Instead of the usual who-will-win or who-should-win Oscar night preview, here for the third straight year is a preview of a different sort. These five categories sum up the Academy Awards for me. Now, if only the Academy would listen.
Gripe of the year
Ignoring a director with a film up for best picture.
Inevitably the Academy gives best-director nominations to four of the five nominees for best picture and gives a cold shoulder to one supposedly undeserving director. Why do Academy voters find it necessary to purposely ignore the one person who has the most to do with a film that they vote for a best picture nomination?
This year the Academy gives two cold shoulders: one to Baz Luhrmann for Moulin Rouge and one to Todd Field for In the Bedroom. Big name filmmakers David Lynch (Mulholland Drive) and Ridley Scott (Black Hawk Down) get the nods instead though the Academy doesnt think their movies are best-picture worthy. Making this years shoulder(s) even colder is the fact that Luhrmanns unique vision is the whole reason that Moulin Rouge is best-picture material.
Most overlooked potential nominee
Best actor: Gene Hackman, The Royal Tenenbaums.
At one point last year, three in a run of five movies I saw at the theater featured Gene Hackman. His performances in Heist and Behind Enemy Lines led me to believe that the great Hackman was starting to show his age. Then I saw The Royal Tenenbaums, where Hackman gives an amazingly subtle and twisted comic performance.
It was bad enough that Tenenbaums got only one nomination (best original screenplay); passing over Hackman is a travesty. It is always difficult for comedy performances to get nominations, but Id hoped Hackmans reputation and Tenenbaums good reviews could overcome the prejudice. Wrong again.
Most ridiculous nomination
Best song: Randy Newman, If I Didnt Have You, Monsters, Inc.
This Randy Newman thing is getting ridiculous. Its a known fact that piano-playing singer/songwriter Newman is buddy-buddy with the power-brokering Hollywood crowd. That must be the explanation for his nomination year after year for cute if not similar sounding songs from a host of marginal movies. This is Newmans 16th nomination. Its hard to believe the Academy cant find better movie songs to nominate. But why bother when you can just nominate friend Newman?
Then again, Newmans song isnt the only one of the nominated tunes that you havent heard on the radio. That honor could go to practically any of them.
Nominee Ill be rooting for hardest
Best supporting actor: Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast.
Most of the Academys moves seem off base, but they throw in some pleasant surprises. This years nicest surprise is Kingsleys nomination for his villainous turn in the little seen Sexy Beast. Kingsley plays intense London hit-man Don Logan. who is sent fish-out-of-water style to the Spanish coast to coax a retired mobster out of retirement. Don Logan! I actually remember this guys name. Thats because Kingsley creates an unforgettable character different from anything weve seen him do before. Don Logan is no Gandhi.
Best picture of 2000
This really was a bad year for movies.
Ill give the best-film-of-the-year nod to the taut brainteaser Memento, over a short list of contenders that includes Ghost World and The Royal Tenenbaums.
Of the pictures nominated, Id vote for the quietly powerful In the Bedroom. But I could live with Lord of the Rings. Meanwhile, I didnt even like the manipulative A Beautiful Mind. Thus I fully expect it will survive the current tinsel-town controversy over the movies factual inaccuracies and win best picture. Ugh!