Oscars 2004: Predictions & Commentary

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[Commentary made after the 2004 Oscars]

I meant to write this up last year, but didn't. So, for "historical reasons," I thought I'd write it up anyway, even though my predictions were quite close!

For the first time in 35 years, I was away from home for every minute of the Academy Awards. That's because I was in Hollywood itself for the Oscars, which was a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

2003 was a strong year for movies, but the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings was a definite highlight for me. I also really loved Seabiscuit, Master and Comander, Lost in Translation and most of Mystic River.

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 2004: 92%. I've been doing Oscar predictions since 1970, and this is my highest percentage ever. And, if I had truly believed that ROTK would have swept, I would have scored 96%!]]

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Johnny Depp was a real surprise (as was the whole movie - I didn't expect to really like Pirates, but I quite enjoyed it). Jude Law was the best thing about Cold Mountain. His performance was astonishing, but the movie itself didn't work. Bill Murray was quite good in Lost in Translation. But Sean Penn really pulled out all the stops, got the accent right and was mesmerizing in Mystic River.

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

I didn't see any of these nominated actors except for Tim Robbins who was great.

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Whale Rider was even more of a fine sleeper than Lost in Translation, but it got very little notice beyond Keisha Castle-Hughes' fine performance. Diane Keaton was good in Something's Gotta Give. But even though I didn't see Monster, the little clips from the movie made it clear that Charlize Theron was a lock.

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Renée Zellweger was so owed after loosing for Chicago, and she was also quite good in Cold Mountain.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

While I didn't see The Triplets of Belleville, it looked more interesting than Finding Nemo.

Achievement in Art Direction

These movies all had exceptional Art Direction, but all of the LOTR movies were so magnificently designed that it deserves the Oscar.

Achievement in Cinematography

I found the ommission of ROTK kind of puzzling in this category. That said, the other movies in this category were very good, but I'd go with Master and Commander since shooting at sea is very tricky and the photography was excellent.

Achievement in Costume Design

Another strong category, but I'd again go with ROTK.

Achievement in Directing

I was somewhat concerned about ROTK backlash, particularly in this category. Jackson would be one of the youngest Best Directors winners ever, and, let's face it, his track record before the trilogy is quite mixed. However, ROTK is quite an achievement.

Best Documentary Feature

I didn't see any of these, but The Fog of War certainly has the buzz in this category.

Best Documentary Short Subject

I didn't see any of these, but Chernobyl Heart certainly has the buzz in this category.

Achievement in Film Editing

I don't believe ROTK can sweep [[boy, was I wrong about that!]] and many people have complained about the "multiple endings" (heck, the book is much worse!), so this is a place where Master and Commander may win.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

I didn't see any of these, but The Barbarian Invasions certainly has the buzz in this category.

Achievement in Makeup

This should be a lock for ROTK, but, again, all the categorie nominees are quite strong.

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)

Howard Shore was robbed last year and wasn't even allowed to be nominated for his fine The Two Towers score. He should win, though Danny Elfman's score was good.

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)

"A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" is a charming song, as is "You Will Be My Ain True Love." That said, "Into the West," is a very moving song.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

In a strong year like this one, it's always possible to have a Director/Picture split. While I believe ROTK should take both awards, it's possible there might be a Director/Picture split between Mystic River and ROTK. Oscar voters have traditionally been unwilling to give non-technical awards to fantasy or SF movies. [[Boy, was this award a long time coming. I was at The Return of the One Party with 1,000 other LOTR fans, and the auditorium erupted in long and very sustained cheers and applause for the Director and Picture winners.]]

Best Animated Short Film

Wild-ass guess here.

Best Live Action Short Film

I saw most of "Two Soldiers" somewhere and it was quite impressive.

Achievement in Sound Editing

There's a moment in Master and Commander where Paul Bettany has to operate on himself and move his rib. You can here both the rib creak and the boat creak. I knew Master and Commander would take one of the sound awards at that point!

Achievement in Sound Mixing

Achievement in Visual Effects

This is a definite and without a doubt lock. The special effects crew for LOTR did ground-breaking work in all three movies and deserve every Oscar they've won and more!

Adapted Screenplay

People really liked Seabiscuit, and it seems peculiar for so fine a movie to not get any Oscars at all. While I do admire the adaptation of ROTK, it probably won't get this Oscar. [[Wrong again! I think when Jackson and crew won this Oscar, we started yelling "Sweep! Sweep!" at The Return of the One Party.]]

Original Screenplay

Lost in Translation was such a perfectly-realized little film and I hope Sofia Coppola adds to her family's tradition of Oscar-winning.