Inside Move: ‘Rouge’ opens up best-pic Oscar race

PGA kudos show that all best are off on 'Rings,' 'Mind' competish

Reports of a two-film Oscar race may have been premature.

Since nominations were announced Feb. 12, many Oscar pundits decided the best picture competition was down to two finalists: New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and Universal/DreamWorks’ “A Beautiful Mind.”

But Sunday’s Producers Guild award to 20th Century Fox’s “Moulin Rouge” signals that all bets are off. Studio execs, Oscar campaigners and journalists were on the phone Monday, mulling the recent spate of awards like swamis sifting through tea leaves, all asking one question: What does this mean?

For one thing, it’s good news for “Moulin Rouge.” In nine of the past 12 years, the Producers Guild has predicted Oscar’s best-pic winner. In addition, “Rouge” has been saluted in guild voting from art directors, editors and the hair & makeup union, meaning it has a lot of fans in the industry.

Many journalists had dismissed the film’s chances at Oscar’s top prize, since it failed to land directing and screenplay noms. But this theory works on the supposition that the Oscar race can be handicapped. In truth, every year holds a few winners that defy the odds and break the rules.

But it’s not exactly a one-film race, either. “Beautiful Mind” won a Golden Globe, and “Rings” took American Film Institute and BAFTA honors. Both those films also have a lot of supporters who believe their pic has exactly what Oscar voters are looking for this year.

As for Miramax’s “In the Bedroom” and USA Films’ “Gosford Park,” they’re still very much in the running. In 1981, everyone was focusing on the race between “Reds” and “On Golden Pond,” but, while nobody was looking, “Chariots of Fire” grabbed the most votes.

In other words, it ain’t over until the fat lady opens the envelope.

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