Tuesday, January 25, 2005

2004 Academy Awards Nominations

And here are the nominees, each set to be followed by some brief-esque commentary from moi. Let the games begin.

BEST PICTURE:
The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby, Sideways, Ray.

Those of us living out our days in the Geek Community were able to experience a different sort of Oscars these past three years, as the sheer unignorable size of the LOTR films finally forced a fantasy film through The Academy's rigid genre-bias shield. This year, though, we're right back to the standard formula: Straight drama, "true" stories and star-cast biopics are once again evidently the only genres of filmmaking worth nominating.

Short and sweet: The best film of this year was "Kill Bill: Volume 2." It has been shut out of this category and all others because it exists in a genre(s) that The Academy does not consider worth nominating. There was no more difficult, nor more excellently-executed, achievement in film directing, writing and acting this year, and to pass it over speaks a thousand words about how narrow The Academy's perception of the cinematic universe is and a billion words about how far above the pack "Kill Bill" and it's iconoclastic director truly are.

Occupying, more or less, "Bill's" place is "Ray." It's a decent little movie, above-average, but it doesn't belong on a best list. It's a decent, well-made biopic, but just because Jamie Foxx gave (and will be rewarded for) one of the all-time starmaking performances doesn't make the film automatically equal to the others.

Of the nominated films, "Million Dollar Baby" is my favorite though it's a fine list overall. Far and away the nicest surprise is that The Academy has elected to ignore the clarion call of the Christian Fundamentalist media to nominate Mel Gibson's plotless exercise in anti-semetic sadomascochism. The film has been passed over in all major categories, as it deserves to have been, which is just about the ballsiest move The Academy has pulled in a long time. The ramifications of this will be ugly, look for the likes of Falwell, Robertson and Dobson to spend the next month and a half to whip their flocks into frenzies about how "unholy" the mythic liberal/jewish/gay "cabal" in Hollywood is for skipping "their" movie. There'll be a lot of hillarious and frightening things spewed about this, and when I find them I'll post them here.

So, they ignore "Bill" but skipped "Passion." Thus, I hereby declare that the Academy now officially has ONE ball-of-steel, and maybe this means we can look forward to the other one hardening up sooner than later.

BEST ACTOR:
Don Cheadle, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx wins, and anyone who bets against him is either a fool or brave as hell. A fine list of actors overall, though where's Paul Giamatti for "Sideways?" His cohort Thomas Hayden-Church is up for supporting, and this really feels like a missed opportunity. Still, I suppose I can't see who'd have been passed in his favor. It was a good lead performance year.

BEST ACTRESS:
Annette Benning, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Imelda Staunton, Hilary Swank, Kate Winslet

Uma Thurman gave the best female performance of this year, and passing her over for this is the most egregious of all the "Kill Bill" ignores, and with no disrespect to the nominees her absence really kind of invalidates this for one for me. It's a good list, but everything every actress here did she did better and often all at the same time while dangling from a stunt-wire. She was required to do comedy, drama, stylized and straight dialogue, plus physical acting and real human pain in three different languages, plus she had to be the "real" grounding force in a fundamentally unreal flight-of-fancy film.

Genre-biased disrespects aside, Kate Winslet should get this one but my money is on Hilary Swank if "Baby" becomes a runaway juggernaut type-thing.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Thomas Hayden Church, Alan Alda, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, Clive Owen

Three guesses what I'm about to say.

Yes, definately, David Carradine should be in here for the title role in "Kill Bill." As for who should go... Alan Alda? Are they joking? Don't get me wrong, I like Alda. He's a fine actor with a distinguished career, but he's here because the industry likes him as a person, not because he did anything great in Aviator. His role amounts to a 3rd-act cameo, and it's just another "slimy politician" riff that he and others have done to death before. Also, Foxx is a lock for Actor, does he REALLY need to be here, too? Yes, fine, it's "his year" and he was great in Collateral, but this is overkill. Clive Owen would be a nice win here, but my gut says Morgan Freeman, which would be fine as well.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Laura Linney, Cate Blanchett, Virginia Madsen, Sophie Okendo, Natalie Portman

Good lineup, no complaints from me right now. I think Portman takes it for a "breakout" role, but I'd be even happier with Laura Linney for "Kinsey."

BEST DIRECTOR:
Clint Eastwood, Taylor Hackford, Mike Leigh, Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese

Clint or Marty are walking with this, too close to call. Mike Leigh is just there so Vera Drake can get some good airtime. Hackford? People, this is getting out of hand. "Ray" is the pretty good stage on which Foxx gave a great performance. Payne and "Sideways" are nice to see, but it's the "we watch indies too, see?" nod this year. This would've been the place to either pay Quentin back for snubbing his magnum-opus otherwise OR to play damage control with the CBN-crowd by nominating Mel Gibson. Boo on the first count, well done on the second.

Chew on that for awhile, I'll be back later with the "rest" of the nominations.