Volume 12, Issue 9 ~ February 26-March 3, 2004

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If the Motion Picture Academy Asked Me
by Jonathan Parker

If the Motion Picture Academy asked me, here are three winners you’d see when the Oscars are handed out this Sunday, February 29. I’ve also corrected a couple of their mistakes.

Oscar show gripe of the year: Where are the nominations for women directors?

Only three women have ever received best-director nominations. The merciful nomination of Sofia Coppola’s direction of her tender comedy Lost in Translation makes her the first ever American woman to get a nod. Ever! EVER! No woman has ever won.

Yes, there are fewer female than male directors in Hollywood, and I’m sure there are plenty of psychological and sociological analyses flying around about why this is. But no matter how you explain it, this is just bizarre.

Fortunately, women seem to be getting more chances to tell stories behind the camera, and soon enough women will be regularly nominated and regularly win. Maybe this year, we’ll have our first-ever woman winner in this category. Don’t bet on it.

Most overlooked potential nominee: Best actress: Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation

Johansson’s director got nominated, her co-star got nominated and her picture got nominated, picking up a screenplay nomination as well. So why didn’t Johansson get a nod? Indeed, many thought Johansson deserved to be nominated not just for Lost in Translation but for the smaller Girl with a Pearl Earring, as well. (It’s unlikely she split her votes.) Her low-key yet engaging performance opposite beguilingly bewildered Bill Murray was vital to making this movie go. Oh well, not to fret. The consistently good Johansson will be back. She’s only 19.

Most ridiculous nomination: Best supporting actress: Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April

Patricia Clarkson is a fine actress. She gets so many raves these days, that she is on the brink of either stardom or at least more Oscar glory. But she should not be receiving any glory for her one-dimensional performance in the mediocre Pieces of April. The performances going on around her were better than her bitter, dying character. Plus, it’s not like the Pieces of April landslide was on; the movie received no other nominations. Maybe another year for Clarkson, but not this one.

Nominee I’ll be rooting for hardest: Best adapted screenplay: Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, American Splendor

I really wanted to say Seabiscuit here, if only for the poetic nature of rooting for a literal and figurative long shot. But such a summer blockbuster can hardly be called a long shot. And Seabiscuit, though enjoyable, did not inspire me the way American Splendor did. American Splendor was by far the most original film I saw all year. This sometimes-documentary, most-times-not film about the life and times of underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar was creative narrative film work at its very best. It got only this single best screenplay nomination — a category often reserved for some of the year’s actual best films — I’ll be rooting hard for its moment in the sun.

Actual best picture of 2002: American Splendor

It was a rare year for Oscar, or maybe just a rare year for me, for I liked all of the best picture nominees. That said, my favorite film was not among them. Of the nominees, I’d probably cast my vote for Lost in Translation, if for no other reason than it’s time some comedies got their due. That said, I fully expect Lord of the Rings to finally get the ring for which it has so long been striving.

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Last updated February 26, 2004 @ 1:12am.