The critics have spoken -- New York's, L.A.'s, Toronto's and Boston's -- and the results are all over the place. It's almost impossible to predict the Oscars based on their calls.
Four different critics groups and the National Board of Review picked five different best pictures. The NBR picked The Hours, L.A. picked About Schmidt, Boston went with Roman Polanski's The Pianist, New York with Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven and Toronto opted for Adaptation.
The only sure bets seem to be Julianne Moore's nomination for best actress for her work in Far From Heaven and Chris Cooper's for supporting actor in Adaptation. They're the closest things to sweeps, though we should add Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt) and Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs Of New York) as near locks for best-actor nominations.
Moore and Meryl Streep could actually both get double nominations in lead and supporting, Streep as lead in The Hours and supporting in Adaptation, and Moore picking up supporting for The Hours.
I suspect, though, that two of the five films listed above won't be on the final slate of best-picture nominees. Far From Heaven and Adaptation are too odd, the former an unsettling blend of retro style and modern concerns, the latter just flat-out weird and unapologetically self-indulgent. Remember, there's a very classical strain in the thinking of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, even if it does occasionally nominate a movie like Moulin Rouge.
Very early Oscar nominee predictions are as follows:
Best Picture: The Hours, About Schmidt, Gangs Of New York, The Pianist, Catch Me If You Can.
Dark Horses: Road To Perdition (the critical buzz has died, but DreamWorks is campaigning hard), My Big Fat Greek Wedding as the indie surprise underdog story
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, Polanski, Steven Spielberg, Haynes, Sam Mendes
Actor: Nicholson, Day-Lewis, Nicolas Cage (Adaptation), Dennis Quaid (The Rookie), Sam Rockwell (Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind)
Dark horses: Campbell Scott (Roger Dodger), whose NBR win put him into play (but the picture's awfully small), Tom Hanks for Perdition, Adrien Brody (The Pianist), Viggo Mortenson (The Two Towers -- he carries the picture)
Actress: Moore, Streep, Diane Lane (Unfaithful), Nicole Kidman (The Hours, unless she gets supporting), Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Dark Horse: Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary), in contention with her NYFCC win, though she may be promoted in supporting, which would be silly but not unheard of
Supporting Actor: Brendan Gleeson (Gangs Of New York), Cooper, Paul Newman (Road To Perdition), Robin Williams (Insomnia, classic lead player in supporting role), Christopher Walken (Catch Me If You Can)
Supporting Actress: Moore, Streep, Toni Collette (About a Boy, but she's in The Hours, too)
dark horses: I'm rooting for Bebe Neuwirth in Tadpole and the amazing Samanthan Morton in Minority Report.