Friday, February 28, 2003

Oscars 2003: Nominee Reactions

February 28, 2003

If there's one thing worse than being unfair, it's being predictable; that, at least, is the popular theory as far as award shows are concerned. And when the results for this year's Oscar nominees were revealed early on Tuesday, February 11, the only logical thing anyone could do was leap to their feet, throw their heads back in disbelief, and wonder with a certain vexation in their voice, "I waited all this time just for THAT?"

Like the dead climax of a movie so bad that it makes viewers ask for their money back, Tuesday's series of announcements offered little to no surprise whatsoever for those who actually anticipated them. Those rare selections that actually did come unexpected, needless to say, were not usually pleasant ones, either. In fact, in comparison to the wide array of talent recognized during the nominating phase of the previous year, it's depressing to see how such a large group of professional men and women can make themselves look so darn amateurish.

Of all the easily foreseen outcomes, none were nearly as saddening as the prospect of "Chicago," this year's most overrated and bland Oscar contender, walking off with 13 nominations, the most for a single film since "Shakespeare in Love." The ghastly film adaptation of the Bob Fosse stage show, in addition to getting recognition in the Best Picture category, also picked up multiple nods for acting—Renee Zellweger for Actress, John C. Reilly for Supporting Actor, and Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta-Jones for Supporting Actress. While it can be argued that the first three of the four thespians were not very deserving of award consideration, at least Richard Gere's cringe-worthy work in the movie was ignored entirely in the Leading Actor category.

Best Picture honors ranged from the mediocre to the marvelous—in addition to "Chicago," the Academy voters also selected the equally over-hyped "The Hours" as a contender, while "Gangs of New York" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," two of last year's best films, joined them. Of the five finalists, only "The Pianist" came off as somewhat of a surprise victory. The obscure masterpiece, directed by Roman Polanski, also saw its lead star, Adrien Brody, nab a nomination for Best Actor among a crowd of expected veteran inclusions such as Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson.

In the Leading Actress category, not one of the five ladies nominated was even remotely unexpected; Salma Hayek, Nicole Kidman, Diane Lane, Julianne Moore and Renee Zellweger each claimed victory in the field without so much as a hint of interference. Kidman's and Moore's work is deserved, at least, but not much can be said for the other three ladies, who are generally likable actresses who just happen to be undermined on this occasion by generally dry roles.

Also as anticipated, only four of the five nominated motion pictures actually went on to get a nod in the Directing category. The missing one? Who else but Peter Jackson for "The Two Towers?" It's bad enough the movie only gained six nominations total—being shut out in such categories like Makeup, Costume Design and Cinematography reportedly because certain Academy divisions felt it was basically all the same work that they honored last year for "The Fellowship of the Ring"—but how in the world could any voter in this field possibly ignore the zealous efforts of a man who so effortlessly brings to life the words of J.R.R. Tolkien? It may not be nearly as good as its predecessor, but "The Two Towers" didn't get its magic by directing itself, either.

Notable exclusions? Quite a few, to be honest. For one, Best Original Song was once again dominated by traditional schmaltzy tunes like U2's "The Hands that Built America," whereas the year's best movie tracks were completely ignored ("Gollum's Song" from "The Two Towers" and "Die Another Day" from the last Bond flick, for instance). Meanwhile, Robin Williams failed to earn a much-deserved nod for his work in "One Hour Photo," and the most talked-about foreign films of 2002, ranging from "City of God" to "Monsoon Wedding" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien," were no-shows in the Foreign Language Film category, too. And what's with the voters forgetting to nominate the brilliant technical achievement "Minority Report" beyond Sound Effects Editing, anyway? Apparently some members of the Academy are not just dumb, but blind as well.

The 75th Annual Academy Awards, better known as Hollywood's biggest political popularity contest, will air on ABC Sunday, March 23.

Written by DAVID KEYES

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