Posted: 01/27/2005


Paul’s Oscar Picks 2004

by Paul Fischer

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It doesn’t seem to matter who you are, but everyone has an opinion: Come February 27, who is going to walk off with the diminutive fella called Oscar. Sometimes, those of us who have been around long enough tend to predict based on not who one would like to see win this most coveted of prizes, but how the Academy tends to think. So combining the two, here is this film journalist’s picks for the 77th Academy Awards.

Best Picture: The Aviator (Miramax)

Others in this category:



RAY (Universal Pictures)

SIDEWAYS (Fox Searchlight)

Perhaps the toughest one to call, but I suspect a split vote here, and Miramax’s stunning epic The Aviator may win by a nose. One’s thinking is that it’s between that and Million Dollar Baby, but the Academy may decide to give directing honors to Eastwood and bestow its major prize to Miramax, being that the company, as such, may cease to exist by the time the 78th Oscars come around. Which leads me to:

Achievement in Directing: Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby (Warner Bros.)

Others in this category:

Martin Scorsese for The Aviator (Miramax)

Taylor Hackford for Ray (Universal Pictures)

Alexander Payne for Sideways (Fox Searchlight)

Mike Leigh for Vera Drake (Fine Line Features)

While Scorsese deserves the Oscar for his visually triumphant epic, the Academy seems to view this master director with a degree of suspicion, and has ignored him in the past, to make away for safer directors, such as Costner for Dances with Wolves, rather than Marty for the superior Goodfellas. The Academy loves Eastwood, and the older he becomes, the more assured and respected he becomes. Winning the recent DGA Award also helps one to believe in the likelihood of a second Best Director nod for Clint.

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Jamie Foxx for Ray (Universal Pictures)

Others in this category:

Don Cheadle for Hotel Rwanda (United Artists)

Johnny Depp for Finding Neverland (Miramax)

Leonardo DiCaprio for The Aviator (Miramax)

Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby (Warner Bros.)

This is the only category that has been signed, sealed and delivered to Jamie Foxx, and deservedly so. His richly layered, mesmerising turn as Ray Charles has had everyone talking. While the film may have received mixed reviews, Foxx’s stunning performance remains the most remarkable of 2004.

Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby (Warner Bros.)

Others in this category:

Alan Alda for The Aviator (Miramax)

Thomas Haden Church for Sideways (Fox Searchlight)

Jamie Foxx for Collateral (DreamWorks SKG)

Clive Owen for Closer (Columbia Pictures)

Supporting Oscars are never a shoe in. It is easier here to discount the highly improbable, such as Foxx and Church. Owen won the Golden Globe but will the Academy give the Oscar to a Brit when the American competition is strong? Alda has never won an Oscar, so he remains a dark horse, but my pick is Freeman. Nominated a total of four times, he, too, has never taken home an Oscar, and is well loved by his peers and audiences alike.

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby (Warner Bros.)

Others in this category:

Annette Bening—Being Julia (Sony Pictures Classics)

Catalina Sandino Moreno—Maria Full Of Grace (Fine Line Features)

Imelda Staunton—Vera Drake (Fine Line Features)

Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Focus Features)

Before Million Dollar Baby became the critics’ darling, the assumption was that Staunton was the favourite to take home the Oscar, but no longer. Swank’s fearless performance, coupled with a surge of media support, makes her the clear front runner. Bening may be up against her, but it’s a fluffy, comedic performance in a film nobody saw or cared about, but Staunton may still nudge ahead to shock us all.

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett for The Aviator (Miramax)

Others in this category:

Laura Linney—Kinsey (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Virginia Madsen for Sideways (Fox Searchlight)

Sophie Okonedo—Hotel Rwanda (United Artists)

Natalie Portman for Closer (Columbia Pictures)

All strong performances, but Blanchett’s magnificent portrayal of Hepburn remains my pick. Portman is to young to receive this, I suspect, despite her ill-deserved Golden Globe. It has to be Blanchett.

Best Original Screenplay: The Aviator (Miramax) by John Logan

Others in this category:

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Focus Features) by Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth

Hotel Rwanda (United Artists) by Terry George, Keir Pearson

The Incredibles (Disney/Pixar) by Brad Bird

Vera Drake (Fine Line Features) by Mike Leigh

Always a tough category, this could be anyone’s Oscar, but John Logan’s complex screenplay seems a likely frontrunner, but Brad Bird could win for his script of The Incredibles. Still, with The Aviator destined to pick up a few Oscars, screenplay is likely to be one of them.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Sideways (Fox Searchlight) by Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

Others in this category:

Before Sunset (Warner Independent Pictures) by Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

Finding Neverland (Miramax) by David Magee

Million Dollar Baby (Warner Bros.) by Paul Haggis

The Motorcycle Diaries (Focus Features) by Jose Rivera

With Sideways one of last year’s most memorable films, having lost so much Oscar support, it has to win for adapted screenplay, proving the eloquent mastery of Payne and Taylor. But if it’s The Aviator vs Million Dollar Baby, then Paul Haggis’ adaptation of that book remains a strong possibility.

It’s hard to tell who’ll bring home the gold, but all will be revealed come February 27.

Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.

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