Oscar race ‘Almost’ started

by Ryan MacDonald
Staff Writer

It is the end of September and still nearly seven months before every star bedazzles their dress, highlights their hair and hooks with the newest “hottie,” but already in the Hollywood industry people and moviegoers are predicting and handicapping their best guesses for the 2000 Academy Awards Ceremony.

“Almost Famous” chronicles the journey of a young man’s coming of age story as he travels with the fictional band Stillwater, and reports for Rolling Stone. Newcomer Patrick Fugit stars as the young boy, whose character is based on writer/director Cameron Crowe’s (“Jerry Maguire”) real life experiences.

“Famous” is the first movie of the 2000 year to garner unanimous critical praise, and with the support from a strong box office, this picture could emerge as the film to beat in March.

With winning performances from Billy Crudup and Fugit, and outstanding supporting performances from Frances McDormand and Kate Hudson (Goldie Hawn’s daughter), this film could receive multiple acting, writing and directing nominations.

As an Oscar-recognized cast who is trying to change the world in their next film, Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment are ready to pass the kindness on in “Pay it Forward.” Directed by Mimi Ledger (“Deep Impact”), “Forward” follows the story of Eugene (Spacey), a teacher who assigns his class the task of making the world a better place. Trevor (Osment), one of Eugene’s students, adopts the homework assignment and plans to expand the good deeds to everyone he meets. Arlene (Hunt), Trevor’s abusive, alcoholic mother, is the center of her son’s first project.

“Forward” provides Spacey, Hunt and Osment with characters the Academy likes to reward. Several scenes between Osment and Hunt were reportedly so intense that Hunt re-choreographed her abusive scenes in order to not harm Osment. Not opening until Oct. 20, “Forward” is being released during prime Oscar contention, and if the movie is marketed correctly and finds an audience, Spacey, Hunt and Osment, who have three Oscars and four nominations between them, should begin to work on their speeches now.

Following up his chilling supernatural thriller “The Sixth Sense”, M. Night Shyamalan’s newest effort “Unbreakable” stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and Robin Wright Penn. Willis stars as a man who survives a horrifying train wreck and is the only individual to emerge without being injured. Jackson aids Willis in his attempt to discover the supernatural occurrences surrounding the accident.

Shyamalan’s last film was one of the year’s largest surprises, and if “Unbreakable” captures an audience and critics praise as his last film did, he may be returning to this year’s Oscars and even going home with a few of the coveted trophies.

Teaming together for another go around, Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis are following up their success of “Forest Gump” with the deserted island drama “Castaway”. Hanks will star as Chuck Noland whose charter flight crashes into the South Pacific; however, this deserted island has no immunity challenges, no “trucker Sue,” and no going home in 40 days. After being presumed dead by his girlfriend (Helen Hunt), Noland struggles to remain alive against the elements.

Hanks’ record with Oscar voters is something to remember when handicapping the race (he always figures in), and with the recent success of CBS’ “Survivor,” the movie has potential to catch an audience very easily. Also, Hanks mirrors the ultimate survivor Richard Hatch, in dropping nearly fifty pounds and growing an obscenely bushy beard to transform his character’s look. If that is not enough to grab the attention of the Academy it is.

“The Legend of Bagger Vance” starring Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron is directed by Oscar-winner Robert Redford and is based on a novel about a WWI hero. A man, (Damon) challenges two golfers in a tournament with the assistance of his caddie (Smith).

Damon (Best Actor, “Good Will Hunting”) and Theron (Best Picture, “Cider House Rules”) are both actors who are familiar with Oscar territory, and with funnyman Smith to provide comedic support, “Vance” could easily become the Oscar “feel-good” movie nominee.

In his second major motion picture of this year, director Steven Soderberg is exploring the inner workings of international drug trade in his latest movie “Traffic.” Surpassing the success of his first major hit, “Erin Brockovich” will not be easy, but with Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Dennis Quaid, this film has star power that no other Sodenberg film has had. With two impressive projects in one year, this director is guaranteed recognition.

Also anticipate the Julia Roberts box office success “Erin Brockovich” to factor into the race with nominations for Roberts, Albert Finney, and director Soderberg. “Wonder Boys,” which opened earlier this year and scheduled to be re-released later this year, received enough critical support for Michael Douglas and director Curtis Hanson to reap nominations in their respective categories. “Gladiator,” starring Russell Crowe, was one of the summer’s biggest movies, and this picture could be nominated in multiple categories.

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