by Ed Symkus

There will be 24 occasions on Sunday night when people will be called up to the expansive stage at the Kodak Theatre to be handed a little gold statuette letting them know that they've been honored by their peers. There will be brand-new styles of tuxedoes, amazingly risque gowns, some great commercials rivaling those at the Super Bowl, most likely a classic hosting performance by Steve Martin, and, one hopes, a mention of singular director Doris Wishman when the memorial video of people we've lost in the last year rolls by.

It's strange how incredibly popular the Oscarcast is every spring. It's always too long, tending to drag down any momentum that builds up, and the morning after is always filled with you, me and everyone we know complaining about who got the awards and who should have gotten them.

Leading up to this year's sparkling event, I have to admit that, as usual, I'm surprised at many of the nominees (Diane Lane for Best Actress in Unfaithful? Who's she been sleeping with? Ed Harris for Best Supporting Actor in The Hours? That was one of the worst performances in this actor's stellar career.).

But, as usual, I'm also pleasantly surprised that some of the nominators got some of it right: Michael Caine for Best Actor in The Quiet American, Chris Cooper for Best Supporting Actor in Adaptation, Christopher Walken for Best Supporting Actor in Catch Me if You Can, The Two Towers for Best Picture.

Of course, none of this really matters. Studio heads will see a few more box office dollars for films that win in the big categories, but 10 years from now, the only people who will remember this year's winners are this year's winners. So before I put my reputation on the line and predict this year's honorees, please allow me to vent -- to get out my frustrations over films and people that weren't even nominated but should have been.

Chris Cooper, Ed Harris, Paul Newman, John C. Reilly, and Christopher Walken filled out the Best Supporting Actor category. I would have pulled out Harris, Newman, and Reilly, and replaced them with Edward Herrman, for his bigger-than-life portrayal of William Randolph Hearst in The Cat's Meow, Colin Farrell for his swaggering Danny Witwer in Minority Report and Josh Lucas, as blue-eyed and enigmatic Jake Perry, the only worthwhile ingredient in Sweet Home Alabama.

Though there was nothing inherently wrong with the performances of Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt or Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York, there was one other that was far better than either of them: Campbell Scott as the jerky, full-of-himself, hilarious motor-mouth in Roger Dodger.

Over in the coveted Best Picture category, there seems to have been a mistake or two made this year. While Chicago and Gangs of New York are damn good pictures, they're not great ones. This year's oddest film was indeed a great one. So why isn't Adaptation one of the five choices?

Which leads me directly into that other always hotly contested group -- directors. Granted, Rob Marshall and Martin Scorsese did what probably no one else could have done with, respectively, Chicago and Gangs of New York. And yes, Pedro Almodovar finally crafted something that was actually accessible in Talk to Her. But (here I go again), where is the nomination for Spike Jonze and the miracle he worked with Adaptation?

Okay, so that film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, as it should have been. But possibly the biggest glitch in this year's considered films was the absence of The Quiet American in the same category. Very rarely is a film better than its source material -- yet in this case, even Graham Greene would've nodded in approval over what Christopher Hampton and Robert Schenkkan did to his original novel. I say out with About a Boy and in with The Quiet American.

Original Screenplay? Don't get me started. Talk to Her, Gangs of New York, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Wait, let me repeat part of that -- Best Screenplay? My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Not on your big fat life! I know that nobody went to see the woefully underrated, very creepy Frailty. But that film had one very cool, very different script. I know just where it might have fit on the nominee list.

There are also a couple of what many folks think of as lesser categories, or at least those with not much glamour to them. But my two cents would include nominations for the splendid Dogtown and Z-Boys as Best Feature Documentary, and the gorgeous Four Feathers for Best Cinematography.

Okay, venting complete. Now to get serious about who will win what. I'm putting good money on the following nominated choices in my favorite 10 categories. Believe me, these are surer bets than Krispy Kreme Doughnut stock:

Best Feature Documentary: Bowling for Columbine

Best Cinematography: Conrad L. Hall for Road to Perdition

Best Adapted Screenplay: Adaptation

Best Original Screenplay: Far From Heaven

Best Supporting Actress: Meryl Streep for Adaptation

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Walken for Catch Me if You Can

Best Actress: Julianne Moore for Far From Heaven

Best Actor: Nicolas Cage for Adaptation

Best Director: Roman Polanski for The Pianist

Best Picture: The Pianist

Publication date: 03/20/03

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