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This is an interesting exercise for me. One which mostly demonstrates how few movies I get to see.
The Oscar Noms came out and are in today's paper. So I'm going to list my choices.
But here's the main rule. I can only choose from movies I've actually seen. The result is that there are entire categories (including at least one major category) that I can't vote in at all:
Foreign Language Film
Of course, I reserve the right to make changes later if I see more movies. Also, these are NOT predictions. I'm not trying to guess who the Academy will chose. I'm simply stating my preferences...
PICTURE: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING
Haven't seen Mystic River or Seabiscuit. Didn't care for the tiresome Master & Commander. I enjoyed Lost in Translation, a movie which snuck up on everyone, but I don't think it was quite as good as everyone said. I'm sorry that The Cooler didn't get nominated, but in any case it's hard not to vote for LOTR: Return of the King over either Master or Translation. I think that both of the first two movies were better than the third, but as I've stated, this isn't a Return of the Jedi scenario. This is an amazing movie on every level. The bar was set incredibly high by Jackson's first two films. And he still made it over by any reckoning.
ACTRESS: Keisha Castle-Hughes, WHALE RIDER
Well, I haven't seen In America, 21 Grams, Monster or Something's Gotta Give. So Keisha was my only option. But that's okay. I wasn't too wild about the 2-D movie, but the kid was great. Doubt she'll win, but, hey, I'm routing for her.
ACTOR: Johnny Depp, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL
Haven't seen Mystic River, Cold Mountain or House of Sand and Fog. That leaves Depp in Pirates and Murray in Translation, both terrrific comic performances. I'm choosing Depp, the more obvioulsy comic turn, because (a) comedy is rarely rewarded by the Academy and like to break that barrier and (b) as good as Murray is, he's kinda playing himself. But this was a VERY tough choice for me.
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Alec Baldwin, THE COOLER
Haven't seen 21 Grams, In America, Mystic River or the Last Samurai so all that leaves is Alec in Cooler. But even more than Keisha above, I'm thrilled to have Alec as my choice. I saw The Cooler this past Saturday and REALLY loved it. William H. Macy and Maria Bello are also brilliant in it, but I'm not at all surprised that Baldwin was nominated. He's a great actor.
DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson, RINGS: KING
Haven't seen Mystic River or City of God. Didn't care for Master & Commander. Liked Lost in Translation, but Jackson's efforts on Return of the King are stunning.
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Walsh, Boyens, Jackson, LOTR: ROTK
Havent's seen American Splendor, City of God, Mystic River or Seabiscuit, leaving Rings my only option. But again, I like the screenplay so it's a fine choice. Looking forward to the extended version though.
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Coppola, LOST IN TRANSLATION
Haven't seen Barbarian Invasions or Dirty Pretty Things or In America, which leaves me a choice between Lost and Finding Nemo. No contest. Nemo is a cute little movie, but it's far from being my favorite Pixar script. Translation is fascinating.
ART DIRECTION: Hennah, Lee, LOTR: ROTK
Haven't seen Girl with a Pearl Earing, Last Samurai or Seabiscuit. Which leaves me with a contest between LOTR and M&Commander. This was actually a tougher call. I didn't care much for M&C, but it looked damn good. But I think LOTR was a greater overall achievement.
ANIMATED FEATURE: FINDING NEMO.
Haven't seen Brother Bear or Triplets of Belleville. So that leaves Nemo only. Again, not a brilliant film, but it has some brilliant stuff in it, so I can vote this way with a vaguely clear conscious.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Boyd, MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD
Haven't seen City of God, Cold Mountain, Girl with a Pearl Earing or Seabiscuit, which leaves only M&C, which again looked great. So, fine.
SOUND MIXING: Boyes, Semanick, Hedges, Peek, LOTR: ROTK
Haven't seen Samurai or Seabiscuit, but it leaves three great choices, M&C, ROTK and Pirates. I'm gonna give the edge to ROTK. I seem to be sweeping with them. Can't help it. Note that Christopher Boyes is up for bother Pirates and Rings. That's pretty good odds, but an even bigger bummer, I'd imagine, if he loses.
SOUND EDITING: Boyes, Waters, PIRATES
Boyes is looking good for some award. Sound editing on Nemo, Pirates and M&C were probably all great. But I have a softer spot for the fun of Pirates. One of the few categories where I HAVE seen all of the nominees.
ORIGINAL SCORE: Shore, LOTR: ROTK
Haven't seen Big Fish, Cold Mountain or House of Sand & Fog, which leaves Howard Shore's brilliant ROTK work and Nemo, which was just okay.
ORIGINAL SONG: "Into the West", Walsh, Shore, Lennox, LOTR:ROTK
Well, I'm a big Annie Lennox fan to begin with, and the song was very moving to me, so this is an obvious choice. Throw in the fact that I haven't seen Mighty Wind, Cold Mountain, Cold Mountain or Triplets and it was also my only option. The good news is that so far, there hasn't been a category where I have declined to pick a winner because I only had one option. So far, even in categories with only one option, I've genuinely liked that one option.
COSTUME DESIGN: Dickson, Taylor, LOTR: ROTK
Haven't seen Girl with Pearl, Samurai or Seabiscuit, which again leaves M&C and LOTR. Went with LOTR for cause. Great costumes across the board.
FILM EDITING: Selkirk, LOTR: ROTK
Haven't seen City of God, Cold Mountain or Seabiscuit, leaving YET again M&C and LOTR. No brainer. Half the time in the M&C battle scenes I couldn't keep basic track of who was doing what.
MAKEUP: Taylor, King: LOTR:ROTK
Another of the categories where I have seen all the nominees. Pirates had great make-up, truly. And I came very close to giving this one to Pirates. But just that one Orc was so damn good, and he was just the tip of the iceberg. M&C is also in the running, but why?
LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: "Two Soldiers"
I haven't seen the other four options, but I have seen Two Soldiers, based on a William Faulkner short story that just happens to be my all time favorite short story ever. I made a point of seeing this short and was not disappointed. It's really great.
VISUAL EFFECTS: Rygiel, Letteri, Cook, Funke, LOTR: ROTK
And the last of three categories where I've seen all the nominees. Any other year and Pirates (but not M&C) would have challenged for this award. But ROTK, right?
So what's the final tally...
11 for LOTR: ROTK, including picture, director, song, score, screenplay and a half-dozen tech and craft awards. I think that's a clean-sweep. And I'm not generally a sweepy kinda guy. But the true geek in me has been awakened by this trilogy.
2 for Pirates, including Depp's brilliant performanceand a tech award.
1 for WHALE RIDER's kid actress.
1 for THE COOLER's Alec Baldwin.
1 for LOST IN TRANSLATION's keen screenplay by Sofia Coppola.
1 for FINDING NEMO. Best animated feature, won perhaps by default, though I liked the movie.
1 for MASTER & COMMANDER for cinematography, another default win perhaps, though it certainly looked gorgeous.
1 for "Two Soldiers", a personal favorite that may be the award I'm most routing to be right about.
And then five categories where I couldn't vote at all.