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Oscars 2004: One Statue to Rule Them All

Everyone else who handicaps the Oscars waits until a week before they’re announced before making their picks. The ink isn’t even dry on the nominations and we’re already here to tell you who’s gonna win! If this year seems a little simpler to handicap than most, it’s because of the Lord of the Rings juggernaut. Let’s all pile aboard, shall we? Christopher Null and Jeremiah Kipp

This page, as always, will be updated in real time during the telecast. Our picks are in bold under our respective names, and the actual winners are noted in bold.

Current tally:

Null: 12/24
Kipp: 13/24

Wow, did Return of the King really just win every single award it was nominated for? Un-be-liev-a-ble. See ya next year, kids. Congrats, Mr. Kipp — you took me down once again! -CN


Best Animated Film
Brother Bear
Finding Nemo
The Triplets of Belleville

Christopher Null: I don’t know what the fuss is all about (it’s a road trip with fish and puns, we get it), but I’d bet every cent I had on a win for Nemo.
Jeremiah Kipp: Finding Nemo was the animation film juggernaut this year. Everyone I know has seen it…except me. But you can’t stop the hype, and Pixar has the corner on the market for popular animated films that also achieve critical success.

Best Art Direction
Girl With a Pearl Earring
The Last Samurai
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Seabiscuit

JK: The Return of the King will storm the Oscars, and rightfully so. From the castle-city of Minas Tirith to the dank, bone-keeping spider’s lair, RotK was an awe-inspiring fantasy vision.
CN: Lord of the Rings didn’t win this award either of the last two years, so King will probably earn a ‘save-up’ trophy. None of these other flicks can measure up, anyway.

Best Cinematography
City of God
Cold Mountain
Girl With a Pearl Earring
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Seabiscuit

JK: Miramax got the shaft in most categories, but they did well in assembling their creative team for Cold Mountain. Director of Photography John Seale’s admittedly stunning purple mountain majesties are just the kind of epic nature photography Oscar goes for, too.
CN: Miramax got the shaft on nominations and will continue to get it on awards. Shooting on water is always tough – and a period piece s even tougher – so I’m picking Master and Commander.

Best Costume Design
Girl with a Pearl Earring
The Last Samurai
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Seabiscuit

JK: While I thought Russell Crowe looked pretty bad-ass as the stalwart ship captain in Peter Weir’s impeccably designed Master and Commander, and those legions of Elves all had a distinctive look in RotK, Oscar tends to favor pretty and inoffensive period garb like those displayed in the snooze-inducing Girl with a Pearl Earring. They all wear pretty colors, but pretty does not equal stylish, memorable, or revelatory of character. Girl is none of the above, but it’s tasteful (i.e., boring as hell and drab as a wallflower) and therefore will beat out the other (far superior) nominees.
CN: You’ve forgotten your history, Jer. Last two years’ winners: Moulin Rouge and Chicago. No musicals in the bunch in 2004, so I’m picking The Last Samurai, the hich had to do both wicked armor and two different army costume designs appropriate for the period. That’s like three award-worthy designs in one!

Best Documentary Feature
Balseros
Capturing the Friedmans
The Fog of War
My Architect
The Weather Underground

CN: Capturing the Friedmans has a really strong fan base that could pull it through, though it’s bound to be a tight race with Fog of War.
JK: Although it happens to be one of the most fascinating films of the year, Errol Morris’s The Fog of War wins more for its up-to-the-minute political subtext that will appeal to Hollywood left-wingers.

Best Documentary Short Subject
Asylum
Chernobyl Heart
Ferry Tales

JK: Asylum has already achieved critical buzz, and it’s ‘important’.
CN: Asylum includes discussion of genital mutilation, a veritable Oscar can’t-miss.

Best Editing
City of God
Cold Mountain
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Seabiscuit

CN: I’m not sure any of these were well-edited, and favorite Return of the King is the worst of the bunch. Seabiscuit would be my personal choice, but I’ll side with Master and Commander.
JK: Master and Commander wins for its epic sea battles (which happen to be the most incomprehensible part of the movie — with all that blip-blip editing I found it nearly impossible to tell what was going on).
Did everyone just see Lord of the Rings and none of the other movies? Just wondering.

Best Foreign Language Film
The Barbarian Invasions
Zelary
The Twilight Samurai
Twin Sisters
Evil

JK: Zelary is an inspiring Czech film set during World War II. And you know how Oscar loves inspiring WWII stories…
CN: Three of these are war movies. But I’m gonna pick The Twilight Samurai.

Best Makeup
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

CN: Check it out
, it’s all movies with colons in the title! I’m picking the one with the absolute longest name: Pirates of the Caribbean.
JK: I was actually quite fond of those skeletal Pirates, but you really can’t top the highly detailed makeup effects of RotK.

Best Score
Big Fish, Danny Elfman
Cold Mountain, Gabriel Yared
Finding Nemo, Thomas Newman
House of Sand and Fog, James Horner
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Howard Shore

JK: Howard Shore’s score helped rouse us during the battle scenes and brought us to tears during the emotive climax of RotK. Yes, it did, precious.
CN: Shore already won for Fellowship of the Ring, but will Oscar voters remember and give him another trophy for simply replaying the same songs? I hope so, and will pick Danny Elfman (in his third nomination) for Big Fish.

Best Original Song
‘Into the West’ from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, by Fran Walsh, Howard Shore and Annie Lennox
‘A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow’ from A Mighty Wind, by Michael McKean and Annette O’Toole
‘Scarlet Tide’ from Cold Mountain, by T Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello
‘The Triplets of Belleville’ from The Triplets of Belleville, by Benoit Charest and Sylvain Chomet
‘You Will Be My Ain True Love’ from Cold Mountain, Sting

JK: Sweet dreams are made of these! ‘Into the West’ is a bittersweet ditty, and we just love that Annie Lennox. But while this isn’t the comeback I was hoping for, I’ll take what I can get.
CN: Yeah, ‘Into the West’ gets it.
Was that Belleville guy playing a bicycle???

Best Animated Short Film
Boundin’
Destino
Gone Nutty
Harvie Krumpet
Nibbles

JK: Boundin’ for glory!
CN: I hear Harvie Krumpet is Nutty for Nibbles! But seriously, folks, the winner is Destino, Salvador Dali’s unearthed and recently completed Disney collaboration.
Damn you, Krumpet! You’re dead to me.

Best Live Action Short Film
Die Rote Jacke (The Red Jacket)
Most (The Bridge)
Squash
(A) Torzija (A Torsion)
Two Soldiers

JK: If you build it, they will come! So says Most (The Bridge).
CN: Two Soldiers is based on a William Faulkner short story. Let’s pick that one.
Yeah baby! I never get the shorts right!

Best Sound Mixing
The Last Samurai
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Seabiscuit

CN: The Last Samurai, for the same reasons as the best costume award.
JK: With every beat of its hoof, Seabiscuit races ahead of its competition.

Best Sound Editing
Finding Nemo
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

CN: Why does this category exist? They might as well call this category the award for Loudest Movie, which means Master and Commander wins.
JK: Let the cannons sound for Master and Commander.

Best Visual Effects
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

JK: And the longest title goes to… aha ha… oh we made that joke already. Return of the King has the most outstanding effects of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, though I still count Two Towers as a historic landmark for Visual Effects. Gollum remains astonishing, and my God if that apocalyptic climax at Mount Doom doesn’t combine virtuoso effects with artistic heft. ‘Here we are, Sam, at the end of all things…’ Amazing!
CN: Lord of the Rings has won this category for two years running. Why not make it a third for Return of the King.

Best Adapted Screenplay
American Splendor
City of God
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Mystic River
Seabiscuit

JK: The laziest script of the bunch was Mystic River: dawdling, bloated, self-important, repetitive, simplistic, obvious, and heavy-handed. But self-importance can be mistaken for depth, and Mystic River was astonishingly given a free pass by the critical establishment. They continue to get suckered P.T. Barnum style come Oscar time, I’m afraid.
CN: I wonder if anyone has actually read Mystic River. Sadly the two best choices – American Splendor and Seabiscuit – have no chance. With Rings a lock for Best Picture, Clint’s flick will have to take home its only statue for Mystic River.

Best Original Screenplay
The Barbarian Invasions
Dirty Pretty Things
Finding Nemo
In America
Lost in Translation

JK: Sofia Coppola gets a friendly nod with Lost in Translation‘s Original Screenplay award, which is something of a consolation prize for writer-directors.
CN: No contest whatsoever. Lost in Translation all the way. I can’t believe that ho-hum movies like The Barbarian Invasions are the best the Academy can muster this year.

Best Supporting Actor
Alec Baldwin in The Cooler
Benicio Del Toro in 21 Grams
Dijmon Hounsou in In America
Tim Robbins in Mystic River
Ken Watanabe in The Last Samurai

JK: Tim Robbins is a great actor, but he pretty much sleepwalks through Mystic River as an introverted ghoul. No matter. His quiet work made him stand out from the hyper-emotive actor grandstanding surrounding him in that highly overrated prestige piece.
CN: Robbins has a strong shot here, but the Academy will probably shy away from giving him a measly supporting actor award this year in favor of hanging on for a meaty leading role for which he can get a more ‘important’ award. Jim Broadbent wins Best Supporting Actor. Chris Cooper wins Best Supporting Actor. This year, outsider Ken Watanabe wins for The Last Samurai, who steals the movie from Tom Cruise and rises above this collection.
Argh, the obvious choice.

Best Supporting Actress
Shohreh Aghdashloo in House of Sand and Fog
Patricia Clarkson in Pieces of April
Marcia Gay Harden in Mystic River
Holly Hunter in Thirteen
Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain

CN: Renee Zellweger gets nominated for the third year in a role, and finally in a category she can win. Her least glamorous role ever will go down in history.
JK: Marcia Gay Harden weeps, sneers, and shrieks in Mystic River. Cue a thousand violins for when she marches up to the stage.

Best Actor
Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Ben Kingsley in House of Sand and Fog
Jude Law in Cold Mountain
Bill Murray in Lost in Translation
Sean Penn in Mystic River

JK: There are several good choices here, but the award goes to one of America’s greatest actors, Sean Penn. Though I much preferred his subtler work in 21 Grams, his kabuki-style theatrics as the former criminal-turned reformed store owner-turned vigilante in Mystic River were certainly fun to watch. Frankly, I’d rather the award went to the always-welcome Bill Murray (as good as he’s ever been) or Johnny Depp (whose rock star meets Pepe Le Peu meets a teenage girl meets Long John Silver turn in Pirates was truly inspired-if I were him, I’d be thankful for the nomination alone).
CN: Man, this is a tough call. I never would have believed it would come down to Jeff Spicoli vs. Carl Spackler. And yet here we are. Now that they’re grown up, will Murray’s masterful turn in Translation overshadow Penn’s grand theatrics? I have faith in you, Oscar. Give Spackler, er, Bill Murray, his due.
Aloha, Mr. Penn!

Best Actress
Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider
Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give
Samantha Morton in In America
Charlize Theron in Monster
Naomi Watts in 21 Grams

JK: Diane Keaton brought a lovely touch of star quality as well as a lived-in believability to her role in Something’s Gotta Give.
CN: I see how you’re trying to peg Keaton for getting the old ‘body of work’ award, but the Academy will probably figure she got her due back in 1978 for Annie Hall. Which is probably true… Watts is an outstanding choice here, but Charlize Theron did the two things that Oscar loves its starlets to do: Gain weight and cry. Non-glamorous always earns the statues. Think Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball… and this year another Monster will do the trick.

Best Director
City of God, Fernando Meirelles
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Peter Jackson
Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Peter Weir
Mystic River, Clint Eastwood

JK: It’s definitely a tight race this year, because it could lean in the direction of Hollywood’s favorite daughter Sofia Coppola or their elder statesman Clint Eastwood. My wager: they can’t deny the thoroughness of New Zealand-born Peter Jackson‘s complete vision in RotK (which will be a token award for all three films).
CN: Tough call in a two-horse race, but Eastwood has won before (Unforgiven), and it’s really hard to win two directing Oscars. I’ll give it to Jackson for the same reasons as Jer.

Best Picture
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Lost in Translation
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Mystic River
Seabiscuit

JK: The one Ring to rule them all just manages to scrape by Mystic River, only because it’s a token gesture that awards all three films in the trilogy.
CN: I’m looking forward to 2005’s Oscars, when we won’t have to worry about freakin’ hobbits in every category. Let’s give Ring its Oscar, then we can all move along.

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