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The Self-Made Critic's Guide to the Academy Awards 2003

My friends and devotees, it's time once again for me to make baseless, frivolous predictions. So without further ado, here's who should win and who will win the 2003 Academy Awards, at least the important ones.

Best Supporting Actress:

Once upon a time, Best Supporting Oscars were handed out to exciting new faces who brought a fresh presence to Hollywood. That time is past. Today, Best Supporting Oscars are synonymous with Lifetime Achievement Awards. With that in mind, this really becomes a race between Kathy Bates and Meryl Streep. Kathy gets kudos for taking off her shirt, but Meryl got high on orchid powder, and drugs usually win out over sex any day.

But what about Julianne Moore and Catherine Zeta-Jones? Well Julianne won't win because she was much better in Far From Heaven (and nominated, but we'll talk about that in a moment). Catherine won't win because that would make her life too perfect. I'm sorry, but no one is allowed to life such the fairy-tale life that she's had the last few years and still get an Oscar. Sad truth is, she probably deserves it. Not that she was all that much better than everyone else, but she just brought such a wonderful life to the part. And she looked good all the leather.

But she still won't win.

Who Should Win: Catherine Zeta-Jones
Who Will Win: Meryl Streep

Best Supporting Actor:

This is the only category that is a lock. And you can tell that, basically, by looking at the four people chosen to fill out the ballot. Ed Harris was surprisingly uninspiring as the "Look at me, Oscars, I'm dying!" AIDS patient in The Hours. Paul Newman would never have been nominated if his name weren't Paul Newman. John C. Reilly had to be nominated because he was in so many well-received films this year. But come on, the guy's really good at being okay. Why are we rewarding mediocrity? As for Christopher're kidding me, right? As I've mentioned before, he's become a caricature of himself, not a real actor. You may as well nominate Jay Mohr; no one will know the difference.

That leaves Chris Cooper, which is where this discussion began and ended as soon as anyone saw Adaptation. He gives the best performance of the year in pretty much any movie, anywhere. If he doesn't win this (and don't worry, he will) there will be riots in the streets. The only possible problem with his winning would be if it became cool to knock out your teeth.

Who Should Win: Chris Cooper
Who Will Win: Chris Cooper

Best Actress:

Once again, this is a two-horse race. But first, let's dis on the three also-rans, shall we?

Salma Hayek is nominated because she grew her eyebrows. Diane Lane was nominated because she got all slutty, and Renee Zellweger was nominated because she was in Chicago, so people assume that means she was good. She wasn't.

Renee Zellweger is a female John C. Reilly. We're told over and over how great they are. They're given parts in big movies and that's supposed to make them stars. But you know what? They're not that good. Join me and fight the Hollywood machine! Down with Renee and John C.! If enough of us complain, we will be heard. Fight the power!

Anyway. Julianne Moore was very, very good in Far From Heaven. She gave the performance of a lifetime. She came into her own as a serious actress, and established herself as a complete and utter star.

Sucks for her that she got nominated the same year as Nicole Kidman.

Nicole Kidman became Virginia Woolf in a way that astounded many people, including me. Last year, I said the Academy would never give Nicole an Oscar before they give one to Tom Cruise, but a year can change everything, and you can bet your patootie that she's gonna finally walk down the aisle and thumb her nose at Tommy Boy. In fact, we can probably all get used to referring to him as "The Ex-Mr. Kidman."

Plus that nose! That nose! It haunts you! It teases you!

Who Should Win: Nicole Kidman
Who Will Win: Nicole Kidman

Best Actor:

Who's Adrian Brody? He's the guy in The Pianist. The what? Did you say something dirty? No, I mentioned an Oscar-nominated film. Did you? I've never heard of it.

And that, as much as anything else, is why you can cross Adrian Brody (and everything else connected with The Pianist) off your charts. For the same reason, (no one ever heard of the movie) you can cross Michael Caine off your list, which is a shame, because he was really, really, really good. I would almost say he deserves to win, but he doesn't. He'd be second on my list.

Little Nicky Cage would be neither first nor second on my list. He did a fine job playing two characters, but so what, Eddie Murphy's been doing that for years and you don't see him with an Oscar.

So... Daniel Day-Lewis or Jack Nicholson? Some day, somewhere, someone is going to explain the Academy's infatuation with Jack Nicholson. Don't get me wrong, he's a great actor, and I love seeing him in movies. But has anyone else noticed that he's basically played the same character for about forty years? Still, people love him, and damn it all to Hell, I'd bet even money that he's gonna take yet another damn walk down the aisle to add another Oscar to his collection. It begins to piss you off.

Daniel Day-Lewis deserves to win. If he weren't in Gangs of New York, the film wouldn't be up for Best Picture. He makes that movie. His accent makes that movie. It's as simple as that. When he taps a knife onto his glass eye, he's announcing to the world that he's ready to win an Oscar. He won't get it, but he should. I, for one, don't want to be sitting next to him when he loses.

Who Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Who Will Win: Jack Nicholson

Best Director:

As always, there is an easy way to whittle this race down. If your film isn't up for Best Picture, you don't get to win Best Director. Bye-bye Pedro. Earlier, I mentioned how nothing from The Pianist would win anything, so bye-bye Roman.

What are left are three very different directors who each did a very good job doing very different things. Rob Marshall brought Chicago out of development Hell by finding a way to bring it to the screen and keep most of what makes the stage version so thrilling. Stephen Daldry took a very difficult story featuring three different time periods and turned it into one continuous, engaging story. Legend Martin Scorsese spent something like five hundred years working on Gangs of New York to bring an entire epoch of America to the screen. Martin's true competition, based on the scale of the project, is Peter Jackson, but he isn't nominated.

So who wins? Here's the thing: all three probably deserve it. No one of them obviously deserves it more than any other. Which means the Academy is going to do what it really, really wants to, and that is give Scorsese his first Oscar. For my money, as good a job as he may have done, he wouldn't get my vote. All things being equal, I'd give it Daldry for creating a truly amazing film out of the most difficult subject matter around. Plus he got all those leading ladies to make out with each other! How great is that?

Who Should Win: Stephen Daldry
Who Will Win: Martin Scorsese

Best Animated Feature:

Woo! In year two of the category, they actually found five films to nominate! Last year, this was a popularity contest. The winning film had made a ton of money, was the feel good story of the year and wasn't a Disney film. Based on those criteria, Ice Age sure looks good, don't you think? Thing is, unlike last year, nobody's beating down any doors saying Ice Age is the second coming of Gandhi. It was cute. So was Treasure Planet. So was Lilo and Stitch. Couldn't tell you about Spirit or Spirited Away (the sequel?) but I'm guessing they were at least marginally cute.

So who wins? To be honest, I enjoyed Lilo and Stitch the most. Just a delightful film and it features a member of Kids in the Hall, which is always a plus.

But I think most people will shrug and vote for Ice Age, just to keep spiting Disney.

How mad are they that it took this long to create this category? Does anyone doubt such films as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King wouldn't have run away with this award given the chance?

Who Should Win: Lilo and Stitch
Who Will Win: Ice Age

Best Picture:

Finally, what was the best picture of the year? Well, that's kinda subjective, actually. The best film of the year may have been The Quiet American, Far From Heaven or even IVANSXTC, but they're not nominated. So which of the five nominees is the Best Picture of the Year?

Well obviously not The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, or Peter Jackson would have been nominated for Best Director. Also, I just don't see the Academy giving Best Picture to a movie that makes a dwarf-tossing joke.

We've talked about The Pianist, so I'll be brief. It's a very depressing movie. Oscars often go to very depressing movies, but there's a better depressing candidate, so The Pianist gets the shaft.

Gangs of New York will have won Best Director by now, but that's the limit of its winnings. Take away Daniel Day-Lewis and the movie really isn't all that amazing. And it's really, really violent. The Academy tends to frown on films which break their "five gruesome stabbings or less per film" rule.

Chicago or The Hours? All things being equal, I'd say go with Miramax's film, as they're probably already bribing voters six ways to Sunday. Except both of these films belong to Miramax, so what's movie studio to do? The prevailing wisdom says Chicago is building up a head of steam that can only be stopped by the forthcoming backlash. Is Chicago the best film of the year? No. The Hours is much better. The Hours is one of those amazing films, the kind of chick flick that I like. That alone means it deserves Best Picture. If only Nicole Kidman had saved her singing and dancing for this film, it would have won.

Who Should Win: The Hours
Who Will Win: Chicago

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