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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of March 19 - 25, 2003

Arts and Entertainment

The Oscars pile up in someone else’s house

Express Staff Writer

The Academy Awards—aka the Oscars—are this Sunday night which implies quite a bit. This is when we get to make weird food items to honor the nominated movies. It also means we get to critique and trash talk at our leisure at the television and no one will think we’ve lost our minds. Likewise betting on movies rather than on sports is de riguer.

So, here we are and it’s Oscar night and whom do we see on the Red Carpet? Well, for starters we’ve got some of the best looking and most talented babes in Hollywood up for Best Actress: Salma Hayek, Nicole Kidman, Diane Lane, Julianne Moore, and Renée Zellweger. The golden statuette would look dandy in the arms of any of these gals.

Hayek would be an amazingly brave and deserved winner, but I think Kidman, who absolutely proves her talent, is a safe vote for the win. Of course, you have to take into account that just last week Zellweger won the best actress SAG award.

The other big categories are, of course, Best Picture: "Chicago," "Gangs of New York," "The Hours," "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and "The Pianist."

Hollywood loves musicals and "Chicago" looks like a hard to beat winner. However, good aspects of it may have been, we have to wonder if the Academy voters are smart enough to see that this movie’s parts are actually better than the whole.

For Best Actor, the nominees are Adrien Brody, the dual-role-playing Nicolas Cage, the sublime Michael Caine, the peerless Daniel Day-Lewis, and Academy poster boy Jack Nicholson. Jack is always hard to beat, but Day-Lewis could edge him out for sheer brilliance and being the best thing about a good movie.

Much more fun is trying to guess the Best Supporting Actor. Always a tough call, the Academy loves to give this to first-timers, or conversely old-timers. John C. Reilly, who’s so good that no one even knows he’s the same guy from film to film, represents the former. In the latter category, there’s Paul Newman, for "Road to Perdition," still the best looking and most competent guy in the business.

But Ed Harris is looking like a popular choice despite the fact that Chris Cooper should win. It’s that simple. He stole "Adaptation," and he has had a great career playing regular dudes in every kind of genre imaginable. The other nom is Chris Walken for "Catch Me if You Can." And he rocked. It’s a tight call.

This brings us to Best Supporting Actress. Kathy Bates has won a statue before and frankly the hot tub scene was frightening for many.

Meryl Streep is La Meryl and therefore always a front runner.

Queen Latifah is a fabulous talent, but she’s up against her cast mate and Queen of Hollywood, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

My guess is that it’s a horse race between the very pregnant Zeta-Jones and Julianne Moore. Moore could deservedly win for "The Hours" as compensation since she won’t get the best actress nod for "Far From Heaven."

In the Best Director category there are only two Americans nominees, and so what? Roman Polanski, who directed "The Pianist," will be absent since he has been a fugitive from the country since 1977 for statutory rape. I think the young girl he took advantage of may now be a grandmother.

Stephen Daldry directed the phenomenal "The Hours," but he’s up against the sentimental favorite Martin Scorsese for "Gangs of New York." In a hopeful note, the wacky and wonderful Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar was also nominated for directing and penning the uncharacteristically sedate and complex "Talk to Her," but the movie wasn’t nominated.

None of the above actually matters since veteran theatre director Rob Marshall will most likely win for "Chicago."

But will there be surprises, flubs and goofy moments? It’s just like sports, there’s no real way to handicap though people try. Stuff happens. Remember Roberto Benigni? When he won best actor in 1998 for "It’s a Beautiful Life," he giddily climbed over the seats on his way to the stage.

Come on, wouldn’t you just love to see Nia Vardalos win for Best Original Screenplay for "My Big Fat Greek Wedding?" That might be a hoot. Though it’s hard to imagine anyone but the award winning screen and theatre writer David Hare winning for adapting "The Hours" to the screen.

The whole thing seems weirdly to be a mirror of the world as it’s panning out today. The best picture race is more political this year than ever. There’s the New Zealand made "Two Towers," with that eerie name. There’s the French-made Polish "The Pianist" and the American-made English "The Hours."

The American movies pit two of the country’s biggest and most egomaniacal towns against each other, namely "Chicago" and "Gangs of New York. By the way, "Gangs" is an Alberto Grimaldi Production. Grimaldi is otherwise known as Prince Albert, heir to the throne of Monaco. So there creeps in another French connection.

So, who’s it gonna be? Who’ll reign supreme? Will politics override culture? Don’t laugh, it has before.


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