"Chicago" goes into the 75th Anniversary Academy Awards as a heavy favorite to win for Best Picture. The screen version of the late Bob Fosse's Broadway hit has 13 nominations, more than any other picture this year.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is favored to win for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Velma Kelly, the Jazz Age singer-dancer who gets away with murdering her husband and her sister-act partner. Zeta-Jones won supporting actress prizes at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
While the world speculates about what effect, if any, war in Iraq might have on the Oscars telecast, Zeta-Jones has some personal suspense of her own to deal with. She is due to give birth in about three weeks.
Zeta-Jones promised she wouldn't be too let down if someone else won the Oscar.
"I'm going to get a gift no matter what," said Zeta-Jones, "and it's going to last me a long time."
Prior to last week's SAG Awards, the favorite for Best Supporting Actor had been Chris Cooper for his performance in "Adaptation" as orchid thief-lover John Laroche. He had scooped up most of the awards season trophies, but watched Christopher Walken accept the SAG Award for his performance as rapscallion Frank Abagnale Sr. in "Catch Me If You Can."
Cooper surprised reporters at the annual Oscar nominees luncheon by revealing that he actually voted for Walken for the SAG Award.
"I made a choice," said Cooper. "It doesn't mean I don't want to win."
Reilly had a career year in 2002, appearing in three movies that are up for Best Picture -- "Chicago," "Gangs of New York" and "The Hours." He said he expected "Gangs" star Daniel Day-Lewis to take the Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Bill "The Butcher" Cutter.
"I think Daniel really sets the standard right now for an actor," said Reilly.
Day-Lewis won the SAG Award for best actor but if he is to win the Oscar, he has to get past Jack Nicholson -- who could win a fourth statuette for his role in "About Schmidt" as a retired insurance salesman who is forced to reevaluate the worth of his life.
Nicolas Cage -- nominated for his dual role as Charlie and Donald Kaufman in "Adaptation" -- is singing the "It's a Great Honor Just to Be Nominated" song.
"I have no expectations," said Cage. "I'm just happy to be invited."
If Diane Lane manages to win the Best Actress statuette for her performance as a wife who strays from her seemingly ideal marriage -- with disastrous consequences -- she can be expected to put "Unfaithful" director Adrian Lyne near the top of her thank you list.
"As a taskmaster he is so worth it," said Lane. "He doesn't allow you to settle."
Lane's character -- as with so many other nominated performances -- seems to get away with murder.
Nicole Kidman, on the other hand, is nominated for Best Actress for her work as a suicidal Virginia Woolf in "The Hours." One of the most glamorous actresses in Hollywood today, Kidman said last week that her dates for the Oscars would be her mom and dad.
"I'm pathetic," said Kidman.
Pathetic is hardly the word for the array of impressive performances by leading actresses in 2002.
Besides Lane and Kidman, the lineup also featured Salma Hayek's breakthrough performance in the title role of "Frida," Julianne Moore's highly regarded turn as a repressed '50s housewife in "Far from Home," and Renée Zellweger's Golden Globe and SAG Award-winning turn as murderous entertainer Roxie Hart in "Chicago."
In a variation on the great-to-be-nominated theme, Moore said she was especially glad to be nominated in a year when there were so many Oscar-worthy performances.
"That makes it all the better," she said.
The race for Best Director took a somewhat controversial turn last week when some academy voters said they wanted to take back their votes for "Gangs of New York's" Martin Scorsese, because they were upset about what they perceived as out-of-line campaigning. Scorsese could wind up winning his first Oscar, but more and more the 75th Oscars are shaping up as a coronation of Rob Marshall as the hot new director in Hollywood.
Marshall won the Directors Guild of America Award, and seems to be in position to win the Oscar for his first feature film.
Besides "Chicago," the other Best Picture nominees are: "Gangs of New York;" "The Hours;" "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and "The Pianist."
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