The Oscar nominations

I haven’t seen much in the blogosphere

over recent days on the subject of the Oscar nominations.

I’m a little surprised, since the big news is the way in which New York has

triumphed over Los Angeles. Every Best Picture nominee was produced wholly or

in part by a New York studio, while no LA-based studio received anywhere near

the astonishing number of nominations garnered by Miramax.

The big winner, at least at this stage, is Harvey Weinstein. Whatever happens

on March 23, the Miramax honcho has certainly proved himself the master Oscar

wrangler. That New Yorker profile is rapidly becoming little more than a historical

artifact: nothing succeeds like 40 – count ‘em – nominations, including

a virtual lock on Best Picture.

Chicago got 13 nominations alone – that’s only one less than

the all-time record held by Titanic and All About Eve. And

while those two films are old-fashioned dramas, Chicago is what the

Golden Globes call a "comedy or musical" – something Oscar rarely

rewards. Since Annie Hall won in 1978, the only Best Picture which

falls into that category has been Shakespeare in Love, in 1999.

But Chicago is in with a good chance for a fair haul of statuettes

this time around, including the big one. Unlike Lord of the Rings,

which got 13 nominations last year and virtually nothing in the way of actual

awards, it doesn’t smell of spotty adolescents, and doesn’t seek to dazzle with

computer-generated imagery. (Titanic used a lot of CGI, but in a relatively

subtle way, designed so you wouldn’t notice it, rather than so you would.) Chicago

is more old-fashioned, dazzling with lots of glitz and look-at-me camerawork.

Moreover, the slow roll-out for Chicago means that by the time Academy

members are voting, it’s going to be at the height of its box-office success,

stuck front and center in the national consciousness, with a gross easily into

nine figures. Meanwhile, none of the other nominees (except for Lord of the Rings, of course) will have got anywhere near

the critical $100 million mark – something a film really has to achieve

if it’s going to win Best Picture.

The best comment I’ve seen about the nominations so far came from Greg Allen,

of greg.org. "Chicago is to movies,"

he said, "what

painted cows are to art." It’s a great line, but I think what Greg misses

is that much the same can be said of most Oscar winners. It’s not just the embarrassments

like Braveheart or Dances with Wolves which fall into the

category of big-but-superficial. Look at Gladiator: if it can win,

then surely Chicago can.

And if the Academy is too quick to reward actors who turn to directing (see

Braveheart and Dances with Wolves again) it’s also quick to

reward old theatre hands who are making their way into film (see The English

Patient and American Beauty). Chicago is just such a

picture, directed by Broadway veteran Rob Marshall, who has never directed a

feature film before. The Hours is another, directed by Stephen Daldry.

The fact is, however, that neither Marshall nor Daldry is going to win Best

Director. The Academy has been waiting a very long time to give Martin Scorsese

his long-awaited and long-deserved Oscar, and this is its opportunity. Scorsese’s

latest, Gangs of New York, is everything Oscar loves: a big, sprawling,

much-hyped labor of love, with star power (DiCaprio, Day-Lewis, Diaz) to die

for. It got a very impressive nine nominations, including the bizarre

Best Original Screenplay (surely it was adapted from the

book, which has

a big star on the cover saying "now a major motion picture"). And

so there’s a chance it’ll sweep, and pick up more than a buggins-turn gong for

Scorsese. But even if it doesn’t, Scorcese is going to get exactly the same

award that Al Pacino got in 1993, when he finally got his Oscar for Scent

of a Woman, which nobody thought was a particularly good film or a particularly

good performance.

The acting awards, on the other hand, are wide open. I have a funny feeling

that the Academy is finally tiring of giving Jack Nicholson Oscars, and that

this year the award will go to someone else, quite possibly Adrien Brody. My

hunch is that the excellent Julianne Moore will win Best Actress, beating out

Nicole Kidman. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if she won Best Supporting Actress as

well? That would really make my evening. It’s possible, if Catherine Zeta-Jones

and Queen Latifah split the Chicago vote.

The one thing I know for sure is that the second installment in the Lord

of the Rings trilogy has precisely zero chance of winning any major award.

Anybody who would like to reprise the bet

I had with Stefan last year is more than welcome to get in touch!

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