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ACADEMY AWARDS PREVIEW (2002) by COOP

Posted on May 14th, 2008
Posted on May 14th, 2008

Academy Awards 2002
by:
Coop Cooper

2001 proved to be an extremely competitive year for films. Many worthy, potential nominees flooded causing an unprecedented amount of snubs and controversy. Did some studios resort to sabotage in order to further the chances for an Academy Award? The fingers point and the predictions fly but who really has a chance this year? Let’s take a look…
For answers, you need to take a hard look at the psychology of the voters, made up primarily of actors (approx. 70% of the Academy). Among other factors, many of these voters see only what films catch their interest, which means they are more likely to vote for a film with a better word of mouth. They also traditionally favor the ones that receive a lot of attention, meaning the popular ones with high box office returns. A low-key, independent drama has a good chance of winning if it has a large cast full of respected actors, a director widely respected by actors, or simply a film that completely out-shined all competition.
Negative publicity can also make a difference and may very well play a part in the voting this year. Dreamworks and Universal studios are crying foul over what they call a “smear campaign” by other studios against their film “A Beautiful Mind”. They claim that vengeful execs from other studios stirred up the media to harp on the information that John Nash was a bisexual, anti-Semite, a fact omitted from “Mind” (you may remember similar, negative accusations against 1999’s nominated film “The Hurricane”). Some also expect “Mind” to suffer a loss of votes due to Russell Crowe’s recent hostility towards other industry professionals.
Some chime in that Fox used aggressive and unethical methods in promoting their film “Moulin Rouge”. Others have gone so far as to accuse the Academy of trying to appeal to minority voters by nominating three African-Americans for best Actor/Actress (a first for the Academy). This is fueled by the opinion that the performances of one or more of the African-American actors were nowhere near deserving of the honor. Even animation rivals, Disney and Dreamworks got into a war of words over the “Animation” category, new to the Academy this year.
Could these factors effect voting? Considering the newfound bad blood and heightened competition between the studios, it’s possible. Although, I suspect the voters will keep their heads and follow their hearts in voting. Where their hearts are pointing, now that’s another matter. Here are my predictions for the 2002 Academy Awards, airing at 7:30 Central, Sunday March 24th on ABC…

Best motion picture of the year:
No guarantees or locks this year. The diverse list puzzled many critics leaving a big question mark as to who could win.
“A Beautiful Mind” seems to have all of the elements that Oscar voters look for, making it the most likely choice. The rest are complete toss-ups in random order…
“Gosford Park” the actors loved the ensemble cast, packed full of their buddies and acting idols. If no actors could vote for this category, I question whether it would have ever been nominated, but beware. It could win because actors love to vote for their friends.
“In the Bedroom” suffers from the same “actor factor”. Nevermind how boring and slow the movie was. It’s a pure, character driven, low budget underdog that actors love to root for. Don’t count it out.
“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” would be a lock if the Academy wasn’t so snobbish towards fantasy/sci-fi/horror films. It certainly deserves to win for numerous reasons, but I get the nagging feeling that the voters want to wait until the final installment for the trilogy before awarding “Lord of the Rings” best picture. If that’s the case, then why did they nominate it in the first place? It has my endorsement nonetheless.
“Moulin Rouge” already wins as the most original nominee in the category. Along with “Rings”, its vision, style and excellence will make it one of the most influential films in history. Scholars will study these two films for years to come. Hopefully the Academy voters realize this and don’t vote for one of the more forgettable, actor-heavy snoozefests.

Performance by an actor in a leading role:
Denzel Washington, regardless of the race card, has the best chance in that his over-the-top portrayal of a rogue cop in “Training Day”, showing that he had more range than anyone throught possible. I’m rooting for him.
Russell Crowe has the second-best chance, even though his performance in “A Beautiful Mind” eclipsed his win for this category last year in “Gladiator”. I think some voters have buyer’s remorse in giving him a win too prematurely, plus they may be getting fed up with his attitude.
Tom Wilkinson shined brightly in “In the Bedroom” despite the boring film, but can’t overshadow the two powerhouse actors above him. Likewise with Sean Penn who is oft nominated, but his choice to play a mentally handicapped man in “I Am Sam” seemed too remedial and desperate. Will Smith seems the least likely choice for the boxer in the poorly-reviewed “Ali”.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role:
Ian McKellen seems an obvious favorite for playing the literary icon Gandalf in “Lord of the Rings”. He’s and actor’s actor and well due for a win in my book.
Jon Voight is getting raves for his eerily accurate impression of Howard Cosell in “Ali”. He’s been nominated three times with one win so he’s a nostalgic contender.
Ben Kingsley is another nostalgic favorite who could pull it off for his film “Sexy Beast”, unfortunately few saw it. Ethan Hawke seems even less likely as the naive, rookie in “Training Day” (some people are baffled with his nomination altogether). Jim Broadbent should get nowhere close considering very few saw “Iris”.

Performance by an actress in a leading role:
Sissy Spacek has won most of the recent awards for her overhyped role as a bitter, grieving mother in “In the Bedroom”. If it weren’t for all of her other wins for this performance, I wouldn’t even consider her, yet she continues to surprise.
Halle Berry has an almost equal chance for her effort in “Monster’s Ball”, but her talent has never been consistently good. However, if you believe what they say about the sympathy the Academy is showing to African-American actors this year, she has the highest chance to win.
Don’t you dare count out Nicole Kidman. Her breakthrough performance in “Moulin Rouge” received the most public attention and may wipe out the competition. I don’t normally like her, but even I want her to win. Dame Judi Dench seems to get nominated too often lately. Even though no one saw “Iris”, never count her out. As an actor friend of mine said, “everybody loves her”. Indeed. Renee Zellweger did well to capture a nomination for the wildly popular “Bridget Jone’s Diary”, but her competition seems way too stiff in this difficult category.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role:
Jennifer Connelly seems to be the only locked-in “acting” win in the entire show this year. No one seems to be able to touch this golden girl in a category full of weak nominations this go around. Despite my problems with the film (and Ron Howard) she made the movie for me. I endorse her win.
Dame Maggie Smith plays the longtime respect card for her role as a despicable British socialite in “Gosford Park”. Actors love her and may give her a win, even though most laypersons despised the film.
Marisa Tomei seemed cursed once she one her first Oscar for “My Cousin Vinnie”. Rumors that her win was the result of a mistake, plagued her and arguably hurt her career, but she can feel vindicated for her “In the Bedroom” nomination. Helen Mirren has little
chance for her limited screentime in “Gosford Park”, as well as Kate Winslet because, once again, no one saw “Iris”.

Best animated feature film of the year (new category):
“Shrek” has the rest beat easily for the title this year. Some say that it was even almost a contender for best picture (It was nominated for a Golden Globe after all).
“Monsters, Inc.”, although it has the second-best chance, it doesn’t have a prayer. “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” wouldn’t even have a chance against “Monsters, Inc.”. No way it will ever beat “Shrek”.

Achievement in Directing:
“Gosford Park” – Director Robert Altman, despite his vile attitude, contempt for the Hollywood system and commercially unloved film, yet has won every major directing award so far for “Gosford Park”. Go figure, but he’s going to win an Oscar for it too.
“A Beautiful Mind” – Despite the lack of style in all of his films and criticism that this particular film is biased and inaccurate, Ron Howard seems easily to be the next choice as best director. Although it’s his best film to date, he needs to learn to direct better before receiving this award.
“Lord of the Rings” director, Peter Jackson has done mostly exploitation, gross-out horror movies, yet this film already proves his worthiness to be recognized. “Black Hawk Down” director Ridley Scott has paid his dues and deserves a win, but it won’t happen this time. Sadly, “Mulholland Drive” director David Lynch deserves this win the most, yet appears the least likely.

Screenplay based on material previously produced or published:
“Lord of the Rings” has an obvious advantage being one of the most beloved written works of all time, but does that mean the script deserves to win? I think so.
“A Beautiful Mind” is such a commercial hit and a hit with the actor/voters that some people expect it to sweep most categories… meaning it has a good chance for this one too. The aforementioned bad press may affect its nomination in this category.
“In the Bedroom” may have been a hit with the actor contingency within the Academy but may fall to the wayside in the writers’ vote, especially since this script was disqualified from a Writer’s Guild Award because the writer, Todd Field, was not a member until after it was produced. “Shrek’s” commercial and critical success may help its chances. “Ghost World”, adapted from a comic book, may be one of the more impressive feats in screenwriting last year, but its chances may have fizzled out with its weak ending.

Screenplay written directly for the screen:
“Memento” suffered from the same WGA disqualification as “In the Bedroom”, yet no one can deny that it was the most original and smartly written script in a long time. It deserved more nominations that it received and will be impossible to ignore come voting time.
“The Royal Tenenbaums” proved that Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson’s “Rushmore” was no fluke. “Tenenbaums” proved to be the most funny and quirky script in the bunch. Another film that should have had more nominations.
“Gosford Park” proved a miracle in actor management and the use of an ensemble cast, yet all the credit for that went to Director Altman. The screenplay may not reflect the same talent.
“Monster’s Ball” wasn’t universally appreciated enough and “Amelie” may be hampered by the fact that scripts often lose something when translated from a foreign language.

Smaller categories:

Best foreign language film:
“Amelie”. No other film even got close.

Cinematography:
I’m going to take a gamble and say “Black Hawk Down”. It deserved more wins and has a chance with this one. Then again, I would not be one bit surprised if “Moulin Rouge” or “Lord of the Rings” beat it badly in this category.

Art direction:
90% of “Moulin Rouge” was art direction. It can’t lose.

Costume Design:
“Lord of the Rings” may give it a run for its money, but I say “Moulin Rouge” again.

Film editing:
Most of “Memento’s” style and story came from the crafty use of editing. I would say “Moulin Rouge” could beat it, considering there was a different shot at least every 5 seconds of the film, but frankly, all that moving around induced some headaches. It could’ve been edited a bit more conservatively.
Best original musical score:
Tough competition but “A Beautiful Mind” had the most memorable. It should win, although “A.I.’s” and “Lord of the Rings’” scores were arguably better.

Best original song:
How could “Moulin Rouge” not be nominated for this? Probably cause most of the songs were not exactly “original”, but Enya’s “May It Be” from “Rings” was great and so was Paul McCartney’s “Vanilla Sky” (in the movie by the same name). Randy Newman is nominated for “Monsters, Inc.” but be wary. This is his 14th nomination and he has never won. Side note: The voters notoriously vote for the absolute worst song in this category.

As for the rest:
Go nuts and pick the most catchy title. If it’s a category in which a feature film is nominated, pick the one who has the most nominations (or is currently winning the most).

Snubs:
This year the market seems rife with snubs that to list them all would cause the printing press to run out of ink. Instead, here are a few key nominations that the Academy wrongly ignored…
Mulholland Drive may have gotten David Lynch a directing nomination but it should’ve been also nominated for Best Picture and Naomi Watts as either Best Actress or Best Supporting. Her performance made Jennifer Connelly’s look pale by comparison.
Baz Lurhmann seemed to be a lock for a Best Director nomination for “Moulin Rouge”. His omission even led to some talk that the “Best Motion Picture” and “Best Director” nominations should be combined into one category.
Black Hawk Down for Best Picture. AFI and the Golden Globes thought it was good enough, why didn’t the Academy? It’s the best action movie I think I’ve ever seen.
Donnie Darko for Best Picture and best original screenplay. It proved to be one of the most original and compelling films of the year. Too bad it got panned by the wrong critics who could’ve boasted its potential.
The Royal Tenenbaums for Best Picture and Gene Hackman for Best Actor. Another brilliant comedy ignored by an Academy that doesn’t appreciate them enough.
Memento for Best Picture. Another groundbreaking film that scholars and screenwriters will study for years. Should’ve been given a chance to compete.

Those are my predictions for the 74th Annual Academy Awards. Enjoy the show and happy movie-watching!

Tom’s Top 10 movies of 2001:
Those of these that aren’t out on video or DVD should be soon. Much of them lean toward the dark, surreal dramas, a genre that had such a profound presence this year, yet was hardly recognized. I recommend checking them all out as soon as possible:

1. Mulholland Drive
2. Donnie Darko
3. Memento
4. Black Hawk Down
5. The Royal Tenenbaums
6. Lord of the Rings
7. Moulin Rouge
8. Training Day
9. A.I.
10. From Hell

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