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The Oscar nominations: Heptanesia Mumbaikar

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Last updated on: January 27, 2004 17:56 IST

Arthur J Pais

Jeet Thayil

Assem Chhabra
 critics list their Academy Awards nominees!

-- Heptanesia Mumbaikar

With all the hype (cover of Time, Entertainment Weekly, etc), Peter Weir's Master And Commander: The Far Side Of the World may make it to the Oscars shortlist. I found it a big yawn and about as predictable as a kangaroo in the Aussie outback. If Russell Crowe is nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, it would be as out of sync as the year he didn't win for The Insider.

I liked Tom Cruise a lot as Captain Nathan Algren in The Last Samurai, but many critics didn't. I suspect Oscar voters will pass Mr $20 million over. But if he is nominated and (more incredibly) wins, it would be papparazzi heaven: in Oscar tradition, last year's Best Actress Nicole Kidman would hand over the trophy to her ex!

Performances I loved but had to knock off because alas! there are only five places on the shortlist:

* Paddy Considine's heartwrenching turn as the father in Jim Sheridan's In America.
* Real-life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger, who played his adorable daughters in In America.
* Chjwetel Ejiofor, the amazing British actor in Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things. You will be hearing a lot about Paddy and Chjwetel soon!
* Andy Serkis aka Gollum in The Return Of The King. An amazing alliance between CGI and human theatrics.


Cold Mountain

In America

Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King

Mystic River

21 Grams

* Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain wins points for effort and scale. I was overawed watching it, but couldn't recall a scene a few hours later.

* Kitschy scenes, but In America occupies a part of my heart even four weeks later.

* I don't know why the other films are even being nominated, because Return Of The King is, as my friend Suparn Verma says, A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

* Dark and occasionally patchy, but Mystic River was a revelation -- Clint Eastwood's meticulous direction and the tapestry of elegant performances.

* 21 Grams is the best film I have seen in a long time. It won't win. It is unlikely to be even nominated. The Academy doesn't like Intelligence.


Johnny Depp, Pirates Of the Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

Ben Kingsley, House Of Sand And Fog

Jude Law, Cold Mountain

Bill Murray, Lost In Translation

Sean Penn, 21 Grams / Mystic River

A likely photofinish between Lost In Translation's Bill Murray for his turn as the sleep-deprived American movie star in alien Japan and Sean Penn for his turn as the vengeful father who goes berserk after his daughter is murdered in Mystic River.

I thought Penn's acting was a bit uneven and preferred him in 21 Grams as the mathematician who has a literal and tragic change of heart.

Murray is the critical favourite, but can Oscar voters ignore Penn's consistency?

Ben Kingsley's Iranian ex-colonel is getting favourable reviews and considered the actor's best shot at an Oscar after Gandhi.

Another Englishman -- Jude Law as the obsessed soldier-lover in the American Civil War epic -- may be the popular choice.

An American playing an Englishman gets my vote for his cheeky and winning Captain Jack Sparrow, though the Academy has rarely nominated a comic turn.


Cate Blanchett, Missing

Nicole Kidman, Cold Mountain

Charlize Theron, Monster

Uma Thurman, Kill Bill, Volume 1

Naomi Watts, 21 Grams

Highly unlikely that Nicole Kidman will do a Katharine Hepburn or a Tom Hanks and bag a back to back Oscar, even though her Ada Monroe has brought her accolades by the bushful. She is now acknowleged to be an actress in the Julia Roberts category, with the cachet to open a film on her name alone.

Cate Blanchett has won good reviews for Ron Howard's Missing. Reviewers believe Cate -- who appeared on Zee TV's Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai last week to salute starmaker Shekhar Kapur -- has inherited Meryl Streep's mantle. But the Aussie actress will lose some sheen for her flop Veronica Guerin.

Noticed one thing? There are three Aussies in the fray! With the frontrunner for Best Director a Kiwi, this is a good year for the folks Down Under.

While Naomi Watts was very good in 21 Grams, the Academy may opt for the South African who put on weight and made a hideous transformation as the murderous prostitute in Monster. The only way Charlize Theron may lose out is if voters think her acting didn't eventually help the movie rise from the ranks of the also-ran.

I know, I know, Uma won't make it even though she is the only Yankee on the list. But I adored her oh-so-sleek The Bride in the amazing Kill Bill.


Sean Astin, Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King

Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams

Bill Nighy, Love Actually

Tim Robbins, Mystic River

Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai

The toughest category this year.

Sean Astin may be just a little ahead of the pack. If only because his work is the only acting from Return Of The King, the Academy will deem Oscar worthy. He could still lose out if voters think Best Film and Best Director are enough reward for the Epic.

Del Toro is startling as the evangelical ex-drug addict whose life comes apart after an accident.

In a film with such wonderful acting, Robbins is a class apart as the loser whose abused past comes to haunt him.

The Academy is snobbish about comic roles -- presumably in the erronerous belief that anyone can do comedy -- so Nighy the Englishman may not make the cut on nominations morning. If Depp modelled Jack Sparrow on Keith Richards, surely Nighy's raucously funny rock star-in-eclipse must take its cue from Rod Stewart.

If anyone can steal the trophy from Astin and Robbins, it is Watanabe. The critics may have skewered Tom, but no one quibbled with the way the Japanese actor etched Katsumoto, the Last Samurai, with such quiet dignity.


Shohreh Aghdashloo, House Of Sand And Fog

Marcia-Gay Harden, Mystic River

Scarlett Johannson, Lost In Translation

Samatha Morton, In America

Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain

The second-toughest category this year, by a whisker.

If this is the year the Academy wants to go truly international, then the Iranian Aghdashloo could just edge out the tough competition, which includes yet another British actor (Morton).

The real contest is between two Americans -- 19-year-old Johannson as the lost bride in Lost In Translation and Zellweger as the cocky lass in Cold Mountain.

Zellweger could take home the Oscar. She went home disappointed last year -- despite her star turn in Chicago -- and the Academy will be anxious to make amends.


Clint Eastwood, Mystic River

Alexander Gonzales Iñárritu, 21 Grams

Peter Jackson, The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King

Anthony Minghella, Cold Mountain

Jim Sheridan, In America

I adore Peter Jackson for the way he transformed J R R Tolkien's epic into three epic films. That for me is cinematic achievement! I also love him for the person he is -- quirky and unpretentious (anyone who wears shorts and goes barefoot almost all the time has my unqualified affection). The Academy ignored him last year and the year before. Conventional wisdom had it that voters would wait to see if Peter would deliver three times in a row before handing them the Oscar. He has. With elan, power and style.

Even while we herald Peter the King, folks, do make a note of this Mexican name -- Alexander Gonzales Iñárritu. You are going to hear a lot about him in the years to come. 21 Grams demonstrates an unbelievable command over cinema. His countryman Alfonso Cuaron is making the next Harry Potter, but forget all those wizards at Hogwarts. Iñárritu is the real alchemist!

Heptanesia Mumbaikar plans to make a movie next year

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