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Oscar Hits and misses - Ed


By Ed Symkus

So who's gonna take home the gold this year? Only those guys with the suits and the briefcase know. The bigger mystery is why so many people and films are ignored every year when it comes time for nominations. There are a lot of people in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & amp; Sciences -- the most recent tally had 5,722 voting members. Interestingly, the tallies of their votes -- exactly how many chads were punched for each specific film or actor or crew member or music -- is never revealed by the Academy. And since actual numbers aren't made public, there's no knowing if a film makes it to the nomination list by a landslide or by three votes. Nor is it ever made known by how many votes a film just misses becoming a finalist.

So here's the exercise. Never mind who's going to be up there making speeches. You will find no predictions here. Instead, this is who I would have voted for -- among the official nominee lists -- for winners in what most film fans would pick as the six major categories. And, as a special bonus, I've included a bit of griping about who was left out, who I would have gone out of my way (through bribery? extortion?) to make sure was nominated in the first place.

Most of the titles nominated for Best Picture this year seem to be on the mark (except Chocolat... huh?). Where, though, is the year's most daring and original production, Requiem for a Dream? And where art the audacious "musical" comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? Still, I vote for Traffic.

I'm having some trouble with the Best Director category because I still haven't seen, nor do I have much interest in seeing, Billy Elliot. That's possibly my loss, but still, I must question the absences of both Sam Raimi, director of The Gift, and Gregory Hoblit, director of the little-seen Frequency. My vote would go to Steven Soderbergh -- again for Traffic.

Getting back momentarily to O Brother, what were Academy members thinking when they didn't realize that George Clooney had given his best performance to date in that film? But no, it seems they always go after the more serious characterizations to be considered. Although, come to think of it, Geoffrey Rush is indeed playing some sort of high comedy in Quills. My vote goes to him for that film.

And, to repeat myself, perhaps the biggest flaw in this year's nominations is the absence of Cate Blanchett -- for Best Actress -- as she was both riveting and luminous in The Gift. Had I the chance, I would vote for Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream, as her acting was even more daring than the film itself.

Even more maddening than Blanchett's passing over is who didn't get the initial nod for supporting performances.

The sorest thumbs are among the women. Where, please tell me where, is the nomination for Elaine May for her fabulous portrayal of a sweet ditz incarnate in Small Time Crooks? And once again back to Requiem, didn't anyone happen to notice a soul-baring career highlight from Jennifer Connelly as the drug-addled girlfriend? But among the actual nominees, I'd vote for Marcia Gay Harden in Pollock.

Best Supporting Guys? Don't get me started, but don't get me wrong; the Academy's choices here are good ones. They just don't like to get too esoteric. What we need in this area is a longer list of nominees. And who we need on that list are Fred Willard, for his hysterical turn as a commentator in Best in Show, and for Galaxy Quest's Tony Shalhoub, who aced the best line delivery of the year when, after screaming though outer space to another galaxy in a big glass tube, he emerged, in the midst of his quaking pals, and calmly deadpanned, "That was a hell of a thing." On a nitpicking note, character actor extraordinaire Joaquin Phoenix was indeed nominated, for his leering, heavy-breathing portrayal of the wrongly chosen emperor (Is ancient life imitating current day Washington?) in Gladiator. But the nomination would have made more sense if it had been for a combination of his roles in that film, as well as Quills and The Yards. But my vote goes to Albert Finney for Erin Brockovich.

While I'm in the process of berating the Academy, it keeps becoming clearer that it's made up of unimaginative people who stick with old-fashioned rules. What was sorely needed in this year's nominations was at least a mention, some sort of recognition, for the wonderfully absurd and amazingly innovative Chicken Run. If only someone had it in them to make up a new category.