These are considered the “smaller” awards, given earlier in the evening, but can oftentimes predict how well a big movie will do. The two big nominees are Master and Commander and Return of the King. If Return of the King starts winning all the small awards (which I think they well might), look out for a big night from them.
These categories don’t fit into traditional labels, and sometimes are the hardest to predict. Do well on them, though, and you’re on your way to securing the most wins overall of anyone in your pool.
These categories are the ones women generally care the most about (to make a sexist stereotype). They are sometimes easier to predict.
These are the most known categories, and with one exception (usually Best Supporting Actress or Actor, right at the beginning), the ones you’ll have to wait until the very end for. Fairly or not, these are the “biggies.”
For those of you who read my review, you know I’m baffled why a film of this quality would be nominated for Best Picture. I liked the movie—in spite of myself—but it’s certainly not a masterpiece. The horse racing action is spectacular and probably the best part of the picture, and the actors, though mostly miscast or misused, are appealing as well. There is not anything to hate here, and this would be a fine film for the entire family, but Seabiscuit is dwarfed by the other entries.
This is a great film, for what it is: an exciting adrenaline-filled sea battle with a “you-are-there” feel. However, a few unfleshed-out subplots aside, that’s all it is, and that’s why I would not have nominated this for Best Picture. With the scope of the production—building an actual ship and filming in the water—I can see why Master and Commander garnered 10 nominations, but to me it’s missing too many elements of a true epic.
Hyperion’s Top 10 Movies released in 2003
CITY OF GOD
LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING
LOST IN TRANSLATION
THE MATRIX RELOADED
This is a difficult movie to rate, because it definitely will not appeal to everybody. As I wrote in my review, if you cannot relate to some of the specifics these characters go through, I don’t know whether you’re going to be into this movie or find it boring. On that basis, I might have left if off my Best Picture list. But I can’t help being secretly happy Lost in Translation made the cut, because I found it to be such a delight. It’s funny but at times also very sad, and I grooved with that. The two characters felt precious and real to me, and I was right there with them as they tried to see through the fog. Lost in Translation is the anti-epic, a small film content not to need battles, chase scenes, or even conventional romance. That suits me just fine.
This is one of the three best films of the year, and a powerful one at that. The acting alone is worth going to see this film. The story is of three boys who experience tragedy at a young age, and how they (and by extension we) never really get over what happens to them. Mystic River is a murder mystery, but that’s subordinate to the arc of discovery each character goes through about himself, his world, and his place in it. The supporting cast is incredible, the location and scenes never feel pushed in your face, and the surprises, though subtle by Hollywood standards, are all the more chilling. This is a fine piece of filmmaking, and an all around great nominee.
When I first saw this film (actually, probably before I saw it), I thought it would be a slam dunk for Best Picture. After seeing Mystic River and especially City of God, I was no longer as sure. However, after careful consideration, this would be my choice for the Oscar. An epic by definition is larger than life, and I think more is therefore expected of it; the stakes are higher, if you will. On this front, Return of the King definitely delivers. The last part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy we’ve come to love the last couple of years, Return of the King delivers the thrills and chills, and the highs and lows to an even more impressive degree. The special effects are, I think, better than anything ever done and the action and adventure is flawless. However, it is not the epic-storytelling that puts Return of the King over the top for me. It is the intimate portraits of these characters we’ve come to know, and love (or hate), but always care about. It is stupefying to me that such a gigantically-scaled movie could take the time to share the value of friendship, fellowship, and fidelity as well as Peter Jackson has done here. The emotional conclusions to this nine hour journey don’t feel wasted (like so many films tend to do), and I’m glad that there is a world—even if it technically isn’t real—where cynicism and irony don’t rule the day. Obviously Return of the King is going to get Best Picture partly because the first two installments were snubbed, but on its own, it deserves it all the same.
February 25, 2004
Note - This Oscar preview originally ran in The Hyperion Chronicles as #281 and #282.
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