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OSCAR NOMINATIONS 2005

By Scott Bettencourt

On Tuesday morning at 5:38 a.m., the nominations for the 78th annual Academy Awards were announced at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, by Academy President Sid Ganis and 1995 Best Supporting Actress winner Mira Sorvino (and yes, I was there. Do you think I have something else to do at 5:38 in the morning?)


ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SCORE)

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN - Gustavo Santaolalla
THE CONSTANT GARDENER - Alberto Iglesias
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA - John Williams
MUNICH - John Williams
PRIDE & PREJUDICE - Dario Marianelli

The only real shock here is Iglesias for Constant Gardener (I thought the slot would go to Newman for Cinderella Man, which ultimately only earned three nominations; this year my predictions were only 60 percent correct)), but overall the group was a fascinating mix of foreign-born newcomers (Santaolalla, Iglesias, Marianelli) and the perennial John Williams, who for the seventh time got 2 out of the 5 nominations; he previously managed this in 1972 (Images, Poseidon Adventure), 1977 (Close Encounters, Star Wars), 1984 (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The River), 1987 (Empire of the Sun, The Witches of Eastwick), 1989 (Born on the Fourth of July, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and 2001 (A.I., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), and he has now been nominated for 45 Oscars, winning 5.

The biggest disappointment is the omission of Danny Elfman for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (between Charlie and Corpse Bride, it may have been his best year ever creatively). Williams' gorgeous Geisha is the best of these five, but the award will probably go to the score for Brokeback Mountain, simply because it's the score for Brokeback Mountain. Santaolalla has had a pretty remarkable career so far -- all five of the films he's scored which have been released in the U.S. (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Motorcycle Diaries, North Country and Brokeback) have received Oscar nominations.


ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SONG)

"IN THE DEEP" - Crash - Music by Kathleen "Bird" York and Michael Becker, Lyrics by Kathleen "Bird" York
"IT'S HARD OUT HERE FOR A PIMP" - Hustle & Flow - Music and Lyrics by Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman, Paul Beauregard
"TRAVELIN' THRU" - Transamerica - Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton

This is perhaps the most surprising set of nominations in all of this year's list. As I mentioned in an earlier column, the procedure for nominating the song category changed completely this year. In the past, the Music Branch members were presented with a list of eligible songs; this year, available Music Branch members attended a "bake-off" (similar to the way the Makeup, Visual Effects, and Sound Editing categories are nominated), where three-minute clips of all 42 eligible songs (in their film contexts) were presented, and instead of writing down their five choices for the nomination, the branch members graded each song on a scale from 6 to 10 (the 6 to 10 scale is also how the foreign language, short film and documentary category nominations are picked), with only the songs with sufficiently high grades (as opposed to just the top five) receiving nominations.

So this year we have only three songs nominated (the last time this happened was in 1988, where the nominations were picked the traditional way) -- the moody "In the Deep" from Crash (which blends nicely with Mark Isham's score, and is featured in the film over the final montage), the indelible "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow (a shocking nomination, especially due to the song's profanity, but an eminently worthy one), and the light, charming "Travelin' Thru," written and performed by Dolly Parton for the end credits of Transamerica.

I was pretty sure Parton would get in, but I thought the other nominations would go to the retro swing of "Mad Hot Ballroom," Barenaked Ladies' jaunty "One Little Slip" from Chicken Little, Elfman's delightful "Remains of the Day" from Corpse Bride, and the amusing "There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway" from The Producers. Though it was eligible, there was no chance "You're Gonna Die Soon" from Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic would get nominated. I had hopes for two other memorable songs, "Move Away and Shine" from Thumbsucker and "So Long and Thanks For All the Fish" from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN - Diana Ossana, James Schamus
CAPOTE - Caroline Baron, William Vince, Michael Ohoven
CRASH - Paul Haggis, Cathy Schulman
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. - Grant Heslov
MUNICH - Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg, Barry Mendel

While I'm thrilled that Capote made the cut, I'm disappointed that the uneven, frustrating Crash also got in. I'd predicted Cinderella Man and Pride & Prejudice for those two slots, though in recent weeks they were looking more and more unlikely. I thought Walk the Line might slip in, because unlike the five actual nominees it's a genuine boxoffice success -- the highest grosser of the five is Crash at 55 million, though Brokeback is doing well and likely to climb quickly.  I knew Squid and the Whale wouldn't get in, much as it deserved to. (Readers are most likely to remember Good Night, and Good Luck.'s nominated producer/co-writer Grant Heslov as Schwarzenegger's token Arab-American sidekick in True Lies).


PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN - Capote
TERRENCE HOWARD - Hustle & Flow
HEATH LEDGER - Brokeback Mountain
JOAQUIN PHOENIX - Walk the Line
DAVID STRATHAIRN - Good Night, and Good Luck.

No real surprises here; I got four of five of my predictions right, having put Russell Crowe in the Terrence Howard slot. Hoffman will probably win (and deserves to), though both Ledger and Phoenix give him strong competition.


PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

JUDI DENCH - Mrs. Henderson Presents
FELICITY HUFFMAN - Transamerica
KEIRA KNIGHTLEY - Pride & Prejudice
CHARLIZE THERON - North Country
REESE WITHERSPOON - Walk the Line

Again no real surprises, though I'd guessed Naomi Watts (doing some of the all-time best acting-opposite-a-green-screen ever) instead of the eminently deserving Felicity Huffman. Witherspoon will probably win, though the gimmick factor gives Huffman a shot (and she's wonderful in the film, which shouldn't hurt).


PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

GEORGE CLOONEY - Syriana
MATT DILLON - Crash
PAUL GIAMATTI - Cinderella Man
JAKE GYLLENHAAL - Brokeback Mountain
WILLIAM HURT - A History of Violence

A surprising group; I'd predicted Giamatti and Gyllenhaal, while overall the gimmick factor helps: Clooney gains weight, Dillon plays an a-hole, Gyllenhaal plays gay. Hurt is the biggest surprise -- it's a Cronenberg film (and they didn't even nominate Goldblum in The Fly or Irons in Dead Ringers, two superb performances), and he's only in it for 10-15 minutes (compared to Gyllenhaal, who is the other lead in Brokeback). I have no idea who'll win (except that it won't be Hurt), though Giamatti has an edge for being snubbed for Sideways, and Clooney, Dillon and Gyllenhaal all have a chance for the gimmick factor). I'm bummed Jeff Daniels didn't get in for his subtle yet spectacular work in The Squid and the Whale; I'm guessing voters may have been confused whether to consider him lead or supporting.


PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

AMY ADAMS - Junebug
CATHERINE KEENER - Capote
FRANCES MCDORMAND - North Country
RACHEL WEISZ - The Constant Gardener
MICHELLE WILLIAMS - Brokeback Mountain

A strong group, with both Adams and Weisz proving welcome surprises. Keener may get it for playing a real person (the author of the beloved To Kill a Mockingbird, no less), but I think Williams has the best chance because of Brokeback momentum (and she gets to be both heartbroken and topless, a potent combination).


ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN - Ang Lee
CAPOTE - Bennett Miller
CRASH - Paul Haggis
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. - George Clooney
MUNICH - Steven Spielberg

For the first time since 1981, the Picture and Directing nominations match perfectly (which if nothing else means there is no unofficial "Sixth Nominee" for Best Picture, a film that gets Screenplay and Directing nods but not Picture), though in '81 Chariots of Fire won Picture while Reds won Directing. I'm glad Bennett Miller got in, as Capote was one of the year's best.


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

CRASH - Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. - George Clooney, Grant Heslov
MATCH POINT - Woody Allen
THE SQUID AND THE WHALE - Noah Baumbach
SYRIANA - Stephen Gaghan

Crash will almost certainly win, unfortunately, though I'm thrilled to death that Noah Baumbach, writer-director of my all-time favorite film, 1995's Kicking and Screaming, got noticed for Squid and the Whale.


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN - Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana
CAPOTE - Dan Futterman
THE CONSTANT GARDENER - Jeffrey Caine
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE - Josh Olson
MUNICH - Tony Kushner, Eric Roth

A Cronenberg film up for Best Screenplay? And one based on a graphic novel? Wow! Trivia buffs may notice that Gardener's Jeffrey Caine also received co-screenplay credit for GoldenEye. I'd vote for Capote, even though it was written by an actor, but it'll almost certainly go to Brokeback (and as McMurtry wrote my beloved Lonesome Dove books I don't begrudge it).


ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

BATMAN BEGINS - Wally Pfister
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN - Rodrigo Prieto
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. - Robert Elswit
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA - Dion Beebe
THE NEW WORLD - Emmanuel Lubezki

Batman Begins is the biggest surprise in this group, as Pfister has done outstanding work for Nolan's films Memento and Insomnia, but his work isn't the kind of showy, scenic cinematography that gets noticed. Lubezki is one of the world's greats, but his New World photography was less distinctive than you'd expect from a Malick film. The versatile Elswit (who shot Boogie Nights and Tomorrow Never Dies in the same year) should win for Good Night, unless Prieto wins in a Brokeback sweep.


ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. - Jim Bissell, Jan Pascale
HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE - Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan
KING KONG - Grant Major, Dan Hennah, Simon Bright
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA - John Myhre, Gretchen Rau
PRIDE & PREJUDICE - Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

Harry Potter is the most surprising choice; though Stuart Craig is an Oscar perennial (7 previous nominations, including the first Harry Potter, and wins for Gandhi, Dangerous Liaisons, and English Patient), it's odd to see him nominated for the design of the fourth in the series, especially when many of the settings are computer generated.  Geisha will probably win, as it recreated Japan almost entirely on Southern California locations and soundstages, but Kong's (heavily CGI-augmented) New York street sets were wonderful. I'm shocked that Alex McDowell didn't receive a nomination for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (or The Terminal, Cat in the Hat, or Minority Report). Does the Art Direction branch just not like him?


ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY - Gabriella Pescucci
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA - Colleen Atwood
MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS - Sandy Powell
PRIDE & PREJUDICE - Jacqueline Durran
WALK THE LINE - Arianne Phillips

Geisha. 'Nuff said.


ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE - Terry Porter, Dean A. Zupancic and Tony Johnson
KING KONG - Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges and Hammond Peek
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA - Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, Rick Kline and John Pritchett
WALK THE LINE - Paul Massey, D.M. Hemphill and Peter F. Kurland
WAR OF THE WORLDS -Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer and Ronald Judkins

It's hard to know what will win. Walk the Line could win because of the music, while Narnia, Kong and War are all noisy high grossers (coincidentally, Narnia Kong War sounds like the name of an incredibly overrated Hong Kong director).


ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

CINDERELLA MAN - Mike Hill, Dan Hanley
THE CONSTANT GARDENER - Claire Simpson
CRASH - Hughes Winborne
MUNICH - Michael Kahn
WALK THE LINE - Michael McCusker

A tricky category, as there's no stand-out. Constant Gardner has the most elaborate time-structure, while Crash's convoluted ensemble plot may seem like masterful editing to the overall Academy voters.


ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

KING KONG - Mike Hopkins, Ethan Van der Ryn
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA - Wylie Stateman
WAR OF THE WORLDS - Richard King

Being the longest, King Kong had the most sound, but War of the Worlds' Martian tripod horn was the most memorable sound effect of the year. Film music fans may be glad to notice that Revenge of the Sith's Ben Burtt got snubbed despite making the short list; at the bake-off, Stateman said he felt that Geisha's music was one of the film's most pivotal sound elements. I didn't notice if Burtt pulled a face upon hearing this.


ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE - Howard Berger, Tami Lane
CINDERELLA MAN - David Leroy Anderson, Lance Anderson
STAR WARS: EPISODE III, REVENGE OF THE SITH - Dave Elsey, Nicki Gooley

Cinderella Man had the best makeup of the three (I'd hoped for nominations for The Libertine and The New World, which both made the shortlist and both had outstanding work), but it'll probably go to Chronicles of Narnia, for most makeup.


BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

BADGERED - Sharon Colman
THE MOON AND THE SON: AN IMAGINED CONVERSATION - John Canemaker, Peggy Stern
THE MYSTERIOUS GEOOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS OF JASPER MORELLO - Anthony Lucas
9 - Shane Acker
ONE MAN BAND - Andrew Jimenez, Mark Andrews

This is a hard category, partly because it's not a great group of films. My favorite was Jasper Morello, a 27-minute, somewhat Jules Verne-ish CGI short with stunning designs and a (forgettable) Bruce Rowland score. 9 is a post-apocalyptic CGI story, while Badgered uses fairly rudimentary animation but is overall quite amusing. The two main contenders are One Man Band and The Moon and the Son. Band is the latest Pixar short and is amusing but not one of their more memorable efforts (Michael Giacchino did the score, which is virtually all source music performed by the main characters). The Moon and the Son is an autobiographical portrait (by Canemaker, who did the animated sequences for The World According to Garp) and may win because it's about a filmmaker and is a father-son story, but the animation is varied but unmemorable, the writing is so-so, and the voice work is surprisingly weak (John Turturro voices Canemaker, sounding rather like David Schwimmer, while Canemaker's father is voiced by someone who sounds like Eli Wallach doing a bad Italian accent, and turns out to actually be Eli Wallach doing a bad Italian accent).


BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

AUSREISER (THE RUNAWAY) - Ulrike Grote
CASHBACK - Sean Ellis, Lene Bausager
THE LAST FARM - Runar Runarsson, Thor S. Sigurjonsson
OUR TIME IS UP - Rob Pearlstein, Pia Clemente
SIX SHOOTER - Martin McDonagh

This is usually my least favorite category. I haven't seen any of them yet, but I hear there are some good ones in the bunch.


BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

THE DEATH OF KEVIN CARTER: CASUALTY OF THE BANG BANG CLUB - Dan Krauss
GOD SLEEPS IN RWANDA - Kimberlee Acquaro, Stacy Sherman
THE MUSHROOM CLUB - Steven Okazaki
A NOTE OF TRIUMPH: THE GOLDEN AGE OF NORMAN CORWIN - Corinne Marrinan, Eric Simonson

Another category that tends to be weak; haven't seen any of them yet.


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

DARWIN'S NIGHTMARE - Herbert Sauper
ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM - Alex Gibney, Jason Kliot
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS - Luc Jacquet, Yves Darondeau
MURDERBALL - Henry-Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro
STREET FIGHT - Marshall Curry

Enron is very well done, while everyone by now is familiar with the Penguins (interestingly, the makers of the original French version were nominated but not Jordan Roberts, who wrote and supervised the American cut including the re-scoring by Alex Wurman). I've heard mixed things about Darwin, good things about Murderball, and great things about Street Fight (which is about an election, not "bumfighting").


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR

DON'T TELL (Italy)
JOYEUX NOEL (France)
PARADISE NOW (Palestine)
SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS (Germany)
TSOTSI (South Africa)

Paradise Now is a gripping film about suicide bombers, which has no score whatsoever (and the lack of music is extremely effective). Don't Tell is a clunky drama about the aftermath of incestuous child abuse, which didn't remotely deserve the nomination. Franco Piersanti wrote the original music, though as per this Year of the Temp Track, cues from Jocelyn Pook's Eyes Wide Shut are used and credited. I haven't seen the other three films; I've heard very good things about Tsotsi; Joyeux Noel (scored by Philippe Rombi, import soundtrack available) is a sentimental war story featuring Troy's Diane Kruger and the ubiquitous Daniel Bruhl; Sophie Scholl (score by Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek) is this year's requisite Holocaust film, chosen in place of Hungary's memorable Fateless which features remarkable cinematography and an emotional Ennio Morricone score. Among the eligible films not chosen were Taiwan's bizarre quasi-porn-musical The Wayward Cloud (a sequel to the terrific What Time Is It There?), Romania's stunning dark comedy The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, the wonderful Canadian coming-of-age story C.R.A.Z.Y., and L'Enfant (The Child), the acclaimed new film by the brilliant Dardenne brothers (The Son, Rosetta).


ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE - Dean Wright, Bill Westenhofer, Jim Berney, Scott Farrar
KING KONG - Joe Letteri, Brian Van't Hul, Christian Rivers, Richard Taylor
WAR OF THE WORLDS - Dennis Muren, Pablo Helman, Randy Dutra, Dennis Sudick

This is the only year when the Star Wars film didn't receive an effects nomination. The winner is hard to pick; Narnia is the most popular film, Kong is the most dependent on effects, but I felt War of the Worlds' were the finest, utterly convincing (and with its contemporary setting, that's a particular achievement).


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE OF THE YEAR

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE - Hayao Miayazki
TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE - Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
WALLACE & GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT - Nick Park, Steve Box

Amazingly, the branch actually selected the three best animated films of the year, opting for the too-little-seen Howl's over such big hits as Robots, Madagascar, and Chicken Little. Corpse Bride will probably win, and deserves to; I hope Burton remembers to thank Danny Elfman.


In last year's review of the Oscar broadcast, I listed the following films as potential 2005 contenders:

All the King's Men, Brokeback Mountain, The Brothers Grimm, Casanova, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Cinderella Man, The Constant Gardener, Elizabethtown, In Her Shoes, Jarhead, King Kong, Kingdom of Heaven, Memoirs of a Geisha, The New World, Oliver Twist, The Producers, Rent, The Squid and the Whale, Syriana, The Upside of Anger.

All of them have been released, except All the King's Men which was pushed to 2006. Though I only mentioned one of the actual Best Picture nominees -- missing Capote, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, and Munich -- I did manage to name 9 actual nominees, including the big one, Brokeback. I'm still a little surprised that Jarhead didn't get anything - though most people didn't like it as much as I did, it had some major Oscar people behind the camera -- Sam Mendes, Thomas Newman, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and editor Walter Murch.


In my Oscar review from 3 years ago, I also made predictions as to future nominees:

COMPOSERS

Mychael Danna
Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
Wojciech Kilar
Michael Nyman
Christopher Young

ACTORS

Kevin Bacon
Dylan Baker
Christian Bale
Billy Crudup
John Cusack
Philip Seymour Hoffman
David Morse
Dennis Quaid
Ving Rhames
Mark Ruffalo

ACTRESSES

Sandra Bullock
Claire Danes
Kirsten Dunst
Edie Falco
Allison Janney
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Mary Louise Parker
Robin Wright Penn
Christina Ricci
Naomi Watts

Watts was nominated in 2003, Kaczmarek in 2004 (and won), and Hoffman this year. Only 22 more names to go!


TOMORROW: Cary Wong discusses the nominations and other end-of-the-year movie topics (yes, this week you actually get FOUR new columns!).

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