2005 Academy Awards Preview

Filed under: Special Coverage

It's been another year since I cashed in my Oscar hopes and scares. Why did I wait so long to fire off another Oscar look? Well you would have to look back at the year that was 2004.

As it goes with Oscar, it is the first time in three years that a Lord of the Rings film hasn't sucked up so many categories like a Hoover vacuum. It's also the first time in as many years that there is no Oscar darling nominated in the Best Actor or Best Actress categories.

Back in February 2004, you would have guessed we all would have been debating how religion and politics would affect the Academy. But come October, the "heat" and the "prophet" disappeared from our mind's eye and super Oscar contenders seem to be vacant from a lack-luster X-mas season at the box office. Even Martin Scorsese's epic The Aviator could hardly scare up business or Oscar buzz.

The Oscars this year seem jolted and out of sync. It is definitely been a strange year for the golden boy.

Oscar Nomination Frustrations:

I have a lot of questions and problems with the Oscar nomination process. Below are a couple of examples:

  1. I am getting really frustrated with how films can be nominated for an Oscar but have never played in a wide release. This year's Oscar darling Million Dollar Baby is only just going wide this weekend so why is it a 2004 film? I am not slamming the film, it is an amazing film, I am just criticizing how it's being marketed. With the amazing ability that studios have for releasing films during the calendar year why aren't these Oscar loopholes being redefined for the new digital era?
  2. Since its inception, the Best Animated Feature category seems to be dominated by "3-D computer animated" films since all three nominations this year are "3-D computer animated" films. The exception to this inquiry is obviously the wondrous Oscar-winner Spirited Away, which should give Oscar voters an idea that there still is life in "2-D cell animation". I just hope that the picks for this category this year aren't a sign of the times. There are so many great "2-D" films out there that seem to be lost in shuffle when a Pixar or Shrek are released.

Performance by an actor in a leading role (Best Actor):

The Nominees:

  • Don Cheadle in HOTEL RWANDA
  • Johnny Depp in FINDING NEVERLAND
  • Leonardo DiCaprio in THE AVIATOR
  • Clint Eastwood in MILLION DOLLAR BABY
  • Jamie Foxx in RAY

Winner: Jamie Foxx for Ray.

Why?: What else can one say about Foxx, it has been his year. He channeled the soul and character of one of music's greatest entertainers. There were so many wonderful performances in the film, but Foxx pulled it all together with a style all his own.

Worst Case Scenario: Don't really have one.

Why?: All these actors did great performances in each of their films. The only one you kind of wonder about is the nod to Eastwood for acting when it's his direction that seems to be his calling as of late. My heart also goes out to Johnny Depp and the very underestimated Don Cheadle who need another year to find Oscar gold. Look for them to step up some day soon.

Performance by an actress in a leading role (Best Actress):

The Nominees:

  • Annette Bening in BEING JULIA
  • Catalina Sandino Moreno in MARIA FULL OF GRACE
  • Imelda Staunton in VERA DRAKE
  • Hilary Swank in MILLION DOLLAR BABY

Winner: Unexcited about this category. Probably Benning will win.

Why?: All the women nominated in this category are strong and powerful performers and not one Oscar favorite among them. Where are the Juliannes and the Nicoles? Oh, that's right, they made crap last year. I would have to say it's going to be neck and neck Benning vs. Swank to the end. But really, the race should probably be between Moreno and Staunton.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role (Best Supporting Actor):

The Nominees:

  • Alan Alda in THE AVIATOR
  • Thomas Haden Church in SIDEWAYS
  • Jamie Foxx in COLLATERAL
  • Morgan Freeman in MILLION DOLLAR BABY
  • Clive Owen in CLOSER

Winner: Clive Owen for Closer.

Why?: Owen has to be the front-runner after getting the Golden Globe. Jamie Foxx's nomination in this category is quite a shocker and a waste since he was in Collateral more than star Tom Cruise. Alda and Freeman did really great character parts in each of their films but neither were really pushed into an award-winning performance. I would have to say that it's probably Owen vs. Church to the end.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role (Best Supporting Actress):

The Nominees:

  • Cate Blanchett in THE AVIATOR
  • Laura Linney in KINSEY
  • Virginia Madsen in SIDEWAYS
  • Sophie Okonedo in HOTEL RWANDA
  • Natalie Portman in CLOSER

Winner: Natalie Portman in Closer.

Why?: Like Owen, Portman has to be the front-runner after the Globe win. I also have to say that Oscar loves to give the supporting actress Oscar to young Hollywood. With previous winners like Renee Zellweger, Mira Sorvino, Anna Paquin and Marisa Tomei, could Portman continue the trend? If I were to choose, I'd give it to Blanchett just because she is a brilliant actress and in every film she does she continues to be brilliant. She deserves to be mentioned in such prestigious company as Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore.

Screenplay written directly for the screen (Best Original Screenplay):

The Nominees:

  • THE AVIATOR (Written by John Logan)
  • ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman, Story by Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth)
  • HOTEL RWANDA (Written by Keir Pearson & Terry George)
  • THE INCREDIBLES (Written by Brad Bird)
  • VERA DRAKE (Written by Mike Leigh)

Winner: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Why?: I picked Eternal Sunshine because unlike the other nominees, this screenplay redefined the "romantic comedy" which has become a stuffy, formula-filled genre which hasn't seen any new ground broke in years. It is, in the perfect sense of the word, original. I also have to state it's really interesting seeing an animated feature nominated in the writing category.

Screenplay based on material previously produced or published (Best Adapted Screenplay):

The Nominees:

  • BEFORE SUNSET (Screenplay by Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke, Story by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan)
  • FINDING NEVERLAND (Screenplay by David Magee)
  • MILLION DOLLAR BABY (Screenplay by Paul Haggis)
  • THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (Screenplay by José Rivera)
  • SIDEWAYS (Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor)

Winner: Too close to call, Baby vs. Sideways.

Why?: This is where critical Oscar darlings square off. I would have to give the edge to Million Dollar Baby but Sideways has so much buzz who knows. This is a two-dog race, the others don't have a chance.

Achievement in directing (Best Director):

The Nominees:

  • Martin Scorsese for THE AVIATOR
  • Clint Eastwood for MILLION DOLLAR BABY
  • Taylor Hackford for RAY
  • Alexander Payne for SIDEWAYS
  • Mike Leigh for VERA DRAKE

Winner: Martin Scorsese for The Aviator.

Why?: Scorsese is a legend but still continues to be looked over by the Academy and a lot of his peers. If he doesn't win, well he will join elite company like Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock who never won the award. If Eastwood walks away with his second win in the category, that isn't unheard of either. Spielberg won twice in the 90s, Oliver Stone won twice in the 80s, and legendary filmmaker David Lean also won twice. The record in the category goes to John Ford who took it home 4 times, second place is Frank Capra with 3 times (which uncannily were all in the same decade).

Best motion picture of the year (Best Picture):

Winner: The Aviator ('Nuff said).

Worst Nomination:

There were a couple stuck out:

Winner #1: Original Score, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, music by John Williams.

Why?: I have said it before and I will say it again, isn't he nominated like every year? Come on Oscar, be original. I would have at least nominated Howard Shore for The Aviator, but I guess he did get a lot of acclaim from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Winner #2: Best Supporting Actor, Jamie Foxx for Collateral.

Why?: Okay, this category needs an overhaul or at least a firmer definition of what it means to be supporting. Foxx is in the film more than the star, "bland-beach-blonde" Tom Cruise, and his name was above the title when it was being promoted. What a waste!

Winner #3: Best Animated Feature, Shark Tale.

Why?: Shark Tale was hands down one of the worst "computer animated" films to ever be released. When there are so many other more worthy animated films out there, why did the Academy focus on three of the biggest releases? There are so many great animated projects these days, I am sure there was something better than Shark Tale.

Who will win, strategically? My predictions:

Best Actor: Jamie Foxx in Ray

Best Actress: Annette Bening in Being Julia

Best Supporting Actor: Clive Owen in Closer

Best Supporting Actress: Natalie Portman in Closer

Best Original Screenplay: John Logan for The Aviator

Best Adapted Screenplay: Paul Haggis for Million Dollar Baby

Best Director: Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby

Best Picture: The Aviator

It's a topsy-turvy road to Oscar and the films that will be remembered as the most controversial and challenged us as movie goers the most in 2004 aren't even nominated.

So Says the Soothsayer.

Tags: Academy Awards, Oscars, predictions, preview

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