The year was 2001 and it was the first time that the Soothsayer threw his hat into the Oscar ring.
That year in my Oscar article, I complained about Oscar neglecting the idea of having an award for animated feature films. Soon after the article was released, an Oscar insider leaked a story to this critic about the birth of the animated feature film category.
It was truly amazing to have been part of that story. Now I have decided to take another long hard look at Oscar some three years later.
Since this year has been such a crazy year where Hollywood and independent films seem to have finally collided on Oscar's golden stage, one wonders who you are supposed to cheer for in any of the categories.
I am delighted to see so many "hail-mary" nominations this year from a lot of films we may have neglected in '03.
I have always had a problem with the Oscars being so unoriginal in their nomination process. The pinnacle of awards shows would always clone nominations of other award shows and it often felt like a sequel if you will.
In a lot of the key categories I was disenchanted to see some films that I didn't think twice about gobble up so many nominations. I am sure you know which ones I mean.
First off, I would like to talk about what a perfect Oscar night would be like if I picked the winners.
Then I will talk some about who will actually win.
And finally I will a look at the ups and downs of Oscar. Taking notes, yet?
Winner: Sean Penn for Mystic River
Why?: Hollywood should hand it to him on a silver platter. The man is amazing and he not only was brilliant in Mystic River but his performance in 21 Grams was even better. The man is probably the most respected thespian working today, but because of Hollywood stigmatism he goes unnoticed. If for some reason Penn doesn't get it, I hope they give it Johnny Depp because for once the man is being noticed and finally respected.
Worst Case Scenario: Bill Murray for Lost in Translation
Why?: To put it plainly, Bill is just being Bill. Sure his performance is subtle, tragic, and heart-breaking, but there is little difference between this and the real Bill. That is the reason he was perfect for the role. He is playing himself. If you want to see Bill not playing himself and as a serious actor, watch Razor's Edge, and we all know how bad that movie is.
Winner: Charlize Theron for Monster
Why?: Theron not only acknowledged what kind of mindset she had to accomplish to become a serial killer, but she painstakingly physically changed who she was to fit the role. We are talking more than just a nose here. Her transformation is incredible and there probably hasn't been that shocking of a transformation since possibly DeNiro in Raging Bull.
Winner: Alec Baldwin for The Cooler
Why?: This is the comeback role for Baldwin as he has found a new home in Hollywood. The man has gone from A-list Hollywood leading man to a born-again character actor with depth and range. His slimy role in The Cooler is a defining role for the actor and an amazing feat not to be missed.
Winner: Patricia Clarkson for Pieces of April
Why?: Clarkson is hands down one of the most overlooked and best actresses working in films today. She commanded not one but two great performances this year with Pieces of April and The Station Agent. Each of those roles were defining, captivating, and Oscar-worthy. She is amazing.
Winner: Jim Sheridan & Naomi Sheridan & Kirsten Sheridan for In America
Why?: This little heart-breaker of a film was probably the most neglected film vying for the little golden dude.
Winner: Brian Helgeland for Mystic River
Why?: I'd award Helgeland just because his adaptation of Mystic River allowed for actors such as Tim Robbins and Sean Penn to really sink their teeth into some juicy dialogue. I wasn't a huge fan of the film, but if I had to choose between the nominees I'd pick this. I thought nominations could have gone to possible candidates like Craig Storper for Open Range and John August for Big Fish.
Winner: Peter Jackson for LOTR: The Return of the King
Why?: It is brainless. Because he sculpted an amazing multi-part epic that probably one of the greatest achievements in cinematic history.
Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Why?: The film is the conclusion of an epic journey not only in the film, but probably surpasses Star Wars as the greatest trilogy ever brought to the silver screen. I hope voters remember the whole journey and not just a portion. The film has also proven that an impossible cinematic undertaking like adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's epic masterpiece to the big screen is possible.
VISUAL EFFECTS: I know the epic makeup, armor, and pounds of latex award should probably go to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. If it were me I would give it to Pirates of Caribbean because the effects in that film were amazing and unforgettable without being part of a trilogy.
BEST ANIMATED FILM: Finding Nemo ('Nuff said!)
BEST FOREIGN FILM: Canadian Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions is a landmark for Canadian and French cinema. 'Nuff said.
ORIGINAL SCORE: Howard Shore for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Encore, encore. Too bad Peter Jackson doesn't get this luxury
BEST ACTOR: Sean Penn for Mystic River
BEST ACTRESS: Charlize Theron for Monster
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Tim Robbins for Mystic River
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Renee Zellweger for Cold Mountain
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Lost in Translation, written by Sofia Coppola
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Mystic River, written by Brian Helgeland
BEST DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
BEST PICTURE: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
There were a lot but this one stuck out:
Nomination: The Sound Editing category as a whole.
Why?: What the heck is wrong with this category? There are only 3 nominations opposed to every other category having 5. And I am sure I can name at least half a dozen other pictures that could fill the other 2 slots. Here's a hint: "King Samurai". If Oscar plans on continuing to neglect the category, then why not move it to the Technical Awards and stop the confusion between it and the Best Sound category
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR NOMINATION: Sean Astin for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
BEST PICTURE OR DIRECTOR NOMINATION: Edward Zwick for The Last Samurai
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: The Last Samurai
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Clint Eastwood for Mystic River
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Richard Curtis for Love Actually
Well this concludes my Oscar analysis for the movies of 2003. I hope that we look back upon this year as a coming together of independents and mainstream. I also look forward to seeing the Oscars expand their repertoire more and more each year.
Congratulations to all the nominees. So Says the Soothsayer.