BEST ACTOR Russell Crowe Just pretend that he hadn’t won last year; we’d all be crowing for him to win now. As the schizophrenic genius John Nash, Crowe gets you to share a visionary’s grasp of the universe — Nash’s compulsion to see not reality but forms — as if it were a physical sensation, even as those forms become his prison.
BEST ACTRESS Sissy Spacek In the Bedroom gets at the murky, ugly rage that can lie under a rock of grief. That rage is embodied in Spacek’s profound performance, which mingles sorrow with silent anger at the universe — at God — for having allowed tragedy to occur.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Ben Kingsley Remember the scene in Sexy Beast where Don Logan refuses to put out his cigarette? It’s a psycho tantrum, but it’s also premeditated; that you can’t tell where the one shades into the other is the measure of Kingsley’s brilliance.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Maggie Smith As the haughty aunt of Gosford Park, Smith taps the full sublime comedy of her dotty megalomania.
BEST SCREENPLAY (ORIGINAL) Memento The dialogue in Gosford Park is a debonair marvel, but Christopher Nolan’s dazzling labyrinth of a thriller is built on the intricate girders of its screenplay, an interpolation of memory and mystery, flashback and flash-forward that adds up to a vision of the year’s most singular — and beautiful — mind.
BEST SCREENPLAY (ADAPTED) Ghost World The formidable disdain of two teenage girls wandering through the American consumerist miasma is funny and gratifying. But the magic of Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff’s script is the way it thumbs its nose at a false world while portraying that world as a source of postmodern adventure.
BEST DIRECTOR Robert Altman Gosford Park is a bit too arch to be one of the great Altman films, but he stages it with such virtuosic flow that the movie sparkles with a master’s delight in his medium.
BEST PICTURE In the Bedroom From the opening frames, you know that Todd Field is a born filmmaker. By the end, you know that he’s a born enthraller, using the primal lure of vengeance to take us deeper inside a marriage than any movie has in years. I’m a fan of all the nominated films (except for the craftsmanly, depersonalized Lord of the Rings), but this is the one that resonates most.
BEST ACTOR Denzel Washington As a big bad unpredictable cop in Training Day, Washington is fleet, magnetic, loose, and not a little scary. Freed from the responsibility of playing righteous men burning with indignation, this great actor turns on the star sizzle — and turns in the category’s most exciting, image-reversing performance.
BEST ACTRESS Sissy Spacek Spacek inhabits the skin of In the Bedroom’s grief-stiffened middle-aged wife and mother with such depth and authority that she enthralls even at her stillest.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Ian McKellen He plays a wizard, pointy hat and all, in a role purple with overacting possibilities. But McKellen scales his talents in such passionate service to the larger saga of The Lord of the Rings that all other wizards ought to study his playbook.