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Oscars! Oscars! Oscars! President!
I work two blocks from the Kodak Theater where the Academy Awards will be held on February 29th. Last week, the bleachers were built on the sidewalk on Hollywood Blvd. This week, the street will be closed, so the traffic around my office is a pain in the ass. Maybe I've become a true Angeleno---Oscars Smoscars, all I care about is the traffic (and it's THE traffic).

I do love the Oscars though. They go all the way back to 1929. That's a lonnng time in movie history. Sure it's all a political popularity contest, but those statuettes are pretty little things. . Sure awards are bullshit, but they're soooo nice and pretty.

They have the Oscars on display for the public this year. As I walked on a plush red carpet and passed the glass display cases of tiny golden men, I realized something. Oscars have no buts. They have big strong shoulders but no buts. But with a nine-volt battery, an Oscar could make a most excellent vibrator, but I digress. . .

I've held two real live Oscar statuettes in my life thus far. The first one was Alfred Uhry's Oscar for the screenplay for DRIVING MISS DAISY. He was my screenwriting master teacher, and he was constantly waving his arms and saying "I don't know, just write it, just write it." That was actually quite brilliant---what else is there to say? Our last class was his upper west side apartment, and he ordered take out Chinese food. At one point, he passed around his Oscar. When I got it, I held it high over my head in triumph. Damn, it was a heavy little thing. The second Oscar I held was Budd Schulberg's Oscar for ON THE WATERFRONT when I was working for the library. The statuette is part of the permanent theatre collection. Every year, the theatre collection has an Oscar pool. I paid my dollar, predicted the TITANIC sweep, and won. My reward was an envelope full of dollars (about a hundred) and I got to hold the Oscar. Even though some of the finish came off in my hand, I did not want to give it back and even offered the envelope full of dollars in exchange. No dice. I got to keep the dollars but had to give back the Oscar. I'm not sure if the theatre collection still has an Oscar pool or if they still let the winner hold the Oscar.

So now we come to this years Oscar nominees. I think it is a great thing to just be nominated----for the rest of your life, you will be an Oscar nominee. That's a special thing. But enough soppiness, who's gonna win it. Here are my predictions---by the way, I do research. If you are doing an office pool, I suggest going to which has short synopses of categories like live action short film (always a back breaker in the pool).

Sunshine Jen's 76th Annual Academy Award Office Pool Ballot

Actor Leading
This is a hard one to predict. For awhile it was looking like a two man race between Sean Penn and Bill Murray, then Johnny Depp blind sided them both with a SAG win. Ben Kingsley or Jude Law could slip in with an upset. But I still think it will either be Sean Penn or Bill Murray. So do you go with the best dramatic actor of his generation who despises Hollywood bullshit or do you go with the best comic actor of his generation who despises Hollywood bullshit? Pick this one with your heart. I'm going Bill Murray because the Old Yeller speech in STRIPES was brilliant.

Actor Supporting
Tim Robbins. He was amazing in MYSTIC RIVER, and he's won every other award.

Actress Leading
Charlize Theron for MONSTER. Like Tim Robbins, she's won everything else. Besides, she'll be in a pretty dress. I would love to see Keisha Castle-Hughes or Samantha Morton pull an upset.

Actress Supporting
Aka the wives and mothers category. Renee Zellweger because she's won everything else, and she's also the only non-wife/mother in the category. I really can't stand COLD MOUNTAIN. I think I read the book faster than the movie. However, I liked Zellweger in the film a lot. She brings a lot of energy to a cold slow snooze fest.

Animated Feature
FINDING NEMO. There's something about that little fish that people just love.

Art Direction & Costume Design
I'm putting these two categories together because I'm picking LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING for both of them. I think the Rings is gonna win big on Oscar night. It won't win everything, but I think the Academy wants to award all three movies. The films do have a very distinct look to their sets and costumes.

LORD OF THE RINGS is not nominated in this category. I'm going with Eduardo Serra for GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING. He lit and shot this film like a Vermeer painting. The Cinematography makes the film.

Peter Jackson. Two years ago, when FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING was nominated, I said, no, they will give him the award for the third film. I am standing by my prediction from two years ago. This is for the three films, not just the one.

Documentary Feature
I'm going FOG OF WAR because Errol Morris is a highly respected Documentary filmmaker. My second guess (and I get a second guess because I'm in a pool of one this year) is CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS.

Documentary Short
Asylum is about a Ghanaian woman seeking asylum in the U.S. who is caught with a false passport by the INS. Chernobyl Heart is about Belarus, the country most seriously contaminated by the Chernobyl accident, and the terrible effects of radiation on the region's children. Ferry Tales is set in the powder room of the Staten Island Ferry where a group of women gather each day to put on their make-up and share their thoughts and problems. This is all from the website and I haven't seen any of these films. Asylum is very timely---immigration has been in the news a lot lately. Chernobyl Heart takes a catastrophe and puts a human face on it. But I'm going Ferry Tales. Go Staten Island!

Rings. Although this is where Sea Biscuit or Master & Commander might get some recognition.

Foreign Language Film
The Barbarian Invasions. It won at Cannes. It won a lot of stuff. It also has a screenwriting nomination. It's Canadian. Go Canada!

Make Up
Rings. My second choice would be Pirates of the Caribbean.

Best Picture
Rings. Again, they are rewarding all three. I've seen all five movies. If it's not Rings, it will be Sea Biscuit (which is about a Horse who could) or Mystic River (about flawed men who couldn't).

James Horner won for Titanic, so House of Sand and Fog is out. Gabriel Yared won for the English Patient, so Cold Mountain is out. That leaves Thomas Newman for Finding Nemo, Danny Elfman for Big Fish, and Howard Shore for Return of the King. Howard Shore did win for Fellowship of the Ring. So I'm going Thomas Newman for Nemo, but don't be surprised if the Shore score gets swept up in the Rings sweep (oh my goodness, I'm sounding like a headline in Variety. . .moving on).

Screenplay Adapted
The screenplay categories tend to be the bridesmaid prizes for best picture nominees who don't win best picture or they are a way of rewarding a really good film. That said. I think Screenplay Adapted is anyone's race. American Splendor won the WGA award. City of God could pull an upset. Mystic River and SeaBiscuit could be rewarded in this category. But I'm going with the Rings for the scenes with Frodo and Sam that broke my heart. Go home, Sam, go home. And I'm crying like a baby.

Screenplay Original
Lost in Translation. It won the WGA award. It is this year's Piano and Pulp Fiction. It won't win best picture. It's the bridesmaid.

Short Film Animated
Destino. There is some politics here. Roy Disney recently resigned from the Disney board and has protested strongly the laying off of animators. This is actually an old short by Dali that he oversaw the completion of.

Short Film Live Action
Uhm, uhhhh. Both The Red Jacket and A Torsion deal with Sarajevo. Squash is about a Squash game not a vegetable. The Bridge is about a drawbridge worker. I'm going with Two Soldiers, an adaptation of a Faulkner short story. It's literary. Yeah, I guess.

I love that there's a nomination for a song from Mighty Wind in the mix. Hint for watching on Oscar night: the last song performed is usually the winner. Last year, I picked the song from Chicago and sure enough it was the first song performed and an Oscar loser. Damn! This year I'm going with the Sting song from Cold Mountain. It's Sting, man.

Sound Editing
Master and Commander Colon The Far Side of the World. Those cannons didn't just go boom, they went BOOM!

Sound Mixing
Master and Commander Colon The Far Side of the World. The cannons went BOOM and the wood SPLIT and bones CRACKED.

Visual Effects
The Rings. Go Weta!

President of the United States
This is a hard race to call. I'm thinking Kerry looks strong. If not Kerry, I'm thinking Johnny Depp could pull out an upset. But don't underestimate Sea Biscuit, the little horse that could.

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