Politics & Policy

Winner’s Circle

Well, maybe.

The winners of the 75th annual Academy Awards will be:

Best Picture: Chicago

Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis, Gangs of New York

Best Actress: Nicole Kidman, The Hours

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can

Best Supporting Actress: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago

Make book on this if you want. Just know I’m usually wrong.

Or at least I always used to be wrong. But that was back in the day when somebody like Art Carney could surprise the world by winning the best-actor trophy for his stunning performance in a wondrous little film called Harry and Tonto. Or when Chariots of Fire could upset Reds and take the best-picture statue in the most satisfying Oscar moment in the past 30 years.

These past few years, it has all seemed predetermined. With the exception of Shakespeare in Love besting Saving Private Ryan — which only seemed like an upset at the time because of all the P.C. sentiment surrounding Steven Spielberg’s confusing and bathetic swirl of World War II gore and gloom — you could pick the winner even before the nominations.

Titanic had it locked up in 1997. American Beauty had it locked up in 2000. Gladiator had it locked up in 2001, and A Beautiful Mind had it locked up in 2002. Even the acting awards, where there used to be surprises galore, have grown dull and predictable. Only the supporting-actor and -actress categories have the capacity to shock, as when Marcia Gay Harden mysteriously won a few years ago for her truly dreadful performance in Pollock, a movie nobody (including the Oscar voters) had even seen.

It’s possible somebody else will take the supporting-actress statuette away from Catherine Zeta-Jones, because she has the misfortune to be sharing the category with another performer from Chicago, Queen Latifah. Julianne Moore, who is up for both best actress and best supporting actress, might prevail. Probably not, though.

My slightly unconventional choice here is Christopher Walken for Catch Me If You Can. In principle, he should lose to 77-year-old Paul Newman, who made an indelible appearance in Road to Perdition. But Road to Perdition, which seemed Oscar-bound last summer, seems wildly unpopular with the Academy. Catch Me If You Can is a well-liked movie and a box-office success. Walken, who won in this category 23 years ago for The Deer Hunter, is the hardest-working man in show business.

Nicole Kidman will win because she got dumped by Tom Cruise (whose last name is well-chosen, but I can’t say any more about why). Even so, Kidman is still willing to wear a fake nose and pretend to be Virginia Woolf. I don’t know if anybody has seen The Hours. I haven’t. I don’t want to. It’s a) about suicide, b) about Virginia Woolf, c) about AIDS, d) based on a Pulitzer-prize winning novel, and e) has a score by Philip Glass.

Daniel Day-Lewis will win for Gangs of New York because he is amazing in the movie and because he has no competition except for Michael Caine in The Quiet American, who won a few years ago for speaking in the worst American accent any British actor has ever attempted. That was in The Cider House Rules. I think he won because he played a self-righteous abortionist. In The Quiet American, he plays an English journalist who arranges the assassination of a CIA agent and is considered a hero for it. I think even in Hollywood, that might not taste so good right now.

Chicago will win because unlike almost any other movie in the past few years, it is sheer heaven to watch from start to finish, without a single bum minute. The only real question is whether Rob Marshall, its brilliant director, will beat out Martin Scorcese, who’s never won and shouldn’t win for the slobbering mess that is Gangs of New York. But Scorcese has better eyebrows than Marshall and an endless stream of suck-up movie critics who insist against all evidence that he is a genius, so he’ll probably get his consolation prize.

Who cares?

Let’s face it. We all care. We may not want to, but we do.

Mr. Podhoretz is a columnist for the New York Post.


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