Full of surprises
COMPETITION MUST have its surprises. If the results are predictable, they could turn into boring exercises.
For some years now, the race for Oscar nominations and the awards themselves have had their share of shocks and upsets. One is merely using different words or looking from a different perspective to describe surprises here.
Although it was widely expected that "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," Peter Jackson's awesome final edition of a trilogy set in mystical Middle Earth, would garner many nominations and it did 11, including those for Best Picture and Director nobody quite thought that Peter Weir's "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World'' would clinch 10 nods. Among them were those for Best Picture and Director. Set in the Napoleonic era, this film is reportedly a gripping naval adventure.
There were many more surprises: major movies were given a cold shoulder, while smaller ones attracted attention. The 5800-odd voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were apparently not impressed by Miramax's big offering, "Cold Mountain'': no Best Picture or Director nomination for this. Based in New York, Miramax is known to dominate the Oscars. Even this year, it has in its basket 15 nods, the highest among any company this time. Miramax's pull appears to go farther than this: its co-chairman, Harvey Weinstein's favourite work, "City of God," from Brazil got the Best Director nomination for Fernando Meirelles. Well deserved though, for this work is a great piece of direction. "The City of God'' is a young artist's brilliantly-etched impression of a crime-ridden housing colony in Rio de Janeiro. It was at Cannes' competition in 2002, but the jury was not impressed.
Apart from this, there were several small films that seem to have seduced the Academy. Sofia Coppola is the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, and she became the third woman to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director. Her creation, "Lost in Translation'' a contemplative story of a woman waiting in a Tokyo hotel was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Bill Murray) and Best Original Screenplay. The two other women auteurs recognised by the Academy were Lina Wertmiller from Italy ("Seven Beauties'' in 1976) and Jane Campion of New Zealand ("The Piano'' in 1993). However, neither won.
Now for a few more surprises: three movies nominated for Best Picture collected no acting nod. "The Return of the King,'' "Master and Commander...'' and "Seabiscuit'' all took multiple nominations, but none for acting. Instead, the Academy singled out performances that had not mounted any positive guesses. Among the most unexpected nominees were Djimon Hounsou, as the Best Supporting Actor for playing Mateo, a neighbour to a young immigrant family in "In America,'' and the 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes as the Best Actress in the independent hit "Whale Rider'' (about New Zealand's Aborigines). She is the youngest actress ever nominated in this category.
Other could-not-believe choices were two comic performances, usually not considered worthy of the Oscars: Johnny Depp as the Best Actor ("Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl'') and Diane Keaton as the Best Actress, who plays an aging writer in love with Jack Nicholson in "Something's Gotta Give.'' One has to wait for February 29 for the awards, to see how these translate into something more enduring. However, the fact that the Academy is now inclined to turn its camera away from the big-buck extravaganzas towards smaller, meaningful works of celluloid calls for a celebration.
Send this article to Friends by