the fights begin as Hollywood biffs its way towards Oscar glory

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences’ again welcomes you to its annual shit fight to see who gets to take
home Oscar!

Despite the Martin Scorsese picture The
being announced yesterday in Los Angeles as receiving the biggest
haul of 11 Academy Award nominations, and one of those for best supporting
actress going to Australia’s Cate Blanchett, this year’s annual Hollywood power
game is looking more open than it has been for years.

While the five times nominated Scorsese
looks to have his best chance yet of taking him home the best director and best
film gong for his story of one time Hollywood casting couch hustler and mad
aviator who has more hang ups than a Beverly Hills hotel cloak room, he faces
the kind of competition from a late charging Clint Eastwood that may yet send The Aviator to the canvas with some heavy blows.

Million Dollar Baby is now being
hyped as possibly Eastwood’s finest directing hour which is saying something
given his past track record, but also the unlikely source of material that had
plenty of studios turning it down when rather simplistically broken down as the
tale of an ageing boxing trainer and a young woman who wants him to manage her.

So this year a lot of attention is now
being directed at the prospect of two Hollywood icons batting for the same title
including Best Picture and Best Director, although the epic quality of “The
Aviator” has Scorcese narrowly in front for now, as the major Hollywood in
fighting cranks up, and the furious lobbying in tinsel town’s annual power game
takes no prisoners. To further
highlight the Scorcese-Eastwood duel is the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio as
Howard Hughes, finds himself squaring off against Eastwood’s hard bitten
trainer for best actor honours, along with Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), Johnny
Depp (Finding Neverland), and Jamie Foxx (Ray) who in a career defining role in
the Ray Charles biopic, is now a hot favourite.

Foxx is also nominated in best supporting
actor category for his role as the taxi driver having a bad night out with a
ruthless hit man (Tom Cruise) claiming his cab for the night in the brilliant
LA streets thriller Collateral. Fox
could have so easily got a best actor nomination in that role as well, while Cruise
was also stiff to miss out playing against type. But Foxx became only the 10th person in Oscar history to be
nominated in both categories and no actor has yet won both, and the bookies are
tipping that sequence to continue with a best actor Oscar but no matching cigar
in support.

Naturally with Cate Blanchett the only
Australian actor in contention at this year’s 77th annual awards ceremony on
Feb. 27, her status as a best supporting actress front runner playing screen
legend Katherine Hepburn opposite DiCaprio’s Hughes, sees her with an excellent
chance although she surely faces one of the hottest fields of the night.

The Melbourne-born Sydney domiciled actor
was a hot favourite back in 1999 to win best actress before being edged out by
Gwyneth Paltrow, and now she is lining up against other fancied nominees in Virginia
Madsen in this year’s independent hit, Sideways and Golden Glob winner
Natalie Portman in the drama Closer.
But worse there is also a growing buzz for Laura Linney in the widely
acclaimed Kinsey, so that the 35 year-old Blanchet is hardly involved in a milk
run for her first Oscar victory.

Unfortunately for Australia’s wider film
community, aside from Blanchett having a fight on her hands, our only other
Aussie nomination is Sydney’s Sejong Park and Andrew Gregory. They’ve been nominated as expected for their
nine minute animated short film Birthday Boy, where they must first and
foremost overcome the political might of the Disney empire. They would appear to have little chance even
though they also have a British Academy of Film and Arts (BAFTA) award
nomination, where merit has a better chance of success outside the Oscar’s
political chicanery.

Among the notable Aussie icons missing from
this year’s nominees are the reliably hyped Nicole Kidman, who it was thought sharing
a bath with a 10 year-old boy in Birth was a bit of a stretch for even the
liberated academy members, and a most unlucky Geoffrey Rush. He surely would have been nominated if he
was eligible for his work in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers biopic portrayal
which did win him a Golden Globe though.
But it’s the relative snubbing of another “Aussie” Mel Gibson and his
notorious The Passion of the Christ, along with Michael Moore’s failed Oscar
campaign to get his controversial runaway box office documentary success Fahrenheit 9/11 a best picture nod, that are now among the major post
nominees talking points.

Considering the astonishing global success
of Gibson’s film which has earned $US600 million and counting at the box office,
for him not to be nominated in the major categories he was eligible for as director,
best film (producer) and co-screenwriter, only confirms that despite its
enormous success, the attacks on Passion as being anti-Jewish and thereby
upsetting some Academy members has indeed counted against him.

Moore’s calculated bid and bizarre lobbying
to have his film withheld from the documentary category in the hope he could be
nominated for a best picture nomination has ended in tears, as website MSNBC reports here:

Michael Moore’s “omission from the coveted
category marks a major misfire for the liberal firebrand who withdrew his
anti-Bush polemic from contention in the documentary category, which he won two
years ago with “Bowling for Columbine,” in order to focus on the big prize. No
documentary has ever won the best picture Oscar.

“Perhaps Hollywood decided, ‘we don’t want
to be reminded of our bitter defeat in November (in the presidential election),
and the best way to forget it is not to talk about Michael Moore at this year’s
Oscars,”’ said conservative commentator Mark Smith, author of “The Official
Handbook of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.”

This year, the Academy Awards has something
it hasn’t had in ages – A neck-and-neck race for Best Picture according to the
Christian Science Monitor.

And online Mercury News has an interesting
spin on the usual Hollywood Oscar politics.

Hollywood’s inability to achieve a
consensus on practically anything this year was evident even as the titles of
the best picture nominees were read off. Three of the five had to submit
embarrassing “nominees to be determined” advisories because more than
the allowed maximum of three producers for each film were still squabbling over
who should get credit.

The disputes erupted into a near fistfight
at the Golden Globe awards, where one of The Aviator’s four
producers, barged into the winners’ photo backstage, even though he had been
summarily voted off the island by the other three.

for the 77th Academy Awards

Best Picture:

The Aviator

Finding Neverland

Million Dollar Baby



Best Director:

Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar

Taylor Hackford, Ray

Alexander Payne, Sideways

Mike Leigh, Vera Drake

Best Actor:

Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda

Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar

Jamie Foxx, Ray

Best Actress:

Annette Bening, Being Julia

Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full
of Grace

Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake

Hilary Swank, Million Dollar

Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind

Best Supporting

Alan Alda, The Aviator

Jamie Foxx, Collateral

Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar

Thomas Haden Church, Sideways

Clive Owen, Closer

Best Supporting

Cate Blanchett, The Aviator

Laura Linney, Kinsey

Virginia Madsen, Sideways

Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda

Natalie Portman, Closer

And you can find a full list of this year’s nominees here.