A simple question: How can we get all dewy-eyed and excited over the upcoming Academy Awards which will basically celebrate what might be worst movie year in history?
Hollywood prided itself in 2000 on the likes of Hollow Man, Big Momma's House, Battlefield Earth, Pay It Forward, Autumn in New York, Gone in 60 Seconds, Blair Witch II I can't bear to go on. Jim Carrey and Ron Howard actually succeeded at rendering Dr. Seuss uninteresting in their interpretation of The Grinch. And who can even begin to explain the genesis of a project like Dude, Where's My Car?
Sure there were some bright moments, most notably Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon for which, I frankly think, they should just cancel the air-kissing and teleprompter reading this year and throw one helluva party, giving Ang Lee and crew all the awards.
That film alone of all this year's crop does one of the essential things we want movies to do it transports us. Re-entering the world of sidewalk and street after watching Crouching Tiger is like entering another world. The gorgeous visuals and dignified aura of the film are transformative.
But I digress.
The year 2000 saw some decent and interesting films, but just barely. For most of the year we sat through mindless dreck, longing toward December when we hoped Oscar-caliber movies would finally come forth. In Colorado Springs, we still haven't seen several of the nominated films though I've been told that Pollock and Before Night Falls will be coming to Kimball's Twin Peak soon. Don't know if we'll ever get to see Requiem For a Dream unless we pack it up to Denver.
Here, then, are the Independent's picks for Academy Awards, offered with a tad of protest. Hollywood doesn't deserve an evening of glad-handing and gratuitous pats on the back so long as they continue to roll out thoughtless, mindless, needlessly violent, sexist drivel 11 months out of the year.
So it is with great hesitation that I say, "The envelope, please." (And spare us the sobbing, trembling starlet speech, Julia. Okay? Enough already with the shock and humility.)
Best Picture nominees: Chocolat, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Erin Brokovich, Gladiator, Traffic. Indy pick: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. If Hollywood holds to closely-held values, Gladiator could win, though it doesn't deserve it. Dark horse: Traffic.
Best Director nominees: Stephen Daldry for Billy Elliot; Ang Lee for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon; Steven Soderbergh, two nominations for Traffic and Erin Brokovich; Ridley Scott for Gladiator. Indy pick: Ang Lee. The guy has made some great American flicks, has a formidable body of work, and has created a true original with Crouching Tiger. Hollywood might give Steven Soderbergh might the nod for being prolific and edgy, but Lee deserves the accolade.
Best Actor nominees: Javier Bardem, Before Night Falls,; Russell Crowe, Gladiator; Tom Hanks, Cast Away; Ed Harris, Pollock; Geoffrey Rush, Quills. The Indy can't pick this one because we have yet to see Harris' or Bardem's performances. Intuition tells me Harris might take the prize.
Best Actress nominees: Joan Allen, The Contender; Juliette Binoche, Chocolat; Ellen Burstyn, Requiem For a Dream; Laura Linney, You Can Count On Me; Julia Roberts, Erin Brokovich. A strong category, but Hell's bells, Julia's gonna win. Linney's performance was much more interesting and nuanced, but she didn't knock 'em dead with the one-two punch of cleavage and cracking gum.
Benicio Del Toro, who won the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor should take the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his terrific performance in Traffic, although Albert Finney might be a sentimental favorite for his role in Erin Brokovich. I'm going with Del Toro. In the Best Supporting Actress race, I haven't yet seen Marcia Gay Harden in Pollock. Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand will cancel each other out for Almost Famous. My vote goes to Julie Walters who was wonderful as the chain-smoking ballet teacher in Billy Elliot.
Will Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon win both Best Film and Best Foreign-Language Film? Yep, unless votes have been rigged.
Will they walk away with Best Cinematography too? Maybe. My dark horse bet would be O Brother, Where Art Thou? which had some of the year's most interesting camera work. Stephen Gaghan should walk away with the Best Adapted Screenplay award for turning a long documentary project into the tense and compelling dramatic collage, Traffic. I loved Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, but Kenneth Lonergan deserves the Best Original Screenplay award for You Can Count On Me, an insightful, mature script that is pitch perfect and scrupulously economical.
All of which brings me to my favorite (NOT!!) category, Best Original Song. Can anyone really believe that Sting is going to embarrass himself before the entire world singing "My Funny Friend and Me," the nominated song from, God help me, The Emperor's New Groove? I swear, it's true.
Bob Dylan will win for "Things Have Changed" from the wonderful Wonder Boys, the crowd will go wild with a 5-minute standing ovation. Julia will smile so big that Benjamin Bragg will be temporarily blinded, and breasts will bounce out of gowns across the crowded room.
Is there hope for mayhem? A streaker running across the stage? Susan Sarandon demanding an end to gratuitous gun play in American movies?
Nope. This year's award show will be a no-brainer.