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Interesting to see so many nominations for "City of God" (although it was not nominated in the foreign film category... is there a reason why it could not be?). I've seen it twice and think it's an excellent film. But I was just surprised as it's not exactly typical Oscar fare... it's strange to see it in the same category as the Lord of the Rings in many instances!

Glad to see the "Les Invasions Barbares" got 2 nominations.

I've heard that "the Triplets of Belleville" is amazing. It opened in Toronto last weekend and I'm excited to see it soon! But I doubt that it will win for best animated feature with "Finding Nemo"'s huge success.

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I haven't seen City of God yet -- I hope to do so.

Regarding Triplets versus Finding Nemo, I have to say I thought they were both equally good in their different ways -- a rare case of the popular big studio release being just as good as the smaller scale foreign one. In fact, I preferred Nemo. But either one would be an acceptable winner, I think.

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I see by the papers today that "City of God" will be put into wider release, as a direct result of the Oscar nominations. Oscar glitz has its drawbacks, but one good thing about them is that sometimes pictures with no chance of getting lots of exposure get more as a result of receiving nominations.

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It's an odd movie, no doubt about it.

Her performance has been largely ignored, but I thought Gwyneth Paltrow was excellent in "Sylvia" (a much better movie than I expected, also). The little girl in "Whale Rider" was good, but I have a problem with having adult actresses competing with thirteen year olds.

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I loved "Whale Rider" and thought it was a really good, non Hollywood movie. The young girl did a great job as did a number of the other actors...but I understand your having a problem with her winning over someone twie her age...

The Oscars have always struck me as very unreal - certainly they don't usually reflect my view of who should win. :flowers:

I've not seen "City of God" nor several of the others who've been nominated.

How do the Oscars really work? Whose vote counts? Are there lobbyists in the movie world - my bet is that there are - if not by that name.

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Anyone see "Thirteen?" I'm curious about this one, given the history of how it was written. It's already in DVD.

Just a side note. How is it that some actresses manage to gain critical acclaim but cannot dress, stand and speak like grown women at awards ceremonies (or on Charlie Rose, or virtually any other venue)? Is this a world of talented puppets and parrots?

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Guest Angel2Be

I don't believe in the Oscars, but watch nevertheless. :wink:

My (personal) picks are Johnny Depp and Naomi Watts. As far as Best Picture goes, "Seabiscuit" was sweet but not even worthy of nomination, and I have this fear that it will win...

I saw Thirteen a few weeks ago and thought it was really well done, definitely the most realistic movie I've seen on the "dark" aspects of youth culture and growing up. (I was thirteen four years ago.) The girl who co-wrote the story is obviously intelligent, and she knew her subject first-hand. The acting felt true. As a whole, very sensory and disturbing...

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I have to throw in some kudos for Sofia Coppola, for "LOST IN TRANSLATION" by far my favorite movie of the year.

I'm glad it's not a Miramax heavy year, hopefully proving at least some of the Oscar nods can't be bought.

I think the most interesting category will be the Best Male Actor, it should be neck and neck with Sean Penn and Bill Murray.

I think Charlize Theron will win for "MONSTER" but I liked Keaton a lot in "SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE"

Zellweger for supporting ( perhaps continuing the tradition of giving the Oscar the following year to the person who should have won it the previous")

and ROTK is a lock for director and picture.

A well rounded group of nominations though.

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Best Actor is usually the most competitive category, because there are more good roles for men in the movies that are likely to get nominations. I'd like to see Bill Murray get it. I didn't care for Penn in "Mystic River" – he was good, but he's done better. But if the Academy wants to give him a body-of-work award, he certainly deserves it. It was an impossible dream, but I would have liked to see Chiwetel Ejiofor get a nod for "Dirty Pretty Things." I also was hoping that Cruise would be nominated and win for "The Last Samurai" -- not because he was so great, but it would have been fun to see Nicole have to present him with the award. Since this can't happen, my next wish is that Theron wins and gives Adrien Brody a big wet kiss -- only she's still made up as Aileen Wuornos......:P

Angel2Be, I wouldn't worry about Seabiscuit winning – the movie, not the horse, that is. A very long shot. (I was disappointed that Gary Stevens wasn't nominated as Best Supporting Actor, though – but that's another very competitive category.)

Calliope, good to hear from you. Do you really think that ROTK is a lock? I'd like to see it win, not so much for itself on its own but because the trilogy is a major achievement that deserves Academy acknowledgment. On the other hand, it's a fantasy film, and historically the Oscars have ignored fantasies. I think Lost in Translation could still be a contender. I'd hate to see Mystic River win, though.

Funny Face, "puppets" might be a bit harsh? Not all actors are very articulate, true. (And the Audrey Hepburns who have their own genuine sense of style are quite rare.) I admit I'm mean spirited enought to enjoy their burblings at the podium, although last year I imagine Virginia Woolf was turning in her grave at Nicole Kidman's incomprehensible acceptance speech. True, they're often overexcited for obvious reasons, but still.

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Although I'm no Madam Cleo :P Here are my predictions:

Best Actor: Sean Penn

Best Actress: Diane Keaton, I adore her and just have a feeling she's going to get it.

Supporting Actress: Renee Zellweger

Supporting Actor: Tim Robbins and about time! He is such a subtle actor that I think his work gets overlooked in favor of more showy actors.

Best Picture : Return of the King and also Jackson for best director.

Sofia Coppola will get the best screenplay award for Lost in the Translation, more as a consolation prize for not winning best director even though it deserves to win on it's own merit.

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I do think ROTK is the lock for best film. Since they shot all 3 films in sequence and didn't give it for the first (or the second). If you consider the trilogy as one film, since it was filmed at the same time, it really is a remarkable achievement, regardless of whether or not it's fantasy. Although, after having seen all 3, I really like the first one the best. Maybe because there was so much "human" to it. I also think it's amazing that the film ROTK nominated for best film with none of the actors nominated, for that alone, I think a Best Picture would vindicate their work.

I love Lost In Translation though and have to admit, was shocked to hear Coppola was the first female American nominated, I thought for sure Streisand was, but then again, Martin Scorcese still doesn't have one, so go figure.

I'm also suprised Scarlett Johannsen wasn't nominated, she would have made Supporting Actress interesting, even if Zellweger is pretty much the favorite.

I would love to see Theron accepting as Wuornos and kissing Brody, it would be fittingly appropriate!

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I also think it's amazing that the film ROTK nominated for best film with none of the actors nominated, for that alone, I think a Best Picture would vindicate their work.
I'm with you Calliope. I could easily cast my votes for a number of the actors in this film.
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How is it that some actresses manage to gain critical acclaim but cannot dress, stand and speak like grown women at awards ceremonies (or on Charlie Rose, or virtually any other venue)? 

Because they aren't grown women--in the sense of mature, socialized, integrated individuals. Additionally many if not most of them are not really actors--the same is true males, of course. Anyone even nominated (almost anyone) for the big four acting awards is, by definition, a movie star. One doesn't need to have training of an actor on the stage to be a movie star. One doesn't have to, for example, speak Shakespeare's verse intelligibly, nor does one have to know how to cross a room elegantly, project one's voice, even if speaking in a whisper, nor convey emotion without speaking.

A movie star has to look good when his face is shown on a screen 20 feet high. He doesn't inhabit a role--you never forget that you are watching Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts no matter what character they are trying to impersonate. He has to connect with people who buy movie tickets--they go to the movies to see Tom Hanks or Sandra Bullock, not to see how they will interpret a character.

Nicole Kidman is an excellent example of this. She is a true movie star and has been one since she was 24 years old. She has been employed in front of TV or movie cameras from the age of 15. She probably knows as much as anyone whose education stopped in their teens.

She is terrific in the right movie--"The Others", "Flirting" "To Die For". She might have been good in "Birthday Girl" but it was edited into incomprehensibility. She was the best thing (for me) in a number of not very good films--"Malice" "Billy Bathgate" "Practical Magic" "Cold Mountain". I saw "Moulin Rouge" six or seven time. The movies with Tom Cruise were unwatchable.

But have no interest in what she thinks about anything, nor what she does or says when she is not on screen. Just as I am not interested in what Sean Penn thinks about foreign policy, Mel Gibson thinks about religion or what William H. Macy thinks about this years sugar beet crop (if he does).

Maria Bello should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actress in "The Cooler".

I hope Marcia Gay Harden wins for "Mystic River" (which I haven't even seen yet) because she is such a terrific movie actress who I have loved since she was in "Miller's Crossing." I am sure Rene Zelleweger will win it though.

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I do tend to agree with your generalizations, Ed.

That said, I am wondering if this movie star vs actor thing is more common now than it was, say 30 or 40 years ago? Or, is it just the bell curve effect due to tremendously large number of movies that are being produced these days?

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Ed, a very thought-provoking post, but may I suggest that the late Lillian Gish, to take only one example, was a mature, socialized individual? :( And she was a teenage movie star before turning to the stage in mid-career. Nor was she especially inarticulate. If you want a more recent example, may I suggest Jodie Foster, who seems to be a very sharp lady and who's been acting in movies at least as long as Kidman?

I think it's possible to compare film acting to stage acting without having to disparage one or the other. The requirements are different. (Laurence Olivier was a better actor than Marilyn Monroe, who was not a trained actress. However, she is much better in "The Prince and the Showgirl" than he is – less mannered, more vivid, more attuned to the requirements of the camera.) Not long ago, Ned Beatty committed a faux pas and suggested publicly that his co-stars in "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof," Ashley Judd and Jason Patric, were lacking in certain basic skills needed to project a character on stage. I haven't seen the production but I don't disbelieve him.

Movie stars are sometimes bad actors, but more commonly they just have a limited range – not the same thing. And Tom Hanks has a solid technique. What does happen with a certain kind of stardom is that the roles a star plays become increasingly limited, frequently through choice, alas. (Hanks is still a good actor, but he's a much less interesting one than he used to be, IMO. Gibson, same thing.)

Having said all that, I do suspect that actors with extensive stage training are, on average, better. Those of you who watch "Law and Order" may have noted that the acting of the supporting roles is often exceptionally fine, and it's because many of those actors are hired from the N.Y. stage. You don't see that kind of performing in series shot in L.A., and I don't think that is a coincidence.

I agree with Ed about Marcia Gay Harden -- she's always good -- but since she already won Best Supporting for "Pollock" I don't think the odds are in her favor this year.

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Calliope, in re Streisand, there was a gossip item today that said some Academy members may vote for Coppola as Best Director as a sort of affirmative action demonstration that the snubbing of Streisand for "Yentl" was personal and not against women generally. I'm inclined to disagree – I don't think dislike of Streisand would be so intense if she were a man. ("Yentl" wasn't a great movie by any means, but it was at least as good as Costner's "Dances with Wolves" or Gibson's "Braveheart," IMO.) So maybe Coppola will beat out Peter Jackson because she's a woman (??)

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I saw that tidbit in one of the NY papers about Streisand. I asked a friend about it who's family is entrenched in the industry and academy members and she said it was true, apparently a few years back Streisand tried dinner parties and everything to sway votes, but unfortunately didn't invite everyone.

As for the movie star vs. actor. Year after year, the women get up there and talk about the lack of roles and parts that are of substance. I don't think you can fault some of those women for that. Foster was a good example of someone who is an actor but a movie star as well (who has been acting far longer than Kidman) Holly Hunter, Naomi Watts, Marcia Gay Harden are actors. Most stateside consider Watts a movie star and she's known more here for being Kidman's best friend than her roles.

Julia Roberts is a movie star, but she doesn't really take roles that require her to act too much.

I think the public is always looking for the new "it girl" even Sofia Coppola to a degree is that this year. And Scarlett Johanssen as well, it takes one look at this month's Vanity Fair cover to show the lopsidedness of Hollywood.

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Tried to post awhile back, but had connection problems, so will make this succinct.

First, I don't think I've been tough at all in my comments -- in fact, I think I'm being rather soft.

Kidman comes across as vapid no matter what venue I see her in.

I don't think "Malice" was mediocre. It was underrated.

As to star versus actor, I recall when I danced in "Interview With A Vampire," the buzz among the crew at the time (remember, Anne Rice did NOT want Cruise for that role!), was that Cruise was merely a star and Pitt was an actor. Well, I have never heard so much BS. I wish all of you could have seen Cruise's work ethic in action compared to what's his name. Yes, he is a people pleaser, but what's wrong with that? He made a point of thanking the dancers at the end of 16-hour days. He flashed that amazing grin as the two of us turned out to be extremely allergic to the mutant mosquitoes on the plantation where the film was being shot -- he kept on trying to kill the little buggers and laughed as we had to be swabbed over and over again by the attendant nurse. He gave Neal Jordan 200% attention and focus, hanging onto every bit of direction. When the little girls hired as extras began to droop from standing in doorways holding baskets of flowers and were yelled at by the assistant director, he chucked them under the chin with a smile and a sympathetic word. His children were in the same daycare center at the time as those of a close friend of mine, and he was equally sweet in that setting, making a point to tell her what beautiful little girls she had. If that's a "star" -- being focused while also being nice 24/7, I'll take it over the chainsmoking, aloof behavior of that other guy, who couldn't wait to get things over with for the night and party in the French Quarter. We get to do quite a bit of small parts and dancing in films down here, and to see a lot of behavior of actors/stars in the process, and I could tell you stuff that would surprise (and probably shock) a lot of you.

We remember these things long after the set has been stricken.

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I've never thought Cruise was a bad actor, but he surprised Rice and a lot of other people in "Vampire" – many expected him to be bad, and he carried the movie.

I think that star versus actor can be a useful device for comparing and contrasting if used carefully. One example that springs to mind is that of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, who are married and have appeared frequently together, making comparisons easier. Much as I love him, it must be said that for much of his career Newman just wasn't a very good actor – he was okay but no Brando, and in his youth he was often downright bad. I've never seen a bad performance from his missus, and in their films together she outclasses him regularly, but she's never had quite the charm and charisma to make her a star on her husband's level.

I rather liked "Malice" myself. It has great cinematography by the late lamented Gordon Willis, and Alec Baldwin is terrific.

Kidman is an interesting case. She's good, no question, but overrated these days.

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Anyone see "Thirteen?"  I'm curious about this one, given the history of how it was written. 

Reviewing Thirteen in The New Yorker critic David Denby wrote one of my favorite critical descriptions of all time, a sentence that transported me immediately decades back to early adolescence:

It could be set in a lot of other places  [than LA] in a country that knocks young girls off their feet with waves of consumer fetishism, the need to be cool, to be fast, to grab the attention of boys—in general, to compete every day in a marketplace of desire so relentless that they can imagine no real happiness outside of it.
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