Oscars 2003: Predictions & Commentary

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[Commentary made after the 2003 Oscars]

[Most of this was a posting made to rec.arts.movies.current-films before the Oscars were given out.]

For the second time in 34 years, I'm missing part of the Oscars on Sunday. Thank goodness for recorders! But, it will be weird to walk in late (for the second year in a row).

I've seen most of the major movies, will note what I haven't seen and will go ahead with my predictions anyway. For the last few years, I've been hedging my bets with a "will win" (WW) & "should win" (SW). [[Prediction percentage for 2003: 25%]]

I'm an avid LOTR fan, though I liked Fellowship a little more than The Two Towers, TTT is still a wonderful flick. & it did get somewhat robbed already - it did have the best score, costuming, cinemetography, and make-up of last year. However, in their "infinite wisdom," Oscar people who apparently didn't see both movies decided that these categories were "too similar" to LOTR. I'm not convinced that Peter Jackson himself was robbed, however, at least not for this year.

The acting categories have been quite strong over the last few years. There's only one mild embarassment in the bunch.

Performance by an actor in a leading role

I haven't seen The Pianist, but I suspect I might be giving Adrien Brody a "may win" if I had. Cage's performance was the one "mild embarassment" - Adaptation is a wildly erratic flick & Cage's performance is part of the problem. Nicholson's performance in About Schmidt was certainly different but it bordered on posturing rather than performing. Michael Caine's performance in The Quiet American was quite extraordinary & very moving. Few people have seen this movie, which was supposed to have been released in the fall of '01 but was held back as it was perceived as being "anti-patriotic." The Americans, then as, unfortunately, right now, were not "the good guys." I would like to see Caine win, but it will probably be Daniel Day-Lewis for his bravura performance in the flawed Gangs of New York.

[[I was delighted to be wrong - Brody was great (I finally saw The Pianist after the Oscars)]]

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

I avoid ties, but, gee, this is a really tough category. Anyone could win here & I'd be happy (kind of like last year when Broadbent won). Reilly was the Broadbent of this year, giving very good performances in several different movies. Newman and Walken were also wonderful. But Cooper & Harris both went well beyond wonderful. Harris's performance was heartbreaking and Cooper's was just plain hysterical. (As much as I would like to have seen Viggo Mortensen in this category, he was probably not quite up to the rest of the supporting actors.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Another tough, tough category. I've gone back & forth on the issue "should Kidman win best actress for a supporting role?" because she absolutely should have walked away with that Oscar. Her Virginia Woolf was magnificent. I didn't see Lane, but have the impression she was good. Moore was subtly different in her two '50s housewife roles. Hayek was quite good in Frida. But I have to go with Zellweger because she's grown so much as an actress over the last few years & was perfect in Chicago.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Another tough category, but I'd give the edge to Bates (and not just because of the hot tub scene).

[Zeta-Jones was good but not great; this was a mildly disappointing win.]

Best animated feature film of the year

Sprited Away is the best animated feature I've ever seen. If there was any justice, it would win. But Disney has gone out of its way to not distribute this flick, & probably isn't promoting for an Osacar, either. Lilo & Stitch, while fun, wasn't special. Ditto Ice Age. Treasure Planet stole ruthlessly from the artist Dean Morrissey without giving him any credit (yes, even worse than Lucas stole from Jim Gurney for some of the Alderan city scenes). & Spirit of the Cimarron looked dumb. So while Spirited Away deserves to win, it probably won't. (on the other hand, I said the same about Halle Berry and Denzel Washington last year & I was wrong, so maybe...)

[[I was delighted to be wrong. It is funny, though, that Oscar will always award fantasy animation but rarely awards fantasy filmmaking]]

Achievement in costume design

[[This had to be the most embarassing winner of the night. The Bob Fosse harlot look hardly constitutes "achievement in costume design."]]

Achievement in art direction

These are the two Oscars that Gangs of New York could legitimately win, and it probably will. Frida has a slight chance because it becomes very operatic in design in places. But TTT continues with its fascinating world building, & ought to win the art direction award.

[[This had to be the second-most embarassing winner of the night. The "dark 30s city in the rain with occassional dance sets" wasn't all that good either.]]

Achievement in cinematography

The photography in Far From Heaven was an amazing tribute to the Technicolor domestic flicks of the '50s & early '60s. However, I suspect Chicago will sweep a bunch of tech & major awards, and this may be one of them.

[[I am normally a fan of Conrad L. Hall - particularly his work for American Beauty. However, the photography of Road to Perdition was all over the place. As Hall recently died, this award was probably more of an in memoriam than a real award.]]

Achievement in directing

Yes, Scorsese is owed. But he keeps getting overwhelmed by a lucky first-timer. Rob Marshall probably can't loose. Gangs is too flawed, The Hours & The Pianist too dark & Almodovar too non-English. Marshall may be the only lock, though I sometimes wonder if Polanski might win for the career he almost had.

[[Well, I was quite stunned by this winner, particularly given the campaigning by the Scorsese & Marshall camps, & the predictable "we can't let a felon win" attitude some folks have. While I have a low opinion of Polanski as a man, The Pianist was an incredibly-well made movie (and, besides, the woman he raped (who was only 13 at the time) has pretty much said it was time Hollywood just got over it because she had).]]

Best documentary feature

Michael Moore will probably win...

[[Quite a speech, eh? I've since heard very good things about Daughter from Danang & Winged Migration (though the latter seems to have come out in 2001....)]]

Achievement in film editing

The extraordinary thing about TTT is how well-constructed it is. I hate war movies, & nearly 1/3rd of the movie is one long battle scene that I couldn't take my eyes off of. But Chicago will probably win.

Achievement in makeup

No Award. The make-up in The Time Machine sucked & while it was certainly good in Frida, it was too subtle to be particularly award-worthy.

Oh, right, these are the Oscars. No Award can't win. Give something to Frida!

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

The nominated music was pretty unmemorable last year, but since Howard Shore wasn't nominated, probably Philip Glass should win for his interesting score.

[[While the music for Frida wasn't overly memorable, I remembered how effective it had been in the film as excerpts from the scores were being played, so it probably was the best choice.]]

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

This one is pretty much of a no-brainer. [[Yes, I guess the winner did turn out to be...]]

Best motion picture of the year

I'm nothing if not a realist. I liked Chicago, it was fun, well-cast, had terrific singing, dancing & it was great to see a real musical on the big screen again (I don't think Moulin Rouge quite counted). But The Hours was a very well-cast, well directed & it would be nice if it got some notice.

Achievement in sound

Achievement in sound editing

Achievement in visual effects

If Gollum was the only effect in the movie, it still should win.

Adapted screenplay

This may go to Chicago, but... Adaptation was certainly interesting, but it was just such a departure from The Orchid Thief that it really isn't much of an adaptation.

[[I can't say I've read the book The Pianist, but as I read more about the movie, I was pleased by how much of the pianist's life did appear in the movie, even the heartbreaking little detail of the last meal the family shared together.]]

Original screenplay

I enjoyed My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it was a fun movie, but seeing it nominated just because it made a pile of money unexpectedly was silly. But Far from Heaven was an interesting, adult movie, & I hope it wins.