Donovan's 2004 Oscar PicksSubmitted by ryandonovan at 2004-02-19 10:05:18 EST
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DONOVAN’S OSCAR PROGNOSTICATION 2004
Why would I waste my time commenting on such self-important trinkets? Because I myself am self-important – it is a quality I hold very dear. Need proof? Just look at how long this frickin’ article is. Or observe how I brag about discovering nominees Lost In Translation, 21 Grams, and Pieces Of April at the Toronto Film Fest half a year ago.
Indulgent self-importance is why I demand you read my pretentious article about this pretentious pony parade. It is a ceremony fueled by the id. And I love the id; it is what keeps blood pumping through my veins. You are also driven by the id; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this article, nor would you be interested in the Oscars.
Need proof? Do you know Ben and J.Lo’s current status? Do you know whether Britney has ever been married in Vegas? Have you seen Janet’s breast? Have you browsed the internet for pictures of Janet’s breast? Did you happen to see Janet’s breast over and over on your TiVo? Is Janet’s breast currently on your screen saver?
So stop fooling yourself, tell your ego and superego to shut up, and indulge in my totally meaningless Fifth Annual Oscar predictions. As usual, I’ll tell you who WILL win, and who SHOULD win. And as a new addition this year, I’ll offer choices on who was gloriously omitted and who was ingloriously snubbed.
SHOULD WIN: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
WILL WIN: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Cold Mountain
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: 21 Grams
I don’t think there’s any big secret here: The Lord Of The Rings will win Best Picture. I’ll refer to it by the name of the trilogy, because that is what’s being rewarded – the entire series. And I’ll agree: Of all the nominees, LOTR deserves to win. But I’m having a hard time endorsing it. Here’s my problem: It’s a sequel. It’s a SEQUEL. I can’t believe that nobody is as blown away by this as I am. There’s been nothing even near this in Oscar history. The closest parallels were actresses that were ignored for a first film, but nominated for Part Deux: Talia Shire for The Godfather Part II and Sigourney Weaver for Aliens. Can you imagine if this had happened before? Best Picture Oscar winners? Rocky III? Return Of The Jedi? Red Dragon? Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade? Jaws 3-D? They are all second sequels to a Best Picture nominee.
But LOTR is different, of course. It was conceived as a trilogy from the start; a single story in three parts. It was not a successful film that for money or ego spawned other additions (I’m not alluding to Star Wars, and may God strike you down for blaspheming). So does that make it okay? Yes and no. By virtue of being the third act, it resembles a more complete story, and has finality. But it was born in an age where sequels are prefabricated as soon as the first one garners favorable test scores. It is a direct result of a culture that rewards safe, predictable behemoths. Could one of the mavericks of the 1970s have pulled this off? Making three films at once, all one story? No, not even Francis Ford Coppola (make no mistake, The Godfather Part II was given birth by the first film’s success). Am I being unfair to LOTR? Of course I am. My point is that this is unprecedented, and nobody seems to care but me. I think change is bad, unless I think change is good.
The other films in this category don’t quite stand up to LOTR. For my money, Mystic River is the closest. Lost In Translation, Master And Commander, and Seabiscuit are all great films, but in some abstract way, don’t feel like the “best”. Thankfully, Cold Mountain, one of the most hyped year-end Oscar hopefuls, was not nominated. I would say that the omission serves megalomaniacal puppeteer Harvey Weinstein right, but I fear that he would have me killed or eaten.
So, what would I award as Best Picture this year? Out of all the “contenders”, I’d probably give it to 21 Grams, edging out American Splendor. But what was truly the BEST movie of the year? Honestly? Old School.
SHOULD WIN: Sean Penn (Mystic River)
WILL WIN: Sean Penn (Mystic River)
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Tom Cruise (The Last Samurai)
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Paul Giamatti (American Splendor)
The only two really fighting for this award are Bill Murray and Sean Penn. The voters know it. The question is: What rationale will the voters use to cast their ballot? You’d think the answer would be easy: They will vote for the Best Performance. You’d be wrong. People will vote for Sean Penn on the strength of both Mystic River and 21 Grams. They will also consider Penn’s entire career, for which he has roped 3 previous nominations, but never won. On the other hand, people will vote for Murray, unanimously considered the classiest of classy, for the same reason – his entire life’s work, which has been retrospectively viewed as holy. And, they might see this as Murray’s only real shot at winning the award, where Penn will doubtless have other opportunities. Then again, these are the same voters that denied Murray a nomination for Rushmore (a superior performance, in my opinion). Voters will consider politics, where Penn has been particularly outspoken. They will also consider Academy reverence, of which Penn has absolutely none; he vocally despises the very idea of the Awards. Fortunately for Penn, the voters are his peers – they are just as eccentric and egotistical as he is. And he has lightened up on his anti-awards stance, and will likely show up to the shizow. In the end, Penn will win. And personally, I think it will be recognition overdue for his spectacular cameo in Being John Malkovich, endorsing puppeteering in Malkatraz’s untrue Hollywood Story clip.
As for the also-rans, I am disappointed with the nomination of Jude Law. He and Nicole Kidman in Cold Mountain were the least interesting leads I have seen in a long time; it didn’t help that they were overshadowed by host of dazzling supporting actors, including Renee Zellweger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Giovanni Ribisi, Natalie Portman, Jena Malone, and Jack White (yes, of the White Stripes). People applaud Law’s “understated” performance; I call it “lazy”. And the deadwood courtship between Law and Kidman? I never use the word “retarded”, but their love affair was absolutely retarded. The biggest beef I have about Law’s nomination is that he has taken the place of a more deserving actor, namely Paul Giamatti. A character actor by trade (and a homely one at that), Giamatti may never get another realistic shot at a nomination. Also more deserving than Law was Russell Crowe… however, I’m glad he didn’t get a nod. He fell into a familiar trap, which the Academy thankfully punished: Broody, burley, brawling Russell Crowe played broody, burley, brawling Capt. Jack Aubrey. You might be good, but the Academy will bite you if you’re not daring. Instead, they welcomed a different pirate, Johnny Depp. Now THAT was a daring role. Was it better than Crowe’s? Arguably not. But it was fresh. It wasn’t Depp’s best work, but it’s good to see him in the club, finally. He doesn’t have a prayer at winning, though – voters leaning toward comedy will vote for Murray.
SHOULD WIN: Charlize Theron (Monster)
WILL WIN: Charlize Theron (Monster)
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Nicole Kidman (Cold Mountain)
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Scarlett Johansson’s pink panties (Lost In Translation)
Whale Rider was certainly a surprise nominee, but it’s nice to see Keshia Knight-Pulliam finally getting some recognition after her spectacularly precocious work as Rudy on The Cosby Show. This category, like the previous one, is a two-dog race (my apologies to Naomi Watts and Samantha Morton, both of whom turned in outstanding performances). Will it be Charlize Theron or Diane Keaton? Again, drama and grit versus comedy and sweetness. It’s almost absurd to choose between such polar opposites, which in this case makes the Golden Globe dual-award format very sensible. In such a race, the smart money says, bet on the drama. I guess it’s an obvious statement, but I’ll say it anyway: Comedy is hard to take seriously. However, complicating the equation is that Keaton is a well-respected and seasoned vet, no stranger to nominations. Her film, Something’s Gotta Give, was seen by millions. Theron is a rookie to the heavy scene, never before considered an award-caliber (or even capable) actress. Her film, Monster, was seen by dozens.
It will come down to this: narcissism. Specifically, the narcissism of the female Academy voters. Who do those catty gals hate less? They indulge in the fact that Theron looks rancid in her film, but loath her because they know in reality she is gorgeous. They feel invigorated when they see Keaton looking so great at such an autumnal age, but then hate that bitch for looking so great at such at old haggish age. Theron’s not winning any votes by stressing in interviews how long and hard she worked to look that horrible, when most women look that horrible on their best days. Then again, this category loves to reward the pretty ingénue (Halle Berry, Gwyneth Paltrow, even Keaton herself fifty-three years ago). The difference will be the Jack Factor. In the movies, Jack Nicholson romances the golden-aged lady. In the movies, Keaton wins. But in reality, Jack bangs (or more precisely, donkey-punches) the hot young beav. In reality, Theron wins.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
SHOULD WIN: Tim Robbins (Mystic River)
WILL WIN: Tim Robbins (Mystic River)
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: William H. Macy (Seabiscuit)
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Paul Bettany (Master And Commander); Don Cheadle (Manic); Chris Cooper (Seabiscuit)
You want a reason why Tim Robbins will beat out Alec Baldwin, both of whom are venerable veterans scoring their first nominations? I’ll give you four of them. 1) Robbins has had better roles and has been more respected over his career than Baldwin. 2) Baldwin played a better asshole in Glengarry Glen Ross. 3) Baldwin is, well, a Baldwin. 4) Duh! Robbins gave a better performance than Baldwin. Oscar wannabes Ken Watanabe, Benicio Del Toro, and Djimon Hounsou won’t win because their roles were far less showy and far less white.
More interesting are the folks that weren’t nominated. I never thought I’d say this, but thankfully, that includes William H. Macy. I love him, but gosh darn, his role in Seabiscuit was nothing more than a brainless gag, a helium-inflated caricature, a laughless comic reliever, and quite obviously the only character not included in Laura Hillenbrand’s novel. A nomination would have mocked Macy’s better but unrecognized work. On the other hand, the Academy missed the masterful performance by Chris Cooper in the same movie. This artisan could teach Jude Law a thing or twelve about “understated” acting. Another great performer was Paul Bettany in Master And Commander, who is getting better with each successive role he plays. He may not have been quite up to Oscar contention this year, but certainly will be soon. But don’t feel too bad – he’ll pass the time suckling Jennifer Connelly’s milky teat. And then there’s Don Cheadle in Manic, a movie I know you’ve never seen – your loss.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
SHOULD WIN: Patricia Clarkson (Pieces Of April)
WILL WIN: Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain)
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Maria Bello (The Cooler)
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Hope Davis (American Splendor)
Typically worthless, this category has gotten a bit more exciting the last couple of years, thanks to the improved quality of roles available for consideration. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Imagine that – a world where there are GOOD supporting roles for women in Hollywood (of course, to get the roles, women will still have to sleep with Lew Wasserman). This year, in fact, there is not enough room in the Kodak Theater for all the quality performances: Hope Davis was sadly shunned for American Splendor.
As it turns out, this is one of only two categories where I think the actual winner will deviate from my personal choice. I’m a sucker for Marcia Gay Harden, but Mystic River wasn’t even her best work this year – she was better in Casa De Los Babys. Shohreh Aghaldkjicsdkfsloo was too overshadowed by Ben Kingsley in House Of Sand And Fog to be a real contender. And Holly Hunter in Thirteen was ignored by audiences waiting impatiently for the two junior high girls to make out.
The educated minority of Oscar voters are screaming at the tops of their lungs, “Patricia Clarkson gave a superior performance in Pieces Of April, and for that matter, every indie film over the last six years!” But unfortunately, the majority of Oscar voters – and the majority of you – are saying, “Patricia who? Oh, isn’t she in that Kurt Russell hockey movie?” The problem for Clarkson – besides her anonymity and the film’s gross box office of $20.75 – is that that Pieces Of April was almost unanimously panned (despite a semi-positive review by me a few months ago). Most agree Clarkson was literally the only good thing about the film. Redeeming the film with an Oscar would be too illogical. So instead, Zellweger, the popular favorite, will win.
SHOULD WIN: Peter Jackson (The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King)
WILL WIN: Peter Jackson (The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King)
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Anthony Mighella (Cold Mountain)
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams)
It is shocking that the press is not making a bigger deal out of the fact that Sofia Coppola is only the third woman (and first American woman) ever to be nominated in this category (see my rant in last year’s Oscar article). It is shocking, but also fantastic. That means that Coppola is being accoladed based on her own merits, not on the agendas and sympathies of lobbyists and activists. She is not winning a battle, she is not opening a door. She is making movies. She is not a top female director; she is a top director – no prejudicial adjectives necessary. The irony is not lost on me, by the way, that by speaking about this, I become that which I denounce, and I compromise that which I praise. That’s just the kind of asshole I am.
But lo, she will not win. Is it a shame that she will lose, when she has the opportunity to become the first female winner ever? Of course not. She was simply not the best director this year. Giving her the award anyway would… well, re-read the previous paragraph. Instead, the victor will – and should – be Peter Jackson. And of course, the same argument that I made about Best Picture, regarding the strangeness of the circumstances, applies here. So, while I love to read myself write, I won’t repeat myself (although I will point out that this category has the added twist that Jackson wasn’t even nominated for The Two Towers).
The charity nomination (the Academy’s attempt to be hip and give “mad props dizzle” to a hot young director) this year goes to Fernando Meirelles for City Of God. All he needs to seal his “New It” status is to direct a BMW online film and helm a movie in the Alien franchise. Since there are no convicted child molesters to vote for this year, the real competition for Jackson will come from Clint Eastwood, who created something special with Mystic River. But wait a minute… Throwing a deliciously dastardly wrench into the works is the surprise British BAFTA win by Master And Commander’s Peter Weir. That could mean an upset at the Oscars… but then again, the Brits were also wrong about a little war in the late 1700s.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
SHOULD WIN: Lost In Translation
WILL WIN: Lost In Translation
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Love Actually
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: 21 Grams
I’m not sure what happened to this category this year. It’s usually my favorite, but this year it includes an eclectic array of films, most of which I have no particular interest in seeing. And it left out possibly the best script of the year, 21 Grams. While it may not nab any of the other prizes, Lost In Translation (and writer/director Sofia Coppola) should come home with Best Original Screenplay. Small consolation perhaps, but it’s the award the film deserves. Finding Nemo has a lot of supporters, but its guaranteed Animated Feature victory will hurt its chances here.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
SHOULD WIN: Mystic River
WILL WIN: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
GLORIOUSLY OMITTED: Cold Mountain
INGLORIOUSLY SNUBBED: Master And Commander; Girl With A Pearl Earring
The heavy screenplay hitters this year are all of the Adapted variety. The scripts were so strong and source material so beloved that not even Master And Commander, a deft blend of two books, made the cut. Also left out was Girl With A Pearl Earring, an amazingly tender and surprisingly compelling script based on a critically lauded book. And fortunately, the Academy didn’t have to feel guilty about leaving out Cold Mountain, which was considered a shoe-in merely weeks ago. In case you hadn’t been paying attention, The Lord Of The Rings will win everything it’s nominated for, including screenplay. But I am going to deviate from the popular vote once again, and root for Mystic River. To its credit, LOTR has the unified vision of screenwriter and director in wizardly Peter Jackson. And it was perhaps the riskiest and most ambitious series of books ever to be adapted. But goddam, the Mystic River script just hums. True, the superb acting made the horse drink, but the script took it to water.
Has your id had enough? I’ll leave you with a few more meaningless choices in other categories that were snubbed by the Academy:
Best Song: Dave Matthews – “Some Devil” (21 Grams)
Best Score – Girl With A Pearl Earring
Best Documentary Feature – Lost In La Mancha; A Decade Under The Influence
Best Film Editing – 21 Grams
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