Eleven for eleven

Sunday, 29 February 2004 — 11:05pm | Adaptations, Film, J.R.R. Tolkien, Literature, Oscars

That was the most predictable Oscar ceremony ever, but at the same time, entirely devoid of controversy. Most of the vitriol this year can be directed at the shortlisting stage, and was already covered in the previous post.

If there was one film to finally hit the eleven mark again, it was The Return of the King. The clean sweep was clear as soon as it took Adapted Screenplay, the one that was most likely going to hold a consolation vote. But in the context of rewarding the entire trilogy – for after all, it is one movie, only with a split release sequence – well done, Academy.

The big question is, what conceivable project will next hit the eleven mark, or even break it? This may not be as impossible as it seems, given that The Return of the King was a rare winner that received no acting nominations. The sweep, though, could be attributed to both the onus to compensate for the losses of the first two – something that should have been done from the start, and was three years in the making – and a weaker, less competitive field this year. Facing facts for a moment, if The Lord of the Rings was not in the running, it would be a much tighter race, with the well-crafted but just shy of worthy Mystic River taking the prize, but win counts maxing out at five or six. Needless to say, it would be indicative of a relatively sparse year. On the other hand, if that opened the door to Finding Nemo, I would not complain – until it failed to win, that is. But this is all idle speculation.

To hit such an astronomical nomination count, let alone a win count, you need to work with built-in epic material from the start. Ben-Hur, Titanic and The Lord of the Rings are all epic pageantry material. The Last Samurai, on the other hand, is not. It needs to be something that makes everything before it look small.

That said, the one to watch out for next year is Troy, not because it will get eleven Oscars or even eleven nominations, but because it is based on exactly the kind of source material that should poise itself for those numbers, from possibly the one cinematogenic storyteller bigger than Tolkien. But it doesn’t have ten hours to work with, now does it?

What we can expect in the film industry over the next few years is an influx of people trying to make the next Rings, like certain attempts to make the next Titanic (see: Pearl Harbor). The attempted-epic market already saturated itself this year, so let’s not see this trend spiral out of control.

The moment of the evening, of course, was Michael Moore in the midst of a “fictitious war” in the Pelennor Fields.


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