Tuesday, January 27, 2004

And the Nominees are...

The 76th Annual Academy Awards nominations were announced this morning. Definitely some surprises. Of the 40 nominations I predicted, 26 were correct. I was right on four out of five nominees for Picture, Director, and Actor; three out of five for Actress, Supporting Actress, and the screenplay categories; and a pathetic two of five on Supporting Actor noms. 65% is a respectable number, but I would have scored higher if I'd listened to my gut.

My instinct was that COLD MOUNTAIN would not receive a Best Picture nomination, but Miramax's Oscar juggernaut convinced me that they could push the film into the Best Picture race. No guts, no glory. Should have gone with the racehorse.

In the director race, I picked Jim Sheridan over Fernando Meirelles (CITY OF GOD). I don't know that anyone could have seen Meirelles being nominated or CITY OF GOD being recognized in four categories. Not bad for a foreign film that opened a year ago. Notice that I did predict Gary Ross would not be nominated for Director if SEABISCUIT grabbed a Picture slot.

The Actor nominations were probably the easiest call, although Jude Law was unexpected, especially with COLD MOUNTAIN being frozen out of most of the major categories. I didn't have a lot of confidence in my Russell Crowe pick, but it is unusual for three Picture nominees not to have any acting nominations. The Actress nominees feature a couple surprises. Samantha Morton is almost always certain to do interesting work--SWEET AND LOWDOWN, JESUS' SON, MORVERN CALLAR--but I didn't think she'd be singled out for IN AMERICA. I'm most pleased with the nomination for WHALE RIDER'S Keisha Castle-Hughes. Her presence here is most unexpected because the marketing campaign was pushing her for Supporting Actress. Beating out the likes of Jennifer Connelly and Nicole Kidman is no small feat. Don't shrug off her nomination as a novelty because she's in her early teens. Castle-Hughes anchors the film with poise and subtlety rare in performers her age.

As for Supporting Actor, I picked Paul Bettany largely on the theory and history of Picture nominees carrying acting nominations. The same was true of Sean Astin, although he looked to be the strongest contender of any LORD OF THE RINGS actors. Peter Sarsgaard may have been more of a long shot--should have taken fellow Lions Gate player Alec Baldwin (THE COOLER)--but had a legitimate shot. Give me some credit for leaning toward Baldwin and Djimon Hounsou even if I didn't put them in the top five.

I was right that Patricia Clarkson would be nominated, just wrong on which category and which film. (She has a terminal illness in PIECES OF APRIL, so I should have known to favor that performance.) I guess only one indie queen was allowed, so no Hope Davis or Scarlett Johansson. Holly Hunter (THIRTEEN) comes as no surprise even if I didn't predict her nomination. Shohreh Aghdashloo (HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG) can prepare her "it's an honor to be nominated" line because this category should finally get Renee Zellweger her Oscar. Don't count out Clarkson, I suppose, but this is Zellweger's to lose.

Of the screenplay nominations, THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS and CITY OF GOD are the shockers. Even if LOST IN TRANSLATION loses in the other categories, it seems poised to pick up a win for Original Screenplay. The same goes for MYSTIC RIVER, although I think it will win at least one acting prize.

A few other random observations... No Cinematography nomination for THE RETURN OF THE KING is very surprising. Since this is the third time around, did the Academy get tired of it? MASTER AND COMMANDER proved surprisingly strong, finishing with ten nominations. I didn't see that coming. This should be a huge boost for a pretty good film. The acting nominations, particularly the supporting categories, show more diversity than usual. Believe it or not, Coppola is the first American woman to get a Director nomination.

All in all, I think this is an interesting set of nominees, even if some of my favorites didn't make the cut.

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