OSCAR PREDICTIONS On Sunday February 29th at 8 p.m., Hollywood will play host to the most glamorous event in the film industry, the 76th annual Academy Awards. One of the most watched television events in the world, the Oscars remain among the most prestigious awards in film. Movie pundits always love to predict the winners. So here are this pundit’s predictions in the major categories for Sunday night, with some justification. Feel free to play along at home: “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” The Academy loves a good epic, so my pick is LOTR. Not only will the large scale of the film win votes, but for two years running, LOTR and its director, Peter Jackson, have been snubbed on Oscar night, even though many thought they deserved to win. The sole competitor for this award is Clint Eastwood’s modern Shakespearean tragedy “Mystic River”, one of the most highly acclaimed films of the year. Peter Jackson “LOTR” Jackson is the overwhelming favorite in this category, for the one reason enumerated above: Academy voters want to give the award to him and his brilliant trilogy, and the film world agrees. Only Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) having won rave reviews across the board and given Jackson competition in the critics’ awards. Sean Penn “Mystic River” This is the closest race of the night, so make sure you stay up for it. Penn is the favorite, if only because the Academy prefers drama over comedy. What’s more, Penn’s well-regarded performance in “21 Grams” was not nominated, which may influence the Academy’s decision. Both Penn and Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”) had career defining performances this year, both have annoyed the Academy in the past, and both seem to deserve the award after years of toil in the industry with no Oscars to show. I pick Penn to win, but Murray is right on his tail. Charlize Theron “Monster” Theron’s face-altering, weight-gaining, career-changing performance in “Monster” made her the talk of Tinseltown this year. A la Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball,” Theron will win because 1) she destroyed her movie-star quality for the role, 2) she played a controversial character, and 3) because the critics loved it. The only possible upset is from the resurgent Diane Keaton whose turn as a neurotic fifty-something coping with her age in “Something’s Gotta Give,” might be this year’s “Annie Hall,” for which Keaton won the Oscar in 1977. Best Supporting Actor Tim Robbins “Mystic River” The most respected nominee. And “Mystic” will reap extra awards from the Academy because it will not win Best Picture. Best Supporting Actress Renee Zellweger “Cold Mountain” The Academy loves her, the public likes her, the critics were mixed, but no one else comes close. Best Original Screenplay Sofia Coppola “Lost in Translation” Coppola, Murray and the picture will all lose, so the Academy will throw “Lost in Translation” a bone right here. Best Adapted Screenplay Braulio Mantovani “City of God” Four nominations for this small Brazilian film; this will be where the Academy gives it kudos. Best Animated Film “Finding Nemo” Hands down the winner, no competition.
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