Early Oscar® Suggestions

By Dan Krovich and David Mumpower

Hey Cartman! 'I'm sailing away...'

Dear Oscar®,

We realize that when it comes time to give out the nominations each year, you have the memory of Leonard Shelby. Last year, all five Best Picture nominees opened in December, and in the major categories, (picture, directing, acting, writing) films that opened in the first half of the year garnered only four nominations. Yes, we understand that it's not completely your fault as studios hoard much of their best product until late in the year, but it's a shame that so many quality films and performances tend to be overlooked because of the quirk of the release schedule. With Seabiscuit's being hailed as the first Oscar contender of the year, the message seems to be that everything released January through June doesn't count. On top of that, with an accelerated awards season this year, it's going to be even more difficult to think back to May or June, much less January or February, so we're here to help. Here are some films, performances, etc. from the first half of the year that we feel are worthy of your consideration. File them away, and then dust them off come nomination time. Sure there simply may be five better choices that come from December releases, but we hope you can find some room for these early birds on your select list of the best in films for the whole year. (Dan Krovich/BOP)

City of God

One of the good things about the fact that you decided to snub this Brazilian film in the Best Foreign Film category last year is that it is now eligible in other categories this year. I think you should give it serious consideration for Best Picture. I mean you threw a nomination at Gangs of New York last year, and City of God tackles a very similar subject matter infinitely more successfully. City of God is both intimate and epic. In a film that spans three decades, you feel as if you get to know just about everyone in the large ensemble cast as fully realized characters while Gangs of New York felt populated by caricatures. Superlative storytelling is mixed with stylistic, but not distracting filmmaking, which makes City of God an outstanding candidate in categories across the board. But, hey, I'm realistic and I know how hard it is for you to remember a Brazilian film that opened in January, so I'm willing to make a deal. You've shown that you're willing to throw a bone to a foreign film released early in the year with a screenplay nomination (Y tu mamá también) before, so let's say you at least give City of God an Adapted Screenplay nomination, and we'll call it a compromise. (Dan Krovich/BOP)

Capturing the Friedmans

Your documentary branch has always been something of an oddball group. Their selection process differs from the Academy at large, and their choices have been at times frustrating. Last year, they broke the trend of seemingly specifically shunning any documentary that had any popular success by giving the award to the box office hit Bowling for Columbine. (Though, having seen four of the five nominated docs, Columbine ranks fourth in my book, but that's a different column completely.) So the first thing we need to do is make sure that you don't ignore Capturing the Friedmans in the Best Documentary category. It seems like it should be a lock, but like I said, you've been a little weird in that area before. But I wanted to talk to you about more than that. Perhaps because Bowling for Columbine broke through, documentaries have had a much greater success at the box office this year than they're used to. How about helping to spur on this trend by giving Capturing the Friedmans a Best Picture nomination? The film is simply the best, most gripping mystery film I've seen in years. Now, I know you might feel a little strange about giving a Best Picture nomination to a film that technically doesn't even have a screenplay. Well, that brings me to my other suggestion. While it's true that documentaries often don't have screenplays as a framework, they are sometimes stuck with literally over one hundred hours of footage to mold into a story. So, the real art in telling the story often comes in the editing. If you're not ready to go whole hog with Best Picture, a Best Editing nomination would be a nice baby step towards recognizing documentary films in general, and Capturing the Friedmans in particular, as a legitimate and exemplary part of the overall film landscape; not just something to be compartmentalized into two categories in the middle of the ceremony. (Dan Krovich/BOP)

Willard

So the movie flopped, it's a genre film, and on top of that, your members probably don't even know the movie exists much less have they seen it, but I'd like to make a modest plea for Crispin Glover in the Best Actor category? Some may think having Glover play a weirdo-outcast who befriends an army of rats was simply an example of an Actor playing himself, but Glover gave a humanizing performance that isn't usually seen in movies about rats attacking people. He was a big reason that Willard elevated itself above the usual genre fare. Of course, the price paid was box office failure as horror fans didn't want to see a drama mixed with dark comedy and the drama audience didn't want to see a movie about rats. I realize the chances of an actual nomination are non-existent here, but if you could at least keep Glover on your medium list, I'd be much obliged. (Dan Krovich/BOP)

Finding Nemo

If there's such a thing as an Oscar® lock in July, Finding Nemo as winner of the Best Animated Film is it. So let's talk about what else you can do in other categories, and why not start at the top with Best Picture? You have shown that you are willing to go the route of recognizing an animated film this way when you nominated Beauty and the Beast. Now, don't just think that because you have an animated feature category, the animated films are taken care of and can be ignored elsewhere. Again, like with Capturing the Friedmans and the documentary category, a Best Picture nomination would help further legitimize animated films as valuable to the entire spectrum of films. If you don't have room there, there is always the screenplay. While we're at it, though I admit I'm not sure about the rules on eligibility of voice actors, how about Ellen DeGeneres in the Supporting Actress category? Her portrayal of the sidekick character, Dory, could have very easily been grating, but instead DeGeneres reminded us how funny she can really be. In an outstanding film, her performance stood out as the most memorable, which is a feat that should be worthy of recognition. (Dan Krovich/BOP)

Whale Rider

Speaking of Leonard Shelby, Newmarket Film Group has proven that Memento was not a one-hit wonder for them thanks to this little gem. While BOP harbors no illusions about Whale Rider's chances at getting a best picture nod, it would be criminal for the two leads to at least be added to the call back list for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor. It's not like we're asking for or even expecting the nods. Instead, BOP is merely saying that when the end-of-year vote buying campaign begins in earnest and you members of the Academy have your mailboxes stuffed with freebies, don't be so quick to throw this movie out sight unseen. If you just watch the film, BOP feels confident Keisha Castle-Hughes as a pre-ordained leader and Rawiri Paratene's work as a true believer stubbornly holding to the old ways will be memorable enough to make your short list of 15 or so performances. One nomination we do expect is in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. While last year saw a strong set of five contenders, this is historically one of the thinnest categories of the major contenders. In event of another off-year for adaptations, writer/director Niki Caro's work in bringing Witi Ihimaera's vision to the big screen deserves strong consideration not just for nomination but for victory in the category. (David Mumpower/BOP)