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It's the show we love to hate


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 26, 2000

The Oscars
Special coverage

American Beauties
This year's chase for Oscar gold is heavily tinted with red, white and blue. Not since 1992 have all of the best picture nominees been so purely American in theme.

The thrill is gone
The only sure-fire prediction for this year's Oscar race is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences must change its ways.

It's the show we love to hate
For 10 months a year, no one really cares that I'm a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

This 'Beauty' is no contest
If St. Petersburg Times readers were handing out the Oscars tonight, the cast and crew ofAmerican Beauty would be having one heck of a party.

The nominees
A complete list of 72nd annual Oscar nominations.

Winners, losers and what they wore
A stumble through Oscar history and its most fashionable missteps.

BEVERLY HILLS -- For 10 months a year, no one really cares that I'm a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

But from mid-January to Oscar night, I get lots of questions. "Got any leads on the winners?" "Does the Academy really hate Jim Carrey?" "Don't you think Sixth Sense is the greatest movie ever made?" "Need a date to the awards tonight?"

No, no, no and no.

And I get the criticisms, too. "The Oscars are all political." "The Academy only honors its old-timers." "It's just a popularity contest." "There are so many other award shows that no one cares about the Academy Awards any more."

No, no, no and no.

The Academy is now in its 72nd year of handing out gold statuettes featuring a naked, bald man pushing a spear into a reel of film. And the Academy Awards is still the undeniable king of awards shows, the Super Bowl of entertainment.

Think about it. How many office pools have you participated in for the Grammy Awards? Can you name last year's People's Choice winner for Best Picture? When did you last attend an Emmy Awards party? Describe what the Golden Globe award looks like. Name the last time you rushed out to see the Tony winner for Best Play.

It's cool to trash the Oscars because practically everyone seems to have an interest in, an opinion on and sometimes a passion for the annual spectacle. Even Oscar winners dis the awards that help earn a place in history as well as those multimillion-dollar salaries.

Dustin Hoffman said an Oscar win "really doesn't mean very much" (yup, that was Dustin announcing this year's nominees on Feb. 15). Two-time-winner-turned-British-politician Glenda Jackson called the awards "disgusting -- like watching a public hanging." Jodie Foster, another two-time winner, described the event as "a silly bingo game." Jane Fonda once declared "I don't care about the Oscars" (but she cares enough to be a presenter tonight). Multiple-winner Woody Allen asserted that the awards are "meaningless -- political and bought and negotiated for." And Academy member and sometime nominee Nick Nolte referred to the Academy Awards as "the worst of America" (that was Nick front and center last year losing Best Actor to Roberto Benigni).

So pardon me while I put on my tux for tonight's meaningless, disgusting, political, silly public hanging. And I promise to give you my votes for the 72nd Annual Academy Awards' happiest winners, sorest losers, best behaved part-ygoers and worst-dressed starlets in Floridian on Tuesday morning.

Ed. Cassidy, Marketing director for the St. Petersburg Times and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences member.

Academy member explains his claim to fame


Becoming a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is no easy feat.

A candidate is considered for a specific branch (there are 13, including actors, directors, writers and public relations), after he or she wins sponsorship from two members of the particular branch and endorsement by its executive committee.

In 1987, I was accepted for membership based on my collective feature film marketing work on more than 100 movies. I think consideration was more for my efforts with The Gods Must Be Crazy, Breathless and the reissues of the classics Lost Horizon and Lawrence of Arabia than for such "contemporary classics" as Hambone and Hillie, Tokyo Pop and Love is a Dog From Hell.

It sure didn't hurt my chances that one of my sponsors headed up my branch and my other sponsor was Richard Kahn, president of the Academy.

Now, to the business of prognosticating:

What a year! Top 10 lists and numerous winners of critics' association awards were virtually ignored when nominations were announced for the 72nd annual Academy Awards. Sure bets discussed within the film industry weren't even nominated. Veterans were jolted as more than half of the acting nominations went to first-timers. Four of the five Best Picture nominees listed first-time producers. Seven of the 12 men in the screenplay categories turned out to be Oscar virgins. The Academy spread the wealth among a surprising total of 28 feature films.

The biggest box office grosser of the year has emerged as the evening's long shot for Best Picture (The Sixth Sense). Meryl Streep is now tied as one of the most nominated actresses ever, but she's considered to have no chance of winning. And the last time a film (American Beauty) was on top of the nominations heap with a total as low as eight bids was in 1989 with Rain Man (which went on to take the evening's top award).

So it's probably an understatement to say that this year's Academy Awards track meet is a wide-open race. Here are my best guesses and personal favorites for tonight's winners. But don't bet the farm on my choices -- it only takes 21 percemt of the vote to win a category.

Best Picture

WILL WIN: American Beauty. The film with the most nominations overall has gone on to win Best Picture in 23 of the last 27 years.

SHOULD WIN: Cider House Rules. And I'm still not ruling out an upset, so don't go to bed early.

WHAT I'M GLAD WON'T WIN: The grossly overrated Being John Malkovich. Thank goodness it wasn't nominated.

Best Actor

WILL WIN: Kevin Spacey. This is the toughest category to predict. No offense to Australian Russell Crowe (The Insider) or Richard Farnsworth (who at 79 becomes the oldest actor ever nominated with his Straight Story bid), but their performances were just not in the same league as Spacey (American Beauty) or Denzel Washington (Hurricane). True, Washington took home the Golden Globe from the 80-some member Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but Spacey won the Screen Actors Guild trophy (and the Academy's acting branch is the largest voting block).

SHOULD WIN: Kevin Spacey. His performance ranged from funny to frightening while Washington was pretty much just angry.

WHO I HOPE WON'T WIN: Sean Penn, this year's huh? nominee for his off-key performance as a sax player in Woody Allen's flat Sweet and Lowdown. Like there's a snowball's chance . . .

Best Actress

WILL WIN: As terrific as Annette Bening was in her role as an uptight real estate agent in American Beauty, it's impossible not to hand the gold to Hilary Swank for her astounding gender-bending performance as Brandon Teena/Teena Brandon in Boys Don't Cry.

SHOULD WIN: Swank. Months after seeing the film, I still can't forget her awesome performance. I've never seen anything quite like it.

WHO I HOPE WON'T WIN: Julianne Moore. What a shame it would be for one of our great film actresses to be recognized for this forgettable turn in End of the Affair. Besides, she should have been nominated (and won) a Best Supporting nod for Magnolia.

Supporting Actor

WILL WIN: Tom Cruise in Magnolia, so the Academy can make good on Cruise's 0-for-2 Best Actor record with a 1-for-1 for Best Supporting Actor. Plus the Academy favors non-sympathetic roles in this category and Cruise is the only true nasty of the five nominated performances.

SHOULD WIN: Michael Caine, for his compelling, multilayered performance as a compassionate orphanage director and ether-addicted abortionist in Cider House Rules.

WHO I HOPE WON'T WIN: Michael Clarke Duncan, and not because he didn't deliver a great performance. I'm just tired of Duncan's recent antics for attention, including offering $5 to anyone who recognizes him. I can just see the 6-foot-5 actor jumping up and straddling the chairs should he win, a la last year's Roberto Benigni prank. Then again, it might help the ratings.

Best Supporting Actress

WILL WIN: Since the Academy likes to honor its pedigree in this category (winners have included Mira, daughter of Paul Sorvino; Vanessa, daughter of Sir Michael Redgrave; Anjelica, daughter of John Huston; Tatum, daughter of Ryan O'Neal), then Angelina Jolie, daughter of Jon Voight, should be the pick of the litter for her performance as a sociopath in Girl, Interrupted.

SHOULD WIN: Jolie, because it really was a helluva performance and I'm dying to see what she wears/bares.

WHO I HOPE WON'T WIN: Catherine Keener for her frenetic, over-the-top performance in the grossly overrated Being John Malkovich.

Best Director

WILL WIN: Stage-turned-film director Sam Mendes scored the Director Guild award two weeks ago for helming American Beauty, and since that winner virtually always takes the Oscar, this category is a no-brainer.

SHOULD WIN: Lasse Hallstrom for his sensitive, perfectly balanced Cider House Rules direction.

WHO I HOPE WON'T WIN: Spike Jonze, for his frenetic, over-the-top direction of Being John Malkovich. (do you see a theme developing here?).

Best Original Screenplay

WILL WIN: Scratch Malkovich, Topsy -Turvy and Magnolia because they didn't score Best Picture nominations. And it was M. Night Shyamalan's direction and not his screenplay that made The Sixth Sense so terrific. That leaves American Beauty, written by Alan Ball, as a sure thing.

SHOULD WIN: Paul Thomas Anderson for his wondrous Magnolia.

WHO I HOPE WON'T WIN: Charlie Kaufman for Being John Malkovich.

Best Adapted Screenplay

WILL WIN: John Irving's adaption of his best-selling novel Cider House Rules should rule the day (and make up for the film industry botching the adaptations of his other best-sellers The World According to Garp, Hotel New Hampshire and Prayer for Owen Meany).

SHOULD WIN: John Irving. And though I found the novel almost too disturbing to read with its abortion, infidelity, addiction and incest plotlines, Irving's screenplay was the foundation for a brilliant (and very emotional) film.

WHO I HOPE WON'T WIN: Anthony Minghella, who cheapened his Talented Mr. Ripley adaption with blatant gay stereotyping.

Best Original Song

WILL WIN: If Randy Newman doesn't win for When She Loved Me from Disney's Toy Story 2, it will be the 13th time he goes home empty-handed. That will leave him two nominations shy of joining the Academy's two all-time losers, composer Alex North and art director Roland Anderson.

SHOULD WIN: Phil Collins for You'll Be In My Heart from Tarzan. Rarely has a song so perfectly embodied the heart and soul of a film.

WHO I HOPE WON'T WIN: Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman for Blame Canada, with lyrics calling Canadian singer Anne Murray a bitch and laments about children telling their parents to go f-- themselves.

Other categories

BEST FOREIGN FILM: All About My Mother (Spain), because the Academy won't pass up the chance to honor Pedro Almodovar -- finally! -- for his brilliant Spanish entry.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Conrad Hall for American Beauty. If he wins tonight, it would be 30 years since his last statuette, for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Plus, Hall sits on the Academy's Board of Governors.

BEST FILM EDITING: Tariq Anwar and Christopher Green for American Beauty, because this award usually goes to the pic favored to win the night's top honor.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Thomas Newman (cousin of Randy) for American Beauty. It's the only score that has actually had radio play on Los Angeles stations.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Buena Vista Social Club. Because it's a Wim Wenders film and because it has already racked up a stack of major awards.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: The Angola Prison Rodeo. Because the producers should have won last year for their documentary feature on the Angola prison.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT: The Old Man and the Sea. Because the short is a big, big IMAX picture.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: Killing Joe. Because it's yet another tribute to JFK.

BEST ART DIRECTION: Roy Walker and Bruno Cesari for The Talented Mr. Ripley. Because Italy never looked so beautiful and because the somewhat over-hyped pic needs to win something.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Jenny Beaven for Anna and the King. Because it's two period pieces in one with lush costuming for both British and Siam subjects.

BEST MAKEUP: Rick Baker for Life. Because he controls this category with eight previous nominations and five wins.

BEST SOUND: Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Shawn Murphy and John Midgley for Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace. Because Rydstrom is 7-for-7 in turning his nominations into wins.

BEST SOUND EFFECTS EDITING: Ben Burtt and Tom Bellfort for Phantom Menace. Because their boss George Lucas invented THX sound for movie theaters. (Note: Best Sound Effects Editing honors only the unique sounds invented and engineered for a film, while Best Sound honors the whole package of mixing dialogue, music and special effects.)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: John Gaeta, Janek Sirrs, Steve Courtley and Jon Thum for The Matrix. Because The Matrix was as mind-boggling to watch as it was to understand.

-- Editor's note: Ed. Cassidy is marketing director for the St. Petersburg Times and has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1987.

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