Normally, at this time of year, friends will ask me what films and performances I think will be nominated for Oscars in February, and they gladly offer opinions of their own; this year, they ask me because they really don't have a clue.

For the past five years, I've written an annual coming-attractions article, detailing 10 summer movies that I was most anticipating. With roughly 50 major relases scheduled for the next 12 weeks, does it say more about me, or the current state of Hollywood films, that this year I can only muster up proper enthusiasm for eight of them? Sure, everyone's curious about Pearl Harbor, and most are at least vaguely interested in seeing what Moulin Rouge is all about (both of which I'll analyze in the next issue of The Reader).

Oscar Race 2001

From the "Isn't it ironic?" department: After the 1999 movie year, which was widely considered to be one of film's best in decades, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scienes produced its weakest Best Picture slate in ages, while this year, generally considered to be a nadir for film in general, the Academy has chosen its finest roster of Best Picture candidates since at least 1993.

So, compared to last year, just how bad were movies in 2000? Let's put it this way: Last year, the wonderfully inventive and clever Election narrowly missed making my 10 Best list. I consider it a truly great comedy, and its Oscar-nominated screenplay is superb, but I just couldn't fit it in following a year that produced such milestones as American Beauty, Toy Story 2, Being John Malkovich, The Straight Story, and even South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut (and that's not even including such works as Magnolia and The Talented Mr.

With no new releases opening this past weekend, and faced with the prospect of reviewing 102 Dalmatians (it took all my endurance just to sit through the first lovable, live-action canine opus), I decided to instead look to a brighter future: next year's potential Academy Award nominations.

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