Monday, January 13, 2003

A Pre-Pre-Oscar Malaise

An explanation of why "The Two Towers" won't win Best Picture, even though it should.

"Chicago" is going to win the Oscar for Best Picture and once again Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" is going to be overlooked. We can all see it coming.

"The Fellowship of the Ring"--one of the great cinematic achievements of our time, up there with "Lawrence of Arabia"--believe it--was beaten out by the maudlin and historically dishonest "A Beautiful Mind." Like today, it was clear far in advance that "A Beautiful Mind" would win.

Of course, "A Beautiful Mind" wasn't the first undeserving movie to win Best Picture. Just the year before, "Gladiator" won the Oscar, over a trio of movies that could each make a better claim for Best Picture ("Almost Famous," "Shadow of the Vampire," and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"). And the year before that, "American Beauty" won (over "Magnolia" and "The Insider"). And, come to think of it, the year before that, "Shakespeare in Love" won (over "Saving Private Ryan").

How does this happen? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences votes for them, that's how.

It all makes perfect sense, except that membership skews somewhat older, so the Academy has, shall we say, particular tastes. As one Hollywood screenwriter tells me, "I liken Academy voters to an audience of grandparents at an elementary school play--they like 'Oliver' and 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.'"

He's right, it won't win but I think the last movie - The Return of the King will sweep next year.

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