The Golden Globes. The Screen Actors Guild Awards. The Peoples Choice Awards … well they kind of count. The awards season just started, but the king, the Academy Awards, isn’t until March. Now that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the list of nominees, the Oscar race is officially underway. Unfortunately, the Academy seems to have really missed the mark this year. So, let’s review the major snubs, flubs and general lack of taste associated with the 2004 Academy Award nominations.

Adam Rottenberg

 

Best Picture

It’s easiest to start dissecting the problem with the biggest category. Sure 2004 was not a banner year in which one film dominated over all — unless there was some fourth “Lord of the Rings” movie I missed — but the Academy failed to recognize many of the most imaginative and astounding works of the year in favor of saccharine Hollywood biopics. The undeserving and underwhelming “Finding Neverland’s” inclusion immediately comes to mind, but to honor a film as pedestrian and flawed as “Ray” over superior movies from “Eternal Sunshine” to “The Incredibles” is criminal. They might as well have nominated “Garfield.”

 

Best Actor

Yes, Jamie Foxx is going to win the statue. Everyone knows it. He got his nomination, so why should I even bother complaining about the incredible lapse in judgment that Academy voters made by omitting career-defining performances from Paul Giamatti and Liam Neeson. “Sideways’ ” Giamatti was overlooked last year for his brilliant turn in “American Splendor,” but where is the recognition for his dour performance this year that held the Golden Globe-winning comedy together? The film is an actor’s movie, yet the leading role fails to receive recognition. I know that Oscar voters hate comedy, but this is ridiculous. Neeson’s omission is slightly easier to swallow, if only for the talent of his opponents. He mimicked the famed Dr. Kinsey to great effect and reached a depth he hasn’t found since “Schindler’s List.” Either could admirably fill the spot currently held by Johnny Depp, one of the finest actors of this generation, but not in “Finding Neverland.”

 

Best Actress

Good work Oscar: one category with no real disappointments. The inclusion and recognition of Uma Thruman would be nice, but that would mean that the Academy realized that “Kill Bill Vol. 2” existed. Whatever.

 

Best Director

Is it Martin Scorsese’s year? Will Clint Eastwood bring home the gold? Why is the guy who directed “Ray” sitting alongside them? I guess visual style is meaningless or maybe Taylor Hackford, the luminary behind such landmark films as “Proof of Life” and “The Devil’s Advocate,” deserves to get rewarded for his woefully unimpressive body of work … And what power does Mike Leigh have to receive his second nomination for a film that few people even know exists? Oscar should have shown visionary Michel Gondry some love or honored Quentin Tarantino for delivering another visually stunning flick. Though it’s not like either of them would have won on Oscar night …

 

Best Omissions

While this year’s nominees leave a lot to be desired, at least Oscar didn’t totally fuck up. Michael Moore’s inflammatory and outrageous “documentary” was rightfully denied entry into the elite ceremony. Likewise, Mel Gibson’s grind-house passion play was reduced to participation in art direction categories. Honoring either of these two divisive and disgusting films would have been a huge distraction on Oscar night.

 

Most Inane Category

Though Best Short Film, Live Action seemed like the obvious choice, Best Animated Feature Film seems a little dubious. Instead of including animated classics like “The Incredibles,” or, to a lesser extent, “Shrek 2,” in the real races, the Academy lumps them into a marginal category so they receive minimal acknowledgment. With only three nominees, including the insipid “Shark Tale,” the Best Animated Feature Film race is almost over before it even begins.

 

Despite all my bitching and complaining, I’ll still tune in Oscar night. The glitz, the glamour, the prestige, nothing else comes close. But if “Ray” or “Finding Neverland” win Best Picture, I’m done.

 

Adam was hoping that “Catwoman” and “Van Helsing” would be battling it out for Best Picture. Bitch to him like he did to you for 800 words at arotten@umich.edu.

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