop, this goes to first-time nominee Tan Dun for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon -- though it's a close horse race with Gladiator's Hans Zimmer (a previous winner for The Lion King).

Original song: The answer, my friend, is Bob Dylan, a sure bet for his Things Have Changed from Wonder Boys.

Art direction: Tim Yip for his Chinese palaces and bamboo forests in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon over the computer-generated coliseums and bloody, muddy fields of Gladiator.

Costume design: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas with designs that were more special effects than costumes.

Makeup: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Sound: The Perfect Storm (that wind and rain are still howling in my ears).

Sound effects editing: It's Space Cowboys blasting off over U-571.

Visual effects: Gladiator, mostly for the eerie snowfall during the opening fight sequence.

Animated short: Father and Daughter, about a daughter who waits and waits and waits for her father's return home.

Live-action short: Quiero Ser (I Want to Be), a powerful vision of two orphans struggling to survive on the streets of Mexico City.

Documentary feature: Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, recounting Britain's World War II rescue mission to save more than 10,000 endangered children from Nazi Germany.

Documentary short: The Man on Lincoln's Nose, a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock's legendary production designer Robert F. Boyle.

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