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Saturday, February 6, 1999 Published at 06:19 GMT


Hollywood's annual dawn ritual

BBC News Online's Entertainment Correspondent Tom Brook in Hollywood gives his predictions for Tuesday's Oscar nominations.

At 5.30am Pacific Standard Time on Tuesday 9 February a seismic event will hit Los Angeles.

No, not an earthquake, just one of the biggest events in the annual showbiz calendar - the moment when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces this year's crop of Oscar contenders.

[ image: Saving Private Ryan is certain to be nominated in a number of categories]
Saving Private Ryan is certain to be nominated in a number of categories
Unveiling the nominations list at dawn is not as bizarre as it might appear. It is a carefully calibrated act designed to maximise the media impact of the announcement around the world.

Dawn in Los Angeles means news of the Oscar nominees reaches millions of breakfast TV viewers on the east coast of the US, as well as lunchtime and evening audiences in Europe and points further east.

The academy's strategic thinking highlights the growing importance of its awards as promotional tools - in addition to recognising excellence.

Within hours of Tuesday's ceremony movie marketers around the world will capitalise on the announcement by emblazoning "Oscar nominated" across a wealth of advertising materials for Academy recognised films.

In some cases movies will be re-released to cash in on the promotional push brought about by the nominations. In America, Saving Private Ryan has already jumped the gun. It is being re-released this weekend.

Bleary-eyed morning

I will witness the ritual at first hand, rising at 3am on Tuesday to make my way to the academy headquarters in Beverly Hills to join the angst-ridden brigades of other journalists, movie star agents, publicists, technicians, and Academy officials.

[ image: Tom predicts that Dame Judi Dench will be nominated for Best Supporting Actress]
Tom predicts that Dame Judi Dench will be nominated for Best Supporting Actress
The event is timed to the second. At precisely 05.38 and 30 seconds a fanfare will sound, prompting Robert Rehme, president of the academy, with Oscar winner Kevin Spacey joining him on the stage, to read out the list of nominees.

Many of this year's Oscar hopefuls - stars, directors, cinematographers, screenwriters, and costume designers - will be lying in bed after a sleepless night, hanging on every word that follows. This is what I think they will hear in the key categories:

Tom's top tips

(Each category has five nominees - in some instances I have only been able to name the more obvious contenders).

Best Picture
Saving Private Ryan
Shakespeare in Love
Life is Beautiful
The Truman Show

Best Actor
Nick Nolte (Affliction)
Sir Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters)
Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan)
Jim Carrey (The Truman Show)
Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful)

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth)
Emily Watson (Hilary and Jackie)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love)
Meryl Streep (One True Thing)
Susan Sarandon (Stepmom)

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall (A Civil Action)
Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan)
Ed Harris (The Truman Show)
Geoffrey Rush (Shakespeare in Love)

Best Supporting Actress
Dame Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love)
Lynn Redgrave (Gods and Monsters)
Joan Allen (Pleasantville)

Best Director
Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan)
John Madden (Shakespeare in Love)
Peter Weir (The Truman Show)
Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful)
Terence Malick (The Thin Red Line)

Best Original Screenplay
Bulworth (Warren Beatty)
The Opposite of Sex (Don Roos)
Saving Private Ryan (Robert Rodat)
Shakespeare in Love (Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard)
The Truman Show (Andrew Niccol)

Best Adapted Screenplay
A Civil Action (Steven Zaillian)
Gods and Monsters (Bill Condon)
Out of Sight (Scott Frank)
Primary Colours (Elaine May)
A Simple Plan (Scott B. Smith)

Best Foreign Language Film
The Celebration (Denmark)
Life is Beautiful (Italy)
Central Station (Brazil)
Tango (Argentina)

A good year for the Brits?

Once again it is probably going to be an excellent year for overseas talent at the Oscars, especially for Britain, and probably for Italy too, with Roberto Benigni's much-admired Life Is Beautiful.

Reviewing the list reflects the lack of respect the academy has for home-grown Hollywood product. Most of its members work locally in thefilm industry, and many make their money from blockbusters, like last year's top-grossing Armageddon.

[ image: Gwyneth Paltrow could be in the running for a Best Actress nomination]
Gwyneth Paltrow could be in the running for a Best Actress nomination
But do they vote for these films? Oh, no. They reject their own work, and vote for high-minded art films they have had little to do with creatively - except perhaps finance. Not that bankrolling a movie is not a significant contribution in its own right.

The headline that I think will emerge next Tuesday is that this year's Oscar race has become a contest between Shakespeare in Love and Saving Private Ryan. They could end up in a dead heat leading the pack in terms of nominations.

Which film will emerge with the most trophies at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday 21 March?

Well, we must wait and see, but I will give you a few good tips in the coming weeks. So, watch this space!

Tom Brook writes this regular entertainment column exclusively for BBC News Online.

A well-known BBC entertainment correspondent, Tom has lived in New York and travelled extensively in the US for the past 20 years.

He has reported on cinema throughout his broadcasting career - interviewing most of the top Hollywood stars and directors and attending nearly all the Oscar ceremonies in the past 15 years while keeping up with new trends in mainstream and independent cinema.

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