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Overlooked by Oscar
Let the Academy Awards Second-Guessing Begin

NPR's Bob Mondello
NPR's Bob Mondello

Still photo from
A still from the film The Fast Runner. "A three-hour Inuit masterpiece that's among the best epics I've ever seen," says Mondello.
Photo courtesy Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc.


Still photo from
A still from the film Catch Me If You Can. "Leo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks are sharp as hunted and hunter, giving Steven Spielberg's real-life caper comedy more sheer zing than any other picture this year."
Photo courtesy Dreamworks Pictures


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By Bob Mondello

With the Oscar nominees announced, we now enter phase two of the Academy Awards, also known as the "How could they?" phase. As in: "How could they nominate Chicago's Renee Zelwegger as best actress and Catherine Zeta Jones as best supporting actress when they have almost exactly the same amount of screen time?" Or "How could they not nominate Peter Jackson for best director if they nominated Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for best picture?"

While I wouldn't dream of indulging in that sort of thing (no matter how nonplussed I am that The Fast Runner, arguably an ageless masterpiece, was overlooked for best foreign language film), it does feel like the right moment to note some performances and pictures that didn't make the Oscar cut, but that are still worth a look. Herewith, a few of the best also-rans:

Best Picture
Far From Heaven -- They had to leave something out…it was just too good a year, but there's much more to this engaging riff on 1950s melodramas than Julianne Moore's performance and some nice cinematography. Todd Haynes' fascinating direction and fine acting by Patricia Clarkson as a meddling friend, and the Dennis duo -- Haysbert and Quaid -- as the men in Moore's life, are all splendid.
Listen NPR's Michele Norris interviews Julianne Moore, Dec. 27, 2002.

Catch Me If You Can -- Leo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks are sharp as hunted and hunter, giving Steven Spielberg's real-life caper comedy more sheer zing than any other picture this year.
Listen Mondello reviews Catch Me If You Can, Dec. 25, 2002.

All Or Nothing -- Mike Leigh's unprepossessing tale of a British family brought together by crisis is nothing if not small, but as with most of the director's films, it has the ring of truth in every scene.
Listen Mondello reviews All Or Nothing, Oct. 25, 2002.

Best Actor
• Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition -- In a less competitive year, Hanks' reined-in performance as a hit man trying to protect his young son from the mob would be a shoo-in for an Oscar nod.
Listen Mondello reviews Road to Perdition, July 11, 2002.

• Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love -- Yeah, yeah, I know. But he's reeeeally wonderful -- at once nuanced and funny, but also quite moving in Paul Thomas Anderson's story about a socially clumsy guy who falls hard for Emily Watson.
Listen LA Times film critic Kenneth Turan reviews Punch Drunk Love, Oct. 11, 2002.

• Hugh Grant in About a Boy -- Grant is always best when a role requires that he stifle his natural charm to play against type as a cad. Here, he befriends a lad who needs a father figure, and takes most of the saccharine out of the story.
click for more Special npr.org coverage of About A Boy, May 18, 2002.

Best Actress
• Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl -- a graceful, very smart, understated performance in an unassuming film about a woman who has an affair to overcome small-town ennui.
Listen Pat Dowell interviews the co-directors of The Good Girl, Aug. 7, 2002.

• Michelle Pfeiffer in White Oleander -- the film is formulaic, the acting anything but. Pfeiffer is terrific as a monstrous mother, and Alison Lohman is just as good, as the daughter who tries to get out from under her spell.
Listen Mondello reviews both White Oleander and The Rules of Attraction, Oct. 11, 2002.

Best Foreign Language Film
The Fast Runner -- A three-hour Inuit masterpiece that's among the best epics I've ever seen, this drama tells of an quiet title character who just wants to live his life in a community that believes it's living under a magic spell.
Listen Mondello reviews The Fast Runner, June 7, 2002.

How I Killed My Father -- An intriguingly nuanced French drama about a doctor whose life is upended when his estranged father appears unexpectedly at his door after many years.
Listen Turan reviews How I Killed My Father, Sept. 30, 2002.

Nine Queens -- A terrific Argentine heist film about a day in the life of two con men, this picture has already been optioned for an English-language version. You'll wish you'd seen the original, so why not do it now?
Listen Mondello reviews Nine Queens, April 19, 2002.

Intacto -- This is a fascinating Spanish thriller starring Max Von Sydow about folks who know how to acquire and hoard good luck from other people -- and it's also a likely candidate for a remake.
Listen Mondello reviews Intacto, Dec. 13, 2002.

Talk to Her -- Pedro Almodovar's story, about two men who become friends while sitting at the bedsides of girlfriends who are in comas, is among this offbeat director's most accomplished and affecting films.
Listen Mondello reviews Talk to Her, Nov. 22, 2002.

The Son's Room -- An Italian In the Bedroom that manages to be at once more thoughtful, more hopeful, and more real in showing how a family copes with domestic tragedy.
Listen Mondello reviews The Son's Room, Feb.1, 2002.

Baran -- A charming, socially aware love story that illustrates the trials and tribulations of being an Afghan immigrant in Iran.
Listen Mondello reviews Baran, Jan. 12, 2002.

Best Documentary
Dogtown and Z-Boys -- A surprisingly invigorating look at kids who turned skateboarding into a competitive sport.
Listen Turan reviews Dogtown and Z-Boys, April 26, 2002.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown -- A phenomenal, moving, behind-the-scenes portrait of the previously unsung backup musicians known as the Funk Brothers, who provided the driving rhythms that made stars of the Supremes, the Temps, and all those other Motown acts.
Listen Tom Vitale reviews Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Nov. 16, 2002.

MORE npr.org coverage of the Oscars:

click for more List of Oscar winners

click for more Andy Trudeau critiques nominated film scores

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