Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Oscar Nominations

Where the [expletive] is Peter Jackson's nomination for Best Director? I didn't predict that one. Also, Meryl Streep missed out for Best Actress, which surprised me a little. Otherwise, fairly predictable.

More later.

Update:. It's now later.

Firstly, David Post comments that both Charlie and Donald Kaufman have been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, and asks if this is a first, given that Donald Kaufman is a fictional character.

My response to this is, not really. Firstly, in every Oscar category except for acting categories (where individual people are nominated, for obvious reasons) it isn't actually people that are nominated for Oscars, but films . The ballot papers do not mention the actual people, and voters vote for the film. So, Adaptation is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay , and then for each nominee the academy decides who will actually receive the Oscar in the event of the film winning. (These people also get the bonus prize of academy membership merely for having their film nominated). How the people are chosen varies from category to category. For writing, it is normally the credited screenwriters, which in the event of multiple screenwriters will have been decided previously by the Writer's Guild). For some other categories where a job is done by multiple people, the process of deciding who will get the award can be complex. For some other categories, the studio that makes the film makes a nomination to the academy.

In any event, it is Adaptation that has been nominated, and not the Kaufman "brothers". The names of the recipients for the film can change between now and Oscar night, and probably will be. The academy is very unlikely to give a second statue in absentia for someone who doesn't exist.

As for precedents, there have been plenty. Roderick Jaynes' name was initially announced as the recipient when Fargo was nominated for Best Achievement in Editing. Roderick Jaynes is actually a pseudonym for Joel and Ethan Coen, who presumably do not want to give themselves too many credits on their films. (Roderick Jaynes is one of those pseudonyms that has a life of his own: he also has a tendency to write very pompous introductions to the Coen brothers' books, in which he claims to be a crusty old editor "from the old British school"). However, on Oscar night when the nominees names were read out, they were read out as "Joel and Ethan Coen". (For one thing, this would have ensured that each of the Coens got a statue if they had won).

There have been other examples. In 1984, the film Greystoke, The Legend of Tarzan received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was credited to Robert Towne and P.H. Vazak. Vazak was in fact Robert Towne's dog, to who Towne gave the co-screenwriting credit for fun.

Plus of course there were a number of instances in the 1950s where blacklisted screenwriters were nominated for or won oscars under pseudonyms, and where nobody knew who they actually were for some years. Most notably, somebody named Robert Rich won a screenwriting oscar in 1957 for The Brave One. For several years nobody had any idea who this was, although it was eventually discovered that this was Dalton Trumbo writing under a pseudonym.

Further Update : It's now even later, and some more comments on the nominations themselves. In my various earlier postings, I commented on what I thought would be nominated, and my guesses turned out to be pretty good. I successfully picked all five nominees for Best Picture, and four out of five for Best Director. Curiously, I was close to certain that I had the five for Director, but was less certain for Best Picture, but it turned out the other way round. As I said earlier, I am pretty stunned by this. Peter Jackson pulled off something amazing, and deserved to be awarded for it. Yes, it is the middle film, and the middle film was always going to be the least lauded in terms of awards. However, the films are what they are because of Jackson, and I do not understand why his peers failed to recognise this. The Two Towers got six nominations in all, which was about what I suspected. As other people have pointed out, though, the lack of a nomination for cinematography is pretty stunning, too. The film contains some of the best photography I have ever seen. I have no problem whatsoever with Pedro Almodovar's nomination for Best Director - the man is a master - but it should have been at the expense of someone other than Jackson.

To actually win in these categories, Chicago clearly still looks the front runner. 13 nominations are a lot. I think that fact that it got four acting nominations suggests that the momentum is with it. I particularly think this because of John C Reilly's nomination. He could have been nominated for any of four films, but the voters chose Chicago

On the acting categories, I thought that the female categories were easier to predict than the male characters, but it turned out to be the other way round. Adrien Brody was the one I missed. I had boldly gone for Richard Gere for the fifth nomination. Gere seems just about the only person connected with Chicago to have been snubbed. I am still not sure who I think will win in this category. Nicholson is probably slight favourite, followed by Cage and Day-Lewis. This one looks close, however.

For Supporting Actor, the one possible surprise is John C Reilly instead of Dennis Quaid. I am very pleased to see Reilly nominated, and now that he is nominated he stands a great chance of actually winning. This is because he is in three of the five Best Picture nominations, and he is really good in all of them. Voters watching most nominated films will keep seeing him in different types of roles, and equally good in all of them. I think his main competition is Paul Newman, and he is in Road to Perdition a so-so film that most people have forgotten and which voters don't need to watch to vote in any other categories.

In the female categories, the big surprise is Meryl Streep missing out for Best Actress. It was perhaps too much to ask for voters to give two Best Actress nominations for the one film. (Also, the fact that an administrative error robbed her of a Screen Actor's Guild nomination may have had something to do with it). In any event, she got a supporting nomination for Adaptation , and I still think she has a great chance of winning that one. The one surprise for Best Actress is perhaps Salma Hayak for Frida . I suppose this shows that actors like to reward their peers' vanity projects. Nicole Kidman still looks to be the frontrunner for Best Actress. For supporting actress I was perhaps a little surprised by Queen Latifah's nomination for Chicago , as I didn't think she had a lot to do in the movie. (A shame they didn't give the nomination to Emily Watson for Punch Drunk Love, but I knew they wouldn't). However, everything else was pretty predictable. Either Meryl Streep or Catherine Zeta-Jones will win in this category.

Finally, the Best Original Song category has some pretty interesting stuff in it. Normally, the academy tries to get the artists who performed the song for the movie to perform it on oscar night. This could concevably mean that Paul Simon, U2, and Eminem will all be performing one after the other. (I think Eminem should win in this category, because "Lose Yourself" is a dazzling piece of work. As to whether he is to the academy's tastes, that is another question).

And I think I have blogged endlessly about a subject that is essentially frivolous. Nothing more on the Oscars until Oscar night. Back now to the cricket, which is of course no less frivolous.

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