19 October 2003

Christ, I don't know. Ask me again in January.

Well, all right. As of this morning, I think that Return of the King is the movie to beat. Doesn't matter that nobody's seen it yet. Beyond that, I'd say that Mystic River and Cold Mountain are the only other sure nominees. Seabiscuit came out too early in the year (see Road to Perdition). Contrary to what you might expect, the Academy isn't a big fan of star-driven epic vehicles, so I'd cross out Master and Commander and The Last Samurai, unless one or both actually turn out to be good. The Human Stain? Maybe. Dark horse: Elephant, which could do the whole Pianist thing and become the art house movie that Hollywood can't ignore.

Otherwise, while it's been a decent year for movies, it hasn't been very good for the sort of film that Hollywood loves to award. The other day, I actually made up a provisional list of the best movies I've seen so far this year; if you're curious, it goes something like Kill Bill Vol. 1, Spellbound, Capturing the Friedmans, Finding Nemo, American Splendor, Lost in Translation, School of Rock, Dark Blue, 28 Days Later, and Phone Booth. (You'll notice that the list seems a bit padded near the end. That's what happens when you make a list like this in October; any longer, and it probably wouldn't have been long before Gigli made an appearance.)

Of those films, can you imagine even one of them getting a Best Picture nomination? Maybe, just maybe, Lost in Translation could pull it off...but I doubt it. Otherwise, all of the above are disqualified for one reason or another: the Academy doesn't like animated films, comedies, documentaries, or movies that didn't make money, which wipes out Nemo, School of Rock, Spellbound, Friedmans, and Dark Blue right there. American Splendor was too offbeat, and nobody saw it. 28 Days Later and Phone Booth are ridiculous on principle. As for Kill Bill, yeah, maybe the Academy would nominate the first half of a two-part film...but not this one.

At the moment, it's more fun to speculate about offbeat acting nominations. Could we really see three actors nominated for essentially comic performances, which the Academy hates? Probably not, but given the roster so far this year, it'd be hard to leave off Bill Murray, Jack Black, and (drumroll, please)...Johnny Depp, even if Paul Giamatti goes unrecognized. Actresses? Uma Thurman will be hard to ignore. Nicole Kidman's gotta get nominated for something. And, what the hell, Cate Blanchett for Veronica Guerin. Just remember, I'm the guy who predicted last year that My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination...so you never know. At least, I never do.

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