Don't be -- Ty Burr tells you how the Academy's picks follow some familiar patterns

By Ty Burr
Updated February 14, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Surprised by the Oscar nods for Miramax and Ed Harris?

Let’s cut to the chase: The Oscar nominations are in and, while there are no jaw dropping, smack your forehead surprises, some inclusions and omissions are grist for hallway debate around our offices, and possibly yours as well. Some immediate conclusions to be drawn:

Miramax can buy anything (except a win).
”Chocolat” is a pleasant enough little movie, but does anybody seriously think it would have picked up FIVE nominations — including Best Picture and Best Actress — without the brothers Weinstein cranking their guerrilla campaigning to flagrant new heights? We’re not talking about simply buying up every ”For Your Consideration” trade ad in sight. No, Miramax successfully positioned ”Chocolat” as a cultural watershed and a blow for political freedom through arranged Beltway screenings that elicited praise from the likes of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton, and the head of the Anti- Defamation League. Did Miramax play fair? Hell, it’s business; anything’s fair. Will it bite the company on the ass come Oscar night? Here’s hoping.

Actors love it when one of their own risks it all on a labor of love.
Surprised to see Ed Harris nominated for Best Actor (and his costar Marcia Gay Harden for Best Supporting Actress)? Don’t be. Remember that nominations for most categories are chosen by peers (as opposed to the final winners, who are voted on by all Academy members), and know that Harris is a class act who is respected by just about everybody in the business. ”Pollock” isn’t high enough on the pop culture radar to score Picture or Director nominations, but this is exactly the kind of film that other actors admire: a years in the making project coproduced, directed by, and starring a too often unsung good guy. And he’s playing an artist and a drunk to boot.

”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” could conceivably win both Best Picture AND Best Foreign Language Film.
Here’s how: To vote for the winner in the Foreign race, you have to demonstrate that you’ve seen all the nominees. Since this year’s lineup includes such comparative obscurities as the Czech Republic’s ”Divided We Fall” and Belgium’s ”Everybody Famous!” the voting pool could be pretty small. If the Foreign category goes to ”Crouching Tiger” (a solid possibility), there’s still the chance that the much larger Best Picture voting pool (basically, everybody in the Academy, or their gardeners) could swing Ang Lee’s way. Not that this worked for ”Life Is Beautiful” — a Best Pic/ Best Foreign Pic nominee which won only the Foreign prize — but you never know.

Artisan was nuts to push Ellen Burstyn for Best Actress instead of Best Supporting Actress.
It’s a moot point what you call her performance (other than brilliant): ”Requiem For a Dream” is an unusual film in that all its roles arguably support each other. But Burstyn’s gonna lose in this category, knocked aside by the Julia Roberts/ ”Erin Brockovich” freight train. Whereas Burstyn quite probably would have won Best Supporting Actress: Hers is a great comeback story, she’s due for a trophy, and did we mention that her performance was brilliant? In her absence, however —

Kate Hudson is a lock.
Go ahead, scoff; others have (in fact, I’ve already got money riding on the ingenue from ”Almost Famous” with EW’s Mark Harris). But Judi Dench (”Chocolat”) has won a recent Oscar already and so has Frances McDormand; neither of them turn in work SO mindblowing that it’ll convince voters to reward them again this soon. Julie Walters (”Billy Elliott”) and Marcia Gay Harden (”Pollock”) are in movies that don’t quite have the momentum to help propel them to wins. And, as Mira Sorvino, Geena Davis, and Marisa Tomei can attest, Academy voters have a thing for unheralded ingenues in splashy roles. Remember, too, that Hudson’s mom, Goldie Hawn, won Best Supporting Actress for HER first major role in 1969’s ”Cactus Flower” — and remember that Oscar is, at all times, a sentimental fellow.

Best Sound Editing — Hello?>
You guys couldn’t come up with more than TWO nominees in this category? One of them, ”U-571,” being a total gimme (name me a submarine flick that hasn’t been nominated for best ”pings”) and the other, ”Space Cowboys,” being a head scratcher of the first order. Time to replace the hearing aid batteries?

Best Art Direction is supposed to be a compliment, right?”Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” may, in fact, be the ugliest looking film ever nominated for this award. Or did voters misread the form and think it said ”MOST Art Direction”?

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