The 77th Annual Academy AwardsEd Johnson-Ott

Chris Rock, host of this year's Academy Awards, recently made the following statements to Entertainment Weekly: "Awards for art are fucking idiotic," and, "I never watched the Oscars. Come on, it's a fashion show. What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one!" Wow, Chris Rock certainly is nervy; a real loose cannon, right? Well, not exactly. You see, there are no blockbuster films vying for the big awards this year and when no mega-hit movies are in contention, ratings for the Oscars usually drop significantly. But controversy gets people to tune in and that's what our friend Mr. Rock is dutifully stirring up.

Thanks to his comments, many people who wouldn't have watched will tune in to see what that wild-ass comedian will say during the live broadcast. Nice job, Chris!

Welcome to the Academy Awards, the pinnacle of Hollywood self-congratulation. The concept of awards for art is pretty fucking idiotic, but try telling that to the artists. It's all utter bullshit, of course, but still, good things come of the nonsense. Lesser-known actors get major career boosts and the hoopla draws attention to smaller films that might otherwise have been overlooked.

If we're lucky, a number of people will say something wonderful or funny or really stupid during the broadcast. And then there's the fashion show. Despite what Rock says, many straight men of various races look forward to checking out the clothes and the women in them. At least that's what I've heard.

So, before you watch the show Sunday night on ABC to see how you did in the office pool, here's my attempt to anticipate the peculiar mentality of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Best Picture

The Aviator

Finding Neverland

Million Dollar Baby



Forget about Finding Neverland. The film has a wispy feel and the academy prefers meaty movies. Despite being named the year's best by most of the critics' associations, Sideways will lose thanks to the same mentality. Nearly everybody loved the picture, but it's a little film with no explosions, no deaths, no handicaps, no deformities ... and it's funny to boot! Good grief, how did it even get nominated?! The Sideways people should consider themselves lucky they got tickets to the show. Ray has a chance - it's about a beloved blind musical legend who works his way out of poverty, getting addicted to drugs and kicking the habit along the way. Plus, it's really, really long. But the voters probably will consider Jamie Foxx's Best Actor trophy sufficient reward for the story of Mr. Charles. The Aviator, the Howard Hughes biography, has old-time Hollywood glamour, big airplane action, a mentally-ill lead character and it's also really, really long. With its sweeping feel and big speeches, it has Best Picture written all over it. In a typical year, the movie would be a shoo-in, but this year it must compete against Million Dollar Baby, which features underdog lead characters, fights, pain, life-changing injury, death, an unusual storyline and a bit of controversy. That controversy, coupled with the dark feel of the film, would normally work against it, but co-star Clint Eastwood directed with great finesse and the academy loves actors turned successful directors. Especially old ones.

Should Win: Million Dollar Baby

Will Win: Million Dollar Baby

Best Actor

Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda

Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby

Jamie Foxx, Ray

Don Cheadle, Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio are not in the running. All three actors were excellent, but none of their performances was a career best. Clint Eastwood, on the other hand, was simply phenomenal as the grizzled boxing trainer whose life gets tangled up with a young female fighter. As previously noted, the academy loves Clint, but he doesn't have a prayer. Jamie Foxx owns this trophy. Best known as a comic, he surprised many with his dramatic performances in films like Any Given Sunday and Collateral, then knocked it out of the ballpark with his uncanny turn in Ray. Plus, when he won Best Actor at the Golden Globes, he gave a great acceptance speech that included a tearful story about his grandmother. The academy loves great speeches. Foxx's win here is as certain as death and taxes.

Should Win: Jamie Foxx

Will Win: Jamie Foxx

Best Actress

Annette Bening, Being Julia

Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace

Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake

Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Getting an acting nomination for a foreign language film is a real honor. It is the only one Catalina Sandino Moreno is going to receive from Oscar. The academy is quite fond of Annette Bening and Kate Winslet, but their fine work was overshadowed by two other thespians. Imelda Staunton was as good as it gets as the sweet little old lady with a big secret in Vera Drake. Unfortunately, she is relatively unknown in this country and voters may not realize what a stretch the role was for her. Staunton had the early Oscar buzz, but it has since passed to Hilary Swank, who can be incredible given the right part. She got it in Million Dollar Baby, plus she got to suffer mightily.

Should Win: Imelda Staunton

Will Win: Hilary Swank

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Alda, The Aviator

Thomas Haden Church, Sideways

Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

Jamie Foxx, Collateral

Clive Owen, Closer

Clive Owen played a cold character and Alan Alda did nothing special, so we can count them out. Jamie Foxx was great, but his role in Collateral was really a co-lead. Besides, he's getting the Best Actor trophy! The prize should go to Thomas Haden Church, who was hilarious while managing to make the audience care for a guy who was misleading one woman while he was cheating on his wife-to-be. Sorry, Tom, but the academy is high on Million Dollar Baby right now and they're going to use this category to give Morgan Freeman a career achievement award. Though his work was by no means a stretch, he anchored the film with another of his typically rich, nuanced performances.

Should Win: Thomas Haden Church

Will Win: Morgan Freeman

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett, The Aviator

Laura Linney, Kinsey

Virginia Madsen, Sideways

Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda

Natalie Portman, Closer

This one is tough to call. We can rule out Natalie Portman - too young - and Laura Linney - there is zero buzz for her movie. Unfamiliar face Sophie Okonedo, who was so moving in Hotel Rwanda, should consider the nomination an official welcome to the big leagues from Hollywood. Virginia Madsen gave a wonderful performance in Sideways and she is well-liked in the acting community. She has a shot, but Cate Blanchett took the showiest role in The Aviator and gave it substance while refusing to simply impersonate Katharine Hepburn.

Should Win: Sophie Okonedo

Will Win: Cate Blanchett, barely

Best Director

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby

Taylor Hackford, Ray

Mike Leigh, Vera Drake

Alexander Payne, Sideways

Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

Taylor Hackford, Mike Leigh and Alexander Payne - are you kidding me? This race is between Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese. That Scorsese has never won an Oscar is an outrage, but look at his amazing body of work and ask yourself if The Aviator is really the film for which he should finally be rewarded. Clint Eastwood, on the other hand, directed and starred in one of the best movies of his career. He also just won the Director's Guild Award, which almost always means Oscar gold will follow. Besides, the man is at the peak of his game at 74 years old - and you can bet his acceptance speech will be cool and classy.

Should Win: Clint Eastwood

Will Win: Clint Eastwood

Best Original Screenplay

Brad Bird, The Incredibles

Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Mike Leigh, Vera Drake

John Logan, The Aviator

Keir Pearson and Terry George, Hotel Rwanda

The Incredibles screenplay was crisp, smart and funny, but it was animated and will be dismissed. The Aviator is out - the entertaining screenplay was clunky. Vera Drake and Hotel Rwanda are both well-done, but this year the trophy will go to Eternal Sunshine writer Charlie Kaufman. He was nominated twice before, for Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, and voters greatly admire his quirky, ingenious creations, despite the sludgy aftertaste.

Should Win: The Incredibles

Will Win: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Animated Feature

The Incredibles

Shark Tale

Shrek 2

What in the world is Shark Tale, a crass, ugly cartoon, doing in this category? Shrek 2 was loved by millions - but I was not one of them. Am I the only person sick to death of animated features weighed down to the sinking point with pop culture references? The Incredibles, another triumph for Pixar, will be just as funny in 20 years as it is now. Surely the academy can at least get this one right.

Should Win: The Incredibles

Will Win: The Incredibles

Best Adapted Screenplay

Paul Haggis, Million Dollar Baby

Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, Before Sunset

David Magee, Finding Neverland

Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Sideways

José Rivera, The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries and Finding Neverland are out of the running, overshadowed by their fellow nominees. Before Sunset and Sideways are both essentially very good films about people talking; very hard to pull off. They are deserving, but Million Dollar Baby is well-known for making the transition from page to screen virtually unchanged. Paul Haggis wrote a script that made radical shifts, and he made the shifts feel organic. Voters may use this category to give Sideways a consolation prize, but probably will opt for the Baby.

Should Win: Sideways

Will Win: Million Dollar Baby

Oscar bones

Matthew Socey

"Throw me a frickin' bone here."

- Dr. Evil

There's a good chance that Martin Scorsese will finally win a Best Director Academy Award for The Aviator after going 0-4. He's been nominated for his work in Raging Bull (lost to Ordinary People), The Last Temptation Of Christ (lost to Rain Man), Goodfellas (lost to Dances With Wolves) and Gangs of New York (lost to The Pianist).

In my opinion, he should have four Oscars on his desk already. Unless the members of the academy want to make Clint Eastwood a two-time Best Director winner, Scorsese will finally be tossed an Oscar bone. For those who value awards, it will be just for Scorsese to have an Oscar. However, if he does get one for The Aviator, film geeks know it's not one of his best films. Of the six films Scorsese's been nominated for, The Aviator is neck and neck at the bottom with Gangs of New York (and I loved Gangs of New York).

Here are some other famous Oscar bones. For this article, I'm going to stick with Best Actor, Actress and Director. To steal a quote from Bill Murray during his Oscar picks on Weekend Update, nobody cares about the supporting categories. (I kid, of course.) Some of the names you're going to read also have won supporting awards. That's another column for another time.

Roman Polanski: Nominated for Chinatown and Tess. Had a pretty good career as a director (a lousy one as a party guest). I still think he won Best Director for The Pianist for fleeing the United States and never coming back.

Denzel Washington: OK, I liked Training Day up until Ending No. 3 and Denzel was very good in this, but this was a makeup for not getting the Oscar for Malcolm X (more on this later) and he was pretty good in The Hurricane. Speaking of Malcolm X, in the Feb. 8 Chicago Tribune, Spike Lee went off on the academy not only snubbing Denzel in 1992, but for not giving Scorsese a Best Director. Pretty good timing since Malcolm X was re-released on DVD last week.

Russell Crowe: Watch The Insider and Gladiator back-to-back and tell me which one is the better performance.

Jessica Lange: She was nominated twice in 1982. Won Best Supporting Actress for Tootsie, but her Best Actress performance in Frances was edged out by Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice (sorry, can't argue that one). Later nominated for Country (one of three farm films in 1984) and Sweet Dreams (pretty good lip-synch work) and The Music Box. She wins for Blue Sky in 1994, which was a good performance but not a great one. Of course, that year her stiffest competition was Susan Sarandon in The Client, Jodie Foster in Nell and Winona Ryder in Little Women.

Al Pacino: The best example of the Oscar bone. Let's see, Pacino's previous nominations were for the first two Godfathers, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, And Justice For All, Dick Tracy, Glengarry Glen Ross and he wins for not blinking and saying "Hoo-ha" in Scent of A Woman. Yeah, that makes sense. Who was screwed in 1992? That's right, Denzel Washington in Malcolm X.

Paul Newman: The second best example. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Absence of Malice and The Verdict. I remember when he received his honorary Oscar in 1985. He had a televised acceptance of the award on the set of The Color Of Money. The next year he won Best Actor for that film. Again, really good, but not his best work.

Jack Lemmon: Nominated for Best Actor for Some Like It Hot, The Apartment and Days Of Wine And Roses before winning in 1973 for Save The Tiger. Never heard of it? That's a shame because it's a pretty good film and a pretty good performance. Compared to previous years, this would be like a guy who leads Major League Baseball in hitting with a .305 average. Lemmon would later receive nods for The China Syndrome, Tribute (a good performance in a .275 film) and Missing.

Carol Reed: This one really bugs me. He earned Best Director nominations for The Fallen Idol and The Third Man. The Third Man, for crying out loud. OK, that was the year Joseph L. Mankiewicz won for All About Eve, so that's a hard call, but The Third Man is visually better. Carol Reed won his only Oscar in 1968 for Oliver! This would be like Stanley Kubrick being nominated for Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon (which he was) but winning for Eyes Wide Shut. By the way, 2001 was one of the films that lost Best Director to Oliver! and wasn't even nominated for Best Picture. Don't get me started.

Elizabeth Taylor: Nominated for Raintree Country in 1957, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof in 1958 and Suddenly Last Summer in 1959 and wins the following year for Butterfield 8, a film that's get-drunk-and-watch camp (Suddenly Last Summer also teeters on the camp cliff). Fortunately, she justifiably wins a second one for Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? six years later.

I'm not saying winning an Academy Award makes you a better actor than others. That's like saying a great quarterback isn't great until he wins a Super Bowl. However, I'm a film addict and this is how I spend my month of February.

Future Oscar bone recipients: Joan Allen, Kevin Bacon, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Bridges, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel, Tom Cruise, Forrest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson, Albert Finney, Glenn Close and (if she doesn't get it this year) Annette Bening.

Matthew's film reviews can be heard on The Art Of The Matter, Saturday afternoons on 90.1 WFYI FM and Abdul In The Morning, Friday mornings on WXNT 1430 AM.

Other Predictions

Art Direction

The Aviator

Finding Neverland

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Phantom of the Opera

A Very Long Engagement

Will Win: The Aviator


The Aviator

The Passion of the Christ

The Phantom of the Opera

A Very Long Engagement

Will Win: The Aviator, easily


The Aviator

Finding Neverland

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events



Will Win: The Aviator

Film Editing

The Aviator


Finding Neverland

Million Dollar Baby


Will Win: The Aviator, for the aerial scenes

Sound Editing

The Incredibles

The Polar Express

Spider-Man 2

Will Win: Spider-Man 2

Sound Mixing

The Aviator

The Incredibles

The Polar Express


Spider-Man 2

Will Win: Ray

Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I, Robot

Spider-Man 2

Will Win: Spider-Man 2

Foreign Language Film

As It Is in Heaven (Sweden)

The Chorus (France)

Downfall (Germany)

The Sea Inside (Spain)

Yesterday (South Africa)

Will Win: The Chorus


Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Passion of the Christ

The Sea Inside

Will Win: The Passion of the Christ, because voting for Lemony Snicket over Jesus just sounds wrong.

Original Score

John Debney, The Passion of the Christ

James Newton Howard, The Village

Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, Finding Neverland

Thomas Newman, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

John Williams, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Will Win: John Williams, for sure.

Original Song

"Accidentally in Love" from Shrek 2

"Al Otro Lado del Rio" from The Motorcycle Diaries

"Believe" from The Polar Express

"Learn to be Lonely" from The Phantom of the Opera

"Look to Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)" from The Chorus

Will Win: Shrek 2, for thedandy Counting Crows song

Short Film (Animated)

Birthday Boy

Gopher Broke

Guard Dog



Will Win: Gopher Broke

Short Film (Live Action)

Everything in This Country Must

Little Terrorist

7:35 in the Morning

Two Cars, One Night


Will Win: Little Terrorist

Best and most annoying films of 2004Ed Johnson-Ott

2004 was a year of few great films, but many very good ones.


1. Sideways

Sure, it's just a little road movie, but it's a tremendously entertaining little road movie. Funniest film of the year, too, with perhaps the most delightfully outrageous nude scene of all time.

2. Million Dollar Baby

One of Clint Eastwood's best - moving, thought-provoking, brilliantly acted and impressively crafted.

3. The Incredibles

Pairing up Pixar Studios with The Iron Giant creator Brad Bird was inspired. The animated adventure is smart, funny and even moving, with amazing animation.

4. Before Sunset

Who would have guessed that two people talking could be so beguiling? It was such a pleasure to spend time with these characters.

5. Moolaade

One of the best-constructed movies I have ever seen. Deceptively simple, it ever-so-gently pulls you in. Wonderful.

6. The Motorcycle Diaries

Another road movie that rises so far above the genre norm. An exceptional story about people, not political icons.

7. The Aviator

The Howard Hughes bio is ungainly, but remains one of the most entertaining movies of the year.

8. Friday Night Lights

This sleeper hit took all the clichés of the high school sports movie and gave us the hard realities. The where-are-they-nows at the end are really sad.

9. Hotel Rwanda

Powerful recounting of a nightmare that went overlooked by most of the world. The staging was as impressive as the cast.

10. Badasssss!

Mario Van Peebles gets everything right in this account of how his father broke into the filmmaking world. A must for any movie buff.

11. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Sure, the latest quirky Wes Anderson comedy was aimless, but wandering around with Bill Murray and company is fine by me. Loved the atmosphere, the sea critters and the music.

12. Vera Drake

Mike Leigh makes films with such an authentic feel that they almost seem like documentaries. Great cast, thought-provoking story.

13. Kinsey

Fascinating biography, presented with tender loving care. Liam Neeson and Laura Linney were perfect.

14. Collateral

Best thriller of the year, despite the logy parts. Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx were sharp as tacks and the script crackled.

15. Ray

Can a standard musical biography be elevated above mediocrity by its subject and cast? Absolutely, when the subject is Ray Charles and when Jamie Foxx heads the cast.

16. Hellboy

They may be superheroes, but the joy of this erudite adventure movie came from the relationship moments between the action segments.

17. A Very Long Engagement

If you didn't like the romance-in-the-aftermath-of-war story, your money would be well-spent simply listening to the score and watching the incredible imagery.

18. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The latest Charlie Kaufman screenplay is typically twisty, wildly inventive and quite well-performed.

19. The Terminal

Tom Hanks stuck in an airport. Steven Spielberg makes it work, even though some were turned off by the dour ending.

20. Hero

The most beautiful film of the year.

21. Spanglish

Awkward and occasionally mean-spirited, but the good parts of this relationship comedy make up for the mistakes.

22. Fahrenheit 9/11

You already know about this one.

23. I'm Not Scared

Effective thriller with great use of its pastoral setting.

24. Kill Bill, Vol. 2

Quentin Tarantino delivered.

25. Garden State

Clever - sometimes too clever - but still a pleasure to watch.

Honorable Mentions:

Miracle, In Good Company, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Most Annoying:

Christmas with the Kranks

The Village

Superbabies: Super Babies 2

White Chicks

The Alamo

The Whole Ten Yards



Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

New York Minute

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

Connie and Carla

The Passion of the Christ

Any movie dealing with young girls and royalty