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Hey Everybody!
We Got The Oscars Over Here!
by B.C. Edwards

It's in the air. The crisp smell of good movies coupled with the decaying stench of bad movies dressed up to look like good ones. It's Oscar Season again. While it may have been a slow year for movies, it's sure gotten interesting at the end. This year we have some totally unprecedented nominations. Some major upheavals and the promise of many a glorious cat fights. If you like you can have a look at the official Oscar ballot here.

In the four acting categories for example, out of the twenty nominees there are only three (Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Bill Murray) for movies nominated for best picture; of the remaining seventeen acting nominations there are only four movies that are nominated for ANYTHING other than acting (Cold Mountain, The Last Samurai, In America, Pirates of The Caribbean). This implies a schism between the performance and the technology that is here-to-for unheard of.

There were massive upsets in almost every category. Notably Foreign Language where almost none of the expected movies were nominated, just about anything that was remotely successful overseas (Goodbye, Lennin!, The Return, and the golden globe winning Osama) was axed by the academy. In their place we have complete unknowns, like Sweden's "Evil" a movie that hasn't even been picked up for US distribution. The only expected placeholder is Canada's Barbarian Invasions. Speaking of subtitles 'City Of God' which was completely snubbed for last year's Foreign Language Oscar is now up for FOUR of them this year (Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing), and these are major categories. No one saw this coming, everyone's reeling wide-eyed… well everyone that I know who is a fanatically obsessed with the Oscars, I mean. Which is really only me. So, I'm reeling wide-eyes. This is almost identical to last year's original Screenplay nomination and win by Pedro Almodovar for 'Talk To Her' a movie that didn't get selected by Spain as it's representative. Except this is way bigger.

For the third year in a row Renee Zellweger is nominated for an Oscar. Everyone says that she is cake walking through Supporting Actress. Personally I hope she turns into the Susan Lucci of the Oscars, nominated every year, never winning, mascara running down her face at all the after parties. The academy has often been quite liberal with their dispensing Supporting awards (Rosie Perez, Cuba Gooding Jr. to name a few) so I'm pulling like all hell for Patricia Clarkson (although I'm secretly pretending she was nominated for The Station Agent).

Lead Actress is the most exciting race of the entire night. There are some heavy hitters (Diane Lane, Naomi Watts, Samantha Morton) and some new comers to the Oscars (Charlize Theron, Keisha Castle-Hughes). The Academy usually switches between giving the award out to a singular performance (acting only, no other nominations -- Berry - Monster's Ball, Swank - Boy's Don't Cry) and to the nomination powerhouse (Kidman - The Hours, Roberts - Erin Brokavitch, Paltrow - Shakespeare In Love). This year, however, none of the nominated movies are up for anything aside from acting awards (well In America is up for Best Screenplay, but it won't win so it doesn't count) which means the powerhouse option is out and it's really anybody's game. Personally I'm pulling for Morton or Theron simply because I've seen the movies and their performances are excellent (Morton much more subtle than Theron but equally as good.) Lane and Watts both deserve the award, more for past work than the movie they're up for (and I'm one of the few who thinks that Oscars given on the basis of past merit and various snubbary is perfectly fine). Keisha Castle-Hughes (The Whale Rider) is possibly the biggest surprise of a nomination in like four years, again no one saw this coming, and if she wins she'll be the youngest Best Actress in Oscar history. Needless to say she doesn't have a chance.

Best Actor and Supporting Actor on the other hand are dead races to me. For some reason I've got nothing invested in the men this year. I guess I'm pulling for Bill Murry to win an award just because he'll probably say something quirky, witty, hilarious and touching in the same sentence but honestly I just don't care. Nice to see Johnny Depp nominated, though, but what does it say to an actor's career when it's for a Disney adventure movie. For Supporting Actor all I really care about is that Alec Baldwin and Ken Watanabe DON"T WIN. I like them both fine, but those two movies are such piles of crap that for them to tout their Oscarness on their posters and DVD commercials will make me physically sick.

Animated Feature is my favorite category. I'm a sucker for animated movies and that they're finally being recognized as actual films, rather than something to occupy your kids while you fuck your boyfriend, is a beautiful thing. This is the third year that the award has been offered. The first year showed a pretty major snub in that Waking Life wasn't nominated (personally I hated the movie, but come on, anything is better than Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius), which seemed to imply that the category was for children's cartoons only. Last year there was little change in this viewpoint; all five of the movies nominated were children's movies, although that Spirited Away won is a fact that still gives me goose bumps. This year we have The Triplets of Belleville nominated along side Finding Nemo and (ugh) Brother Bear. While Triplets has no chance in hell of winning, its nomination is pretty freaking cool. This is a movie that is not specifically for kids, it's beautiful and subtle and slow and fascinating in a way that kids might enjoy but only adults can really digest. There is also virtually no script, like maybe five or six lines of actual dialogue most of which is French, none of which is subtitled. Triplets of Bellville is animation at its most base form. And the fact that the academy actually saw it as something good is way cool.

Documentary Feature is right up there with Animated Feature as my favorite category. Last year I was heart broken to see Spellbound fall before Columbine, but simultaneously thrilled that Michael Moore finally got some props for his movies. This year it will be much the same. Errol Morris (who practically invented the Documentary as we know it) has been making some of the best movies I've ever seen and for the first time is finally recognized by the academy with a nomination (The Fog Of War). The Weather Underground (a favorite at Sundance last year) also eked its way into a nomination and makes the independent filmmaker all the more of a presence at the ceremony. However both it and Morris are going to be swept away by the even more popular Sundance film, Capturing The Friedmens. This is very bitter sweet, Friedmens is a superb movie, very well made and deserving of everything it gets. What sucks is that the Fog of War is a better movie; it's just not as controversial. It would have been nice to see Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer here too. That's the documentary about the execution of the woman that Charlize Theron plays in Monster.


So enough of the punditizing. Who is actually going to win? Well if I gave away all my secrets I wouldn't be a lock for the Oscar pool that I'm running. But there are some really easy tips for whom to expect to walk away with that golden dildo of cinematic art.


WHO WILL WIN:

For the minor technical categories: Film Editing, Sound Mixing, etc.
The Lord of The Rings, across the board. It probably won't win all of them but it will win most of them. If LOTR isn't up for something go for a movie that's up for best picture, Master and Commander for example.

For the complete unknowns: Short Subjects, etc.
No one ever sees these. They just vote on the name that's the catchiest. For example I will stake my shirt AND all of my underwear on the fact that Chernobyl Heart is going to win Best Documentary Short Subject simply because it's got something to do with poor Russians dying of Radiation sickness.

For Best Original Song
I have no idea how they pick this one. Personally I just don't care. So long as Randy Newman never wins another one of these, I'm fine.

For the major technical categories: Cinematography, Costume Design, Score, etc.
Pretty much the same as the minors, but go with your gut a little more. Who knows? Maybe City of God will actually pull an upset never seen before. These categories are much less knee jerk votes for the Best Picture winner. The Academy Members actually seem to think about who to vote for here.

For Animated, Documentary and Foreign Language Features
Finding Nemo, Capturing The Friedmans and The Barbarian Invasions, no contest. Sigh.

For Screenplay
This is generally tricky. Usually the Best Picture will win best screenplay, so match up your votes accordingly. This year the race of races is Original Screenplay. These are five totally different movies each garnering different types of critical appeal. Personally I want the award to go to Dirty Pretty Things, but In America would be good too. Finding Nemo… not so much. It really wasn't the writing that made the movie good. It was that lesbian fish.

For Acting
I'm not sure. Usually just vote for who you want to win the LEAST and you'll do pretty good. Zellweger, Keaton, Baldwin and Penn, for example. This is where the Oscars make you feel dirty.

For Directing
General philosophy says to go with the best picture winner, but that's only worked for two of the past five years (American Beauty, A Beautiful Mind). The other three times the award has gone a movie that is almost the polar opposite of the Best Picture (Saving Private Ryan vs. Shakespeare In Love; Chicago vs. The Pianist; Gladiator vs. Traffic). The long and the short of it is I have no idea who will win. City of God and Lost in Translation are out, they should just be happy to be on the board. So either Lord of the Rings will sweep director and picture, or Mystic River will counter the epic fantasy adventure with some moving emotions.

For Picture
The epic of epics: The Return Of The King. Period.

So there you have it. If you actually made it all the way through this article then it probably means you're as messed up in the head as I am. I have no idea what it is about this stupid parasitic ceremony that captures our attention so fervently but there it is. Tune in next month for complete coverage of the ceremony graciously hosted by (oh God no!!!!!!) Billy Crystal.

 

--B.C. Edwards
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[email protected] | February 2004 | Issue 47
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