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
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!