Overlooked by the Academy
Let the Academy Awards Second-Guessing Begin
By Bob Mondello
By now, the Oscar voters have made their decision -- it's all over but the counting -- so let's take a moment to think about what might have been. Suppose the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences had been in an adventurous frame of mind, rather than an epic one, and had nominated offbeat independent choices. Seafarers and Seabiscuits are all very well, after all, but they could just as easily have been nominees in 1953. What about the also-rans out there? The folks not nominated, but worthy nonetheless?
Quentin Tarantino famously said that the Best Screenplay category was where you'd find all the cool movies (of course, he'd just won for his Pulp Fiction screenplay when he said that), not Best Picture, and this year that's not untrue. So let's start there, and note at a few pictures and performances that Oscar has overlooked, but that the rest of us shouldn't.
In America -- Nominated for its screenplay and for supporting performances, Jim Sheridan's semi-autobiographical look at an Irish family's move to the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan certainly counts as one of the happiest discoveries of the year. No one who sees the two little girls (Sarah and Emma Bolger) at the story's center could fail to fall in love with them.
» Mondello reviews In America, Nov. 25, 2003
House of Sand and Fog -- Mystic River has its adherents, but for my money House of Sand and Fog is the year's most distinctive classical tragedy -- one that brings an almost Shakespearean weight to a story about a real-estate deal
» Mondello reviews House of Sand and Fog, Dec. 18, 2003
Holes -- A family film in all the best senses -- wonderfully hip, sparklingly written and sadly underrated.
» Mondello reviews Holes, April 18, 2003
Ralph Fiennes -- David Cronenberg's Spider could have been a conventional thriller, but Fiennes' performance as a man trying to piece together his past makes its portrait of schizophrenia intriguing on a deeper level.
» Mondello reviews Spider, Feb. 28, 2003
Hayden Christensen - He was stiff as a board as Anakin Skywalker, but The Force is definitely with him as disgraced journalist Stephen Glass in the terrific ensemble film Shattered Glass.
» Mondello reviews Shattered Glass, Nov. 2, 2003
Chiwetel Ejiofor -- Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things was too small a picture to make a splash for this distinguished African actor, but it's hard to take your eyes off his undocumented hotel worker, even when Audrey (Amelie) Tautoo is in the frame.
» Chiwetel Ejiofor profiled on Fresh Air, July 30, 2003
Scarlett Johansson -- She's splendid in Lost in Translation, and splendid again in Girl with a Pearl Earring. What's a girl have to do to get nominated?
» Mondello reviews Lost in Translation, Sept. 11, 2003
» NPR's Lynn Neary profiles Girl with a Pearl Earring author Tracy Chevalier, Dec. 21, 2003
Best Supporting Actress
Ellen DeGeneres -- Come on... her bright blue Dory in Finding Nemo was the funniest performance of the year by miles. Repeat -- by miles!
» DeGeneres profiled on Fresh Air, May 23, 2003
Best Supporting Actor
Sean Penn -- Women sometimes get nominated in two categories in a single year (witness Julianne Moore in 2002), but it almost never happens to men, so Penn's terrific performance in Mystic River trumped his terrific performance in 21 Grams. Ah well.
» Sean Penn profiled on Fresh Air, Nov. 4, 2003
» Mondello reviews 21 Grams, Nov. 21, 2003
Peter Sarsgaard -- His anguished and then angry editor in Shattered Glass has the most interesting character arc of the year.
» Sarsgaard profiled on Fresh Air, Nov. 19, 2003
Best Foreign Film
Osama -- This beautifully shot, hauntingly acted Afghani film about a little girl who dresses as a boy so she can help feed her family had loads of buzz, but apparently it wasn't enough.
» Howie Movshovitz of Colorado Public Radio reviews Osama, Feb. 20, 2004
Good Bye Lenin -- When the Berlin Wall came down in 1985, I remember thinking that someone should film it from as many angles as possible, so there'd be footage when Oliver Stone wanted to make a film about it. This lovely German comedy isn't remotely the film I was picturing in my head, but it's a wonderfully evocative picture about that earth-shaking political event.
» NPR's Emily Harris reports on the impact of Good Bye Lenin among Berlin moviegoers, April 20, 2003
Monster -- Excuse me, but the biggest makeup triumph of the year, no matter what the Oscar voters decide, has to be the fact that Toni G turned gorgeous Charlize Theron into a persuasively down-and-out serial killer.
» Mondello reviews Monster, Dec. 28, 2003
Related NPR Stories
Bob Mondello's Top Films of 2003
NPR at the Movies
Oscars.com -- Full List of Nominees, Behind-the-Scenes Photos and More