Friday, March 21, 2003

Oscar 2003 Predictions and Commentary

OK, for the second time in 34 years, I'm missing part of the Oscars on Sunday. Thank goodness for recorders! But, it will be weird to walk in late (for the second year in a row).

I've seen most of the major movies, will note what I haven't seen and will go ahead with my predictions anyway. For the last few years, I've been hedging my bets with a "will win (WW)" and "should win (SW)."

I'm an avid LOTR fan, though I liked Fellowship a little more than Two Towers, TTT is still a wonderful flick. And it did get somewhat robbed already - it did have the best score, costuming, cinemetography, and make-up of last year. However, in their "infinite wisdom," Oscar people who apparently didn't see both movies decided that these categories were "too similar" to LOTR. I'm not convinced that Peter Jackson himself was robbed, however, at least not for this year.

The acting categories have been quite strong over the last few years. There's only one mild embarassment in the bunch.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Adrien Brody in THE PIANIST (Focus Features)
Nicolas Cage in ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing)
(SW) Michael Caine in THE QUIET AMERICAN (Miramax and Intermedia)
(WW) Daniel Day-Lewis in GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax)
Jack Nicholson in ABOUT SCHMIDT (New Line)

I haven't seen The Pianist, but I suspect I might be giving Adrien Brody a "may win" if I had. Cage's performance was the one "mild embarassment" - Adaptation is a wildly erratic flick and Cage's performance is part of the problem. Nicholson's performance in About Schmidt was certainly different but it bordered on posturing rather than performing. Michael Caine's performance in The Quiet American was quite extraordinary and very moving. Few people have seen this movie, which was supposed to have been released in the fall of '01 but was held back as it was perceived as being "anti-patriotic." The Americans, then as, unfortunately, right now, were not "the good guys." I would like to see Caine win, but it will probably be Daniel Day-Lewis for his bravura performance in the flawed Gangs of New York.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
(WON,WW) Chris Cooper in ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing)
(SW)Ed Harris in THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
Paul Newman in ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox)
John C. Reilly in CHICAGO (Miramax)
Christopher Walken in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (DreamWorks)

I avoid ties, but, gee, this is a really tough category. Anyone could win here and I'd be happy (kind of like last year when Broadbent won). Reilly was the Broadbent of this year, giving very good performances in several different movies. Newman and Walken were also wonderful. But Cooper and Harris both went well beyond wonderful. Harris's performance was heartbreaking and Cooper's was just plain hysterical. (As much as I would like to have seen Viggo Mortensen in this category, he was probably not quite up to the rest of the supporting actors.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Salma Hayek in FRIDA (Miramax)
Nicole Kidman in THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
Diane Lane in UNFAITHFUL (20th Century Fox)
Julianne Moore in FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features)
(SW, WW) Renée Zellweger in CHICAGO (Miramax)

Another tough, tough category. I've gone back and forth on the
issue "should Nicole win best actress for a supporting role?"
because she absolutely should have walked away with that Oscar.
Her Virginia Woolf was magnificent. I didn't see Diane Lane,
but have the impression she was good. Julianne Moore was subtly
different in her two '50s housewife roles. Salma Hayek was quite
good in Frida. But I have to go with Renee because she's grown
so much as an actress over the last few years and was perfect
in Chicago.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
(SW,WW) Kathy Bates in ABOUT SCHMIDT (New Line)
Julianne Moore in THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
Queen Latifah in CHICAGO (Miramax)
Meryl Streep in ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Catherine Zeta-Jones in CHICAGO (Miramax)

Another tough category, but I'd give the edge to Bates
(and not just because of the hot tub scene).

Best animated feature film of the year
ICE AGE (20th Century Fox) Chris Wedge
(WW) LILO & STITCH (Buena Vista) Chris Sanders
SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON (DreamWorks) Jeffrey Katzenberg
(SW) SPIRITED AWAY (Buena Vista) Hayao Miyazaki
TREASURE PLANET (Buena Vista) Ron Clements

Sprited Away is the best animated feature I've ever seen. If there
was any justice, it would win. But Disney has gone out of its way
to not distribute this flick, and probably isn't promoting for an
Osacar, either. Lilo & Stitch, while fun, wasn't special.
Ditto Ice Age. Treasure Planet stole ruthlessly from the
artist Dean Morrissey without giving him any credit (yes, even
worse than Lucas stole from Jim Gurney for some of the
Alderan city scenes). And Spirit looked dumb. So while
Spirited Away deserves to win, it probably won't.
(on the other hand, I said the same about Halle Berry
and Denzel Washington last year and I was wrong, so maybe...)

Achievement in costume design
CHICAGO (Miramax) Colleen Atwood
FRIDA (Miramax) Julie Weiss
(SW,WW) GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Sandy Powell
THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Ann Roth
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Anna Sheppard

Achievement in art direction
CHICAGO (Miramax) Art Direction: John Myhre
Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
FRIDA (Miramax) Art Direction: Felipe Fernandez del Paso
Set Decoration: Hania Robledo
(WW)GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Art Direction: Dante Ferretti
Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
(SW)THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Art Direction: Grant Major
Set Decoration: Dan Hennah and Alan Lee
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Art Direction: Dennis Gassner
Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

These are the two Oscars that Gangs could legitimately win, and
it probably will. Frida has a slight chance because it becomes
very operatic in design in places. But TTT continues with its
fascinating world building, and ought to win the art direction award.

Achievement in cinematography
(WW) CHICAGO (Miramax) Dion Beebe
(SW)FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features) Edward Lachman
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Michael Ballhaus
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Pawel Edelman
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Conrad L. Hall

The photography in Far From Heaven was an amazing tribute to the
Technicolor domestic flicks of the '50s and early '60s. However,
I suspect Chicago will sweep a bunch of tech and major awards,
and this may be one of them.

Achievement in directing
(SW, WW) CHICAGO (Miramax) Rob Marshall
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Martin Scorsese
THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Stephen Daldry
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Roman Polanski
TALK TO HER (Sony Pictures Classics) Pedro Almodóvar

Yes, Scorsese is owed. But he keeps getting overwhelmed by
a lucky first-timer. Rob Marshall probably can't loose. Gangs
is too flawed, the Hours and the Pianist too dark and Almodovar
too non-English. Marshall may be the only lock, though I sometimes
wonder if Polanski might win for the career he almost had.

Best documentary feature
(SW, WW) BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (United Artists and Alliance Atlantis)
A Salter Street Films/VIF 2/Dog Eat Dog Films Production
Michael Moore and Michael Donovan
DAUGHTER FROM DANANG (Balcony Releasing in association with Cowboy Pictures)
An Interfaze Educational Production
Gail Dolgin and Vincente Franco
PRISONER OF PARADISE (Alliance Atlantis)
A Média Vérité/Café Production
Malcolm Clarke and Stuart Sender
A Blitz/Welch Production
Jeffrey Blitz and Sean Welch
WINGED MIGRATION (Sony Pictures Classics)
A Galatée Films/France 2 Cinéma/France 3 Cinéma/Les Productions de la Guéville/Bac Films/Pandora Film/Les Productions JMH/Wanda Vision/Eyescreen Production
Jacques Perrin

Michael Moore will probably win...

Achievement in film editing
(WW) CHICAGO (Miramax) Martin Walsh
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Thelma Schoonmaker
THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Peter Boyle
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Hervé de Luze

The extraordinary thing about TTT is how well-constructed it is.
I hate war movies, and nearly 1/3rd of the movie is one long battle
scene that I can't take my eyes off of. But Chicago will probably win.

Achievement in makeup
FRIDA (Miramax) John Jackson and Beatrice De Alba
THE TIME MACHINE (DreamWorks and Warner Bros.) John M. Elliott, Jr. and Barbara Lorenz

No Award. The make-up in Time Machine sucked and while it was
certainly good in Frida, it was too subtle to be particularly

Oh, right, these are the Oscars. Give something to Frida!

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (DreamWorks) John Williams
FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features) Elmer Bernstein
FRIDA (Miramax) Elliot Goldenthal
(SW, WW) THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Philip Glass
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Thomas Newman

The nominated music was pretty unmemorable last year, but since Howard
Shore wasn't nominated, probably Philip Glass should win for
his interesting score.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
Burn It Blue from FRIDA (Miramax)
Music by Elliot Goldenthal
Lyric by Julie Taymor
Father and Daughter from THE WILD THORNBERRYS MOVIE (Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies)
Music and Lyric by Paul Simon
The Hands That Built America from GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax)
Music and Lyric by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen
(SW, WW) I Move On from CHICAGO (Miramax)
Music by John Kander
Lyric by Fred Ebb
Lose Yourself from 8 MILE (Universal)
Music by Eminem, Jeff Bass and Luis Resto
Lyric by Eminem

This one is pretty much of a no-brainer.

Best motion picture of the year
(WW)CHICAGO (Miramax)
A Producer Circle Co., Zadan/Meron Production
Martin Richards, Producer
An Alberto Grimaldi Production
Alberto Grimaldi and Harvey Weinstein, Producers
(SW)THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
A Scott Rudin/Robert Fox Production
Scott Rudin and Robert Fox, Producers
A New Line Cinema and Wingnut Films Production
Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, Producers
THE PIANIST (Focus Features)
An R.P. Productions, Heritage Films, Studio Babelsberg, Runtime LTD. Production
Roman Polanski, Robert Benmussa and Alain Sarde, Producers

I'm nothing if not a realist. I liked Chicago, it was fun,
well-cast and it was great to see a real musical on the big screen
again (I don't think Moulin Rouge quite counted). But The Hours
was a very well-cast, well directed and it would be nice if it
got some notice.

Achievement in sound
CHICAGO (Miramax) Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella and David Lee
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Tom Fleischman, Eugene Gearty and Ivan Sharrock
(SW,WW) THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges and Hammond Peek
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Scott Millan, Bob Beemer and John Patrick Pritchett
SPIDER-MAN (Sony Pictures Releasing) Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Ed Novick

Achievement in sound editing
(SW, WW) THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Ethan Van der Ryn and Michael Hopkins
MINORITY REPORT (20th Century Fox and DreamWorks) Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Scott A. Hecker

Achievement in visual effects
(SW,WW) THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook and Alex Funke
SPIDER-MAN (Sony Pictures Releasing) John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier
STAR WARS EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES (20th Century Fox) Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, John Knoll and Ben Snow

If Gollum was the only effect in the movie, it still should win.

Adapted screenplay
ABOUT A BOY (Universal) Screenplay by Peter Hedges and Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz
ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing) Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman
CHICAGO (Miramax) Screenplay by Bill Condon
(SW,WW) THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Screenplay by David Hare
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Screenplay by Ronald Harwood

This may go to Chicago, but...
Adaptation was certainly interesting, but it was just such a departure
from The Orchid Thief that it really isn't much of a adaptation.

Original screenplay
(SW,WW) FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features) Written by Todd Haynes
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Screenplay by Jay Cocks and Steve Zaillian and Kenneth Lonergan
Story by Jay Cocks
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (IFC/Gold Circle Films) Written by Nia Vardalos
TALK TO HER (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Pedro Almodóvar
Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN (IFC Films) Written by Carlos Cuarón and Alfonso Cuarón

I enjoyed My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it was a fun movie, but seeing it
nominated just because it made a pile of money unexpectedly was silly.
But Far from Heaven was an interesting, adult movie, and I hope it wins.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Dune, Dune and Dune

I read the books back in '75, saw the first movie in '84, but didn't see the Sci Fi Channel miniseries remake until just now.

The books have the strength of being quite original (for their time), the Lynch version has the strength of a generally better cast and better overall design, but the miniseries has a better sense of scope. The main weakness in the miniseries is that Jessica and Paul look too close in age; there is this awkward chemistry between them you didn't get from Kyle McLaughlin and Francesca Annis 20 years ago. Oh, and those funny hats so many of the characters (especially the Bene Gesseret) wear.

While 2 1/2 hours was probably too short for the Dune movie in 1984, 6 hours seems too long for the miniseries. Irulan, for example, was better as a background character in the book and the Lynch version than almost a lead character in the miniseries.

I look forward to seeing the Children of Dune miniseries though. I rather like Dune Messiah (a book generally disliked), a book that will be part of the next miniseries. I'm intrigued that Alice Krige (aka the Borg Queen) will play the Lady Jessica, along with Susan Sarandon as Wensicia.

Thank goodness for PVR as both Six Feet Under (my favorite show) will be on against Children of Dune on Sunday, along with the very interesting-looking Normal on HBO. [sigh]