Review of the 2003 Academy Awards

Normally, around this time of year, I rant about the really dumb decisions the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science makes when awarding their own. Normally, it’s because they give Oscars to those who “deserve” the award, not those who’ve earned it.

Not this year. This year, I actually have to praise them for making the hard choices.

Last night, I convinced Tamara and her friend Todd to watch the Oscars. Didn’t take much — all I had to say was that “Bowling for Columbine” was up for Best Documentary. That was enough in Tamara’s books to watch the rest of the ceremony. We missed the beginning of the show, but came in just as the awards were beginning.

Okay, let’s get most of the nitty-gritties out of the way. Best Animated Feature Film could only have been Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away”. Having seen all the other nominees except “Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron”, there was but one choice. Best Supporting Actor and Actress (Chris Cooper and Catherine Zeta-Jones) gave me no reason to argue (though I might have preferred John C. Reilly in “Chicago”). “Chicago” scooped most of the primo awards, but considering the competition, that wasn’t all that surprising.

But the night was a rollercoaster of surprises. Unlike previous years where the winners were always predictable, this series seemed to play to the underdogs and renegades of the industry. Adrien Brody winning Best Actor for “The Pianist” threw a lot of people — I was expecting Daniel Day-Lewis. (Not that I’m arguing with the choice.) Eminem taking out music heavyweights like “Chicago”, U2, and Paul Simon was extremely welcome (although the guy who accepted could have least had the decency to wear something better). The Best Original Screenplay went to a foreign film, “Talk to Her” — an Oscar rarity. And despite all the controversy, Roman Polanski won the coveted Best Director.

Nothing was more surprising, and more pleasing, than hearing “Michael Moore, ‘Bowling for Columbine’” being read out. Both Tamara and I cried out in joy. Frankly, I thought Moore’s chances of winning were virtually none. Heck, I was shocked that he was even nominated! (Though I had a personal note never to watch the Oscars again if they didn’t nominate the movie. I guess someone listened to me for a change.)

If you’re wondering why I was shocked about the nomination, you obviously haven’t seen “Bowling” or know who Michael Moore is. The guy is possibly the single most politically-charged firebrand in the States at the moment. (Even previous Academy Awards where Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon made statements barely even come close to what Moore did.) In “Bowling”, he asks a lot of hard questions, though finds it almost impossible to actually get them answered. He even confronts Hollywood heavyweights Dick Clark and Charleton Heston. Both come out looking a lot dirtier as a result. Heston takes a cinematic beating, however, retreating from Moore’s questioning by merely walking away.

For those insults, I thought Moore’s changes of a nomination were nil. Okay, so he gets nominated — no chance he’ll win. The institutionalization of Hollywood won’t allow it. I would kill for a video tape of the production booth when “Bowling” won. The producers probably dove immediately into recovery mode. Because as soon as the standing ovation ended, and the quick thank-you was done, they knew that Moore’s political views would turn the heat up inside.

Hell of a way to get a ratings boost, though.

So the speech was barely cut short (Adrien Brody actually managed to get an extension, but finished his war speech far more tactfully than Moore’s), but the point was made. I think that’s all Moore really wanted to do. I don’t think he returned for the rest of the evening. Mind you, after his speech, producers might have just avoided showing him again. Steve Martin (the host) joked that Teamsters were helping Moore into the trunk of his limo. It was Moore’s first Oscar, and my guess is that it’ll be his last. Something tells me, though, that he won’t mind too much.

I want to thank the Academy, for doing the right thing for a change!

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