Let the fun begin

By Josh Albrecht

Best Picture

This year’s list has a little bit of everything from a fantasy with “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” to a musical with “Moulin Rouge,” to a bio-pic with “A Beautiful Mind.” Rounding out the field is the comedy/mystery/drama “Gosford Park” and the drama “In the Bedroom.”

With “Lord of the Rings” receiving 13 nominations in all, it would be an easy favorite to win, but experts say that a fantasy doesn’t stand a chance at winning Best Picture. “Gosford Park” and “In the Bedroom” have received much critical praise, but both lack the amount of buzz usually associated with the winner. Although “Moulin Rouge” seemingly brought back the movie musical, director Baz Luhrman wasn’t nominated, which often means the movie doesn’t stand a chance. That leaves “A Beautiful Mind,” despite its factual errors, as the favorite in the category.

Expected winner: “A Beautiful Mind”

Weekender’s pick: “Lord of the Rings”

Best Director

In many cases, the winner of Best Director usually is the director of the movie that wins Best Picture, which would put Ron Howard as the front-runner in this category since “A Beautiful Mind” is the favorite to win Best Picture. However, Robert Altman (“Gosford Park”) and David Lynch (“Mulholland Drive”) both are loved by critics, especially the 77-year-old Altman, who’s been nominated four other times, but never has won. Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings”) could pull out an upset if “Lord of the Rings” wins Best Picture, but the fantasy genre could kill his chances. Ridley Scott (“Black Hawk Down”) deserves this year’s nomination more than his one for “Gladiator” a year ago. Last year, Scott lost out to Steven Soderbergh and this year he likely will lose again.

Expected winner: Robert Altman

Weekender’s pick: Peter Jackson

Best Actor

When the nominations first were released, Russell Crowe looked like the favorite to repeat for a performance that was better than his Oscar-winning role in “Gladiator.” But bad press and a lack of buzz has shifted the attention to Denzel Washington, who many believe still was robbed of an Oscar for his performances in “Malcolm X” and “The Hurricane.” Sean Penn seemingly is a perennial nomination to never win and Tom Wilkinson suffers from lacking box office success for “In the Bedroom.” Will Smith was given Muhammad Ali’s approval for his portrayal of the boxing legend, but the movie plummeted as soon as it hit theaters.

Expected winner: Russell Crowe

Weekender’s pick: Denzel Washington

Best Actress

After already receiving four other awards for her role in “In the Bedroom,” Sissy Spacek is the easy favorite in this category. Nicole Kidman and Halle Berry both have garnered much praise for their roles and Judi Dench has been an Oscar favorite in recent years, but none can match the buzz around Spacek. However, Kidman did win a Golden Globe for this performance and she could pull out an upset. Renee Zellweger was one of the bigger shocks during this year’s nominations. Don’t expect her to be a shock on Oscar night.

Expected winner: Sissy Spacek

Weekender’s pick: Nicole Kidman

Best Supporting Actor

Jim Broadbent is one of three actors nominated for an Oscar from the movie “Iris,” and with a win already at the Golden Globes, he appears to be the favorite. But this is the one category in which each nominee has a legitimate chance of winning the Oscar. Ben Kingsley has received loads of critical praise, Ethan Hawke is benefitting from the attention that Denzel Washington is bringing to “Training Day” and Ian McKellen was brilliant as the wizard Gandalf in “Lord of the Rings.” Jon Voight did with Howard Cosell what Will Smith did with Muhammad Ali in “Ali,” but Voight is primed for the same defeat as Smith. Although, anything could happen in this category.

Expected winner: Jim Broadbent

Weekender’s pick: Ian McKellen

Best Supporting Actress

For her ability to act alongside Russell Crowe without any problems and in some cases better than Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind,” Jennifer Connelly has taken the early lead in this Oscar race. But Marisa Tomei, who last won in a major upset for her role in “My Cousin Vinny,” looks to be Connelly’s biggest contender. Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith, both nominated for performances in “Gosford Park,” likely will cancel each other out much like Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand did a year ago for “Almost Famous.” And Kate Winslet will be denied an Oscar for the third time.

Expected winner: Jennifer Connelly

Weekender’s pick: Jennifer Connelly