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