My Academy card is smoking after the last few weeks of screening every single Oscar-bait movie that’s still playing in local theatres. The slim pickings for worthwhile fare among the supposed top movies of the year just goes to show what a dismal year 2003 was for cinema in general. Some of the nominated “best” out there are anything but, and a few of the performances deemed worthy of a nod are so embarrassingly over the top they mark the absolute low point of careers that were hardly stellar to begin with. I’ll point you at Diane Keaton’s crying/writing montage in Something’s Gotta Give as an example of some screen time that should bar her from any awards show for life. Or you could just pop into the neighbouring cinema over at the multiplex and catch a few minutes of Cold Mountain to see Renée Zellweger playing the least convincing black woman since Halle Berry. Was there ever a time when they didn’t hand out Oscar nominations like beer tickets? Certainly you used to have to do more than flash your middle-aged tits (Diane Keaton, Kathy Bates last year), play yourself (Bill Murray), put on some eyeliner and do an impression of Keith Richards (Johnny Depp), direct an easily-solved whodunit (Clint Eastwood), or write a thirty-page treatment for something you’re just going to let your actors improvise anyway (Sofia Coppola).
Since the competition is so dismal, I can at least look forward to watching Peter Jackson fulfill my three-year-old prediction by going home with director and film for the third entry in his Rings trilogy. There’s no suspense to be had there. For a bit of intrigue I’ll have to amuse myself by waiting anxiously to see who made this year’s Oscar tribute to the fallen. The death list is always my favourite part of the show. It’s the last great popularity contest, when we’ll see who will get more applause (Katharine Hepburn or Bob Hope) and who will be deemed worthy of inclusion. Spalding Gray is missing and presumed dead. Will he get a mention? Leni Riefenstahl is dead and presumed burning in hell. Will she be acknowledged even posthumously? Place your bets now.
As you hope for some celebrity surprise nudity to make it past the network time delay, and await the announcement of best picture to cue you that it’s time to go to bed, remember that Oscar season for the 2005 awards has already begun. Yes, this week’s release of The Passion of the Mel means the race is on for next year’s top spots, setting the pace for the competition that will be dribbling out over the next ten months. We’re only in February, but we already have one movie that’s pretty much guaranteed some sort of nomination a year from now. It may have no bearing on Sunday’s show, but if this little opus of anti-Semitism seems like a sure contender, then maybe there’s hope for Leni to get her death list nod after all.