Golden statuette shines bright in Hollywood



Ted Pigeon

It’s that time of year again when actors, actresses and filmmakers of all kinds wait anxiously in hopes of getting their hands on the industry’s most coveted prize: the gold statuette. It’s time for the Oscars, and this year’s ceremony promises to be a good one. When observing the films nominated for Best Picture, it is obvious that this year offers a diverse group of nominees that’s a bit more balanced than years past.

The highlight of last year’s ceremony was the 13 nominations garnered by Peter Jackson’s epic first installment of “The Lord of the Rings.” However, the big winner that night was the more realistic story, “A Beautiful Mind,” which won Best Picture, Best Director (Ron Howard) and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly). This year, the major story leading up to the show is Rob Marshall’s musical, “Chicago,” which, like “The Lord of the Rings” last year, has received 13 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Since its limited release in December, critics and audiences alike have hailed “Chicago” the best movie of the year, and box office numbers have yet to decline. The film has already made more than $120 million and is still on the rise almost three months after its initial release.

But this visual dazzler will have some steep competition. The other films nominated for Best Picture are Martin Scorsese’s historical epic, “Gangs of New York,” Stephen Daldry’s art-house film, “The Hours,” Roman Polanski’s war drama, “The Pianist” and Peter Jackson’s second installment of the “Rings” trilogy, “The Two Towers.” The race could go to any of the nominated films, as they all have received equal appraisal and attention by both the critical masses and audiences.

In the area of acting, Julianne Moore leads the pack with a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for “The Hours” and a Best Actress nod for “Far From Heaven,” a film that was expected to have more nominations than the four it received. Both Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah were awarded Supporting Actress awards nominations for their work in “Chicago,” with Zeta-Jones as the forerunner along with Meryl Streep (“The Hours”) who has now received an incredible 13 nominations. For Best Actress, Nicole Kidman (“The Hours”) and Salma Hayak (“Frida”) were given nods as expected, as well as Renee Zellweger for “Chicago.” Zellweger seems to be the likely winner, despite the close race. The long shot is Diane Lane, who received a nomination for her role in “Unfaithful” which received mixed reviews.

For the men, there were a few surprises as well. In the Best Supporting Actor category, Chris Cooper from “Adaptation” and John C. Reilly from “Chicago.” They will join veteran actors Christopher Walken from “Catch Me If You Can,” Paul Newman from “Road to Perdition” and Ed Harris, whose small but effective role in “The Hours” was enough to get him a nomination.

The category of Best Actor is perhaps the biggest toss-up of the night, as each of the actors nominated has given great performances. Three of the nominated actors are Adrian Brody for “The Pianist,” Michael Caine for “The Quiet American” and Nicolas Cage for “Adaptation.” The biggest contenders are Daniel Day-Lewis of “Gangs of New York” and Jack Nicholson of “About Schmidt.” Surprisingly absent is Richard Gere, who was regarded as a shoo-in for “Chicago” before the nominations came out.

For the nominations behind the scenes, some interesting categories to follow include the race for the Best Visual Effects Oscar. The three nominated films are “Spiderman,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and “Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones.”

For awards in music, Eminem has received his first nomination for the song “Lose Yourself,” from “8 Mile” and is the best bet to win. And for Best Original Score, a category that never gets the attention it deserves, world-famous musicians Philip Glass (“The Hours”) and Elmer Bernstein (“Far From Heaven”) were each nominated alongside composer John Williams, whose nomination this year for “Catch Me If You Can” is the composer’s 42nd nomination.

Two filmmakers nominated for Best Director include Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”) as well as Rob Marshall, a director/choreographer from Broadway. “Chicago” marks his film-directing debut.

Another notable nominee for the Best Director award is Martin Scorsese, considered by many as the greatest living director and greatest American director who has ever lived. Scorsese has been nominated on six occasions in the past for films such as “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas,” but has never won an Oscar. He is the forerunner in this particular race.

The most talked-about story, however, will be which film claims the ultimate prize at the end of the night: the coveted Best Picture Oscar. “Chicago” is the favored contender, but any one of these films can win.

The 75th Annual Academy Awards air Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC.