Oscar Watch 2005: Predicting the Nominees


By Rex A. Okpodu

Hollywood is in full swing of the annual film awards campaign season. The Academy Award nominations are looming with the end-of-year critics' choices, Golden Globes, and guild contenders (such as the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild) narrowing the field considerably. (The Globes take place on Sunday, January 16, and the Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday, January 25.)

In Hollywood, apart from the two most significant films of the year, Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Passion of the Christ, it has been the year of the biopic: The Aviator, Kinsey, Ray, and Finding Neverland will all probably be in contention on Oscar night. Smaller films of note touched on other culturally divisive issues: Vera Drake on abortion, Kinsey on the issue of American sexuality at mid century, and the gems Million Dollar Baby, Sideways, Finding Neverland, and Closer on fractured personal relationships.

The current buzz:

Best Picture

The Aviator (Miramax)
Martin Scorsese's eagerly anticipated biopic based on the famed Howard Hughes starring Leonardo DiCaprio opened to generally good reviews, has the ingredients of an Oscar best picture contender, and should generate good box office to solidify its frontrunner status. (Hughes' bisexuality was not dealt with in the picture.)

Sideways (Fox Searchlight)
The independent film and critical champion of 2004. Multiple Golden Globe nominations including Best Musical or Comedy will no doubt boost its chances for an Oscar nomination in this category.

Million Dollar Baby (Warner Bros.)
Clint Eastwood directs and co-stars in this story about a female boxer trying for her shot. Golden Globe nominations and critics' favor, plus support from guild nominations, make this movie a serious contender.

Ray (Universal)
This biopic about the life and career of the late blues/soul singer Ray Charles has maintained its momentum since the early autumn. Good guild support and its inclusion by the Golden Globes (Musical/Comedy) should propel it to an Oscar nomination in this category.

Kinsey (Fox Searchlight)
Biopic based on the life of a pioneer in the area of human sexuality research whose 1948 bestseller Sexual Behavior in the Human Male was the first major work addressing sexual behavior in America. This film got the most buzz out of the Toronto Film Festival and is one of the best reviewed films of 2004. Liam Neeson, as Kinsey, and Peter Sarsgaard, as his bisexual researcher, were singled out for praise.

Finding Neverland (Miramax)
Biopic on the writer J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan) is Miramax's other contender in this category. The famed Oscar-campaigning company is seeking to get back to its previous record of having an annual Oscar nomination in this category after being shut out for last year's Cold Mountain.

Hotel Rwanda (United Artists)
The critics are hailing this film about the Rwandan Genocide of 1994; it has been gaining momentum as the conscience film of the year. It remains to be seen if this will turn out like The Pianist, which came within striking distance of the big prize in 2002 by not only securing a nomination for Best Picture but winning three major Awards.

Longshots'Fahrenheit 9/11 (Miramax/Lions Gate) and The Passion of the Christ (Newmarket)
Both were big box-office winners in 2004, but with the U.S. presidential elections over, they might be seen as too divisive for the taste of Academy members.

Best Director

Bill Condon (Kinsey)
A previous Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay (1998's Gods and Monsters), the openly gay Condon is back this year.

Martin Scorsese (The Aviator)
This movie might finally bring him that Best Director Oscar that has eluded him for the last three decades.

Mike Nichols (Closer)
Nichols might still get a mention here, even if the film fails to bag a nomination in the Best Picture category. Reviewers were effusive in their praise for his work.

Alexander Payne (Sideways)
The director of the year's critics' favorite and winner of several of the precursor awards. A nomination by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) would solidify his status.

Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby
He's been an Oscar winner before (Unforgiven) and has a legitimate possibility of upsetting Scorcese in this category.