All the progress made by “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” by winning all of its 11 Oscar nominations last year in a triumphant onslaught of awesomeness might have just been erased. After the recent announcement of the Academy Awards nominations Tuesday, if the first words out of your mouth weren’t “How could they diss Paul Giamatti two years in a row?” then you have problems.
The Academy failed to recognize the brilliant character actor last year with a best Oscar nomination for his magnificent portrayal of comic book writer Harvey Pekar in “American Splendor,” and this year, despite the success of Giamatti’s indie-film-that-could “Sideways,” he has again been overlooked. But, looking at the bigger picture, “Sideways” did extremely well, garnering five nominations in such high-profile categories as Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Virginia Madsen, Best Supporting Actor for Thomas Haden Church and Best Director for Alexander Payne.
The four other films nominated for Best Picture include Martin Scorcese’s epic biopic about Howard Hughes, “The Aviator;” another biopic about “Peter Pan” author J.M. Barrie, “Finding Neverland;” Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby;” and yet another biopic in “Ray.”
“The Aviator” leads the pack of those nominated with 11 nominations and is the current favorite, followed by “Millon Dollar Baby,” which has seven. The nominations only prove there’s no competing with the Miramax muscle, as the studio boasts two of the films nominated for Best Picture (“The Aviator” and “Finding Neverland”), a triumphant turnaround from last year, when the studio’s “Cold Mountain” failed to get nominated for the award.
What seems missing from the Best Picture battlefield is “Hotel Rwanda,” a film about the heroism of a hotel owner during the Rwandan genocide. The film’s lead actor, Don Cheadle, however, earned a Best Actor nomination. Cheadle’s competition includes Johnny Depp for “Finding Neverland,” Clint Eastwood for “Million Dollar Baby” and Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Aviator.” Everybody’s pick to win is Jamie Foxx for his portrayal of Ray Charles in “Ray,” which received six total nominations. Foxx is also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “Collateral.”
“Ray” director Taylor Hackford was nominated for Best Director alongside Clint Eastwood for “Million Dollar Baby,” Alexander Payne for “Sideways,” Mike Leigh for “Vera Drake” and Martin Scorcese for “The Aviator.” (Scorcese has never won an Oscar for directing despite being nominated four previous times.)
Despite all the nominations for a mediocre film about a certain famous musician due to one great performance, the Academy did get one thing right. Actress Catalina Sandino Moreno was recognized with a Best Actress nomination for her outstanding performance as a Colombian drug “mule” in the excellent film “Maria Full of Grace.” Also nominated in this category are Annette Bening for “Being Julia,” Hilary Swank for “Million Dollar Baby,” Kate Winslet for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and Imelda Staunton for “Vera Drake.”
But despite giving props to Moreno, the Academy blew it on the Best Documentary Feature category. Despite 2004 exploding with several excellent documentaries, many of these films failed to get nominated. Except for the nod for Morgan Spurlock’s hilarious and thought-provoking look at fast food, “Super Size Me,” missing from the nominees are the politically charged “Control Room” and interesting human study “Tarnation.”
Michael Moore haters cannot accurately include the Academy among their ranks for failing to nominate Moore’s controversial blockbuster “Fahrenheit 9/11” for Best Documentary. Oscar rules limit a film to only be eligible for either Best Documentary or Best Picture, but not both. Moore submitted “Fahrenheit” for Best Picture, making it ineligible for Best Documentary.
In the Animated Feature Film category, Pixar’s “The Incredibles” will have to fend off the double Dreamworks assault of “Shark Tale” and “Shrek 2,” the other two nominees in this category. This competition sums up the battle between style and substance, as the excellent storytelling of “The Incredibles” faces the celebrity-filled pieces of crap that are the Dreamworks animated films.
If past history gives us any idea of the outcome, “Shrek 2” will probably be victorious, and then we’ll have to sit and listen to the Counting Crows perform that God-awful song “Accidentally In Love,” which has been nominated for Best Song. Remember, this is under the same system that declared “Forrest Gump” better than “Pulp Fiction” and “The English Patient” superior to “Fargo.” Now, we’re living in a world where “Lemony Snickets” receives twice the number of nominations as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (four to two). Not much has changed.
Watch the blasphemy go down on Feb. 27 on ABC.