LOS ANGELES, March 15 (UPI) -- "Moulin Rouge" is a sweet, sticky, gooey humongous sundae of a movie musical -- piled high with every topping in the case.
It is loud, funny, melodramatic, energetic and colorful in the extreme.
That might sound like a negative criticism, but actually it's the excess that makes the movie work and qualifies it as an outstanding achievement in motion picture production -- which is, after all, what they give Oscars for.
Baz Luhrmann is more than a producer-director on this one. He's an actual impresario, and the end-product is as close to his personal vision as a movie is likely to get by the time hundreds of pairs of hands have been involved in the making of it.
That's why it is so strange to contemplate that academy voters could honor "Moulin Rouge" with eight Oscar nominations -- including one for best picture -- yet ignore Luhrmann in the directing category.
"Moulin Rouge," a musical set in bohemian Paris at the dawn of the 20th century, has already had an impressive haul during the awards season. It finished No. 1 on the National Board of Review's list of the Top 10 movies of 2001, won the Golden Globe for best musical/comedy picture, and most recently won the second most coveted best picture honor in Hollywood -- the Producers Guild of America's Darryl F. Zanuck Award.
The PGA winner has gone on to win the Oscar nine times in the past 12 years.
None of this has dissuaded the experts, who still figure the best picture Oscar race is down to "A Beautiful Mind" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."
"Moulin Rouge" is up for just one acting award -- best actress for Nicole Kidman. You can't rule out her chances, but Sissy Spacek has been seen all along as the favorite for "In the Bedroom," and the only late challenge comes from Halle Berry, who won the Screen Actors Guild Award for female actor in a leading role for "Monster's Ball."
Luhrmann, Kidman and company were pleased when their co-star Jim Broadbent was nominated for best supporting actor --even the nomination was not for "Moulin Rouge." Broadbent was nominated instead for his performance as John Bayley, the husband of writer Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench, nominated for best actress), in "Iris."
Best director is not the only nomination that "Moulin Rouge" might have been expected to get, but was overlooked for.
The first musical to be nominated for best picture since "Beauty and the Beast," it is being credited with reviving the genre in Hollywood -- yet it was not nominated for original music score or original song.
Craig Armstrong was nominated for a Golden Globe for his score, and David Baerwald was nominated for a Golden Globe for original song for "Come What May." The score was not eligible for an Oscar because it employs too much recycled music -- "The Sound of Music," "Your Song," etc. -- and the original song was overlooked by academy voters.
Nominations for art direction, cinematography, costume design, film editing, makeup and sound are much more in line with expectations for Luhrmann's extravagant exercise in sensory stimulation.
Art direction is as tough a call as there is among the Oscar categories this year. How are voters to choose from among a field of nominees that includes "Moulin Rouge," "Gosford Park," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"?
The Oscar for cinematography typically goes to the winner of the American Society of Cinematographers top film award. That means Roger Deakins is the front-runner for the Oscar for the Coen brothers noir thriller "The Man Who Wasn't There."
"Moulin Rouge" may have an honest shot at the award for costume design, but costume professionals in Hollywood have a word to describe the key to winning the Oscar in their field -- fabric. The more fabric you use, they say, the greater your Oscar chances. To the extent that conventional wisdom holds, that suggests a win for "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."
Film editing and sound are likely to go to "Black Hawk Down" -- with "Memento" a possibility for film editing -- unless "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" is having a juggernaut kind of night on March 24. If it breaks that way, director Peter Jackson's crew might carry off the majority of the technical awards.
If "Moulin Rouge" manages to win best picture, it will be the first musical to take the top prize since "Oliver!" in 1968.