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A Look at the Oscars for Sunday Night

Posted by Fara Kearnes on February 25, 2005 3:43 PM |

Could it really be that the biggest films of the year weren't that memorable?

The top nominated films are a shock since so few people have actually seen them. The overly long Howard Hughes bio,"The Aviator," has only done about $75 million at the box office, compared to just $50 million for "Million Dollar Baby." In Hollywood dollars, that usually spells bomb. On the other hand, hugely popular films like "The Passion" ($800 world-wide Box Office) -- weren't even nominated. Not only were none of the blockbusters considered for awards, this is the weakest field of nominated films at the Oscars in decades. In fact, the TOTAL box office take of all 5 nominated movies combined is the lowest in Academy history.

"Million Dollar Baby", the Clint Eastwood film that people think is "Rocky" with a Sports Bra and have no idea about the real theme of the movie, is the predicted winner by the likes of Gold Derby, Movie City News, the LA Times, Roger Ebert, and so on. The betting odds have it ahead as well.

One film that has been largely ignored is "The Passion." Roger Ebert gave it four stars, and praised Academy Award-winning director Mel Gibson for "putting his artistry and fortune at the service of his conviction and belief." The amazing thing about "The Passion" was its ability to bring people out to the theaters who hadn't attended a movie in years. And when viewers wouldn't go to the theater, "Passion" took the theater to them, screening in unconventional places and spawning a huge grass-roots success.

The odds-on favorite, "Million Dollar Baby," won the DGA director/best film awards, but why didn't it win the Producers Guild, or the SAG ensemble, or the Writers Guild, or the Golden Globe, or the Bafta? Some favorite. It reminds me of the bad showing that "Chicago" made two years ago, when it won the Oscar for Best Picture, but then lost in ALL the other major categories for acting, directing, and screenwriting.

Director Martin Scorsese, the cursed one, the Boston Red Sox of directors, the . . . oh, never mind. Scorsese is the bridesmaid of the Best Director category and there's not much indication his luck will change this year. Scorsese is not loved by Hollywood insiders the way that their boy Clint Eastwood is. But I still wonder why the voters continue to shower his films with nominations -- but never any awards. Two years ago, "Gangs of New York" got 10 nods and no wins, and "The Aviator" could (gasp!) possibly go 0-for-11 on Sunday night's show.

Clint Eastwood is nominated both for Best Actor and Best Director for MDB, and he's the favorite to win the Oscar for his directing. The actors' branch of the Academy has by far the most members (1,300 of the 5,800) and they are the swing voters that continue to honor actors-who-turn-director over legendary directors -- like Scorsese.

And there's more bad news for Scorsese fans: New York Writer Pete Hammond told PAGE SIX that many aging voters were unwilling to venture out to a movie theater, and implied that the awards may be decided by voters who didn't see the films. (But we knew that.) Some voters are so old, Hammond argued, that they are actually upset over "The Aviator" -- because they knew Howard Hughes and didn't like the fact that Scorsese made a film about his life.

So let's see what happens at Hollywood's Prom night this weekend.

My Oscar picks for this year:

Best Actor: Jamie Foxx, "Ray"
Best Actress: Annette Benning, "Being Julia"
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman, "Million Dollar Baby"
Best Supporting Actress: Virgina Madsen, "Sideways"
Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson, "The Aviator"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, "Sideways"
Best Original Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
Best Director: Clint Eastwood, "Million Dollar Baby"
Best Picture: "Million Dollar Baby"

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