March 24, 2001
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The Rediff US Special

Julia Roberts continues to enjoy her gold rush. With such hits as My Best Friendís Wedding, Notting Hill, Runaway Bride, and Erin Brockovich each grossing over $250 million worldwide -- and critically panned The Mexican turning into a medium-range hit, there seems to be nothing wrong that she can do.

Every one is betting that she will also walk away with the best actress Oscar for her feisty -- and at times introspective -- performance in Erin Brockovich as an ordinary woman who fights extraordinary legal battles to help victims of industrial fraud.

While Roberts would be a no surprise at the Oscar ceremony on Sunday, there are no ironclad guarantees in other categories. What if the hugely successful historical, Gladiator, is over-powered by Traffic, the contemporary drug drama dealing with deep rotted corruption and betrayal? writers Arthur J Pais and Som Chivukula offer their own predictions for this yearís Oscars.

    Best Actor

    The Nominees:

    • Javier Bardem, Before Night Falls
    • Russell Crowe, Gladiator
    • Tom Hanks, Cast Away
    • Ed Harris, Pollock
    • Geoffrey Rush, Quills

    Som: Crowe, who lost out to Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) last year, will walk away with 8.5 lb of metal (the statuette is made from the alloy britannium, plated in copper, nickel silver, and finally, gold and is 13.52 inches high). Though heís done better work in L A Confidential and The Insider, itís his time to shine as the Roman warrior Maximus.

    Who Should Win: Hanks for carrying Cast Away deserves his third statuette. Heís one of the very best actors in Hollywood but Academy voters will shy away from honoring Hanks, for fear of setting a record in the Best Actor category.

    Arthur: Crowe, though Gladiator is not his best movie.

    Who Should Win: Ed Harris, for giving one of the most accomplished performances of his career. Pollock was a difficult, enigmatic man, a great and complex artist. And Harris brings out of the complexities with an exemplary performance.

  • Best Actress

    The Nominees:

    • Joan Allen, The Contender
    • Juliette Binoche, Chocolat
    • Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream
    • Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me
    • Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

    Som: If thereís a lock at this yearís Academy Awards, itís Roberts who captured the essence of the real Erin Brockovich with gusto.

    Who Should Win: Allenís gripping performance as the tough-as-nails senator in the little-seen The Contender.

    Arthur: Julia Roberts.

    Who Should Win: Laura Linney for playing the role of a struggling single mother whose life is thrown out of gear with the arrival of her prodigal brother. The movie, You Can Count on Me, is a surprise art house hit, and Linney has suddenly shown us the kind of mature performance that we least expected from her.

  • Best Supporting Actor

    The Nominees:

    • Jeff Bridges, The Contender
    • Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire
    • Benicio Del Toro, Traffic
    • Albert Finney, Erin Brockovich
    • Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator

    Som: Del Toro is the favorite in this category with Finney a close second. Del Toroís performance as the Mexican cop staring in the face of corruption is the strongest of the group though Finney could be the sentimental favorite. Look for one or the other to win.

    Who Should Win: Del Toro, a bright up-and-comer in Hollywood. But itís a tossup between him and Finney.

    Arthur: Del Toro.

    Who Should Win: Finney, who has been around for more than three decades and never shows signs of getting tired of creating haunting performances.

  • Best Supporting Actress

    The Nominees:

    • Judi Dench, Chocolat
    • Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock
    • Kate Hudson, Almost Famous
    • Frances McDormand, Almost Famous
    • Julie Walters, Billy Elliot

    Som: If thereís another lock this year, itís Hudson for Almost Famous. With a win for the 21-year-old daughter of Goldie Hawn, who also won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar at the age of 21 for 1968ís Cactus Flower, it will be an emotional moment that the Academy loves.

    Who Should Win: Hudson.

    Arthur: Hudson

    Who Should Win: Hudson

  • Best Director

    The Nominees:

    • Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot
    • Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    • Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brockovich
    • Ridley Scott, Gladiator
    • Steven Soderbergh, Traffic

    Som: The Best Picture and Best Director awards are linked, so Iíll pick Scott. But there are pundits who feel that Lee will win the award as the consolation prize for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Still, I donít think viewers will see the same situation a couple years back when Steven Spielberg won for Saving Private Ryan but Shakespeare in Love took top honors.

    Who Should Win: Soderbergh, who is nominated twice, for Traffic and Erin Brokovich.

    Arthur: Ang Lee

    Who Should Win: Ang Lee, for not only creating a meditative and thrilling martial arts drama, but also in honor of his past accomplishments including Sense and Sensibility and Ice Storm.

  • Best Picture

    The Nominees:

    • Chocolat
    • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    • Erin Brockovich
    • Gladiator
    • Traffic

    Som: Gladiator is a sure to win Best Picture. Itís a grand epic that the Academy loves (Ben Hur).

    What Should Win: Among the nominees, the winner should be the complex drug-drama Traffic. Director Steven Soderbergh interweaves three stories on Americaís failing war on drugsóan important political topic. Itís not glamorous yet Traffic makes a powerful statement.

    Arthur: Gladiator. Hollywood loves historic epics -- Dr Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, GandhiÖ..

    What Should Win: Traffic. A riveting, thought provoking drama which has also turned out to be a box-office hit, having grossed over $103 million in North America.

OK, folks place your bets...

Design: Lynette Menezes

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