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The Oscars. Those be-all, end-all of film awards. This year, the nominations have been made a few weeks earlier than usual, and again, MCFTR is on top of things to bring you the nominations as well as some uneducated and premature predictions.
This time around, LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING is the frontrunner, with 11 nominations. MASTER AND COMMANDER is right behind it, however, in an impressive ten categories. Other big players this year were SEABISCUIT and COLD MOUNTAIN, which each have seven nominations, although COLD MOUNTAIN was shunned from all but one major award. There aren't a lot of surprises this year, but there are some worthy names that got justly nominated despite the odds. So here are the nominations, along with my predictions in red as well as some comments for the major awards.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Well, spank my bottom and call me Charlie. When I looked at the nominees this morning and the first name that crossed my field of vision was one of the most brilliant comedic performances I've seen in ages, it certainly brightened my day. Johnny Depp was absolutely amazing as Captain Jack Sparrow, and I'm glad to see he wasn't ignored because he wasn't playing a retard or a drug addict. Sure, he won't win, but at least it was nice to see him honored. Bill Murray, who was robbed of the glory for his performance in RUSHMORE four years ago, should go home with this award, and fortunately, he probably will. He took home the award (for best comedic performance) at the Golden Globes, and I'd think he has a good shot of dethroning Oscar stalwart Sean Penn for this one.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
I haven't seen jack shit this year. Really. For all of the acting awards save for the best lead actor, I have yet to see any of the films nominated for performances. I meant to see 21 GRAMS and MYSTIC RIVER, but it's been a busy year. Therefore, I can't really give a personal pick for most of these based on any more than pure biased conjecture, so I'll just do a prediction. Tim Robbins won the Golden Globe, so he's got a pretty good shot here. Now, if the Academy had any balls, they'd have nominated Sean Astin for his role in LOTR: RETURN OF THE KING, but they don't, so I'll stick with Robbins.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Yet again, a bunch of movies I haven't seen. I actually made plans to go see MONSTER as well as 21 GRAMS, but you know how that goes. You can probably rule out Diane Keaton here based on the fact that it was a comedic performance, but you can probably safely bet that Charlize Theron, who completely transformed herself for her Golden Globe-winning performance in MONSTER, will go home with a pretty little gold statue.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
So yeah, again, a bunch of movies I didn't see. You've got three Academy favorites in Harden, Hunter, and Zellweger; as well as a couple of new faces. Somehow I doubt that the buzz behind Aghdashloo or Clarkson's performances will be enough to propel them past the others, nor do I think they'll vote Aghdashloo because they don't want a PR nightmare when Chris Cooper tries to pronounce her name while reading the winner. Zellweger won the Golden Globe, and I realize that it's pretty boring for me to do a complete sweep of GG winners in these things, but her performance probably has the most momentum going in. Besides that, the movie was snubbed in all other major categories, and I'm sure they'll need to do something to make up for Nicole Kidman's being left out of the game.
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
Writing is probably the most underappreciated category at the Oscars each year, and it's one of the ones I'm most passionate about. That said, I've not seen but a couple of these nominated films, and I don't see either of them (SPLENDOR or LOTR) taking home the big prize. There's a lot of good buzz behind MYSTIC RIVER, but the competition will be tough.
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
For this category, I've actually seen three of the nominated films: INVASIONS, NEMO, and TRANSLATION. Any one of them is deserving of the award, but I'm partial to LOST IN TRANSLATION myself. It also won the Golden Globe, and because she'll be edged out for another award (read on...) I think Sofia Coppola will walk out with the award here.
If this were either of the past two years, I honestly believe Sofia Coppola would be a lock here. But if you haven't known for two years now who would win best director for the year 2003, then you don't watch enough movies. Of course, just because I'm so sure, and perhaps just to spite the fact that the Golden Globe already went to Peter Jackson, they'll probably prove me wrong.
Honestly, this is probably the weakest lineup of Best Picture nominees in recent memory. None of these films, save for LOTR, really generated the kind of buzz generally associated with the kinds of films that eventually get nominated for the big prize. Of course, LOST IN TRANSLATION is the token underdog comedy, but unlike in past years, it actually has a chance this time. MASTER AND COMMANDER has the whole epic thing going on, and I'm surprised that this made it before THE LAST SAMURAI, but I think the Academy may be a bit jaded on Russell Crowe by now. MYSTIC RIVER may have been too small and too early, and SEABISCUIT received less-than-stellar reviews from a few critics. FINDING NEMO deserves to be here, but the Academy came up with that nice consolation prize for kiddie flicks a couple of years ago, thus giving them headway to shit on deserving films like SHREK and MONSTERS, INC. This is probably the toughest category to predict. LOTR won the Golden Globe, and while I didn't expect it to win the big prize, the competition looks thin enough to allow it clearance. Yes, I realize that every one of my predictions in the "big eight", if possible, mirror the Golden Globes, but they just seem like the most obvious choices this time around.
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
This award, also known as the copout award, is the Academy's answer to the kiddie table at Thanksgiving dinner. You don't want those kiddie flicks sitting at the big table, but you want them to still be part of the game. This award comes down to a pair of Disney giants and an indie movie that nobody saw. Since one particular film's exclusion from the best picture category is a bit fishy, then you're all wet if you don't realize which film has this award reeled in hook, line, and sinker.
For the remainder of the awards, I've decided not to go in to too much detail. Technical awards and prizes for short films and documentaries that only twelve people saw to begin with are hard to predict, so I'll just pick one and leave it at that. Of course, all of these predictions will likely change before Oscar night, so don't take my word as gospel.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
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