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Saturday, 10 February, 2001, 07:51 GMT
Oscars race gains clarity
Gladiator, Crouching Tiger and Erin Brockovich
These stars will find out their films' fates on Tuesday
BBC News Online's entertainment correspondent Tom Brook reports on the likely contenders in the Oscar nominations, due to be revealed on Tuesday.

On the eve of the Academy Awards nominations announcement this year's Oscars race has gained clarity.

Expect three films - Gladiator, Traffic and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - to collect multiple nominations.

The prevailing view is that those three films will each nab top best picture nominations and that one of the two remaining spots will be taken by Erin Brockovich.

The fifth best picture nominee remains a mystery. Almost Famous, Billy Elliot, Cast Away and director Lasse Hallstrom's fable Chocolat will all have to slug it out for a nomination.

Miramax, an expert at mounting effective Oscar winning strategies, has been conducting an aggressive campaign to win support for Chocolat, which stars Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and Dame Judi Dench.

Jamie Bell
In with a chance: Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell
Although the film has strong backing from Miramax, it is not universally liked so that could help the chances of other potential nominees.

Actors' race

The best actor race seems to be a duel between two pretty definite nominees - Tom Hanks as the island survivor in Cast Away and Russell Crowe for his starring role as Maximus Decimus Merdius in Gladiator.

Geoffrey Rush also seems likely to get a nod for his portrayal of the Marquis De Sade in Quills.

The two other best actor nominees will be drawn from a field that includes 14-year-old Jamie Bell, who danced his way to glory in Billy Elliot, and Ed Harris for playing the American abstract painter Jackson Pollock.

Michael Douglas also impressed critics as a college professor in Wonder Boys and charismatic Spanish actor Javier Bardem who gave an electrifying performance as the exiled Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas in Before Night Falls.

Julia Roberts is the leading contender in the best actress sweepstakes for bringing the real life story of feisty legal assistant Erin Brockovich to the big screen, and is expected to take the Oscar.

Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman has an outside chance
Other likely best actress nominees include Laura Linney who was memorable in the drama You Can Count on Me, as an adult sister trying to relate to her wayward brother.

Ellen Burstyn is also expected to get a nod for playing a woman addicted to pills in Requiem For A Dream.

Joan Allen is a likely nominee, too, for portraying a vice-presidential nominee in the political film The Contender.

If Miramax's Chocolat Oscar campaign is effective then expect Juliette Binoche to get a nomination for her role as the purveyor of exotic chocolates in a small repressed French town.

Supporting chances

Four actors are safe bets in the best supporting acting category: Benicio Del Torro, who plays a Mexican cop in Traffic; Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus in Gladiator; Albert Finney who played boss to Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich; and Willem Dafoe for his vampire role in Shadow of The Vampire.

The fifth spot should go to an actor from The Contender, either Jeff Bridges, who played the president, or Gary Oldman, who portrayed a reactionary US congressman.

My vote goes to Oldman who, as is his way nowadays, was almost unrecognisable but remarkable as an American politician trying to block the confirmation of a liberal Democrat vice-presidential nominee.

The best supporting actress race also has four fairly certain nominees - Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand - both from Almost Famous, Julie Walters for being Billy Elliot's ballet teacher and Dame Judi Dench for a small, but strong role in Chocolat.

Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet has received acclaim for her part in Quills
The fifth spot is up for grabs and it's anyone's guess who will get it. It could go to a British actress, either Catherine Zeta Jones who was quite impressive as the scheming wife of a drugs kingpin in Traffic, or Kate Winslet for her role in Quills.

There is also a strong American contender, Marcia Gay Harden, who plays opposite Ed Harris in his Jackson Pollock biographical picture Pollock.

British hopes

British talent is, once again, expected to do well in terms of nominations.

If Billy Elliot is extremely lucky it could get nominated for best picture, best actor, supporting actress, director and screenplay.

The competition is extremely fierce in the categories where it is competing so it is very difficult to predict its Oscar fortunes, but it should at least pick up one or two nominations.

A film to watch is Ang Lee's martial arts fantasy Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

If the Academy likes it then it could get best picture, best foreign language film and best director nominations - as well as recognition in several technical categories.

The nominations announcement should confirm director Steven Soderbergh's new found status as Hollywood's favourite filmmaker.

Steven Soderbergh
Director to watch: Steven Soderbergh
He is expected to get a double nomination in the best director category for both Erin Brockovich and Traffic.

Except for Gladiator, the Academy will ignore most of the big box office earners of 2000.

But blockbusters like Mission: Impossible 2, The Perfect Storm and How The Grinch Stole Christmas could find that they get nominations in specialised categories in visual effects, sound and make-up.

After weeks of uncertainty the Oscars race now looks more predictable.

Gladiator is emerging as the conventional choice of frontrunner but this is a year when there is no strong, clear favourite.

An upset is still possible and Tuesday's nominations announcement is likely to bring several surprises.

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See also:

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Kathy Bates takes Oscar role
22 Jan 01 | Entertainment
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