2004 Academy Awards Interview

Many noms for fantasy trilogy's finale will pave the way for Oscar to worship its new 'Lord'

Many noms for fantasy trilogy's finale will pave the way for Oscar to worship its new 'Lord'

The members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been saving up their love for the "The Lord of the Rings" movies, and now comes the payoff. The trilogy's third installment is going to rake them in at this year's 76th annual Oscar ceremony. In fact, before the nominations are even announced, I'm willing to bet on "The Return of the King" and it's director, Peter Jackson, taking home the top two prizes.

But don't completely dismiss "Lost in Translation," this year's little-indie-that-could. The film should see Bill Murray's first acting nomination, screenplay and directing nods for Sofia Coppola, and perhaps a notice of star Scarlett Johansson -- if the voters can decide what category she belongs in after the studio began pimping her lead performance as a supporting role.

Here's how I imagine the nominations shaping up on January 27...

Best PICTURE
Sure Things:
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
"Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World"
"Mystic River"

Good Bets:
"Cold Mountain"
"Lost in Translation"

The Competition:
"In America"
"The Last Samurai"
"Seabiscuit"

Dark Horses:
"Something's Gotta Give"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl"
"Finding Nemo"
"Big Fish"

If there's any change in the top five here, it will likely be the substitution of "Seabiscuit" for "Cold Mountain." But don't count on it. Hard-charging Oscar marketer Miramax hasn't been shut out of the Best Picture category in years.

Best DIRECTOR
Sure Things:
Clint Eastwood, "Mystic River"
Peter Jackson, "LOTR: Return of the King"
Peter Weir, "Master & Commander"

Good Bets:
Sofia Coppola, "Lost in Translation"
Anthony Minghella, "Cold Mountain"

The Competition:
Gary Ross, "Seabiscuit"
Jim Sheridan, "In America"
Edward Zwick, "The Last Samurai"

Dark Horses:
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "21 Grams"
Nancy Meyer, "Something's Gotta Give"

For the first time in ages, I think all the best picture and best director nods will align with no awkward odd-man-out omissions. If there is a spoiler, it would be Gary Ross, just as his film could spoil for Best Picture.

Best ACTOR
Sure Things:
Bill Murray, "Lost in Translation"
Jack Nicholson, "Something's Gotta Give"
Sean Penn, "Mystic River"

Good Bets:
Russell Crowe, "Master & Commander"
Johnny Depp, "Pirates of the Caribbean"

The Competition:
Ben Kingsley, "House of Sand & Fog"
Jude Law, "Cold Mountain"
Tom Cruise, "The Last Samurai"

Dark Horses:
Peter Dinklage, "The Station Agent"
Paul Giamatti, "American Splendor"

There are going to be a couple surprises this year, and I think Depp will be one of them -- unless "Cold Mountain" does well in the nominations, in which case Law could ride that wave into a Best Actor nod. Kingsley is on a lot of pundits' lists, but "House of Sand & Fog" has received mixed reviews and Academy voters will want to recognize the unexpected cleverness of "Pirates" in a major category, and it's not going to be Best Picture.

Best ACTRESS
Sure Things:
Diane Keaton, "Something's Gotta Give"
Charlize Theron, "Monster"
Naomi Watts, "21 Grams"

Good Bets:
Jamie Lee Curtis, "Freaky Friday"
Nicole Kidman, "Cold Mountain"

The Competition:
Jennifer Connelly, "House of Sand & Fog"
Evan Rachel Wood, "Thirteen"

Dark Horse:
Scarlett Johansson, "Lost in Translation"
Scarlett Johansson, "Girl With a Pearl Earring"

Johansson would be a pretty sure thing for "Translation," except that Focus Features decided to pitch her as a Supporting Actress, even though she's the film's main character. Because this is such a clear mismatch, she probably won't get the nod in either category, which is a crime and a half. But short of a Johansson coup, I'm hoping to see Wood get Kidman's spot. As for Curtis, she's another of my predicted surprises. Her performance as a teenager stuck in her mother's body was so brilliantly funny and true to the character's 15-year-old spirit, I don't think she can be ignored. Of course, none of this matters because Theron has the Oscar all sewn up.

Best SUPPORTING ACTOR
Sure Things:
Sean Austin, "LOTR: Return of the King"
Albert Finney, "Big Fish"
Tim Robbins, "Mystic River"
Peter Sarsgaard, "Shattered Glass"

Good Bet:
Alec Baldwin, "The Cooler"

The Competition:
Paul Bettany, "Master & Commander"
Benicio Del Toro, "21 Grams"
Ken Watanabe, "The Last Samurai"

Dark Horse:
Djimon Hounsou, "In America"
William H. Macy, "Seabiscuit"

Austin will become "LOTR's" only acting nominee this year, even though the film is going to be taking a huge victory lap at The Oscars. Sarsgaard would have seemed like a long shot a couple months ago, but recognition by so many critics' groups this year will get him noticed. If their respective films fare better than expected, Del Toro, Watanabe or Bettany could take Baldwin's likely spot.

Best SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Sure Things:
Patricia Clarkson, "Pieces of April"
Marcia Gay Harden, "Mystic River"
Holly Hunter, "Thirteen"
Renee Zellweger, "Cold Mountain"

Good Bet:
Ellen DeGeneres, "Finding Nemo"

The Competition:
Scarlett Johansson, "Lost in Translation"

Dark Horses:
Laura Linney, "Mystic River"
Shohreh Aghdashloo, "House of Sand & Fog"
Hope Davis, "American Splendor"
Maria Bello, "The Cooler"
Frances McDormand, "Something's Gotta Give"

I'm going out on a limb again here, but there's just been so much talk about DeGeneres's contribution to "Finding Nemo," that I think we'll see some ground broken with an acting nomination for an animated film. Why DeGeneres will get this honor and not Andy Serkis, whose performance as Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" movies contributed directly to the character's physicality as well, ain't fair. But then, this is the Oscars, baby. Get used to it. As for Johansson, she'll be getting screwed even worse. For an explanation, see "Best Actress" above.

Best ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Sure Things:
"Finding Nemo," Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds
"In America," Jim Sheridan, Naomi Sheridan, Kirsten Sheridan
"Lost in Translation," Sofia Coppola
"Thirteen," Catherine Hardwick & Nikki Reed
"Something's Gotta Give," Nancy Meyer

The Competition:
"21 Grams," Guillermo Arriaga
"A Mighty Wind," Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy

There's going to be some tough competition for the Oscar in this category. "Translation" has the momentum, but "Thirteen" has the PR advantage of having been co-written by a real teenager.

Best ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Sure Things:
"American Splendor," Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
"LOTR: Return of the King," Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh & Philippa Boynes
"Master & Commander," Peter Weir
"Mystic River," Brian Helgeland
"Seabiscuit," Gary Ross

The Competition:
"Cold Mountain," Anthony Minghella

Dark Horse:
"Girl With a Pearl Earring," Olivia Hetreed

Indies often get some love in the screenplay categories, so expect to see "American Splendor" get its only nomination here. But "Cold Mountain" could boot anything but "LOTR" if Miramax's marketing army has anything to say about it.

SPECIALTY Best Film categories

Animated Feature:
"Finding Nemo"
and two also-rans, like the brilliant import "The Triplets of Bellville," which is really the better film.

Documentary:
"The Fog of War"
"Capturing the Friedmans"
"My Flesh & Blood"
And perhaps "The Weather Underground" and/or "Bus 174"

Foreign Language:
"The Barbarian Invasions" (French Canada)
"Good Bye, Lenin!" (Germany)
"Monsieur Ibrahim" (France)
"Osama" (Afghanistan)
"The Return" (Russia)

TECHNICAL ("hard") categories

Cinematography:
"Cold Mountain"
"Kill Bill: Volume 1"
"Master & Commander"
"The Last Samurai"
"Seabiscuit"
(Dark horse: "Peter Pan")

Editing:
"Cold Mountain"
"LOTR: Return of the King"
"Master & Commander"
"Mystic River"
And either "Seabiscuit"
or "Kill Bill: Volume 1"

Sound categories:
"LOTR: Return of the King"
"Master & Commander"
"Pirates of the Caribbean"
And perhaps...
"Kill Bill: Volume 1"
"The Last Samurai"
or "Seabiscuit"
or Finding Nemo

Visual Effects:
"LOTR: Return of the King,"
"Master and Commander"
"Pirates of the Caribbean"

ARTISTIC ("soft") categories

Art Direction:
"LOTR: Return of the King"
"Master & Commander"
"Peter Pan"
"Pirates of the Caribbean"
And either...
"Cold Mountain"
or "Lost in Translation"

Costumes:
"Down With Love"
"LOTR: Return of the King"
"Master & Commander"
"Pirates of the Caribbean"
"The Last Samurai"

Makeup:
"LOTR: Return of the King"
"Monster"
"Pirates of the Caribbean"

MUSIC categories

Original Score:
"Big Fish"
"Girl with a Pearl Earring"
"LOTR: Return of the King"
"Pirates of the Caribbean"
"Seabiscuit"

Original Song:
Since this category is now meaningless and dominated by songs that exist only over a movie's closing credits, I couldn't care less.




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