Oscar, the little punk

So, Andrew asks, what did I think of the Oscar nominations? I think my overwhelming feeling was a complete and utter lack of surprise. I saw a lot of choices that could only be described as "safe." We rant about this every year, he and I, and for once I thought I'd be brave and daring and post my initial commentary today, before all the ad campaigns kick in to try to sway opinions. I'll feel a bit better about my choices after I get to see a couple more movies, but I'm going to talk about all this in my usual pseudo-knowledgeable way. Hey, I pay enough in movie rental fees to finance a low-budget film or two; with that and a tiny dose of misplaced chutzpah, you too can be a movie critic! Enjoy.

Best Picture

A Beautiful Mind Gosford Park In the Bedroom The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Moulin Rouge I've seen three of these so far. We haven't made it to A Beautiful Mind yet, and we haven't yet made the drive to Birmingham to see In the Bedroom, though I've done a significant amount of reading on each. I want to see A Beautiful Mind before I make up my mind about it, but it's going to have to absolutely blow me away to beat what I've already seen. I loved Gosford Park but I think it fits better somewhere else (see Director). I think Moulin Rouge's honor is in the nomination; it was a lovely film and a beautifully-produced musical, but I don't believe it has a prayer of actually winning. For Best Picture I ask myself what movie will be remembered as the hallmark of the year, and for me it's an obvious choice—LotR. Do I think it will actually get it? No. I think the Academy will choose A Beautiful Mind for two reasons: one, that LotR is the first of three, and what if the rest of the series doesn't live up to the promise of the first installment…and two, the Academy's notorious discomfort in rewarding sci-fi/fantasy movies in anything except technical achievement categories.

Best Actor

Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind Sean Penn, I Am Sam Will Smith, Ali Denzel Washington, Training Day Tom Wilkinson, In the Bedroom Normally I have a stronger opinion in this category, but I think that this year the race is probably already decided. I actually haven't seen any of these movies yet; to be honest, I have no desire to see three of them. Sean Penn and Will Smith have the dubious honor of apparently being the best parts of otherwise-not-Oscar-caliber movies, which I think hurts their chances tremendously. I can't speak for Denzel Washington's performance, but I have to admit that for a movie that didn't get a lot of buzz, this nomination smacks of an apology renomination for the fact that he did NOT win a Best Actor statuette for The Hurricane, a movie which was deserving but had the bad fortune of being released in the same year as American Beauty. The Academy often uses Best Actor/Actress roles to reward movies that don't win Best Picture, and thus this tier of awards often goes to deserving actors who worked in smaller, less-publicized pictures. The safe choice is going to be Russell Crowe, but I think it would be a good idea for Tom Wilkinson to have an acceptance speech ready.

Best Actress:

Halle Berry, Monster's Ball Judi Dench, Iris Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom Renée Zellweger, Bridget Jones's Diary A thoroughly top-notch category this year: a group of women who actually went out on a limb and took mentally and physically demanding roles. I honestly don't have a prediction about this one. Everything I've heard about Sissy Spacek's performance tells me that seeing it will almost certainly tip the scales in her favor; the reviews I've seen indicate it's a performance of a lifetime. And yet…and yet…there's Nicole Kidman in a role that must've seemed madness when she first signed on ("you're going to do a … rock musical?"), and Renée Zellweger picking up a surprise nomination for a comedic role. Buzz says Sissy Spacek, history says Judi Dench (who undeservedly picked up a supporting actress win a couple of years ago, damaging her chances now in a real role), but I have to admit that I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that Nicole Kidman gets rewarded for taking a big, big risk and having it pay off in spades.

Supporting Actor

No commentary. Don't know enough to spout intelligently.

Supporting Actress

Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind Helen Mirren, Gosford Park Maggie Smith, Gosford Park Marisa Tomei, In the Bedroom Kate Winslet, Iris Hey, does anyone besides me remember Marisa Tomei? She surprised everyone by walking out with an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny and hasn't made much noise since. I've heard little about her performance in In the Bedroom; I'll say more after I've seen the movie. I think Kate Winslet will probably be overlooked; Iris saw little distribution in the States, and she's been part of two movies recently (Titanic and Quills) in which her performances were excellent and the movies rewarded. Unfortunately, I think that the ensemble nature of Gosford Park will split Mirren and Smith's votes, and that's a pity—both of them (Maggie Smith especially!) chewed up the scenery in Gosford Park and it was a joy to watch. I think the safe vote will go to Jennifer Connelly, both as a nod to her solid performance in A Beautiful Mind and as an apology to ignoring her stellar performance in Requiem For A Dream. If you haven't seen it, it was a performance whose quality was so blatant, so obvious, so thorough, that her losing out an Oscar to anyone was a travesty. I think Jennifer Connelly gets the apology Oscar, despite the fact that I think Maggie Smith's performance is probably more worthy.

Best Director

Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down Robert Altman, Gosford Park Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring David Lynch, Mulholland Drive For once, I'm not picking someone to get an Oscar, I'm picking against someone. I'll be various shades of happy with whoever wins this category, as long as that person isn't Ridley Scott. My next least favorite is probably going to be Ron Howard, mostly because I believe that A Beautiful Mind is going to clean up in other categories but partly because I suspect that the direction is NOT the best part of the movie. On the other hand, I can make very good cases for Robert Altman, Peter Jackson, and David Lynch. Robert Altman has never won an Oscar, and I think it possible that this may be the film where they finally decide to reward him for some brilliant past work (in addition to masterminding an incredibly complex and difficult film that would have fallen apart under any other director). The same, to a slightly lesser extent, could be said for Peter Jackson. I believe him to be greatly responsible for the coherency of LotR, but I also think it likely that the Academy will choose to give Best Picture to A Beautiful Mind and give Jackson Best Director as a sort of consolation prize. The dark horse (pun fully intended) is David Lynch, whose filmmaking is brilliant surrealism, but which is also probably too outré for the Academy to feel comfortable rewarding him. They are, at heart, conservative; I think for Lynch the honor will have to be in the nomination. This category raises the most ire in me. See below.

Foreign Film

Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (Amélie), France Elling, Norway Once Upon a Time in India (Lagaan), India No Man's Land, Bosnia and Herzegovina El Hijo de la novia (Son of the Bride), Argentina Okay, we have an obvious, obvious omission here. Would someone please tell me where The Princess and the Warrior is? Aside from that annoyance, I'll state that I'm glad to see that the Academy was able to get over their hauteur long enough to nominate the delightful and charming Amélie, the Cannes audience favorite that was snubbed by the judges for not being 'serious enough.' Despite all that, I look for No Man's Land to pick this one up; it's well-known, it's European, and it has thoroughly-depressing subject matter. That's practically a requirement for this category. Heaven forbid someone rent something with subtitles and expect to laugh. Aurgh. I hate to see Amélie get snubbed by both Cannes and the Academy, but the safe bet is that it's going to happen—despite the fact that it's going to be remembered as the foreign movie of the year.

Does Anyone Besides Me Remember Memento?

What the hell is Black Hawk Down doing in the Best Director category when Memento is not there? I was disgusted to see how little recognition Memento received. Now that I've seen Christopher Nolan's first film, Following, there is absolutely no doubt left in my mind that Memento was no fluke. Why is it that the Academy feels the need to wait to reward directors later in their careers? The concept of an 'apology Oscar' is a well-known one, and I think may well come into play here when Nolan does his next movie. I think had Memento had the budget or studio backing to be released in Oscar season, instead of being left to languish in the summer, that we'd see a lot more nominations for what is quite possibly one of the most best and most inventive movies I've seen in quite some time.

If The Academy's Listening….

Would someone please give Randy Newman a Best Song Oscar so the poor man can retire? He must just hate going to the Oscars by now; what an exercise in futility it's been for him.


I quickly glanced over the nods, and I didn't notice that Moulin Rouge didn't get a best costume nod. That's awfully weird. I still haven't seen A Beautiful Mind, although I want to. It's about a math geek! I have to watch it. :) My problem with Randy Newman is that everything he writes sounds exactly the same. Maybe the Academy should just close their eyes, pick a Newman song, and give him an Oscar.

Oh, I agree. Everything Randy Newman writes sounds like Randy Newman. But after a while, it just becomes cruel to nominate a guy year after year after year. Either give him a statue or let him save the fundage for the tux rental, y'know?

I stand corrected. IMDb made an error. Moulin Rouge DID receive a Best Costume nod. I've corrected the entry.

Just so people who read this don't think that Memento didn't get any nominations, it got at least one -- Best Screenplay. I have to agree with some of your analysis. I think Crowe will get Best Actor. I think A Beautiful Mind will get Best Picture, even though I'd rather see Gosford Park get it (and I think both of those were better than Lord Of The Rings, for what it's worth). Best Director will probably go to Ron Howard, as much as I hate to say it. I have no idea who'll win the Best Actress and either Best Supporting role (although I wouldn't mind seeing Ben Kingsley get it, even though he's already got one -- strange story, I went to UVic's cinema to see Shrek. Started out with some guy sunbathing -- definitely not Shrek. I got to see Sexy Beast by accident, and was pleased because I'd meant to see it when it was on "wide" release a couple of months prior). I think Memento should get Best Screenplay Written For The Screen, and Lord Of The Rings should get Best Adapted Screenplay. Shrek will get Best Animated Picture. The rest, I don't know. Best Costume Design will probably go to Gosford Park. But that's as far as I'm willing to guess. =)

Aw, you mean Newman can't be like Susan Lucci? :D As for Ridley Scott, the ire there is for ... ? I haven't seen BHD, but the main reason I will is because my senior design project involves Army rotorcraft. We can expect more of this kind of movie as Follywood shifts to a war footing. Not much plot to BHD from what I've heard, which is disappointing, because other movies where a crisis happened have had great plots [Apollo 11 screams to mind]. At this point, I've ceased caring about the Oscars. They won't decide whether to go after the truly good films or the box office showstoppers, preferring to ride the fence between the two. That's all well and good, I guess, but having a fencepost up your ass gets rather painful after a while ...

You think Gosford will pick up costuming? Normally I'd agree with you, since the Academy has a slobbering lovefest with period pieces, but I think that's a tight category this year with both Moulin Rouge AND LotR being nominated (and rightfully so). I'd really love to see Altman or Lynch get Director. But I don't think it'll happen; I really think that's going to be Jackson's consolation prize.

Well, you'd really have to ask Alice about costume design, but I much preferred Gosford Park's over Moulin Rouge's. I think accurately depicted costuming wins people over better than outlandish costuming. I dunno, I guess it all depends on your point of view (which is what this is all about, no?), and my point of view is telling me Gosford Park will get it. :)

Geof: I object to Ridley Scott because I think he made some piss-poor choices in the general direction of BHD. Sure, he made a whiz-bang documentary about an ugly subject, but by electing to sidestep any semblance of the issues behind what happened, he missed out on the chance of making a truly great movie. He went for a safe action flick. I don't want to see him rewarded for making that choice.

I'm all in favor of nominating Newmann every year and giving him nothing. It is just cruel enough to make up for his awful music. And the perpetual nomination would be perfectly nasty taunt.

Best reason A Beautiful Mind will get the Best Picture Oscar: "It's got mental illness. It's like Forrest Gump with sums!" Courtesy my officemate.

here is my unsolicited opinion: Beautiful Mind: At the time I saw it, I thought it was an excellent movie, and I had that "Oscar" feeling as I left. Not the "Wow, that deserves an Oscar" feeling or "Russell Crowe deserves one" feeling, but that feeling that it is just the kind of movie Hollywood likes. Crowe was good, but just because he could speak lowly and mask his accent wasn't as remarkable as to be Best Actor. I never forgot that it was Russell Crowe. Jennifer Connelly was good, she had a much more difficult role to play. The movie on the whole was good, but disturbing, but not quite disturbing enough.... a few weeks later, it doesn't seem as good as it I thought it was originally. Gosford Park: FABULOUS! I actually went to see it twice. It has so many nuances and interesting things going on, and so many layers, it gets better each time. This is a movie I will add to my permanent collection. LoTR: My husband reread the book in anticipation of this movie and he was not disappointed. I feel a little left out here, because I am not a SciFi lover for the most part so I know that some of the stuff in it went right by me... that being said, as a non-scifi person, I think it was a wonderful movie. Full of action, adventure, music, scenery, characters that I did get totally lost in its world. I know I will see it again, many more times. It is a classic. Thank God Hollywood recognized it. I am sure it won't win and agree w/Amy's reasoning...but it should. Those are the only ones I have seen so far. One last thing: I do hate it when Hollywood goes for the sweep effect, so even though I think Ron Howard is great, Robert Altman deserves the directing award. Oh..I saw Birthday Girl the other day... Nicole Kidman was great in that, I guess that will be on next years list.

I'm quietly, hopelessly hoping that every category will be declared a five-way tie, and then a spokesperson for the motion picture industry will announce: "Ladies and gentlemen, after all these years, we've finally realised how demeaning it is to the art and craft of moviemaking -- much less to all forms of art as a whole -- to reduce all of it to the silly notion of 'rank', and turn it into a popularity contest. Therefore, effective immediately, we are discontinuing all awards ceremonies, because we have too much love and respect for the art of cinema, and the souls of the artists who create it, to continue doing otherwise." grumble grumble bah humbug grumble.

I do see your point, Amy, on Ridley Scott. Of course, given the timing of the release [switching from Clinton back to a Bush], I wonder if he wanted to get into all that. I think he should have, but hey ...

I don't know if you have read BHD, but the movie is just basically a visualization of the book. Of course, the book goes into greater detail. The movie has taken a few "characters" and compiled them to make one character. I had a hard time with that when I saw the movie. Part of the reason the movie doesn't get into the politics of the situation, in my opinion anyway, is that the book doesn't. The book is pretty much a re-telling of the stories of what happened on that day, or day and a half, that's been compiled by a single author. I also think I remember hearing an interview with Ridley Scott around the time of release. He was saying that there was supposed to be some commentary at the end of the movie, but was removed so that the audience could form their own opinions. Sounds like he chickened out to me.

The issue I have with Gosford Park being awarded best costume is that I consider historically accurate costume to be reasearch not design. It is entirely acceptable to design historical costume by showing the head of the build groups of pictures from the time period. Or better yet just rent the whole show. I don't know how Gosford Park was designed but I'm guessing they did the easy way. There is just so many costumes and details to deal with. Moulon Rouge though required reasearch and then decisions based on the reasearch and directors intent on what to change of a historical outfit. Most of that was from her own imagination. Though I so want to see Gosford Park win for best picture.

Not sure what the ire is for Ridley Scott, as far as Black Hawk Down goes -- I thought he did an excellent job of illustrating the fog of battle while not thoroughly confusing the audience. Bowden's book was a bit more analytical and political, particularly in the epilogue, but the same conclusions placed in the epilogue of this movie would have been horribly out of place, considering the context the viewer was given. I didn't see much of a problem with the screenplay, as far as "chickening out" -- the "edited" part at the end was an epilogue that referred to more modern terrorism, and the idea that we may be forced to go country by country across the planet to chase terrorists in places like Somalia. Which, frankly, is more speculation than filmmaking. The "finer" political points (and I assume it means re the Clinton administration) weren't shown in the movie, primarily because that wasn't the point of the movie. The more obvious and important political points were, I believe, made subtly -- in the dialogue of Somalis, in the banter between General Garrison and his command staff, and in expository text. Characters were combined or renamed due to artistic license, and at least one request from the Army. The character played by Ewan McGregor (in the movie, called "Grimes," in real life "John Stebbins") was later sentenced to 30 years in Leavenworth for sexually molesting his daughter. So the Army asked the screenwriters to change the name, pretty please. Anyway. BHD wasn't a "Best Picture" candidate, by a long shot. But the direction, given the screenplay, was excellent.