|| BEST PICTURE
1) Cold Mountain - It is a grand sweeping saga, with everything that makes a great movie war, romance, comedy, tragedy, characters one cares for and that stay with you long after the film is over. It is based on an Oprah Winfrey book club selection -- always a good measure of the popular mood of the country.
2) The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King - This is how sequels are supposed to end and what a fantastic ending this film provides. The first two films in the series failed to win the big Oscar and the Academy will definitely nominate this movie. TLOTR: TROTF has the strongest chance of becoming the best picture of 2003.
3) Lost In Translation - This movie came out of nowhere and charmed just about everyone. A touching (and often outrageously hilarious) story about two dislocated people making a connection in a foreign land, the film is a celebration of American indie cinema.
4) Mystic River - A dark, brooding movie, set in the working class sections of Boston, with a strong ensemble cast, this drama by Clint Eastwood has been on every critic's best of the year list.
5) Master and Commander: The film has the grand scale that Academy members tend to like.
Should be Nominated:
Dirty Pretty Things - A powerful drama of the dark underside of London, where illegal immigrants fuel the city's economy. A beautiful romantic story with no white characters and where the leading pair hardly even kisses each other.
In America - A triumph for director Jim Sheridan. This charming autobiographical film has won over the audiences and critics alike. But in a year with quite a few Hollywood blockbusters, a small film like In America stands little chance of making it to the top five.
The Magadlene Sisters - Another gem a small movie from UK, The Magadlene Sisters tells an ugly story about the Catholic church. But the film never picked up at the box office and stayed mostly as an art-house foreign fare.
21 Grams - An amazing follow-up to the Oscar nominated Amores Perros, 21 Grams is a jigsaw puzzle and a lesson in how good films should be made. But its subject matter is too dark and bleak for the Academy's older members.
|| BEST ACTOR
1) Russell Crowe -- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World - He will be nominated because he is Russell Crowe. He may not be the most likeable human being, but as an actor he continues to surprise us (even though half the time he mumbles his dialogues in the film).
2) Ben Kingsley - House of Sand and Fog - Kingsley has not been this excellent since Gandhi. One hates his character and at the same time cries for him. His performance here is so believable that it is hard to imagine that the actor is not of Iranian heritage.
3) Jude Law - Cold Mountain - In his past performances Law was a sex symbol and a trendy Brit (and he was brilliant as a deranged killer in Road to Perdition), but this movie makes him a man's actor.
4) Bill Murray - Lost in Translation - Murray has never been this good in his entire career. The Academy members usually do not care for comic actors, but they must honor him for his tragic and hilarious performance as a jaded and dislocated American in Tokyo.
5) Sean Penn - Mystic River - The Oscar has always eluded Penn and yet he continues to give us one masterful performance after another. This is one of Penn's best acting roles at par with his other Oscar nomination in Dead Man Walking.
Should be Nominated:
Tom Cruise - The Last Samurai - Tom Cruise should have won his Oscar for Born on the Fourth of July or even Jerry Maguire. The competition is tough here and some critics did not like his star like appearance in the film. But it is a difficult role and Cruise works hard here. He deserves the nomination.
Johnny Depp - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - Depp was so delightfully good in POTC: TCOTBP. But the film is too light for the Academy to consider it seriously.
Chiwetel Ejiofor - Dirty Pretty Things - Ejiofor is by far the best actor of the year, but he is hardly known in the US. In a year crowded with showy performances from names like Crowe, Penn and Kingsley, Academy members are certain to ignore this Nigeria-born actor.
Omar Sharif - Monsieur Ibrahim - An amazing comeback performance from Omar Sharif who has spent the past decades playing bridge. Will he get the nomination? No. Monsieur Ibrahim is no Doctor Zhivago.
|| BEST ACTRESS
1) Nicole Kidman - Cold Mountain - Everyone loves Kidman, the wronged-wife who bounced back with an amazing set of movies (The Hours, Moulin Rouge, Birthday Girl). She holds Cold Mountain together. Her character's growth brings a wonderful continuity to the film.
2) Charlize Theron - Monster - This is a performance with Oscar written all over it. A model-turned actress portrays a lesbian, drug addict, prostitute and serial killer. And the Academy loves this sort of transformation. There is already a precedent set. Hillary Swank won an Oscar for a similar disturbing performance in Boys Don't Cry.
3) Uma Thurman - Kill Bill Vol. 1 - Thurman is an Academy favorite and this year she will also get the sympathy vote another wronged wife (her husband Ethan Hawke had a fling with a co-star last summer). Plus after the special effects, Thurman is the next coolest thing in Quinton Tarantino's blood soaked film.
4) Naomi Watts - 21 Grams - Watts is amazing in this little indie film. The film's clever screenplay and editing enhances her performance as a woman recovering from her loss.
5) Evan Rachel Woods - Thirteen - Woods' performance is so gritty, so real that it will make you cringe, feel very uncomfortable.
Should be Nominated:
Keisha Castle-Hughes - Whale Rider - Castle-Hughes' radiant personality carries us through in this uplifting feel good movie from New Zealand.
Jennifer Connelly - House of Sand and Fog - It is now clear that Connelly's Oscar for A Beautiful Mind was no fluke. She stands on her own in a movie filled with other powerful performances, especially that of Ben Kingsley.
Hope Davis - American Splendor/Secret Lives of Dentists - With two excellent roles last year, Davis has proved to be the queen of American indie cinema. A nomination nod will bring her up to par with the big-ticket players. But her strength (she is the queen of American indie cinema) will work against her in a system that is weighted heavily in favor of big Hollywood films.
Scarlett Johansson - Lost in Translation - For a 19 year old, Scarlett had already become a major star with two big roles in 2003 (the other being in Girl With a Pearl Earring). Audrey Tautou Dirty Pretty Things Amelie was just the beginning. Here Tautou is equally charming as a troubled illegal Turkish immigrant in London.
|| BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1) Albert Finney - Big Fish - A big meaty role for an Academy favourite.
2) William H Macy - Seabiscuit - Macy is a true chameleon. He is perhaps one of the best things about Seabiscuit.
3) Tim Robbins - Mystic River - Older Academy members may not like Tim Robbins' liberal politics, but his performance as a deeply disturbed man under suspicion for a murder is a marvel.
4) Benicio Del Toro - 21 Grams - Del Toro won the Oscar for his performance in Traffic. He is equally fantastic in this film as a troubled born-again Christian.
5) Ken Watanabe - The Last Samurai - A popular actor in Japan, Watanabe gives a quiet performance and he proves to be an equal match to a star of Tom Cruise's stature.
Should be Nominated:
1) Alec Baldwin -- The Cooler - solid comeback role for Baldwin. It is a showy vicious performance. Plus he was also seen this year in The Cat In The Hat.
|| BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1) Shohreh Aghdashloo - House of Sand and Fog - A real surprise in the film. The Academy often likes to nominate (and then also honor) foreign actors in supporting roles (Linda Hunt -- The Year Of Living Dangerously and Haing Ngor -- The Killing Fields).
2) Patricia Clarkson - Pieces of April - The talented character actress has received a lot of notice in this small, but charming indie film.
3) Holly Hunter - Thirteen - Hunter was brave enough to produce this film and she was brilliant as single mother trying to keep her head above the water.
4) Nikki Reed - Thirteen - As the bad girl who nearly breaks apart an already troubled family, Reed is fantastic in the film. Plus she also co-wrote the film's script which is a huge advantage in her favour.
5) Renee Zellweger - Cold Mountain - Zellweger is the best thing about Cold Mountain. A great meaty supporting performance, she almost overshadows Nicole Kidman. Last year she lost in the best actress' race to Kidman. This year she most probably will take home the trophy.
Should be Nominated:
Natalie Portman - Cold Mountain - Portman's role is small as compared to Zellweger's, but she stands out in her 15-minutes of spotlight, in a nearly two and a half hour long movie.
|| BEST DIRECTOR
1) Sofia Coppola - Lost in Translation - No one knew that Francis Ford's daughter had so much depth and talent in her. It will be a well-deserved nomination.
2) Clint Eastwood - Mystic River -- A crowning achievement for Eastwood, one of the most well liked Hollywood stars and filmmakers.
3) Peter Jackson - The Lord of Rings: The Return of the King - This film and the last two in the series had put Jackson on the A1 list of filmmakers. The nomination is granted. He should win the Oscar.
4) Anthony Minghella - Cold Mountain - Minghella's work here is at par with The English Patient and that film fared very well with the Academy.
5) Peter Weir - Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World -- Weir has done amazing work in Australia (Gallipoli, Picnic At Hanging Rock, The Year Of Living Dangerously) and now for the past two decades in Hollywood (Witness, Dead Poets Society). This nomination will recognise his contribution to cinema beyond MAC: TFSOTW.
Should be nominated:
Gurinder Chadha - Bend it Like Beckham - This movie was so enjoyable, so uplifting, and so politically correct. Chadha has made us desis so proud and gave Americans a new celebrity to fuss about David Beckham.
Stephen Frears - Dirty Pretty Things - Frears has never shied away from immigrant stories (My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid). Here he once again skillfully narrates a tale about people who are almost always ignored in most other films.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - 21 Grams - A thoroughly satisfying film and Inarritu makes it happen.
Fernando Meirelles - City of God - Amazing piece of work from Brazil. Beautifully shot with great editing and superb direction. But the movie is too violent for the Academy members to appreciate.
Peter Mullen - The Magdalene Sisters - Mullen's film is too small and very angry against the Catholic church. He deserves the nomination, but it will never happen in Hollywood.
Jim Sheridan - In America - Sheridan's works have received 13 nominations. Perhaps this could be his year too.
|| BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
1) Guillermo Arriaga - 21 Grams - A great film starts with great writing. Arriaga's script is tight, which makes the film a marvel.
2) Sofia Coppola - Lost in Translation - The quietness of Lost in Translation comes from Coppola's script.
3) Catherine Hardwicke and Nikki Reed - Thirteen - A simple story, but so powerfully written.
4) Steven Knight - Dirty Pretty Things - Wright's writing is the soul behind this film.
5) Jim Sheridan, Naomi Sheridan & Kirsten Sheridan - In America - A fantastic story written with such warmth. It will be a well-deserved nomination.
Should be nominated:
Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges & Guljit Bindra - Bend it Like Beckham - film's energy comes from the script. It is a fun piece of collaboration between Chadha-Berges, the wife-husband team and their friend Bindra.
|| BEST ADAPATED SCREENPLAY
1) Brian Helgeland - Mystic River - Helgeland's tightly written screenplay, should be recognised, especially if the film wins other nominations.
2) Anthony Minghella - Cold Mountain - Minghella brings out the Charles Frazier's bestseller to life, but gives the screenplay its own personality.
3) Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - A complex project -- TLOTR has finally come to an end, and this nomination will honor the strength of the series.
4) Peter Weir, John Collee - Master and Commander: The same reason the film will get nominated for the best picture award it is a project with a grand scale that Academy members tend to like.
5) Braulio Mantovani - City of God - The structure of this Brazilian powerhouse of a film is so tight and that credit goes to Mantovani's writing.
Should be Nominated:
Niki Caro - Whale Rider - A sweet little story about a girl who would a Maori chief, written with such warmth and feelings towards its protagonists.
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