TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Hollywood pros in a pre-Oscar sweat as critics just can’t agree

Following a rousing, Y2K-compliant chorus of Auld Lang Syne, Hollywood PR pros have begun to strike up the band for ’Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!’

Following a rousing, Y2K-compliant chorus of Auld Lang Syne, Hollywood PR pros have begun to strike up the band for ’Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!’

Following a rousing, Y2K-compliant chorus of Auld Lang Syne,

Hollywood PR pros have begun to strike up the band for ’Oscar! Oscar!

Oscar!’



Having met the December 31 screening deadlines for Academy Award

consideration, studio publicity machines are now running full-tilt to

get their flicks viewed by the voting members of the Academy of Motion

Picture Artists.



However, there are indications that this year’s Oscar race might be

different from those past.



The Golden Globes, awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,

ordinarily foreshadow the likely Oscar nominees. This year, however,

nominees differed dramatically from the awards handed out by three major

critics’ groups, the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics

Association and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.



It’s a situation that has studio publicists scratching their heads. Some

have already shifted their efforts even more dramatically toward Academy

voters. One PR pro working on a film surprisingly snubbed by the Golden

Globes, however, said, ’I absolutely cannot be quoted, but we’re not

changing our PR strategy one iota.’



The Golden Globes traditionally set the stage for Oscar drama because

the HFPA recognizes films and talent in both comedic and dramatic

categories.



Last year, the group picked Shakespeare In Love in the comedy or musical

category and Saving Private Ryan as Best Picture (drama). Publicists in

both camps banked heavily on their Globe wins to draw audiences and

Academy members. Much space was devoted to the studios’ respective

publicity efforts in The New York Times and the Hollywood trades. By the

time both films dueled it out for Best Picture Oscar, each was already a

winner several times over in box-office receipts.



This year, a handful of front-runners have emerged: American Beauty, The

Insider and The Talented Mr. Ripley. But the various critics’ groups

can’t agree on much besides that.



The National Board deemed Beauty its top picture, Ripley’s Anthony

Minghella Best Director and Insider’s Russell Crowe as Best Actor. LA

critics agreed on Crowe but granted best flick to Insider and best

director to Beauty’s Sam Mendes.



Of course, the races are far from over. The NY critics - traditional

dark-horse supporters - chose USA Films’ Topsy-Turvy as its best. If

Topsy, Ripley, Beauty and Insider snare four of the five coveted Best

Picture Oscar nods, then only one slot is left for contenders like The

Green Mile, The Hurricane, Man on the Moon, Magnolia and The End of the

Affair.



All this has made Hollywood pros a bit edgy. ’I’m not looking forward to

my wake-up call when they announce the Oscar nominations,’ said one.



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