Rings lords over Oscar noms
Prior to the announcement of Oscar nominations, there was a lot of debate among pundits as to whether the shortened season would have any impact on the nominations. The Academy decided two years ago to move the nominations up from around the middle of February to the end of January and the actual ceremony from mid-March to the end of February, largely in an effort to diminish the massive campaigning that has grown prominent in the last two decades.
All of the precursor awards, such as the Golden Globes, the Director's Guild, the Editor's Guild, the Critic's Awards and other similar groups were moved up as well, making this Oscar season much more unpredictable.
Also adding to the possibility of uncertainty this year was the large brouhaha over screeners. In years past all of the major studios and the indies would send out screener tapes to the various groups to make sure that they saw their films. But in September there was a movement from the Motion Picture Association of America to halt the use of screeners in campaigning for a film. After much deliberation, screeners were reinstalled, but as it was late in the Oscar season, it wasn't clear as to the impact they would have on the nominations.
When the nominations were announced on Tuesday, surprises abounded. One very large shock was the snubbing of Cold Mountain in several major categories including Best Picture and Best Actress. The five Best Picture nominees were The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Lost in Translation, Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, and Seabiscuit.
Miramax, the former independent company that can now be considered a major studio, has had a Best Picture nominee every year since 1992; that streak has now been ended. Although some in the industry felt that the quality of the film, or lack thereof, was the reason for the picture's absence, it also sent a message about the way in which the playing field has changed in this shortened Oscar season. A film like Cold Mountain, which opened on December 25, may have opened a little too late this year to really have enough momentum to bring it towards that major nomination.
As an example, this year Cold Mountain received 13 nominations from the British Academy. Last year, The Pianist's wins and nominations at the BAFTAs was seen as vital towards its nominations and, later on, three wins in major categories at the Oscars. But this year those nominations were announced after voting closed-too late to help Cold Mountain.
The biggest shock of the nominations, though, were the four received by the Brazilian film City of God, including Director and Screenplay nods. To put in perspective how big of a shock that is, last year City of God was eligible only for the Foreign Film Oscar nomination and did not receive one.
The reason that it was only eligible in that category was because Brazil selected it as its foreign film for consideration for that Oscar, but it was not released theatrically in 2002, which makes a film eligible for all other Oscar categories. The film was then theatrically released last January, over a full year before the nominations came out.
The film did not have any real campaign for the Oscars, the director Fernando Merielles never even came to the U.S. to campaign. Its nominations show the power of screeners to overcome any obstacle a film's campaign for nominations can have.
Besides Merielles, the nominees for Best Director were Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), Clint Eastwood (Mystic River), Peter Jackson, (LOTR:ROTK), and Peter Weir (Master & Commander).
In Best Actress, little Keisha Castle-Hughes of Whale Rider provided another huge shock. Considered an outsider at best the entire season, she managed to edge out A-list actresses such as Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Connelly, and Cate Blanchett, and at only 13 is the youngest Best Actress nominee ever.
Samantha Morton's nomination for In America was also a pleasant surprise, as she and Castle-Hughes were both shut out of the Globe nominations. Also nominated were Diane Keaton (Something's Gotta Give), Naomi Watts (21 Grams), and Charlize Theron for her performance in Monster, which is generally considered to be the frontrunner for the win.
In contrast, Best Actor was not filled with any shocks, although one could be shocked at their extraordinary show of good taste.
The nominees were Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), Ben Kingsley (House of Sand and Fog), Jude Law (Cold Mountain), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), and Sean Penn (Mystic River).
With a grand total of 11 nominations, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King led the pack. The trilogy now has amassed 30 nominations, with six wins so far. Historically, the film with the most nominations going into the ceremony wins Best Picture, and added to the Herculean achievement Peter Jackson accomplished with the series and the losses of the two previous films, it's more than likely that number of wins will increase, perhaps substantially, when the Oscar ceremony occurs. And then, just maybe, this wild ride of an Oscar season will end with the happy ending so many of us have been hoping for all along.
The Oscar ceremony will take place at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 29 on ABC.
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