A lot of critics have taken to calling 2004 the “Year of the Biopic,” but when it comes to the Oscars, let’s call it what it really was: the Year of the Overrated Movie. While last year produced more than its share of great films, the Academy has outdone itself in overlooking the year’s most worthy entries (I Heart Huckabees, Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, to name a few). So, without further ado, here are my picks for who should win and who will win the major categories, including who got snubbed in each.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Paul Haggis’ script for Million Dollar Baby will put up a good fight for this award, but I think Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor’s mature, intelligent adaptation of Rex Tucker’s novel will prevail. Sideways’ characters are more original and more lived-in than Baby’s, and they were far more memorable and affecting because of Payne and Taylor’s confident script.
Should win: Sideways
Will Win: Sideways
Best Original Screenplay:
There wasn’t a more chaotic yet controlled script this year than Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry and Pierre Bismuth’s for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Hip, modern, convoluted stories don’t usually win Oscar gold, but this is just too clever and smart to overlook. Otherwise, John Logan’s script for The Aviator would probably be the frontrunner, despite the fact that the film never really gets us into the depths of Howard Hughes’ life or personality.
Should win: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Will Win: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Snub: I Heart Huckabees
Best Supporting Actress:
Both Cate Blanchett (The Aviator) and Virginia Madsen (Sideways) were phenomenal, and either deserves the award. Blanchett channeled the fiery spirit of Katherine Hepburn to astonishing accuracy, and Madsen brought incredible warmth and sympathy as Maya, the love interest to Paul Giamatti’s Miles. In a tight race, Madsen should emerge as voters attempt to honor the fantastic ensemble of Sideways all at once.
Should win: Blanchett or Madsen
Will Win: Madsen
Snub: Sharon Warren (Ray)
Best Supporting Actor:
Morgan Freeman has never won an Oscar, so the Academy will probably reward a career full of dignified performances by honoring Freeman’s wise, weathered ex-boxer in Million Dollar Baby. Thomas Haden Church revitalized his career with his hilarious turn in Sideways, but voters won’t have a hard time deciding between a veteran Hollywood star long overdue for recognition and a former TV actor whose replenished career should be reward enough.
Should win: Haden Church
Will Win: Freeman
Snub: Peter Sarsgaard (Kinsey)
In a year with a lot of great performances, none was better than Jamie Foxx, absolutely unforgettable as Ray Charles in Ray. It was the part he was born to play, and he is the night’s surest thing. Don Cheadle had his highest-profile role as real-life hero Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda, but this will hopefully not be his only nomination. DiCaprio simply looked too young for The Aviator’s scenes of a middle-aged Howard Hughes. Million Dollar Baby’s Clint Eastwood is the only contender for an upset.
Should win: Foxx
Will Win: Foxx
Snub: Paul Giamatti (Sideways)
Annette Bening is probably starting to see Hilary Swank as the daughter that she never wanted. Swank defeated her in this category at the 2000 Oscars, and it looks like she will do it again for her performance as a gritty, ambitious boxer in Million Dollar Baby. Swank was strong in the role and apparently put on nearly 20 pounds of muscle for it. But Bening’s performance in Being Julia is even more highly regarded and looks to be overlooked due to the recent swell of sympathy for Baby. Vera Drake’s Imelda Staunton should place third.
Should win: Bening
Will Win: Swank
Snub: Uma Thurman (Kill Bill Vol. 2)
While Ray was far from perfect, Taylor Hackford drew an outstanding performance from Jamie Foxx and also translated the soulful swing of Ray Charles’ music to the big screen. But the race for the Oscar will be a dead heat between Scorcese, still waiting for his first Academy Award, and Eastwood, who already won for 1992’s Unforgiven. Eastwood won the Director’s Guild award, but give the edge to Scorcese for the early 20th-century style of The Aviator, mostly because he’s overdue.
Should win: Hackford
Will Win: Scorcese
Snub: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
There were so many better movies in 2004 than these five, but of them, Sideways was the most satisfying as a whole. This category will also be a two-man race between The Aviator and Million Dollar Baby. The story of Howard Hughes was visually thrilling but emotionally hollow, so look for Million Dollar Baby to pull out a narrow victory because of its blatant attempt to tug at the heartstrings.
Should win: Sideways
Will Win: Million Dollar Baby
Snub: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The 77th annual Academy Awards will air Sunday, Feb. 27 on ABC, 7pm.