Cinecist vs. Oscar 2002

 

Click here for post-Oscar wrap-up

 

This wasn’t a particularly good year for American cinema.  The word “stinkfest” has even been raised in some quarters.  But I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, so I’ll just say I found it refreshingly easy to come up with my Top Ten of 2002, and leave it there.

 

 

A few notes before starting, several of which begin with “p”:

·         Prediction:  Which nominee will win.  In red, for your convenience.

·         Pick:  Which nominee should win.  Rarely the same as Prediction.

·         Perfect World:  Which movie would win if this were a perfect world.  Usually not even nominated.

·         Percentages:  An arbitrary, self-designed means of assigning probability to certain outcomes.  No wagering, please.

·         Links:  Wherever practical, I’ve linked a movie title to my review of it.  Again, merely for your convenience.

·         Shorts:  I haven’t seen the nominees in the short-form categories, and neither have you.  So I won’t bore you or embarrass myself trying to talk about them.

 

 

Enough of that.  On with the show.

 

____________________________

 

Best Picture · Director · Actor · Actress · Supporting Actor · Supporting Actress

Original Screenplay · Adapted Screenplay · Art Direction · Cinematography · Costume · Makeup

Editing · Visual Effects · Sound · Sound Editing · Score · Song

Documentary Feature · Animated Feature · Foreign Film

________________________________

 

 

Best Picture

Nominees:

Prediction:

Chicago

Chicago

50%

Gangs of New York

10%

Pick:

The Hours

The Hours

20%

Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers

5%

Perfect World:

25th Hour

The Pianist

15%

 

At this point, no one is seriously doubting that Chicago will win this one.  I’m personally at a loss.  I thought it was a pretty good film with a few moments of real inspiration, but it suffered mightily at times from the flatness that nearly always drags down contemporary screen musicals.  Last year’s Moulin Rouge avoided this pitfall and achieved its weird glory by inventing itself as a specifically cinematic work.  But Chicago remains too stagy, treading the boards when it should be trying to light up the screen. 

 

My choice from these nominees would be The Hours, a literate, intelligent adaptation of what I hear is a really great book.  It’s one of those movies that presents multiple stories along parallel lines, the similarities and differences illuminating various aspects of the central themes--the themes in this case being domestic/social/emotional confinement and suicide.  When well made, a movie like this is almost always enjoyable to watch.  This one is very well made, if a bit academic at times.  And it’s not out of the running; think how proud of themselves the voters would feel for giving the Oscar to such a respectable film.

 

All in all, though, it’s not a big threat to Chicago, and neither are the other nominees.  Lord II doesn’t stand a chance.  It didn’t win last year, so why would this year be any different?  Gangs has a lot of the trappings of an Oscar-winner, including that great performance by Daniel Day-Lewis and the names Scorsese and Miramax attached to it; but it hasn’t been able to muster any real momentum against Chicago.  As for The Pianist, I guess it was nominated because it somehow won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and because it’s a true holocaust story directed by an actual holocaust survivor who happens to be a great director (Roman Polanski).  The Academy members wouldn’t be able to sleep nights if they hadn’t at least nominated it. 

 

 

 

Best Director

Nominees:

Prediction:

Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York

Pedro Almodóvar, Talk to Her

5%

Stephen Daldry, The Hours

15%

Pick:

Pedro Almodóvar, Talk to Her

Rob Marshall, Chicago

30%

Roman Polanski, The Pianist

15%

Perfect World:

Spike Lee, 25th Hour

Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York

35%

 

I think Scorsese has the edge because well, let’s see...oh yeah, because he’s one of the greatest directors on the planet and it’s about damned time.  Admittedly, it’s going to be a bit embarrassing to see him win an Oscar for Gangs when he was passed over for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas.  We should probably just think of it as a lifetime achievement award.

 

But let’s not hand him the trophy just yet.  Marshall could very well take the win for Chicago, a movie that might drag everyone along for the ride, deserving or not.  And neither Daldry (The Hours) nor Polanski (The Pianist) are out of the running, though they’re a couple of lengths behind the frontrunners.  The only one who seems certain not to win is my personal pick, Almodóvar.  I’m not exactly sure how he even got into this group, since I’ll bet very few Academy voters have actually seen Talk to Her.  It probably makes them feel progressive to nominate an openly gay director with a history of making movies about sex.  But actually give him the Oscar?  No.

 

 

 

Best Actor

Nominees:

Prediction:

Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York

Adrien Brody, The Pianist

20%

Nicholas Cage, Adaptation

15%

Pick:

Nicholas Cage, Adaptation

Michael Caine, The Quiet American

10%

Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York

30%

Perfect World (tie):

Danny Huston, ivans xtc

Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt

25%

Steve Coogan, 24 Hour Party People

 

Many people are putting this race between Day-Lewis and Nicholson.  True, they split the two best predictors between them (Day-Lewis took the SAG award and Nicholson took the Golden Globe), but if voters see this category as their only chance to honor The Pianist, Brody could walk away with the win.  He’s got the sentimental vote, to be sure, and his performance was quite good, if not exactly daring--except for his losing an alarming amount of weight to look properly emaciated, which I suppose is pretty daring for someone who’s so skinny to begin with.  And Holocaust dramas are always reliable vote-getters.

 

That being said, I’m expecting Day-Lewis to take it.  Gangs’s high visibility, along with the flashiness of his performance (which really was great) will probably be enough to sway things in that direction.  Then again, people sure do love giving awards to Jack, and his performance in About Schmidt was a welcome change from what has lately become his shtick.  For what it’s worth, I initially expected Miramax to push Day-Lewis for the supporting actor category, for which he would have been guaranteed a win, leaving Nicholson in a very strong position for Best Actor.  But they went for the gold, making this category much harder to call.

 

Cage, unfortunately, seems nearly out of the running.  Not surprising, I guess, since he is the most deserving of all the nominees, proving once again that when he’s on, there is no one out there more interesting to watch on screen.  His performance, and the movie in which it appears, are finally just a little too bizarre to get him the Oscar.  Caine has a slight chance, buoyed a little by his win with the London Film Critics; but his ubiquity doesn’t help him when it comes to awards.  He’s made himself too much of a fixture.

 

 

 

Best Actress

Nominees:

Prediction:

Nicole Kidman, The Hours

Selma Hayek, Frida

10%

Nicole Kidman, The Hours

30%

Pick:

Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven

Diane Lane, Unfaithful

5%

Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven

28%

Perfect World:

Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven

Renée Zellweger, Chicago

27%

 

There’s no harder category to call this year than this one.  It’s virtually a three-way horse race between Kidman, Moore and surprise contender Zellweger.  Early favorite and Golden Globe (for Drama) winner Kidman has seen her position gradually weakened by the critics’ awards stacking up for double-nominee Moore (cf. Best Supporting Actress) and the SAG going to Zellweger, who had also taken the Golden Globe for Comedy.  My inclination (still subject to change) is to give Kidman a slight edge, for a couple of reasons:  1) she allowed herself to be uglied-down to the point of unrecognizability for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf, which the Academy always loves, and 2) her performance is in the most high-toned of all the pictures nominated this year.  There’s that aura of class around The Hours, and that can be enough when the race is this close.  (I think it was the sole reason for Jim Broadbent’s very curious win for Supporting Actor last year for “Iris.”)  But I wouldn’t put any money down on this category.

 

I do think we’re pretty safe counting out Hayek and Lane.  Lane’s very strong performance in Unfaithful got a lot of press early in the year, but that was many, many months ago, and Oscar doesn’t have that kind of memory.  It’s a little surprising that they even remembered enough to nominate her.  As for Hayek, the nomination itself is her reward for her years of hard work and determination in nearly single-handedly getting Frida made.

 

My pick is Julianne Moore, though I have to admit I’m considering both her nominated roles (in The Hours and Far from Heaven) in making this decision.  This really was her year.  Truth be told, I find her two roles bleeding together in my memory, not because Moore didn’t distinguish the characters, but because together they constitute such a full and moving portrait of a suburban housewife trapped in an existence she is emotionally and psychologically unequipped to deal with.  Moore never does anything flashy or obvious, she just quietly breaks your heart. 

 

 

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Prediction:

Chris Cooper, Adaptation

Chris Cooper, Adaptation

40%

Ed Harris, The Hours

15%

Pick:

Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can

Paul Newman, Road To Perdition

15%

John C. Reilly, Chicago

5%

Perfect World:

Alan Arkin, 13 Conversations About

One Thing

Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can

25%

 

Chris Cooper has long been the frontrunner in this race, and I think it would be great to see him win; he’s consistently one of the best character actors we’ve got, and his role as the half-crazed orchid thief in Adaptation was a chance for him to really stretch out and show his stuff.  Cooper is still the favorite, especially if Best Adapted Screenplay goes to The Hours and Best Supporting Actress goes to Catherine Zeta-Jones, leaving this the only category in which to honor Adaptation.  But a groundswell has begun for Christopher Walken that’s put him within striking distance.  Walken is my pick, for playing against type (“type” being wild-eyed psychopath) and turning in a genuinely moving performance as the financially and emotionally ruined but loving father of a teenaged con man in Catch Me If You Can.  He’s not going to get offered many more roles like this one, I’ll bet, so it was nice to see him recognized with the SAG award for it.  There’s a chance he’ll take this one, too.

 

The other nominees lag pretty far behind, but I think both Paul Newman and Ed Harris have an outside shot (sorry, John C. Reilly, I don’t think so).  Paul Newman is, after all, Paul Newman, so we can’t count him out.  As for Ed Harris, this is his fourth nomination, and I think the Academy is dying to give him a win.  This isn’t his most deserving performance, but it hits all the right buttons:  tortured soul, poet, dying of horrible disease, etc. 

 

 

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

Prediction:

Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago

Kathy Bates, About Schmidt

15%

Julianne Moore, The Hours

25%

Pick:

Julianne Moore, The Hours

Queen Latifah, Chicago

5%

Meryl Streep, Adaptation

25%

Perfect World:

Julianne Moore, The Hours

Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago

30%

 

This one isn’t locked up, but it’s looking more and more like Catherine Zeta-Jones is going to ride to victory on the back of the Chicago juggernaut.  Her performance was fine, of course, but mostly people are just reacting to the costume, the makeup, and the choreography.  She did look great, but let’s not lose perspective.

 

The other contenders are Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore, either of whom could win it.  Streep’s been nominated about 3,000 times in the last two decades, but never for a role as fun as this one.  Like Chris Cooper, she really got to let her hair down in Adaptation, and it was a ball to watch.  Even Academy members who find the movie a little too strange for them could feel comfortable casting their vote for Streep.  Moore, for her part, also stands a fair chance of taking this one--if she doesn’t win Best Actress for Far From Heaven.  As for why she’s my personal pick, see Best Actress comments above.

 

Kathy Bates did solid work, but she’s up against too much here to come up with a win.  And Queen Latifah, forgive me, simply didn’t deserve this nomination.  Her performance wasn’t any good.  Everyone expected it to be good, including me.  But for someone who usually has such energy and presence onscreen, she was a real bore this time.

 

 

 

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

Prediction:

Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes

Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes

30%

Gangs of New York, Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian & Kenneth Lonergan

15%

Pick:

Y Tu Mamá También, Carlos Cuarón  & Alfonso Cuarón

My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos

25%

Talk To Her, Pedro Almodóvar

20%

Perfect World:

24 Hour Party People, Frank Cottrell Boyce

Y Tu Mamá También, Carlos Cuarón  & Alfonso Cuarón

10%

 

Does anyone else think this is a weird category this year?  Far from Heaven and Gangs aren’t surprising, but the others:  one glorified sitcom (soon to be an actual sitcom--check your local TV listings) and two screenplays in Spanish?  I do understand, without fully appreciating or forgiving, the Academy’s impulse to honor Greek Wedding.  And, heaven forbid, it’s got a good shot at winning.  But the fact that 40% of the nominees in this category this year are in foreign language just seems wacky to me. 

 

I won’t belabor that point too much, since, as you see, one of those foreign-language nominees is my personal pick.  Y Tu Mamá pegged its story on frank and humorous conversation, but also found the poetry in it, especially in the voiceovers.  It’s a great piece of writing.  Alas, I don’t predict a win for it.  Nor for Gangs, which stands to win a few awards for the evening, but not this one.

 

Much more likely are both Far From Heaven and Greek Wedding.  I’m giving Heaven the edge because I’m sure the Academy wants to give it an award, and with Best Actress so up-in-the-air, this is their next best shot to do it.  After this, the only other possibility is Best Cinematography, which is nice and all, but, not exactly a resounding endorsement.  Unfortunately, I think the fluffy appeal of Greek Wedding might actually be enough to take the Oscar here, the Academy’s way of thumbing their collective nose at the critics and showing off how terribly democratic they are after all.  On the other hand, they could avoid the more obvious choices and go with the slightly darker horse, Talk to Her, so Almodóvar wouldn’t have to go home empty-handed.

 

 

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:

Prediction:

The Hours, David Hare

About a Boy, Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz

10%

Adaptation, Charlie & Donald Kaufman

33%

Pick:

Adaptation, Charlie & Donald Kaufman

Chicago, Bill Condon

5%

The Hours, David Hare

37%

Perfect World:

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Charlie Kaufman

The Pianist, Ronald Harwood

15%

 

Just to prove the Oscars can still be fun, we have this category:  two ‘respectable’ nominees, a quirky comedy-drama, a musical(!), and a nomination for two brothers who wrote a screenplay about themselves writing that same screenplay--oh, yeah, and one of the brothers isn’t real. 

 

We’ll get to that last one in a minute, but first, let’s look at the rest.  One of the ‘respectable’ nominees is The Hours, and I think that’s the one that’s going to win.  Again, the movie has the patina of class, as well as an explicitly literary bent that goes far in this category, and this would be an opportunity to award the movie as a whole rather than just an individual actor.  With Chicago the strong favorite for Best Picture, The Hours stands a good chance in this one.  And speaking of Chicago, its presence here is so silly it just makes me smile.  Why do people love this movie so much?  What nerve has it hit that has caused Academy voters to throw caution and good sense to the wind and just nominate it for everything in sight?  I’m going out on a limb here and saying that I think it has almost no chance of winning this one.  Some would disagree.

 

The Pianist and About A Boy both have a better chance, though neither is likely to upset against The Hours or the other frontrunner, which it’s now time to talk about.  For a more in-depth explanation of what’s so strange about Adaptation, if you don’t already know, see my review.  In brief, it’s a movie about the actual screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, trying to write the screenplay for the movie, with the help of his (apparently fictional) twin brother Donald, who shares this (very real) nomination with him even though there is no evidence he actually exists.  (To maintain the level of giddiness, my Perfect World choice in this category is Charlie Kaufman’s other fascinating screenplay from last year, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which extends his apparent obsession with phantom doubles to the life of game show creator/host Chuck Barris, who may or may not have led a double life as a CIA assassin.) ((And, while we’re at it, as a final irony, I don’t actually think Adaptation should be in the Adapted Screenplay category.  It’s connection to the book from which it is ostensibly adapted, Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, is so tenuous as to be literally--and intentionally--farcical.  It’s no more of an adaptation of Orlean’s work than Shakespeare in Love was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s work.  So really Adaptation belongs in the Original Screenplay category.  Ain’t that a kick in the head?))  

 

Adaptation is ambitious and inventive and hilarious and just plain nuts, and it certainly deserves something.  When public and critical support are strong enough, the Academy can be convinced to give awards to deserving films, and that might be the case here.  This could also be a textbook example of the Academy’s tendency to give a screenplay Oscar to the strange, brilliant little film that’s a little too off-center to be seriously considered for Best Picture (see Fargo, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Sling Blade, etc.).  Overall, it’s a very tough call, but I think Adaptation will be edged out by The Hours.

 

 

 

Best Art Direction

Nominees:

Prediction:

Gangs of New York, Dante Ferretti & Francesca Lo Schiavo

Chicago, John Myhre & Gord Sim

Frida, Felipe Fernandez del Paso & Hannia Robledo

Pick:

Gangs of New York, Dante Ferretti & Francesca Lo Schiavo

Gangs of New York, Dante Ferretti & Francesca Lo Schiavo

Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers, Grant Major, Dan Hennah, Alan Lee

Perfect World:

Far From Heaven, Peter Rogness & Ellen Christiansen

Road to Perdition, Dennis Gassner & Nancy Haigh

 

It’s downright criminal that Far From Heaven wasn’t nominated in this category, but what can we do?  We end up with a very tough race between Chicago and Gangs.  Many people think the momentum of Chicago will carry it here, but I think Gangs’ spectacular set design will turn the votes in its favor, just by a hair.  Perdition stands a chance, but not a great one.

 

 

 

Best Cinematography

Nominees:

Prediction:

Road to Perdition, Conrad L. Hall

Chicago, Dion Beebe

Far From Heaven, Edward Lachman

Pick:

Road to Perdition, Conrad L. Hall

Gangs of New York, Michael Ballhaus

The Pianist, Pawel Edelman

Perfect World:

25th Hour, Rodrigo Prieto

Road to Perdition, Conrad L. Hall

 

Road to Perdition has been the favorite in this category since its opening day, and I think it will hold on, even against stiff competition from Chicago and Gangs.  It’s not likely to win its one acting nomination, so this is probably going to be its consolation prize, the best the Academy can do without actually giving it one of the Big Ones.  And it’s well deserved.

 

 

 

Best Costume Design

Nominees:

Prediction:

Chicago, Colleen Atwood

Chicago, Colleen Atwood

Frida, Julie Weiss

Gangs of New York, Sandy Powell

Pick:

Chicago, Colleen Atwood

The Hours, Ann Roth

The Pianist, Anna Sheppard

 

This one, too, is a race between Chicago and Gangs.  I think Chicago will take it, and probably deserves it.

 

 

 

Best Makeup

Nominees:

Prediction:

Frida, John Jackson & Beatrice De Alba

Frida, John Jackson & Beatrice De Alba

The Time Machine, John M. Elliott, Jr. & Barbara Lorenz

 

There’s a long and frustrating explanation as to how the Academy’s bizarre nomination process for this category has ensured that virtually every worthy nominee was ignored this year.  You probably don’t want to hear it.  Under these circumstances, who will win is a crapshoot.  I’m guessing Frida, just so they can give it an award.  But they could just as easily go with Time Machine because it featured lots of ugly monsters.

                                                             

 

 

Best Film Editing

Nominees:

Prediction:

Chicago, Martin Walsh

Chicago, Martin Walsh

Gangs of New York, Thelma Schoonmaker

The Hours, Peter Boyle

Pick:

Chicago, Martin Walsh

Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers, Michael Horton

The Pianist, Hervé de Luze

 

I think the race here is between Chicago and The Hours, with Lord not far behind.  Chicago’s momentum, along with the conspicuous role editing plays in some key scenes (e.g., the tap-dance sequence or the Mr. Cellophane number), should tip the balance. 

 

 

 

Best Visual Effects

Nominees:

Prediction:

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook & Alex Funke

 

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook & Alex Funke

Spider-Man, John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara & John Frazier

Pick:

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Jim

Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William

Cook & Alex Funke

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, John Knoll & Ben Snow

 

This one seems like a lock. 

                                                             

 

 

Best Sound

Nominees:

Prediction:

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges & Hammond Peek

 

Chicago, Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella & David Lee

Gangs of New York, Tom Fleischman, Eugene Gearty & Ivan Sharrock

Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers, Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges & Hammond Peek

Pick:

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,

Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick,

Michael Hedges & Hammond Peek

Road to Perdition, Scott Millan, Bob Beemer & John Patrick Pritchett

Spider-Man, Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell & Ed Novick

 

I think Lord will probably prevail here, as in Best Visual Effects--a poor consolation prize for being snubbed in all the top-tier categories.  However, either Chicago or Gangs could spoil even this small victory.

                                                             

 

 

Best Sound Editing

Nominees:

Prediction:

Minority Report, Richard Hymns & Gary Rydstrom

 

Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers, Ethan Van der Ryn & Michael Hopkins

Minority Report, Richard Hymns & Gary Rydstrom

Pick:

???

Road to Perdition, Scott A. Hecker

 

I don’t understand this category well enough to have a personal pick, but I think Minority Report’s mere presence here, given its conspicuous absence everywhere else, indicates that it has a good shot at winning. 

                                                             

 

 

Best Music (Score)

Nominees:

Prediction:

The Hours, Philip Glass

 

Catch Me If You Can, John Williams

Far From Heaven, Elmer Bernstein

Frida, Elliot Goldenthal

Pick:

Far From Heaven, Elmer Bernstein

The Hours, Philip Glass

Road to Perdition, Thomas Newman

 

I think we can expect Glass’s overbearing, arpeggiated brilliance to carry the day here.  To be fair, the emotional impact of his vertiginous score is at times considerable.  But as with all Glass music, after a certain point it just begs the listener to say, “Enough already.” 

 

 

 

Best Music (Song)

Nominees:

 

Prediction:

Chicago, “I Move On” by John Kander & Fred Ebb

 

Chicago, “I Move On” by John Kander & Fred Ebb

8 Mile, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, Jeff Bass & Luis Resto

Frida, “Burn It Blue” by Elliot Goldenthal & Julie Taymor

Pick:

8 Mile, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem,

Jeff Bass & Luis Resto

Gangs of New York, “The Hands That Built America” by U2

The Wild Thornberrys Movie, “Father and Daughter” by Paul Simon

 

C’mon, how great would it be to see Eminem win an Oscar?  Seriously, though, I’ll allow that he’s a jerk and a loudmouth and a bad influence on America’s youth and all the rest of it.  But what I won’t allow is the argument that any of that diminishes his prodigious talent.  He’s simply (and of course it’s not simple at all) one of the best lyricists pop music has produced.  He’s got poetry inside him, and it’s not pretty, but it’s always smart and it’s always powerful.

 

Meanwhile, Chicago will probably win this one without a second thought from anyone.

 

 

 

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees:

Prediction:

Bowling for Columbine

Bowling For Columbine

Daughter from Danang

Prisoner of Paradise

Pick:

Bowling for Columbine

Spellbound

Winged Migration

 

My prediction in this category is more of a hope.  After embarrassing themselves for years by refusing to nominate any documentary that had enjoyed even a whiff of commercial success, regardless of how good it was, the documentary branch of the Academy makes a great stride this time by nominating the year’s most popular documentary, Michael Moore’s provocative Bowling for Columbine. It deserves the nomination, and it deserves to win.  But I have no real confidence that it will.  At least the nomination is a start in correcting a long-standing problem.  And it’s doubly sweet in that one of the most egregious snubs was to Moore’s own wonderful Roger & Me in 1989.

 

As an interesting side note, Bowling for Columbine won the Writers Guild Award for Best Original Screenplay.  Original Screenplay for a documentary?  It might not be unprecedented, but it sure is odd.  Goes to show the peculiar brand of documentary Moore produces.

 

 

 

Best Animated Feature

Nominees:

Prediction:

Spirited Away

Ice Age

Lilo & Stitch

Pick:

Spirited Away

Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron

Spirited Away

Perfect World:

Spirited Away

Treasure Planet

 

Proving once again that where Hollywood usually uses animation as a form of prose, Japan uses it as a form of poetry.  The world of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is stunningly beautiful and densely metaphoric and serenely creepy and unlike anything you’ve ever seen.  You might not always understand exactly what the images are all about, but you can’t dodge their evocative power.  The universal acclaim this film has enjoyed, not to mention its relatively high-profile U.S. distribution by Disney, make it the favorite--though in this very new category, it’s hard to say what makes a winner.  Ice Age and Spirit both also look like strong contenders to me. 

 

 

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees:

Prediction:

El Crimen del Padre Amaro, Mexico

El Crimen del Padre Amaro, Mexico

Hero, China

The Man Without a Past, Finland

Pick:

El Crimen del Padre Amaro, Mexico

Nowhere in Africa, Germany

Zus & Zo, The Netherlands

 

A lot of frustrations in this category.  Three of my top ten films of the year are foreign language films, and none of them made it into the running here.  In two cases, Talk To Her and Y Tu Mamá También, the countries of origin (Spain and Mexico, respectively) didn’t submit the film as their entry.  Each country gets to submit only one film for consideration for Best Foreign Film Oscar, and for some reason both countries chose to submit something else.  Brazil, on the other hand, did submit City of God as its entry, and it still failed to get a nomination, which is ridiculous.  At least Talk to Her and Y Tu Mama each get the consolation of a Best Screenplay nomination.  City of God gets nothing.

 

Mexico will perhaps get the much greater consolation of actually winning despite itself for El Crimen del Padre Amaro.  But this is a notoriously difficult category to call.  It seems almost equally likely that either Hero or Nowhere in Africa will win, with the latter’s chances being bolstered by it Holocaust theme.