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Under the Fold:

Globe-Trotting 2004

 

Yes, yes... We all know about them. Awards ceremonies. Everyone claims to hate them, yet they each secretly wish for their favorite film to win. Beyond that, Oscar fans feel the need to bash the Globes and vice versa. So none of that--I'm cutting the crap!

Here are my 2¢ on the Golden Globes film nominations:

Best Picture--Drama: Seabiscuit

Cold Mountain and Mystic River were both well-crafted. Cold Mountain, however, was rather forgettable, whereas Mystic River was to bleak to be enjoyable yet not bleak enough to be shocking. Lost in Translation should be the true victor of this category, but as the FPA selected it as a comedy, and as I haven't seen Master & Commander, I must choose Seabiscuit. It's certainly the most mainstream and calculated of the films, but in truth, it was very effective and enjoyable--better than I'd ever expect a horse film to be.
Actual Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Best Picture--Comedy: Lost in Translation

The true comedies in this category really get the short end of the stick this year. Finding Nemo was a great acheivement for Disney and Pixar, nearly as funny as it is--amazingly--beautiful. Love Actually falls into a genre that gets little recognition, but it is easily one of the most feel-good and profoundly true romantic comedies I've seen since When Harry Met Sally. Both of these films get overshadowed, however, by the oddly placed Lost in Translation. A film that initially annoyed me as only a good book can, I quickly came to appreciate this film's many subtleties and nuances. This is the "affair film" to undo all the raunchiness that late-eighties Michael Douglas/Sharon Stone vehicles established, because it doesn't treat the subject as a mortal sin or last act of desparation, but as an answer to a pair of souls who are lonely and longing to be loved. What's more, it's not about lust or physical intamacy but instead about emotional bonding. A truly great film that demystifies its subject matter--a stark contrast to the aftertaste left by Virgin Suicides, and a superb Sophomore achievement by Coppola. Ironically, the true best comedy of the year isn't even in the running: Bad Santa.
Actual Winner: Lost in Translation

Best Actor in a Leading Role--Drama: Ben Kingsley, House of Sand and Fog

In a year of big names and mediocre performances, I was hoping to see Chiwetel Ejiofor recognized for his magnificent performance in Dirty Pretty Things. However, even his great turn doesn't compete with Ben Kingsley's work in House of Sand and Fog. All throughout the film, I had a feeling he would be an awards contender. As the film reached his climax, however, there became no doubt in my mind. I'm brought to tears in films more often than I'd like to admit, but rarely by such characters in such films. I balled my eyes out from Kingsley's powerful performance. Just give him the award now, because he's earned it.
Actual Winner: Sean Penn, Mystic River

Best Actor in a Leading Role--Comedy: Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa

Initially, I was afraid this category would lead to another injustice--that Bill Murray's great but not-so-comedic performance would be Lost in submission to Johnny Depp's absolutely hilarious work in Pirates. Then I realized I needed to look further down the list, to that criminal Claus himself, Billy Bob Thornton. Bad Santa was so disturbingly funny, I actually returned to see it twice. And despite little black elves and behemoth, mentally challenged kids, Uncle Willy was truly what made this film. Not only was he funny, but unrelenting and unashamed as well, and that elevated his role from irreverent to intriguing. Most actors wouldn't take a role to such extreme in fear of tarnishing their career, but it seems Billy Bob is both proud and aptly qualified to be the undisputed white trash king of Hollywood... And for that, I commend him.
Actual Winner: Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

Best Actress in a Leading Role--Drama: Charlize Theron, Monster

I've only seen two of these films thus far: Cold Mountain and Kill Bill. If I were to choose between a mediocre performance from an actress I can't stand and a one-dimensional character played well by someone I know little of, I'm not sure what I'd decide. I'm saved, however, by Charlize Theron, whose work in the trailer ALONE for Monster is better than Kidman's or Thurman's turns. I can't comment too much about her performance yet except to say she comes off as disgusting, revolting, and disturbing--three things I never expected to describe one of Hollywood's most gorgeous actresses as. While I'm taking a gamble, I feel I'm pretty safe... Yeah, Charlize Theron.
Actual Winner: Charlize Theron, Monster

Best Actress in a Leading Role--Comedy: Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation

Scarlett's performance in Lost in Translation is the one role I felt most confident would merit an award. Her forgettable competition is no match for her in the Comedy category, but she'd be equally worthy of a win had she been listed as dramatic lead. While Bill Murray will always remain Peter from Ghostbusters on some level, Scarlett really embodied the very things I liked about the film as a whole. See it when it comes out. Watch it twice, at least, please!
Actual Winner: Diane Keaton, Something's Gotta Give

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai

This category may have the most stiff competition of the year. I could be easily compelled to choose Finney's rowdy role as the old half of Edward Bloom in Big Fish, or Tim Robbins' disturbing performance in Mystic River. But the best work came from Ken Watanabe. Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but The Last Samurai was a very good film that would've been nothing without the commanding presence of the Japanese Watanabe, who in real life embodies many of the Samurai values. His tendency towards similar roles may pigeonhole him in the future, but when one man is so good at playing a part like this, he deserves to be honored. 'Nuff said.
Actual Winner: Tim Robbins, Mystic River

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Renée Zellweger, Cold Mountain

Zellweger wins by default, as I have not seen the other films, and honestly, Renée almost singlehandedly turned Cold Mountain from a mopey, sappy love story into a lively, desparate Cival War epic. If I could have my way, though, I'd write in a nomination for Shohreh Aghdashloo for House of Sand and Fog. The on-screen wife of Ben Kingsley, she was equally vital to the film and nearly as impressive as Kingsley himself. Her turn as Nadi is simultaneously "dignified and fearful, submissive and resentful," as our own Timotei Centea pointed out. This amount of complexity, performed so well, creates one of those few, rare characters of film that very truly FEELS real. If there is always to be a glaring omission in awards nominations, this is clearly the Hollywood Foreign Press blooper of 2004.
Actual Winner: Renéee Zellweger, Cold Mountain

Best Director: Sophia Coppola, Lost in Translation

Had Return of the King lived up to my expectations, I would probably choose Peter Jackson to win this award. Reality bites, it seems, so I'm forced to make a tough decision. Oh well... At least Lost in Translation has a good chance at a creative "sweep" of the Globes. Though Eastwood and Coppola both ensured the right touch of subtlety in their films--a trait I believe is an indicator of where dramas are heading in the future--Coppola's care and caress is more evident. All in all, I feel she did a better job in keeping her film balanced, intuitive, and even more intriguing than the murder mystery helmed by her big competition.
Actual Winner: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Best Screenplay: Lost in Translation, by Sophia Coppola

I was REALLY tempted to choose Curtis' Love Actually, as it was an amazing feat to combine so many subplots and keep them (mostly) all enjoyable as one interwoven story. Again, however, Coppola's care and attention to detail is impossible to overlook. Perhaps writer-directors have an edge over competition (although it should be noted Curtis directed as well) because the means in which the story is carried out becomes more fluid, like a dance, like an artform in itself. But Coppola should certainly not be punished for doing all of the work herself, should she? There's a new Coppola in town.
Actual Winner: Sophia Coppola, Lost in Translation

Best Original Score: Big Fish, by Danny Elfman

I'm of the opinion that a good score should be almost as memorable as the film itself... Think Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, The Godfather. Danny Elfman, with credits like Batman and Beetlejuice (and of course, the theme to The Simpsons), is a veteran at crafting scores a cut above the rest. In the past few years, he's toned himself down a bit, his recent work a bit less thematic--and perhaps that's a good thing. Elfman found a good balance for his score to Big Fish, and as such provided one of the few scores of the year that accomplish something: Edward Bloom's life story would already be far-fetched, but with Danny's score it becomes absolutely magical.
Actual Winner: Howard Shore, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Foreign Film: ???

I could use this space to complain about how horrible U.S. distribution of foreign films are. I've never even heard of these films, have never seen them listed at even the local art-house theatres, and I live in a major metropolitan area. But then, to some degree, it's a matter of supply and demand, and most of us in the states remain too culturally ethnocentric to appreciate foreign cinema. Anyhow, I complain about this quite a bit, so I won't do so here. Instead, I'll let someone else make the decision, and at least recommend SOME foreign film for your consideration: Watch Amélie, if you haven't... Sure, it's two years old and its chance at winning awards is long since past, but it's still enjoyable.
Actual Winner: Osama (Afghanistan)

Afterthoughts

So I've discovered, it's a bit of a net ritual to compare one's picks and predictions to the real winners and compare scores. Looking at my picks, I matched up in four categories. My favorites in seven categories went home heartbroken, and I abstained from choosing favorites in two fields. I guess that's a 4/13 (to be fair, since my omissions count against me) with 2/6 in the acting categories and 2/4 in what I'd consider the major filmmaking categories. (I don't include Best Foreign Language Film among them, though I wish I could, because they are simply too difficult to track down.) I suppose this means I'd have to get on the ball if I wished to somehow join the foreign press. As it stands, however, I'm proud of my choices, as I feel they represent a good balance among recognition of talent, a healthy dose of going against conventions, and--most importantly--individuality. In the end, it doesn't matter who guesses most correctly--and then hides behind anonymity to boast about themselves to others--but that's someone else's story. ;) I only hope my choices may have encouraged people to give the films--some praised at the awards, some overlooked--a chance they may not otherwise had been given. I wish there'd been fewer mediocre films this year, but feel particularly treated by those that stood out.

Author: Thom Stricklin · 1919 Words · Published: 24 January 2004
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