A trio of first-timers (Dion Beebe, “Chicago;” Edward Lochman, “Far From Heaven;” Pawel Edelman, “The Pianist”) join the late Conrad Hall (“Road to Perdition”), a 10-time nominee, and thrice-nominated Michael Ballhaus (“Gangs of New York”) in the cinematography category. The Academy thought enough of Hall’s work on 1999’s “American Beauty” to honor him with his second Oscar, and the fact that he died two months ago sure helps his chances this year.
Scorsese should finally take home best director for “Gangs of New York,” but will his oft-nominated art direction duo of Dante Ferretti (seven times) and Francesca Lo Schiavo (five times) also win their first Oscars for “Gangs?” Probably not. It should come down to “Frida” and “Chicago,” with the edge going to “Chicago,” because it will win pretty much everything else.
Animated Feature Film
Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” is surrounded by four pieces of standard American fare: “Ice Age,” “Lilo & Stitch,” “Spirit: The Stallion of Cimarron” and “Treasure Planet.” If the Academy voters have any sense, they’ll give Miyazaki some long-overdue props. But leave it to the Academy to honor another boring American cartoon.
The visually-stunning “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” is the easy winner here. “The Fellowship of the Ring” picked up the award last year, and there’s no reason “The Two Towers” shouldn’t follow in its footsteps. Participation awards go to “Spider-Man” and “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.”
Music – Score
John Williams is back for a 42nd time with his score for Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can.” He hasn’t won since 1993 (“Schindler’s List”), so the man is due. Williams is joined by Elmer Bernstein (“Far From Heaven”), Elliot Goldenthal (“Frida”), Thomas Newman (“Road to Perdition”) and Philip Glass (“The Hours”), whose minimalist score proves that it doesn’t take much to score a movie these days.
Music – Song
Is the Academy ready to give an Oscar to an angry, foul-mouthed rapper? We can only hope so – Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” from the 8 Mile Soundtrack, is far and away the best choice. There are some other big names up for this award: U2 for “The Hands That Built America” (“Gangs of New York”) and Paul Simon for “Father and Daughter” (“The Wild Thornberrys Movie”). Other nominees include John Kander and Fred Ebb (“I Move On” from “Chicago”) and Elliot Goldenthal and Julie Taymor (“Burn It Blue” from “Frida”).
Count on Flint native Michael Moore to take home best documentary for the acclaimed “Bowling for Columbine.” Moore’s only real competition is from “Daughter from Danang,” about the Vietnamese daughter of an American soldier and her search for her mother, but how many times have we seen this already? Other nominees include “Spellbound,” a behind-the-scenes look at the National Spelling Bee, and “Winged Migration,” a study of migrating birds. An in-depth look at America’s disturbing gun obsession or some flying birds? Tough choice.
Documentary Short Subject
This one has to go to “Twin Towers.” If Bruce Springsteen made sappy short subject documentaries instead of sappy rock records, this is the kind of stuff he’d make.
Foreign Language Film
Carlos Carrera’s much-hyped “El Crimen Del Padre Amaro,” the story of a young Mexican priest who tries to balance his religious convictions with his attraction for a teenage girl, is the frontrunner in the foreign language category. Other nominees include “Hero” (China), “The Man Without a Past” (Finland), “Nowhere in Africa” (Germany) and “Zus & Zo” (The Netherlands).
The leader of the editing pack is Thelma Schoonmaker (“Gangs of New York”), who also won in 1980 for Scorsese’s “Raging Bull.” Rounding out the list are Martin Walsh (“Chicago”), Peter Boyle (“The Hours”), Michael Horton (“The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”) and Herv