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2004 Mini Reviews

OSCAR ANALYSIS

Let's face it. So far most of the awards season has been a snoozefest. Return of the King has walked away with all the big awards, and after the predictable Golden Globe results, most of the contenders appeared to be set in stone. We all expected a predictable Oscar field, but we were all wrong. Oscar always seems to find a way to surprise, and more importantly, to make the awards interesting.

So, in typical Monday morning (or Tuesday afternoon) quarterbacking fashion, here are my thoughts on the Oscar noms released today.

BEST PICTURE
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING
LOST IN TRANSLATION
MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD
MYSTIC RIVER
SEABISCUIT

The big surprise here was the omission of Cold Mountain. We definitely saw the Miramax epic lose plenty of steam throughout the awards season, but nobody, not even myself, expected this. To be honest, I knew that Master & Commander was a contender, but I thought it would replace Lost in Translation, if anything. Many who haven't been following the awards season might be surprised about Seabiscuit's inclusion, but trust me, it seemed to be a contender for every award this season. As for the winner, there is no doubt. This is the year of the Ring.
My prediction: Return of the King
My choice: Return of the King
Possible upset: None

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Johnny Depp - PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
Ben Kingsley - HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG
Jude Law - COLD MOUNTAIN
Bill Murray - LOST IN TRANSLATION
Sean Penn - MYSTIC RIVER

This is the only category that I picked correctly. I thought there was a slight chance of Russell Crowe being nominated in place of Law, and a long shot chance for the indie underdog Peter Dinklage, but after all this field turned out to be the most predictable. I think Sean Penn would be favored to win, but that may not happen considering he failed to show up for the Golden Globes event (which he won), and likely will not show up for the Oscar ceremony. Bill Murray, on the other hand, made a remarkable, and funny, speech at the Globes ceremony, and could benefit from Penn's controversial absence. As for the rest, they really should be glad to be nominated.
My prediction: Murray
My choice: Kingsley
Possible upset: Penn

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Keisha Castle-Hughes - WHALE RIDER
Diane Keaton - SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE
Samantha Morton - IN AMERICA
Charlize Theron - MONSTER
Naomi Watts - 21 GRAMS

This field boasted the two biggest surprises of the day in the form of Keisha Castle-Hughes and Samantha Morton. It isn't altogether surprising that they were nominated, but that they were nominated in the Best Actress field. Both actresses had been pushed for supporting actress, and Samantha Morton, for all practical purposes, should be in that category because of her short screen time. I must give credit to the academy on Hughes, who was not only terrific, but she was most definitely a lead. The studio pushed for Supporting, but the Oscar body knew better. Good going. Interestingly enough, Hughes is replacing Evan Rachel Wood, another child breakthrough performance, who appeared to be close to a lock for the nomination after receiving a Golden Globe and SAG nomination. While the nominations were surprising, the victor will not be. Charlize Theron has thus far won nearly every award this season and it is her Oscar to lose.
My pick to win: Charlize
Possible upset: None
My choice: Naomi

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Alec Baldwin - THE COOLER
Benicio Del Toro - 21 GRAMS
Djimon Hounsou - IN AMERICA
Tim Robbins - MYSTIC RIVER
Ken Watanabe - THE LAST SAMURAI

This was easily the most crowded category, and unfortunately some great performances, such as Peter Sarsgaard's Chuck Lane, Paul Bettany's Stephen Maturin, and Sean Astin's Sam Gamgee, had to be overlooked. I'm not terribly surprised about this field, although Hounsou was not on my list. The race is really between Tim Robbins and Alec Baldwin, both of which have been rewarded nearly equally over the Awards season. I'm picking Robbins for now, but it could go either way.
My pick to win: Robbins
Possible upset: Baldwin
My choice: Del Toro

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Shohreh Aghdashloo - HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG
Patricia Clarkson - PIECES OF APRIL
Marcia Gay Harden - MYSTIC RIVER
Holly Hunter - THIRTEEN
Renée Zellweger - COLD MOUNTAIN

The big surprise here was was Shohreh Aghdashloo for House of Sand and Fog. Anyone who has seen the film can't be too surprised, as she put together a brilliant performance. She didn't, however, receive very many looks from the guilds or even the critics. I definitely expected Scarlet Johansson to be recognized here, not just for her role in Lost in Translation, but also because she had two strong performances this year (which Oscar can sometimes recognize in one). The contest might seem to be a runaway for Zellwegger at the moment, but don't forget Patricia Clarkson, the indie queen who has been "due" for awhile, who also put in several strong performances this year.
My pick to win: Renee Zellwegger
Possible upset: Patricia Clarkson
My choice: Aghdashloo

More coming. In the meantime, feel free to take a look at my predictions for Best Picture, Actress and Actor.


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