USA Today’s picks
USA TODAY movie critics Mike Clark and Claudia Puig debate who should win and who they predict will win the Academy Awards in five key categories.
Will win: Chicago. Even all those “guy” moviegoers who hate musicals, as blind and myopic as they are, found something to get excited about from that great equalizer: scantily clad women. That its box office word of mouth held is just one reason this feels like the right movie at the right time.
Should win: Chicago. It was not a banner year at the very top, but revitalizing an entire genre is no small feat. And though there are no bad choices in the runners-up, Gangs of New York is too unwieldy. And even without Philip Glass’ overbearing score, The Hours veers close to self-parody. What’s more, The Lord of the Rings is last year’s news, and Roman Polanski has made at least four other movies that sizzle more than The Pianist.
Will win: Gangs of New York’s Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s the soul of Gangs, just as Oscar winner Robert De Niro was for Scorsese’s Raging Bull.
Should win: Day-Lewis. I love Jack Nicholson’s About Schmidt performance as well, but have people already forgotten that he also did “restrained” in the underrated The Pledge just two years ago?
Will win: Whoa! What a race. The Hours’ Nicole Kidman (I think), because she’s at the peak of her career. And, makeup assist or not, playing Virginia Woolf was a stretch. But singing and dancing were a stretch for Chicago’s Renee Zellweger, too.
Should win: Zellweger. She’s the center of the year’s best movie, though a Diane Lane win for Unfaithful would make me happy just on principle.
Will win: Catch Me If You Can’s Christopher Walken. His key competition, Adaptation’s Chris Cooper, is stuck in a movie that I have to believe is too smug and smarty-pants for academy voters ó and, if so, good judgment on their part.
Should win: Walken. You can feel Catch Me peter out when his role diminishes in its second half.
Will win: Chicago’s Catherine Zeta-Jones. This is a meatier supporting role than the leads have in most movies, and she nailed it.
Should win: Zeta-Jones, for the same reason.
Will win: Chicago’s Rob Marshall. Oscar is not going to overlook the man who made the year’s best movie, especially with all those nominations in key categories.
Should win: Marshall, but in defense of Martin Scorsese and the tasteless campaigning in his behalf, Gangs of New York largely triumphs over its structural flaws because of its direction.
Will win: Chicago. Not only a box office hit and critics’ darling, but early academy screenings reportedly had members on their feet applauding.
Should win: The Pianist. Adrien Brody’s performance is haunting and pitch-perfect, and the film is deeply moving. But there were four other films that should have been recognized: Talk to Her, Y Tu Mam· TambiÈn, About Schmidt and About a Boy. I would have chosen any of those above the nominees.
Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York. His portrayal of the malevolent Bill the Butcher was so indelible that the academy will feel compelled to give him the Oscar. This may be the way they honor the film that has divided audiences.
Should win: Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt. Day-Lewis was commanding, but the more powerful and subtly moving portrayal was Nicholson’s retired actuary.
Will win: Renee Zellweger, Chicago. As heartless murderess Roxie Hart, Zellweger seems to have edged ahead of former front-runner Nicole Kidman since the Screen Actors Guild awards. She’ll win largely because of academy members’ affection for Chicago and their appreciation of the guts it took for her to sing and dance on film, despite her lack of formal training.
Should win: Nicole Kidman, The Hours. Her intense portrayal of the troubled Virginia Woolf convinces all naysayers that she’s a serious actress.
Will win: Chris Cooper, Adaptation. The contest between the two Chrises, Cooper and Walken, will be a close one, but Cooper’s scene-stealing performance in Adaptation should edge out the competition.
Should win: Cooper.
Will win: Meryl Streep, Adaptation. Although her stiffest competition will come from The Hours’ Julianne Moore and Chicago’s Catherine Zeta-Jones, Streep should edge out the other nominees with the force of her funny turn as writer Susan Orlean.
Should win: Streep. She deserves her third Oscar for so nimbly going from strait-laced to loopy.
Will win: Rob Marshall, Chicago. This first-time director took a stage musical that no one could figure out how to adapt to the screen and transformed it into a highly watchable movie with grace and finesse.
Should win: Martin Scorsese,Gangs of New York. He’s been nominated five times but has never won. Though he has made more admired movies, Gangs has some of the most masterful sequences ever seen.
USA Today’s picks