72nd Academy Awards

Feature article by Matt Heffernan
March 27, 2000

The winners are in for the Oscars, heralding the films of 1999. As I had hoped and predicted, American Beauty was the big winner, with five awards altogether. When the nominations were announced last month, I made my personal picks, plus some very early predictions. So, let's see how the evening turned out.

Best Picture
American Beauty
The Cider House Rules
The Green Mile
The Insider
The Sixth Sense
My pick: American Beauty; Shoulda been nominated, but wasn't: Being John Malkovich
My prediction: American Beauty
And the Oscar goes to... American Beauty
Comment: It was my pick for the best film of the year before these nominations ever came out, and I couldn't be more pleased by the result. I only wished that it had more serious competition.

Best Director
Sam Mendes - American Beauty
Spike Jonze - Being John Malkovich
Lasse Hallström - The Cider House Rules
Michael Mann - The Insider
M. Night Shyamalan - The Sixth Sense
My pick: Mendes; Close second: Jonze
My prediction: Mendes
And the Oscar goes to... Mendes
Comment: Again, no surprise here. A brilliant debut that was honored accordingly.

Best Actor In A Leading Role
Russell Crowe - The Insider
Richard Farnsworth - The Straight Story
Sean Penn - Sweet and Lowdown
Kevin Spacey - American Beauty
Denzel Washington - The Hurricane
My pick: Spacey; Close second: Washington
My prediction: Washington
And the Oscar goes to... Spacey
Comment: A wonderful surprise for me, fulfilling a prediction that I made the day I saw the film. Denzel cast some doubt in my mind, but some of the controversy surrounding The Hurricane probably helped Spacey go over the top. His tribute to Jack Lemmon was quite touching, and now I am trying to picture Lemmon playing Lester 30 years ago.

Best Actress In A Leading Role
Annette Bening - American Beauty
Janet McTeer - Tumbleweeds
Julianne Moore - The End of the Affair
Meryl Streep - Music of the Heart
Hilary Swank - Boys Don't Cry
My pick: Bening
My prediction: Swank
And the Oscar goes to... Swank
Comment: No big surprise, especially after that stupid Wall Street Journal poll had her two-to-one over Bening. The fact remains that Swank isn't half the actress that Bening is, but the Academy was in a very PC mood, which was reflected in at least two more categories.

Best Actor In A Supporting Role
Michael Caine - The Cider House Rules
Tom Cruise - Magnolia
Michael Clarke Duncan - The Green Mile
Jude Law - The Talented Mr. Ripley
Haley Joel Osment - The Sixth Sense
My pick: Cruise
My prediction: Cruise; Longshot: Osment
And the Oscar goes to... Caine
Comment: Had I made my predictions more recently, I would have called it right, but Cruise's win at the Globes really made me believe in him. Well, he deserved it anyway. I think Caine got it just for showing up. Besides, Hollywood folks can really relate to a drug-addicted abortionist. Another example of politics and art mixing, but the worst example is to come.

Best Actress In A Supporting Role
Toni Collette - The Sixth Sense
Angelina Jolie - Girl, Interrupted
Catherine Keener - Being John Malkovich
Samantha Morton - Sweet and Lowdown
Chloë Sevigny - Boys Don't Cry
My pick: Keener
My prediction: Jolie
And the Oscar goes to... Jolie
Comment: I knew Keener never had a shot. The Academy will always go for hot, crazy chicks. She probably would have been my second choice, plus she is a second-generation winner. Ol' Daddy Jon Voight got one for Coming Home.

Best Original Screenplay
Alan Ball - American Beauty
Charlie Kaufman - Being John Malkovich
Paul Thomas Anderson - Magnolia
M. Night Shyamalan - The Sixth Sense
Mike Leigh - Topsy-Turvy
My pick: Kaufman
My prediction: Ball; Longshot: Leigh
And the Oscar goes to... Ball
Comment: I have no complaints, but I do wish that they had honored Malkovich in some way.

Best Screenplay Adapted From Another Source
John Irving - The Cider House Rules
Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor - Election
Frank Darabont - The Green Mile
Eric Roth and Michael Mann - The Insider
Anthony Minghella - The Talented Mr. Ripley
My pick: Minghella; Close second: Irving
My prediction: Roth and Mann
And the Oscar goes to...
Comment: I can live with Irving, but his acknowledgement that his win was politically motivated was uncalled for. Caine did it right, even though he won for the same reason.

Best Cinematography
Conrad L. Hall - American Beauty
Roger Pratt - The End of the Affair
Dante Spinotti - The Insider
Emmanuel Lubezki - Sleepy Hollow
Robert Richardson - Snow Falling on Cedars
My pick: Richardson; Shoulda been nominated, but wasn't: Freddie Francis for The Straight Story
My prediction: Hall
And the Oscar goes to... Hall
Comment: A fine job, but the best wasn't even nominated. I liked Richardson, because his film needed the better photography to be watchable.

Best Original Score
Thomas Newman - American Beauty
John Williams - Angela's Ashes
Rachel Portman - The Cider House Rules
Gabriel Yared - The Talented Mr. Ripley
John Corigliano - The Red Violin
My pick: Williams; Shoulda been nominated, but wasn't: Ennio Morricone for The Legend of 1900
My prediction: Williams
And the Oscar goes to... Corigliano
Comment: Biggest surprise of the night. A fine score, but I prefered William's remarkably subtle themes.

Best Original Song
"Blame Canada" - Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman - South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
"Music of My Heart" - Diane Warren - Music of the Heart
"Save Me" - Aimee Mann - Magnolia
"When She Loved Me" - Randy Newman - Toy Story 2
"You'll Be In My Heart" - Phil Collins - Tarzan
My pick: "Blame Canada"
My prediction: "You'll Be In My Heart"
And the Oscar goes to... "You'll Be In My Heart"
Comment: A nice song, but I was really pulling for "Blame Canada". The production number was great, even if Robin Williams' voice was a little off. I particularly liked the Mountie-Rockettes.

Best Art Direction
Luciana Arrighi, Ian Whittaker - Anna and the King
David Gropman, Beth Rubino - The Cider House Rules
Rick Heinrichs, Peter Young - Sleepy Hollow
Roy Walker, Bruno Cesari - The Talented Mr. Ripley
Eve Stewart, John Bush - Topsy-Turvy
And the Oscar goes to... Sleepy Hollow
Comment: Well-deserved. It was filmed entirely inside, so every detail was at the mercy of the crew.

Best Costume Design
Jenny Beavan - Anna and the King
Colleen Atwood - Sleepy Hollow
Ann Roth, Gary Jones - The Talented Mr. Ripley
Milena Canonero - Titus
Lindy Hemming - Topsy-Turvy
And the Oscar goes to... Topsy-Turvy
Comment: I was so glad to see this film win this and its other award, being ignored in most of the other categories. Those costumes were spectacular. Watching the film was like being right at the Savoy, even in the shadow of Trump Plaza.

Best Film Editing
Tariq Anwar - American Beauty
Lisa Zeno Churgin - The Cider House Rules
William Goldenberg, Paul Rubell, David Rosenbloom - The Insider
Zach Staenberg - The Matrix
Andrew Mondshein - The Sixth Sense
And the Oscar goes to... The Matrix
Comment: A technically brilliant film that got what it deserved. Screenplay and performances could have used some serious work, but I must admit that it looked pretty cool.

Best Makeup
Michèle Burke, Mike Smithson - Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Greg Cannom - Bicentennial Man
Rick Baker - Life
Christine Blundell, Trefor Proud - Topsy-Turvy
And the Oscar goes to... Topsy-Turvy
Comment: Again, this is all about re-creating the look of Victorian theatre. A great job.

Best Sound
Robert J. Litt, Elliot Tyson, Michael Herbick, Willie D. Burton - The Green Mile
Andy Nelson, Doug Hemphill, Lee Orloff - The Insider
John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, David Campbell, David Lee - The Matrix
Leslie Shatz, Chris Carpenter, Rick Kline, Chris Munro - The Mummy
Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Shawn Murphy, John Midgley - Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace
And the Oscar goes to... The Matrix
Comment: Now I wish I had seen it in the theatre. Well, it was before I became a full-time critic. Now I take the opportunity to see every stupid thing that comes out.

Best Sound Effects Editing
Ren Klyce, Richard Hymns - Fight Club
Dane A. Davis - The Matrix
Ben Burtt, Tom Bellfort - Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace
And the Oscar goes to... The Matrix
Comment: I always figured this to be redundant with the above award. I think the sound engineer union must be pretty powerful.

Best Visual Effects
John Gaeta, Janek Sirrs, Steve Courtley, Jon Thum - The Matrix
John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Scott Squires, Rob Coleman - Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace
John Dykstra, Jerome Chen, Henry F. Anderson III, Eric Allard - Stuart Little
And the Oscar goes to... The Matrix
Comment: A good choice. Certainly cost a lot less than Star Wars, but was much more effective.

Best Foreign Language Film
Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother) - Spain
Himalaya - l'enfance d'un chef (Caravan) - Nepal
Est-ouest (East-West) - France
Solomon and Gaenor - United Kingdom (in English, Welsh, and Yiddish)
Under solen (Under the Sun) - Sweden
And the Oscar goes to... All About My Mother
Comment: What, you expected something else? How obvious could they make it? They gave it to Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz to hand out -- Almodóvar's two biggest stars.

Best Documentary Feature
Buena Vista Social Club - directed by Wim Wenders
Genghis Blues - directed by Roko Belic
On The Ropes - directed by Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen
One Day in September - directed by Kevin MacDonald
Speaking in Strings - directed by Paola di Florio
Shoulda been nominated, but wasn't: American Movie, The Source
And the Oscar goes to... One Day in September
Comment: Didn't see the winner, but my cohort, Shawn Drury, said it was "much better" than Buena Vista. I was certainly unimpressed with that one, but it was the only nominee that I saw. There were definitely better ones that weren't even nominated.

Best Documentary Short Subject
Eye Witness - directed by Bert Van Bork
King Gimp - directed by Susan Hannah Hadary and William A. Whitefor
The Wildest Show in the South: The Angola Prison Rodeo - directed by Simeon Soffer and Jonathan Stack
And the Oscar goes to... King Gimp

Best Short Film - Live Action
Bror, min bror (Teis and Nico) - directed by Henrik Ruben Genz
Killing Joe - directed by Mehdi Norowzian and Steve Wax
Kleingeld (Small Change) - directed by Marc-Andreas Bochert
Major and Minor Miracles - directed by Marcus Olsson
My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York - directed by Barbara Schock
And the Oscar goes to... My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York

Best Short Film - Animated
Humdrum - directed by Peter Peake
My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts - directed by Torill Kove
The Old Man and the Sea - directed by Alexandre Petrov
3 Misses - directed by Paul Driessen
When the Day Breaks - directed by Wendy Tilby
And the Oscar goes to... The Old Man and the Sea

Honorary Awards

Gordon E. Sawyer Award
"Presented to an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry."
Recipient: Dr. Roderick T. Ryan, Eastman Kodak Company

Honorary Oscar for "one of the most respected filmmakers of our time, a man whose films have given audiences around the world an artist's view of history, democracy and freedom, and who in so doing has himself become a symbol of courage and hope for millions of people in postwar Europe."
Recipient: Andrzej Wajda

Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
For "creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production."
Recipient: Warren Beatty

So those were the awards. The show was quite long besides the above business, but enjoyable overall. I'm still smiling over Spacey's win, and now I'm ready to get a good night's sleep. Maybe I'll dream that someday, film critics will get their own Oscar category, for Best Smart-Ass Comment, or something like that. I can see it now: "I'd like to thank Steven Seagal and Shelley Winters for that most inspiring love scene on the helicopter." Alas, it is but a fantasy that can never be realized. I hope you had a lovely Oscar night, and a good year at the movies.

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© 2000 Matt Heffernan