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[whitespace] 'Gladiator'
Sight for Sword Eyes: Russell Crowe prepares to skewer an older Academy member in case he doesn't win an Oscar Sunday.

Shock Around The Clock

Criswell's TV predicts this year's Oscars and next!

By Richard von Busack

AND THE Oscar for Best Actor goes to ... Freddie Prinze III in The Freddie Prinze Jr. Story. This Oscar victory hasn't happened yet, but it will--and in our lifetime! This, according to the 12-inch Silvertone black-and-white television set I bought at a garage sale from a lineal descendant of Criswell himself.

The California prognosticator, as seen in Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space, Night of the Ghouls and Orgy of the Dead, once used this set to peer beyond the veil of reality into the future--and also to watch Roller Derby on KTLA.

Today's predictions: I predict a beloved movie star will be an utter failure in a TV situation comedy! I also predict trouble in Colombia. And an economic downturn seems possible for the state of California in the future, which is where we will all spend the rest of our lives.

While you and yours are watching breathlessly to see if Russell Crowe will do something boorish on the Oscars broadcast Sunday (March 25), me and mine have already watched the gala proceedings. We're still reeling from next year's star-studded show. Thanks to Mr. Coveted Oscar, it's going to be a Sweet March 2002 for Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves, hint, hint.

As readers--stuck in the frame of today--know, the best-actor votes for Ed Harris in Pollock and Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls cancel each other out. Who needs a clairvoyant; they're going to give it to Tom Hanks anyway. Likely, the Academy has discerned ungrateful-bastard tendencies in Crowe, who'd rather be back home, boxing kangaroos.

Alas, I also see a parallel world in which Geoffrey Rush wins on the simple grounds that his film, Quills, of the five with nominations in the Best Actor category, was by far the easiest to sit through twice. He'd make the best winning speech, too. I've seen it.

I predict: The Academy is doomed in its attempt to bribe the stars to keep it short, despite having pathetically offered a high-definition TV to the winner with the briefest speech. These people could afford to make a hill of those TVs and drive their car through it, as performance artist Chip Lord did many years back. I want to see the stars up there groping for words, just as they will be if there's a screenwriters' strike. Let the world see how intelligent they are without their big, bad writers behind them.

Best Supporting Actress is the one award everyone misses because they tuned in too late. Several parallel futures have been shown to me. Possibly Marcia Gay Harden, who was inconceivably relegated to this category after holding up half of Pollock--the better half. Judi Dench may be honored for her display of the art of coasting in Chocolat. A few years ago whenever a minor movie needed prestige, Olivier, Richardson or Gielgud would break out a cane, a shawl and a scowl, do their 10 minutes, and then wait for the residual checks. Dench has kept up this fine British tradition.

Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand in Almost Famous seem destined to be almost winners. Both starred in a movie that teaches Cameron Crowe's paradox on Dennis Hopper's Law: Even if you didn't take drugs, it's still hard to remember what happened in the '70s.

FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, Criswell's former television set proclaims Benicio del Toro the winner for his performance as a Baja California policeman in Traffic. Watching Albert Finney's Ed Masry in Erin Brockovich, one felt there was probably a whole movie to be made about him alone. I predict that only a Finney-Del Toro tie would be justice.

Joaquin Phoenix's Commodus in Gladiator was very good, if not a patch on the historical version (you'd need a computer-animated pile of dead tigers 20 feet high to do justice to the imperial wastrel Commodus, according to the historian Gibbon).

Speaking of other movies of unimpeachable historical accuracy--namely, Shadow of the Vampire, which depicted the great director F.W. Murnau as nutty as Werner Herzog: I predict that Willem Dafoe will be not be a winner, though he ought to reprise his Max Schreck/Nosferatu on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The similar sentimental choice of Jeff Bridges in The Contender will be an also-ran.

As for Best Actress, at least they didn't nominate Helen Hunt for Pay it Forward. They could have. I've seen this parallel world, and it is a cruel place. Completely in the bag for Julia Roberts, as you know. Future commentators have explained this phenomenon. The key Academy voting precincts in California would, after what they've been through this winter, delight in a further gesture of insult to PG&E.

To reiterate the other nominees: Laura Linney--damned good in You Can Count on Me, just as she was in the awful Maze, seen at Cinequest; Joan Allen (another one who deserves an Oscar for her body of work), for making the polemic The Contender as believable as it was (which it wasn't); Juliette Binoche, who played the French Mary Poppins in Chocolat and is a long shot; as is Ellen Burstyn for the Tales From the Cryptian Requiem for a Dream, despite the electroshock and talking-refrigerator scenes.

The Best Picture nominees are Gladiator, Chocolat, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich and Traffic. I solemnly predict that of these five nominees, only one will win. Any Academy crazy enough to give so many nominations to Gladiator is crazy enough to pick it for Best Picture of the year.

However, 2002's Oscars will celebrate a half-century-old WWII incident, done Jerry Bruckheimer style. The big screen at the big ceremony will echo with such lines of dialogue as "I don't believe it! A surprise attack," "How are you gentlemen! All your Pearl Harbor base are belong to us!" and "If you go out there and dogfight with those Zeros, I may not be here when you get back." As Criswell used to say, "God help us all ... in the future!"

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From the March 21-28, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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