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Tom Brook Friday, 24 March, 2000, 14:09 GMT
Oscar's Beautiful night
American Beauty
American Beauty should take away six statuettes
By BBC News Online's Entertainment correspondent Tom Brook

It is a wildly unpredictable year, but I am going to stick my neck out and say that American Beauty will triumph at the Oscars - walking away with six trophies including the coveted best picture, best actress and best director prizes.

As I see it, the only real threat to American Beauty's night of victory is that Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom's coming of age tale The Cider House Rules could steal the best picture prize.
The Cider House Rules
The Cider House Rules is a strong best picture contender
That is an unlikely scenario, but if it did happen it would probably be a consequence of the intense promotional campaign unleashed by Miramax on behalf of Hallstrom's film.

The best actor race is an extremely close three-way contest between Denzel Washington, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe.

Best actor guilt

The conventional wisdom has Denzel Washington as the front-runner for his powerful portrayal of the wrongly imprisoned African-American boxer Rubin Carter in The Hurricane.

But Kevin Spacey also gave a strong performance American Beauty and remains a formidable contender, having recently won the Screen Actors' Guild Award, often an Oscars predictor.

I think Russell Crowe gave the best performance, for his highly nuanced portrayal of Jeffrey Wigand, the American tobacco industry whistleblower in The Insider.
Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is hotly favoured for best actor
However, I sense that the Academy will give the trophy to Washington.

Not only did he give a great performance, but there is a collective guilt in Hollywood, particularly acute this year, that the industry needs to be more inclusive of African-American talent, which may give him an edge.

The best supporting actor race is virtually impossible to predict. The strongest nominees seem to be Tom Cruise, Haley Joel Osment and Michael Caine.

I think Cruise deserves the prize for taking on such an unflattering role, playing a misogynistic TV talk show host in the ensemble picture Magnolia, and acquitting himself so admirably. He took a risk, and it paid off, but his repellent character may lose him votes.

Eleven-year-old Haley Joel Osment will make history if he wins for playing young Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense, because he will be the youngest male actor ever to walk away with an Oscar.
Haley Joel Osment i
Haley Joel Osment is "very, very talented"
Osment is very, very talented but I think it will be Michael Caine's night. His performance as a humane doctor in charge of a Maine orphanage in The Cider House Rules wasn't brilliant, but Academy members really, really like him.

The Academy has given him an Oscar once before, and nominated him four times - his popularity in Hollywood may help put him over the top.

Best actress contest

The best actress race appears to be a two-way contest between the relatively unknown Hilary Swank and Annette Bening.

Swank portrayed Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry, a real-life woman who was murdered in Nebraska because she masqueraded as a man.

Swank really carried Boys Don't Cry - she gave this true story emotional punch and authenticity - it was a real tour de force. But there is such a strong groundswell in favour of American Beauty that I think Bening will get the trophy.
Annette Bening
Annette Bening did an "impressive job"
Bening did a truly impressive job portraying the overly materialistic wife in American Beauty, although it was more of a supporting role.

However, Bening's husband, Warren Beatty is getting an honorary Oscar on Sunday, and she is about to give birth, so the Academy may want to give Bening her very own trophy - in recognition of her acting but also to add to the sense of occasion of it being a big Warren Beatty-Annette Bening family night.

Supporting doubts

Trying to guess who will walk away with the supporting actress trophy isn't easy either. The prevailing view is that it will go to Angelina Jolie for playing a mental patient in Girl, Interrupted.

Jolie has won both the Golden Globe and Screen Actors' Guild awards, which augurs well for Oscar night. I'm going to boldly predict a possible upset here and follow a tip from a knowledgeable Hollywood insider who thinks Samantha Morton will get the prize.
Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie should lose out to Samantha Morton
Morton plays the mute laundress in Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown, and the Academy has a strong propensity to reward actors who portray physically challenged characters. So Morton could follow in the footsteps of Holly Hunter who won an Oscar for her mute role in The Piano seven years ago.

The best director race is a foregone conclusion: the Oscar will almost certainly be bestowed upon Sam Mendes. He could become Hollywood's man of the moment - quite an achievement for the 34-year-old British theatre director making his feature film debut.

If Mendes is lucky he will also find that American Beauty picks up trophies for its cinematography, editing and screenplay, in addition to best actress and best picture.
Sam Mendes
Sam Mendes: A " foregone conclusion" for best director
Predicting the Oscars reduces the contest to a horse-race, but this year, thankfully, there is real talent in contention quite apart from American Beauty.

Whether it's Spike Jonze's direction in his brilliant off-beat Being John Malkovich, the special effects in The Matrix or Mike Leigh's memorable screenplay for Topsy-Turvy, it is hard to recall a recent Academy Awards ceremony where so many of the nominations represent such vibrant films.

Not everyone of course will win a prize, but my sense is that on Sunday night the Academy will rise to the occasion and in most cases hand out trophies to those who are most deserving.

Tom Brook's Oscar predictions:

Best Picture - American Beauty
Best Actor - Denzel Washington (The Hurricane)
Best Supporting Actor - Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules)
Best Actress - Annette Bening (American Beauty)
Best Supporting Actress - Samantha Morton (Sweet and Lowdown)
Best Art Direction - Rick Heinrichs and Peter Young (Sleepy Hollow)
Best Cinematography - Conrad L. Hall (American Beauty)
Best Costume Design - Jenny Beavan (Anna And The King)
Best Director - Sam Mendes (American Beauty)
Best Documentary Feature - Arthur Cohn and Kevin Macdonald (One Day In September)
Best Documentary Short - Susan Hannah Hadary and William A. Whiteford (King Gimp)
Best Film Editing - Tariq Anwar (American Beauty)
Best Foreign Language Film - France (East-West)
Best Makeup - Michèle Burke and Mike Smithson (Austin Powers)
Best Original Score - Rachel Portman (The Cider House Rules)
Best Original Song - You'll Be in My Heart by Phil Collins (Tarzan)
Best Animated Short - Alexandre Petrov (Old Man and The Sea)
Best Live Action Short- Mehdi Norowzian and Steve Wax (Killing Joe)
Best Sound - Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Shawn Murphy and John Midgley (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
Best Sound Effects Editing - Ben Burtt and Tom Bellfort (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
Best Visual Effects - John Gaeta, Janek Sirrs, Steve Courtley and Jon Thum (The Matrix)
Best Original Screenplay - Alan Ball (American Beauty)
Best Adapted Screenplay - John Irving (The Cider House Rules)

See also:

22 Mar 00 | Oscars 2000
23 Mar 00 | Entertainment
21 Mar 00 | Oscars 2000
22 Mar 00 | Oscars 2000
17 Mar 00 | Oscars 2000
20 Mar 00 | Oscars 2000
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