5 Oscar Could Have Beens: 2004

The two Screenplays winners this year were possibly the best two movies of the year. Depends who you ask. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind did have reasons to show up to the Oscars, but there were no nominations for Picture, Director (Michel Gondry), or Actor (Jim Carrey).

Best Picture – Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

It is quite simply one of the most original ideas every written and brought to the screen in such an affecting way. It see-saws between that very thin line of comedy and drama, just the way life in your head can. It has a superb cast, and a narrative so jumbled up and head-spinning, it is actually the deepest love story you might see. It can hurt, it can bemuse, but it is wonderful.

Sideways on the other hand was stomping through awards season, dominating the critics awards, and was really refreshing crowd-pleaser. The momentum was thrown off a cliff when it was nominated for just the five Oscars, which, making a combined seven for the Screenplay winners, is pretty pathetic.

Best Actor – Paul Giamatti (Sideways)

Paul Giamatti being snubbed for Best Actor was the final nail in the coffin for Sideways (especially as he was likely bumped out for Clint Eastwood). It must surely have demonstrated the Academy’s neglect of movies that make you laugh. Sideways is not an all out comedy, but it is funny, and it is light-hearted, and Giamatti’s sympathetic performance is crucial to this. This omission made me have a bigger outburst than if you had told me I was drinking fucking Merlot.

One other category that stood out too was Original Score, which made for a more diverse list, including The Village (James Newton Howard), The Passion of the Christ (John Debney), and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Thomas Newman). This was partly due to several movies were made ineligible / disqualified for short-listing for various reason. And these included Howard Shore for The Aviator (pre-existing music) and Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby (paperwork trouble). Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Jon Brion) and Sideways (Rolfe Kent) also were not nominated (Academy’s poor taste in music). All four scores would have made deserving nominees. And they were not alone.

Best Original Score – Alexandre Desplait (Birth)


This was before the years where Alexandre Desplait became a semi-regular at the Oscars. In fact, he gets some really big gigs these days. His score for Birth, which received mixed reactions, is one of his best. It has range and depth, and really contributes to the movie’s rather mysterious, but sober, story-line.

So, two major things happened. The first was Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, which seemed to be the favorite. It was biographical, about the industry, was superbly acted, and looked delicious. And it was directed by Martin Scorsese, who at the time was still Oscar-less. In many ways, or just that one Scorsese being Oscar-less way, this would likely head into the final hurdle with the most nominations and go on and win. The second thing that happened was Million Dollar Baby. Director Clint Eastwood basically delivered one of the best boxing / companion movies in years, before ripping our hearts out. It was not necessarily the quality of film-making of that final act (though it was first-rate), more the fact that it took that complete U-turn, and forced us to feel pain. Million Dollar Baby arrived late in the race too, and it was ding-ding all over for The Aviator and Sideways.

So this was also the year that Jamie Foxx (Best Actor winner) was nominated for Supporting Actor for Collateral (which is a Lead role), but Tom Cruise was not. Tina Fey (Mean Girls) was also notably absent in the Adapted Screenplay category. There were some stand out Foreign Language Films this year too, but no nomination for Good Bye, Lenin. That was not the only one.

Best Foreign Language Film – Love Me If You Dare

There are not many movies that portray romantic love in its truest, but also most mischievous, as Love Me If You Dare does so accurately. Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard are flawless as the adults having grown up knowing each other from being kids, tormenting and loving each other the whole time. Watch this before or after Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind – it does not matter. But watch them both.

Going into the Oscar race there was also a contender of real pedigree, Meryl Streep (The Manchurian Candidate), and a contender with a famous father, Dallas Bryce Howard (The Village) – both missed out. Perhaps the most powerful performance of the year was Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside) – nothing for him. Laura Linney (Kinsey) was nominated, but Liam Neeson was not. There was a nerve-jangling and award winning documentary Touching The Void – not nominated also.

Best Documentary Feature or Best Picture – Fahrenheit 9/11

The movie everyone was talking about was a documentary too. Following the excellent Bowling For Columbine, Michael Moore turned his attention George W Bush and the war on terror. It caused huge controversy, but people had to listen to this. It also took the Palme d’Or at Cannes to a standing ovation. Moore shot himself in the foot a bit come Oscar time, boycotting the Documentary category to campaign Fahrenheit 9/11 as Best Picture contender. It could have been a Best Picture contender, but the Academy were not ready for that, and Moore was not playing that game. While Bush got the votes, though, Moore did not.

What else? Anne Reid (The Mother) in for Actress? No chance. Mel Gibson (The Passion of the Christ) was even being talked about in the Director category. Okay, that’s enough.

Originally published 9th November 2014.


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