||"Pernicious nonsense! Everybody could stand a hundred chest X-rays a
year. They ought to have them, too." - Parnell, Repo Man|
Oscar Noms: Reaction 2001
(Feb. 26, 2001) Take a sniff, folks. Can you smell it in the air? That familiar aroma of red carpet, gold statues, and green envy? That's right, people. It's time for movie folks to scrap and fight for validation and self-worth, all while keeping a gracious, toothy grin firmly fixed in place. Yes, folks -- with apologies to the NCAA Tourney -- true March Madness is here.
And, like any true fanatic, I sat glued to my Barcalounger on the morning of February 13th, just lathered up like a rabid dog, waiting for those nominations to be announced. Well, okay, I wasn't particularly lathered up. Truth be told, I was barely awake. I was one cup of coffee and a Little Debbie Dunkin' Stick away from being awake, but I was there. I scribbled as they announced, I snickered a few times, I was speechless a couple of times, and I was flat out floored once.
I guess we need to sort through this mess for ourselves, and decide what went right and what went wrong on the 13th. More importantly, we need to consider how things are going to play out on the 25th.
Off the bat, let me say this. I never would've guessed in 100 years that Gladiator would be the leader on the Big Board with 12 nominations. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but this is a mega-budget, mega-effect, and mega-violent movie, and it made a mint at the box office. And typically, that translates into diddly come award season. This time,
though, somebody woke up and realized that just because it made a fortune and appealed to the masses doesn't make it poison. Only took 20 years to learn that lesson. That being said, let's run with it....
Best Picture. I guess it was a shoo-in that Erin Brockovich was going to show up here. People have been predicting that since last spring. In addition to my aforementioned surprise with Gladiator, I was also amazed that Traffic made the cut, but I'm pleased it did. With all the wonder about the phenomenon of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I was pretty sure it was going to get a nod. It deserves all the recognition it can get. I was VERY surprised that Chocolat caught the fifth spoke of the wheel, though. Not because it was less deserving, but I really thought Almost Famous would get the final nod. Almost Famous is one of the best films in five years, and, with all the critical praise, I was sure it'd sneak in. (Theory: I think this was the inverse of Gladiator; AF didn't open well, and faded quickly at the box office. Sometimes, for a pic that's supposed to do well, the Academy will dismiss it if it can't turn any coin.) If AF failed to chart, I thought it'd be to Billy Elliot. Apparently, neither of those even were close. Right now, based on what I enjoyed most, my pick for the winner here is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I think it's between Tiger/Dragon and Gladiator, with a slight edge to Tiger.
Best Actor. If you didn't think Tom Hanks was going to score here, you should be riding the short bus to school. Same for Russell Crowe. I was pleased to see Ed Harris jump up with the big boys, even though nobody outside NYC or LA has even seen Pollock. I know all the buzz had Javier Bardem sneaking onto the list, but, well, I find myself thinking, "Okay, justify the vote to me and I'll accept it." You want to send an international message, Chow Yun-Fat from Tiger/Dragon. And Geoffrey Rush?!
For Quills?! The man went past being a ham and well onto becoming an entire deli! The category is for acting, not "overacting." You want a Best Overactor category, throw him, Pacino, and Gary Oldman into the pot and draw at random. How do you choose Geoffrey Rush and not work Morgan Freeman's performance in Nurse Betty into at least a nod? Or Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys? Picking a winner here is tough. I can't say anything about Ed Harris without seeing the film, but I'd love to see him finally win something for his talent. Heart says Harris, head says Crowe. (But then again, Tom Hanks did pull the weight loss stunt, and as we all know, the Academy loves Hanks.) I'm going with Russell Crowe in a tight one.
Best Actress. Well, the only true lock here going in was Julia Roberts. Maybe Ellen Burstyn for Requiem was a given, too. The other three spaces, I had a list of about ten women that could easily be worked in. Two of them, Laura Linney and Joan Allen, made it. At the risk of ticking some folks off, I think Juliette Binoche got a cookie. Again, you want to be international, pick Michelle Yeoh from Tiger/Dragon. Her performance is ten times that of Binoche's, and the film is more deserving. And am I the only one in America that thought Renee Zellweger's performance in Nurse Betty was near-perfection? Being a Georgia boy, and recognizing the jump Julia made into the world of Super Player, I gotta give the statue to her.
Best Supporting Actor. Okay, here's where I'm going to rant. I accept blindly the Willem Dafoe nod. He was fantastic in Shadow of the Vampire. I fully accept Benicio Del Toro in Traffic as well. Two of the other three are body-of-work gifts, the ones for Jeff Bridges and Albert Finney. Both were good in their
respective roles, but neither were spectacular. You want to take that route, you should have nominated DeNiro for Meet The Parents. He was at the top of his new-found form, comedy, and you let that go in favor of two far duller roles? And for the love of DeMille, why Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator? What'd he do? He pitched a two-hour tantrum! By allowing sentiment to take two of the places, you rule out one of the best performances of the year with Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count On Me) and the utter perfection of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous. I know the walls might come tumbling down at the thought of this, but Fred Willard's role in Best in Show was absolutely hysterical! And, if you're going to ignore Morgan Freeman for Best Actor in Nurse Betty, slide him in here for the same role. By ruling out three of the true best performances, you leave little doubt that Willem Dafoe will win this. The only thing that might upset this sure thing is the Michael Caine "We Love You" Weeping vote, which would probably carry it to Finney. I gotta pick Dafoe this time, though.
Best Supporting Actress. Kate Hudson? Of course. Frances McDormand? Pleasant surprise, because I thought Hudson would
overshadow Frances when all was said and done. Marcia Gay Hardin for Pollock? A coup for Ed Harris's labor of love, but, alas, I'm still in limbo until I can see the friggin' thing. Julie Walters for Billy Elliot is an apology for not giving the star, Jamie Bell, anything whatsoever. Judi Dench did absolutely nothing we have not seen in Shakespeare in Love and Mrs. Brown, so why bother recognizing it again? Instead, some thought might've gone to Catherine Zeta-Jones in Traffic, or at least Marg Helgenberger in Erin Brockovich. Picking the true best performance of the year, I gotta go with Kate Hudson, and in doing so, I realize I'm going against the other best performance, Frances McDormand. Want a wildcat pick as the longest shot to win the Marisa Tomei "Whoops We Screwed Up" Award? Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand split the vote, and Marcia Gay Hardin sneaks in and wins. You know any bookies in Vegas? This might be worth a $50 side bet.
Best Director. I am not going to rant about Cameron Crowe getting ignored for Almost Famous. I promise, I'm not. I think Steven Soderbergh deserved both of his nominations, but I would bet money that they will cancel each other out in the voting. Honestly, could you choose between Traffic and Erin Brockovich as to which one was better than the other? I know it's a rare occurrence these days for a director to make two pictures in a year, but there should be some sort of rule exception to drop him into only one slot, so the votes won't split. I was pleased to death that Stephen Daldry got nominated for Billy Elliot, and I knew beyond belief that Ang Lee was a shoo-in for Tiger/Dragon. My biggest surprise, other than Cameron Crowe (I know, I promised...) was that Robert Zemeckis didn't get nominated. I didn't think this was his best directoral effort, but I thought the Academy would nod him up anyway. Ridley Scott, believe it or not, is the outsider here. I didn't think for a second that he'd get nominated for Gladiator. I don't know why, but I thought he'd be shut out like a prowling cat at midnight. Picking from two places now. Head says Ridley Scott, heart says Ang Lee. This time, I go with the heart. Ang Lee wins.
That covers the Big Six, I guess... Now, let's classify the rest of this as "random thoughts":
- Not to start a major issue, but how do you go through the year and not find one African-American worthy of a major nomination? Morgan Freeman, Samuel L., the kid from Finding Forrester, nobody? Does the fact you decided to go with some Spanish-speaking actors cover the minority issue? Just wondering.
- A major surprise was the fact that a lot of films that were typical Oscar showpieces got zippo. The Legend of Bagger Vance didn't even get a cinematography nod! What happened to Thirteen Days and Men of Honor? They were perfect Oscar films! Both had big named casts, and made nothing at the box office. That usually equals the perfect Oscar formula.
- A film as funny and engaging as O Brother, Where Art Thou? gets one nomination for Adapted Screenplay, and a cookie for Cinematography? What about the performances by Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro? I mean, I know you couldn't find it in your heart to respect Clooney, despite his super performance, but these two were great.
- For that matter, how do you completely ignore Best in Show, a film that may go down in history as one of the funniest films that nobody ever saw?
- Nurse Betty gets ignored for acting, which is ridiculous. But no screenplay nod either? You all should be ashamed of yourselves....
- One of the biggest surprises of all! Not a single major nomination for Braveheart II? I'm sorry. I meant The Patriot.... Wait, it did get a cinematography wink. Guess the whole cannonball-through-the-head thing was worth something, huh?
- Am I the only one that hopes Dylan wins for his song "Things Have Changed" from Wonder Boys? Song be damned, I wanna see them try to keep Dylan's speech from going longer than 30 seconds! He can barely say "thank you very much" in 30 seconds. This'll be the comedy high point of the night, just watch.
- Attention Showtime, HBO, Encore, Starz, or any other movie channel out there! Will someone PLEASE make an effort to show the short subject nominees, either as a group or over a period of one week? Some of us might like to see these things instead of having to guess what they are and what they're about. Same for the documentary features. Jeez! For that matter, get the Best Foreign Films on too. Those of us that don't normally get films from the Czech Republic might like to see one once in a while.
- And while we're on foreign films, explain this: Chocolat gets nominated for Best Picture. It's from France. Now, as I understand it, each country submits films to be considered for Best Foreign Film. Cool. How can Chocolat be nominated for Best Picture, yet not be selected as the Best Foreign Film nominee submitted by France? The French didn't think it was the best, but we think it might be? Is that how that worked?
- Explain to me how sound editing only has two nominees out of some 1500 or more films released over the course of a year? How can five films get nominated for Best Sound, and only one of them get nominated for Sound Editing, and the other Sound Editing nominee not get nominated for Best Sound? Five nominees for Sound, and only one was edited well? The other was edited well, but the sound wasn't good enough..? What's the story there?! If you can't figure it out, drop the bloomin' category. That way, you'll have more time for another interpretive dance number.
- And am I the only one that is more excited about the possibility of at least one more great montage by Chuck Workman, who's possibly the best at what he does? Workman's montages are fast becoming the best parts of these Academy Award shows. (I hope you're listening, Oscar Show Staff.)
Get "reel" soon!
Back to Top