From the archives: Oscars

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Viewty and the Beast

Monday, 28 February 2005 — 8:39pm | Film, Oscars, Video games

So, how did I do for predictions? Passing on the two Documentary awards leaves 22 categories, of which I managed to guess 15; curiously, I underestimated The Aviator in the technical categories, yet I incorrectly pegged it for Best Picture. In the eight “majors” (Picture, Director, acting and screenplays) I got everything but Picture and to some extent Supporting Actor, though I was definitely fence-sitting when it came to Owen and Freeman.

In retrospect, as much as I enjoyed Million Dollar Baby, I do stand disappointed that Scorsese and The Aviator did not take home the top two. Once again, the Academy went for the safe, perhaps even slightly compensatory choice. Honestly, what does Martin Scorsese have to do to win an Oscar? But then one thinks of the usual stable of examples – Howard Hawks, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock – and quite frankly, this is the Academy’s loss.

The best acceptance speech of the evening was, without question, Jorge Drexler singing after winning for “Al Otro Lado Del Rio” – a deserving winner.

Film clips were by and large absent, and nowhere was this more noticeable than in the Animated Short category. Chris Landreth had to accept his award in the aisle instead of onstage, and I wonder if some technical budgets were slashed this year. Speaking of which, it has come to my attention that the National Film Board has Ryan available on its website for viewing online. Take fifteen minutes out of your busy schedule and watch it.

And that closes the book on 2004, minus any straggling films I did not catch, of which the most notable is Hotel Rwanda. But given that March consists of exactly one and only one new release that strikes me as interesting – Robots – I have plenty of time.

I want to discuss Oscars of a different sort: the Rainbow Oscars that are the centrepiece of the wacky film-spoofing video game Viewtiful Joe 2. Well, not the Rainbow Oscars themselves, but what you need to do to get them; as with most video games, it involves the systematic defeating of what a Campbellian mythologist would call “threshold guardians” – in vulgar terms, bosses.

The original Viewtiful Joe was, in terms of a niche GameCube action title that was somehow enough of a sleeper hit to be named the best game of 2003 by USA Today, legendary in many ways. As a 2D side-scrolling anime-styled beat-em-up in a market favouring photorealistic 3D environments, it was a daring and unique blend of old-school values and modern technology. What really made it stand out, though, was its rogue’s gallery. If I were to name the most exhilirating, albeit frustrating boss battles of the past five years, Viewtiful Joe would claim at least three of them.

One of the toughest challenges in the original Joe was the sixth chapter of seven, “The Magnificent Five.” Basically, it was a slap in the face of anyone who might have emerged from the first few boss battles scathed, but self-satisfied. This chapter pitted you against the Raging Stones, tougher versions of the first four bosses in the game in back-to-back succession with no saving or powering up in between. Not only did you have to beat them all over again, you had to do it cleanly and without taking a whole lot of pain, or start from the very beginning. Then you were rewarded with a duel against none other than Fire Leo, a nine-foot flaming beast in a volcanic cavern, who had a tendency to dispose of you in about ten seconds until you figured out how to exploit his weakness, after which he would dispose of you in the more gracious span of two minutes. On the standard Adults difficulty, Fire Leo dragged me to the “Game Over” screen kicking and screaming no less than thirty times. He gave my delicate piano hands cramps.

Viewtiful Joe 2 is in many ways as great a game as the original, boasting a selection of bosses that have a lot more personality – the squid-like mad scientist Dr. Cranken, for example, or Fire Leo’s brother Frost Tiger, a cool-as-ice samurai who punctuates his entrance with lyric poetry in the style of Basho. (The exception to the rule is the rocket-powered Egyptian sphinx Flinty Stone, who spends half his showdown asleep.) It also has a similar sixth chapter where you fight your way through iterations of four earlier bosses that move faster and take a lot more punishment before yielding. The problem is that the sequel, unlike its predecessor, is merciful; you get a chance to save and heal between every battle, which turns the entire exercise into a purely temporal endurance test as opposed to an attritional one. This is Viewtiful Joe, for crying out loud! I expect to be punished. Every point of damage should strike terror in my heart.

I should note that this is one of the few irritations in an otherwise phenomenal game that was sadly ignored when it was released in November (thanks to the blitz of Halo 2, Metroid Prime: Echoes, Half-Life 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and World of Warcraft), but I do find it a concern when such a fast-paced game repeats itself for such a long stretch. Really, though, if you have a GameCube, there is absolutely no excuse to not have the two Viewtiful Joe titles in your collection.

Still to come: a preview of film in what looks to be a busy 2005, and Students’ Union election coverage in tandem with the campaign season kickoff this morning. Disappointingly, both Katz and Bazin pulled out, leaving the Presidential race as the only one of interest.

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A last-minute Oscarnalysis

Sunday, 27 February 2005 — 2:04pm | Film, Oscars

I will preface this with that rare, hard-earned endorsement of a fellow blog; several in the immediate University of Alberta circle popped up earlier this week. There are few that completely win me over as a regular reader within the first two or three posts, but Lycée Stephen Potyondi is one of them. Now give the guy an audience as a sign of positive reinforcement so I don’t have to wait another month for his next substantial post.

As was the case last year, I will now proceed to offer my eleventh-hour endorsements and commentary on the golden statuettes to be awarded tonight.

Actor (Leading): Incredibly, Paul Giamatti got screwed out of a nomination for the second year in a row. Even judging only by American Splendor and Sideways, he has already established himself as the best everyman actor since the pre-superstardom Tom Hanks. The Academy has also always been loath to recognize Jim Carrey, even though Joel Barish in Eternal Sunshine was probably his most engaging role since The Truman Show seven years ago. No matter; this year, the award should and will go to Jamie Foxx. His portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray was not just the most compelling performance of 2004 – it’s one that only comes about once every few years.

Actor (Supporting): Of the final selection, my personal preference is for Thomas Haden Church for his embodiment of testosterone gone awry in Sideways. Pundits are calling this a race between Clive Owen for Closer and Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby; I did not see the former, and as for the latter, I think while Freeman portrayed a very interesting character, it was as much a typical Morgan Freeman performance much like how Clint Eastwood pulled off a typical aging post-Unforgiven Eastwood performance. It was very, very good, mind you, but almost a bit too constrained within the typical Freeman mould. On statistical grounds I predict Owen, but Freeman could take it just as easily.

Actress (Leading): Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby. Case closed, though an Eternal Sunshine upset by Kate Winslet would be awesome. It won’t happen, though, and given that I consider Swank’s performance in Baby to be worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of great movie boxers, this is hardly problematic. I did not see Vera Drake, but word is that Imelda Staunton is the closest in contention.

Actress (Supporting): Please, please, please give it to Cate Blanchett for being as perfect a Katharine Hepburn as you could imagine (aside from the distinctive Blanchett look) in The Aviator.

Animated Feature Film: What’s the thoroughly mediocre Shark Tale doing here instead of The Polar Express, which – while entirely a surface-level visual experience and not that great of a narrative – was, well, not irritating? As for the win, I think it’s pretty obvious where I stand. Shrek 2‘s box-office clout is the only worry here, but I find that Pixar will win the day this year whereas it did not with Monsters, Inc. back in 2001.

Art Direction: This category presents an incredible lineup, and one hardly notices that missing in action are Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and, more significantly, The Incredibles. I have never quite understood why animated films get no recognition here, but that may be partly because this prize rewards set construction just as much as it does concept art. As much as I love the lavish opera house in The Phantom of the Opera, I seriously think this should and will go to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I never posted a complete review of that film, but it really is a Brett Helquist illustration come to life, equal parts Gothic, Victorian, and vintage 1920s. Count Olaf’s tower, Aunt Josephine’s house on Lake Lachrymose – gorgeous to behold, and it’s a pity that the film did not achieve a similarly extravagant replication of the wit and substance of the source material.

Cinematography: Yet another strong category, though I favour Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is strangely absent here as it is from so many other categories. That aside, this should go to House of Flying Daggers, though none of the others can truly be ignored. In terms of light and colour, A Very Long Engagement presented itself as an older, darker Amélie bathed in yellow, and the end result is the same mix of beauty and melancholy as is present in the movie itself. One should not ignore that for better or for worse, this award will be consolation for two foreign releases that did not make it into the Foreign Language category.

Costume Design: Where’s The Phantom of the Opera? That said, give it to A Series of Unfortunate Events. The look of the film exceeded my expectations, even if the rest of it did not.

Directing: It is a crime, a crime, that Michel Gondry is not on the shortlist for his work in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; if you see it, you would understand. That said, I really think Scorsese should take home his first Directing Oscar for his breadth of imaginative acumen he displays in The Aviator. I can name shot after shot from that movie that I want to frame, and scene after scene that I envision I will cite in future cinematic discussions for some time to come. Gangs of New York sputtered and died in its final act; The Aviator didn’t. But all this aside, I just have a sinking feeling that Clint Eastwood – who, after all, some may feel was ignored last year for Mystic River (not me, as the real travesty in my mind would have been to ignore Peter Jackson) – is going to pull an upset here. That would be no surprise, either, as the intimacy of the character work in Million Dollar Baby is something to be treasured.

Documentary Feature: I’ll pass on this one, having seen none of the nominees, though two of them – Super Size Me and Tupac: Resurrection – have high profiles on their side. Not as high as, say, Fahrenheit 9/11, but its disqualification here was Michael Moore’s own doing.

Documentary Short Subject: Pass. They really need to start screening these once nominations are announced.

Film Editing: On one hand, we have Ray, with the lasting image of its record-label transitions and tactfully-inserted watery flashbacks. On the other, we have The Aviator, with its superimpositions over Howard Hughes films, spectacular aviation sequences and Hughes caressing Kate Hepburn one moment and his baby aircraft the next. I err on the side of the latter, and once again, bemoan the absence of Eternal Sunshine (and to a lesser extent, House of Flying Daggers).

Foreign Language Film: A Very Long Engagement was not in the running for deadline-related reasons, but there is absolutely no excuse for the absence of House of Flying Daggers; both would have been prime choices to take this one home. It will instead go to The Sea Inside.

Makeup: A Series of Unfortunate Events will take this one, once again for the work done with Jim Carrey as Count Olaf, which is every bit how I expected him to be handled. It is interesting that The Passion of the Christ essentially got a gore nomination, which is appropriate, because damn, it was gory.

Music (Score): Where’s Giacchino for The Incredibles? Where’s Williams for The Terminal? Where’s Rolfe Kent for Sideways? I think the score to Azkaban is easily Williams’ best and most original of the three, but traditionally, Williams only wins if he knocks one out of the park in comparison to his already impressive oeuvre, as he did with Schindler’s List. Kaczmarek delivered some very gentle, sentimental incidental music for Finding Neverland, and will likely win. I quite enjoyed Thomas Newman’s work in A Series of Unfortunate Events, but it was stylistically too similar to his win for Road to Perdition and moreover, his amazing compositions for Finding Nemo last year.

Music (Song): Perennially the silliest category to keep around given that the original movie musical is extinct, I can’t even see Phantom winning it with the new “Learn To Be Lonely” motif, which was basically stuck in the movie in a bid for this award, and even sounds extraneous. The Globe winner, “Old Habits Die Hard” from the Alfie remake, isn’t even in the Oscar shortlist, so there is not point of reference. That said, I will in fact go with “Vois Sur Ton Chemin” from Les Choristes, which I haven’t even seen, but intend to. This one is anybody’s game, and irrelevant nonetheless.

Best Picture: This is between The Aviator and Million Dollar Baby, with the latter suddenly becoming the talk of the town at the expense of the former over the past few weeks. Baby is the tighter, better-paced and more emotionally engaging film, albeit at the expense of novelty. Remember, this award isn’t about winners or losers so much as it is about what people will come back to rediscover years, even decades from now. Given its scale, ambition and overarching sense of fun – not to mention the best senate commission hearing scene since The Godfather, Part II – I am rooting for The Aviator. I do not in any way consider Baby to be an “inferior” film; it takes a wholly different approach to storytelling and does some things much better. But on a holistic level, and looking at a film as a complete production in terms of both the whole and the parts, The Aviator would be my pick. (Well, no – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would be my pick, and I also think it a shame that Phantom got killed by the press before it even made it into the lower nomination slots – and let’s not get started on A Very Long Engagement, which would be a contender if it were not French, which it cannot help being.) My wavering prediction of who will actually win is a split: The Aviator will take Picture, Clint Eastwood will take Director.

Short Film (Animated): Let’s hear it for Ryan!

Short Film (Live Action): As with all the other categories recognizing shorts, they really need to screen these every year after nominations are announced, so I can actually begin to comment. Word is that Wasp will take it, but I can neither confirm nor deny.

Sound Editing: Perennially almost as bogus a category as Original Song, but the nominees this year are not quite as bogus as in the past few years. I see a Spider-Man 2 sweep of the technicals as a distinct possibility, but the more Oscars The Incredibles wins, the better.

Sound Mixing: As before, this will likely go to Spider-Man 2, though by this point my predictions are pointing to an Aviator near-shutout in the minors, and that does not bode well statistically for its Best Picture chances when Million Dollar Baby scored three acting nominations.

Visual Effects: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow got the shaft, but after watching more DVD features and reading articles on the effects pipeline of this year’s visual powerhouses, I am convinced that Spider-Man 2 should win this one. The blending of old-fashioned mechanics and newfangled computer wizardry to create Doctor Octopus is alone worthy of recognition.

Writing (Adapted): Traditionally the writing awards have been recognized as a sort of consolation prize for the small-scale films that do not have the grand, epic production values clout of the heavyweights, but it is usually well-deserved, given that the small films rest on the strength of their screenplays and principals anyway. In other words, Sideways, though a Million Dollar Baby win is not out of the question, nor would it be undeserved.

Writing (Original): Can it be? Can it be Eternal Sunshine‘s one gasp of air, one moment of recognition this Oscar night? One can only hope. I am already elated that Brad Bird was recognized with a nomination for The Incredibles. Then again, The Aviator needs to pick up what it can, or it will undergo the biggest nomination-to-win drop since, well, Gangs of New York (zero for ten). That would be unfortunate, because unlike Gangs, The Aviator was consistently fun to watch, and it boasts a screenplay full of moments worthy of study. But seriously – please give this to Eternal Sunshine.

This is probably the closest year since 2000, so the race tonight will be a fun one to watch. Keep your eyes peeled for Marlon Brando being featured in the annual obituary clips, and whatever it is Chris Rock comes up with in his first turn as the host. Quite frankly, I’ve never been too impressed with the guy, but let us see what he comes up with before we start evaluating.

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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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Oscar the Grouch

Sunday, 29 February 2004 — 3:25pm | Film, Oscars

With the annual golden statuette announcement coming tonight, here is some obligatory pre-show analysis. For the most part, I will not be discussing predictions; there are other sites who do a far more comprehensive job of predicting Oscars within statistical and socio-political frameworks. As for my judgments on whom I endorse, keep in mind that there are a number of nominated films I have not seen, most notably City of God, House of Sand and Fog and, I am thoroughly ashamed to say, The Triplets of Belleville.

Actor (Leading): This really should go to Paul Giamatti for his note-for-note portrayal of Harvey Pekar in American Splendor, but that was one of a few barely-excusable shafts in the nominee pool. Of the contenders, Bill Murray should receive the prize. His career-best turn in Lost In Translation was subtle, believable, and full of the delicate nuance that was needed to put him on centre stage as an actor playing a washed-up actor.

Actor (Supporting): Tim Robbins. He takes his shivering, guilt-ridden character in Mystic River and runs with it. This calibre of performance should not go unrecognized.

Actress (Leading): Everybody is calling Charlize Theron for Monster, and not having seen that, it is quite impossible to comment. However, where Scarlett Johannson is in all of this is just baffling. Everything that works in Lost In Translation falls on the shoulders of her interaction with Bill Murray’s character. At the same time, it is a pleasure to see Keisha Castle-Hughes recognized for Whale Rider, in what is certainly one of cinema’s great child performances.

Actress (Supporting): Renée Zellweger’s delightful and goofy performance in Cold Mountain was a show-stealer, but was a source of some of the tonal inconsistency that kept the film from being something really amazing. Marcia Gay Harden, however, delivered the best performance of Mystic River amongst an already stellar cast, and in the psychologically crumbling manner characteristic of the entire film. Reward her.

Animated Feature Film: Yes, it’s true that I have not seen The Triplets of Belleville, but unless it’s an undisputed Citizen Kane of animation that revolutionizes the entire medium – and point this out to me if it is indeed the case – there is nothing in the world that should take this away from Finding Nemo, which was already shafted from its deserved spot in the Best Picture final five.

Art Direction: This is a strong category. The Lord of the Rings has yet to win it, having had the misfortune of being nominated beside the gorgeously-designed Moulin Rouge! when Fellowship was nominated. This is not, by itself, the rationale by which it should win. It should win on the grounds of visually emulating the most believable history in any film this year, despite not being a history. In a year without Rings, Master and Commander would have been the clear choice.

Cinematography: Where is Kill Bill, Vol. 1? If it was deferred on the grounds of not being a complete film, that would be acceptable, though Oscar has wavered on this point before (see: The Fellowship of the Ring). These are all strong contenders, however. Ignoring for a moment that my vote would go to the non-nominated Down With Love, I would favour the Depression-era yellows of Seabiscuit or the ocean blues of Master and Commander – leaning towards the latter, as the 1920s look has been done countless times before (the late Conrad L. Hall’s work on Road to Perdition being the most recently awarded, and only one year ago), while few nautical movies have achieved such a consistent tone and feel of being a grand, watery canvas in motion.

Costume Design: See “Art Direction”, word for word.

Directing: Any director who stages the entire Siege of Gondor with such frightening authenticity deserves not only eternal respect, but his first directing Oscar after three consecutive nominations. This statuette should reward vision, and Peter Jackson has shown himself to be a visionary.

Film Editing: Notably missing in action are Kill Bill and Hulk, 2003’s two showpieces of how to cut a film. That said, The Return of the King and Seabiscuit are both deserving for their own reasons. The latter’s transitions between motion picture and sepia still photography add a whole other level of flavour to the piece, and that is not mentioning the exhilirating racing sequences themselves. If Seabiscuit posts a win tonight, it should be in this category, though with the footnote of the two strongest contenders being out of the race.

Makeup: The Return of the King. Pirates is a fully acceptable second choice. Both films do the dead and zombified far better than actual horror movies.

Music (Score): Howard Shore’s work on The Lord of the Rings has been recognized, but the score to The Return of the King is a great listen, and one of the great symphonic scores. It is a distinctly fresh composition as well, not only building minor themes introduced very briefly in the first instalment and developing them to grandiose fruition, but having several thrilling cues to call its own, an exemplar being the Shelob sequence. However, Thomas Newman delivers a Celtic score in Finding Nemo that even upstages the work he did in Road to Perdition, and is one of the supports that make the movie the masterpiece it is. It should be noted that both composers have won in the past two years, and may fall shy of the podium on that account; this would be a shame.

Music (Song): Here is the worst omission of them all: “Here’s To Love”, Ewan McGregor and Renée Zellweger’s duet at the end of Down With Love, the kind of original musical number this prize was essentially created to award. This category has little legitimacy in the first place, but absolutely none if such clear winners are going to be consistently overlooked. As for the rest, it is a hard one to call, though I would not give it to The Return of the King. “Into The West” has the consonance of a fitting conclusion, but is musically weaker than “May It Be” and “Gollum’s Song” before it, largely due to harmonic oversimplicity.

Best Picture: The Return of the King, with the asterisk that for the real version comes out on DVD next year. Someone please tell me what any of the other four are doing here in Finding Nemo‘s place.

Short Film (Animated): I cannot comment on who should win, but the one to watch out for is Destino, the Walt Disney / Salvador Dali collaboration that went unfinished for decades until Roy Jr. resurrected it. The Michael Moore Moment of Oscar 2004 is what happens if Roy indeeds get the win, but Jim Hill explains it far better than I can.

Sound Editing: Three aquatic movies, all of which handle the ocean in a very unique and sonorous way, make this a close one to call. I’d go with Finding Nemo, for the whale.

Sound Mixing: The Return of the King.

Visual Effects: Incredible – The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions got the Attack of the Clones backlash treatment. Let’s see The Lord of the Rings pull off a one-two-three in this category like Star Wars did twenty years ago.

Writing (Adapted): As biased as I am in favour of The Return of the King, and as likely as the tight and thematically cohesive Mystic River is to win this, this should really go to American Splendor – a movie about a movie about the life of a guy who writes a comic about his life, and done well. As far as concept screenplays go, it is this year’s Memento or Adaptation.

Writing (Original): Lost In Translation, though I would jump up and down in joy, or at least swim around in circles in joy, if Finding Nemo were to be recognized. In all seriousness, though, Lost In Translation is a piece that – as dependent as it was on the strength of its leads – had to start somewhere, and this is where its success begins.

I did not cover the Documentary, Foreign Language and Live Action Short categories, being grossly unqualified to comment on them this year. Stay tuned for a review – or more likely, a few brief remarks – about The Passion of the Christ… for which I am now late. Never mind – expect it later this week.

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Everybody’s favourite mid-year guessing game

Thursday, 14 August 2003 — 2:44pm | Film, Oscars

We’re at the halfway mark to the Oscars and the crapshoot’s already begun. Hopefully someone, somewhere will score higher than three-for-five in the big categories, but in recent years this has only happened in the absurdly predictable 2002, which had most bettors pegging all five of the eventual Best Picture nominees in various permutations when the 2001 awards were hardly out of the gate.

David Poland, one of the most dependable and reputable critics in the industry today, is recognizing the guaranteed entry – The Return of the King – and making two daring stabs at naming the other locks. The first is Peter Weir’s Master and Commander. I find it interesting that Fox is already touting the Russell Crowe vehicle as their historical epic flagship in the Academy regatta. From the teaser trailer it looks to be playing it safe and conventional, and does not at all come off as the great Napoleonic-era film of its time, which it needs to be if it is aiming that high. (Come to think of it, is there a great Napoleonic-era film yet?)

This year, aside from Master and Commander, the forecast shows two other bids for the Obligatory Period-Film Slot in The Last Samurai and Cold Mountain. Of the three, it is in Mountain that my flag of prognostication is firmly planted. It is impossible to tell until these films actually see release, of course, and I do hope that all three of these do as well as promised. Note the omission of The Alamo; let’s just say it would be a surprise if it actually turns out to be good.

Poland’s other prediction is Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s 21 Grams, which is if anything, an unconventional guess. We’ll know for sure by the end of the Toronto Film Festival. There is little I can say about it, as I have never watched Amores Perros or any other Innaritu film.

The other prediction making the rounds, which Poland covers briefly, is that Seabiscuit and Finding Nemo will probably be shafted; I tend to agree. The former is in the Road to Perdition slot – a refined, conventional period film released in July that slowly drops from a clear first place to an even clearer sixth over the course of half a year. The latter is this year’s Minority Report – near-unanimous praise from both critics and audiences, but severely hurt by what it is. In Nemo‘s case, it is clearly the very best film of the year thus far beyond any comparison, but alas, it is animated. On the other hand, if one film deserves to be the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture other than the similarly deserving Beauty and the Beast, this is the one. In my opinion, Finding Nemo should ideally win Best Picture unless it comes up against the next Lawrence of Arabia.

Naturally, by some cosmic convergence, this is the year that the next Lawrence of Arabia is finally released in full, with the completion of The Lord of the Rings. The Return of the King must win this year, period. It makes one weep for Nemo, but if anything should upstage the fish movie, it should be the recognition of the defining film of this generation.

Aside from David Poland’s predictions, last year’s prediction ace Mark Bakalor has his charts up and running, and is naming four of the films I have already mentioned – The Return of the King, Cold Mountain, The Last Samurai and Seabiscuit – plus The House of Sand and Fog, the small-film guess. Like everyone else, Bakalor will probably shuffle his list like a rack of Scrabble tiles in the coming months. Kris Tapley has also put together his mid-season bets, identical to Bakalor’s if you swap Samurai with Master and Commander.

The unfortunate thing is that of the early predictions, one almost certainly underperforms upon release. This would be a real shame, as many of them sound like they have so much potential.

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