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Monday March 19, 2001

Full 2001 Oscar coverage

JAM!/Sun Media Oscar Forum Chat Transcript

Various Sun Media film critics joined JAM!'s Senior Reporter Paul Cantin (acting as moderator) on Monday March 19th, 2001 to chat about the 2001 Oscar nominations and who they think should win. Here is the full transcript:

Paul Cantin: Welcome to the JAM!'s Oscar critics forum. What was the most pleasant surprise you noticed in this year's nominations.

NEAL WATSON: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the best picture category.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: I didn't think the academy would acknowledge the great work Javier Bardem did in BEFORE NIGHT if only they give him the Oscar as well as the nomination... louis b.

STEVE TILLEY The nominations for Pollock... it was nice to see Ed Harris' pet project get the recognition it deserved, even if not many people have actually seen it.

BRUCE KIRKLAND: Absolutely the best surprise of this year's noms was the record number garnered by Crouching Tiger - a subtitled film in the Mandarin language made in China by a Taiwanese-American director on Taiwan money. Incredible!!! It means that Hollywood is growing up, finally.

RANDALL KING: I was pleased that Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon did as well as it did with 10 nominations. I've long had an affection for Hong Kong/Chinese films and it seemed Oscar finally noticed.

DREW MCANULTY: I had a real fear Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon would be overlooked for Best Picture. Needless to say it was a pleasant surprise it was not only nominated but also got recognized for director.

Paul Cantin: Okay, what was the biggest disappointment.

DREW MCANULTY: It was criminal that Chocolat is up for best picture, taking a spot that should have gone to Wonder Boys.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: Surely the Academy could have had more originality than to nominate Tom Hanks once again for a mediocre performance...what are they going to do when he actually turns in a memorable performance... louis b.

NEAL WATSON: That Almost Famous and Wonder Boys were not included in the best picture category.

RANDALL KING: Here's some words I thought I'd speak: I thought Danny De Vito got ripped off for an Oscar nomination. Given De Vito's status as a producer, sometime director and a character actor. I assumed he would be a shoo-in for a supporting actor nod for his subtle (yes, Danny De Vito -- subtle!) work as a world-weary salesman in The Big Kahuna.

STEVE TILLEY: That Tom Hanks got nominated for Cast Away. Sheesh, does he automatically get best actor nominations for anything he's in now? He was good, but not that good.

BRUCE KIRKLAND: The most crushing disappointment this year was the lack of recognition for the best acted movie of the year, Wonder Boys. Other films were perhaps more thrilling, others more politically astute, others more risky. But no film of 2000 was better acted in terms of the entire ensemble, as well as the individual accomplishment each managed. It's a crime that Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey Jr. were overlooked. Scandalous!

Paul Cantin: Given what we know about who will be performing and presenting and hosting, what are you anticipating the most at this year's ceremony?

LOUIS B. HOBSON: Given Toni Braxton's dress at the Grammy's this year we can hope the actresses will try to out do her...after all, the Oscars are fast becoming a fashion show as well as a popularity contest... louis b.

RANDALL KING: I don't ever really anticipate the Academy Awards. "Dread" is really the word, although Bjork's appearance has got to be interesting. And I'll be curious to see if Bob Dylan looks clean and/or sober.

STEVE TILLEY: I hope Angelina Jolie brings her brother on stage to present. Seriously! It would be a funny and cool way to thumb her nose at the press. And maybe they'll make out or something. Aside from that, I really love Bjork and can't wait to see her perform.

BRUCE KIRKLAND: It will be as long and as boring and as ridiculous and as overdone as ever, which is precisely why we are hooked on it. It's like a narcotic. People watch for the ladies' dresses and the men's escorts. People watch to see how stupid the presenters sound when they misread the cue cards. People watch to see who, if anyone, can actually come up with an original thank-you speech. That's the entertainment of it all. The awards, strangely are secondary.

DREW MCANULTY: The highlight, if he remembers to open his mouth, will be Bob Dylan singing the WINNING best song Things Have Changed from Wonder Boys. Following the peep show we got at the People's Choice Awards, this should also be a banner year for starlets flashing the flesh.

NEAL WATSON: I am looking forward to the performance by Bob Dylan - I hope it is not an abbreviated version of his song. I hope some of the winners listen to producer Gil Cates and shorten their acceptance speeches or at least offer something other than a long list of thank yous.

Paul Cantin: Steve Martin as Oscar host: Thumbs up or thumbs down, and why? Bonus question, who is your favorite Oscar host?

LOUIS B. HOBSON: With Steve Martin at the helm, the humor show be much more subtle...a bit reminiscent of the old Bob Hope days....and with that....Bob Hope was my favorite MC... he was so wonderfully caustic....Whoopi Goldberg comes a close second of the more recent hosts... louis b.

RANDALL KING: Steve Martin and Oscar: a marriage made in heaven. I liked Billy Crystal well enough. Whoopi Goldberg's self-congratulatory hosting always put me off; She clearly thought she was better than she actually was. But Martin's comic specialty is absurdity, and really, is there anything more absurd than The Academy Awards? Favorite Oscar host of all time: Johnny Carson. I'm aging myself, I suspect.

BRUCE KIRKLAND: Thumb sideways for Steve Martin. He is not a naturally funny guy and was inept as one of the scripted co-hosts of Fantasia 2000. As for Oscars 2000, it's an almost impossible job after years of Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg. Prediction: He will be crucified by Oscar-night critics. As for a favourite, the kid in me remembers Bob Hope.

STEVE TILLEY: I love Steve Martin, but I'm not so sure about him following Billy Crystal. If nothing else, I'm going to miss Crystal's hilarious opening best picture musical montage. But Steve is really quick on his feet, which is what a host of this snoozefest needs. Please, please, don't let this one go long!

DREW MCANULTY: Steve Martin gets a thumbs up on condition he isn't gagged by the Academy and is allowed to push the envelope. Favourite host so far was either Billy Crystal's second showing or Whoopi Goldberg.

NEAL WATSON: Enthusiastic thumbs up for Martin. I think we may hear more literate, sophisticated humour from the very clever Martin. I am very curious to see what approach he takes to the opening. Billy Crystal will be tough to top. Crystal is my favourite Oscars host, although I am one of the few who did not mind Letterman.

Paul Cantin: For every actor or director whose career blossoms after an Oscar win, there's another who doesn't seem to capitalize on the victory. So is the Oscar any kind of guarantee of future success?

STEVE TILLEY:A guarantee of future success? I dunno, what have Mira Sorvino and Marisa Tomei been in lately? Hee hee... I think actors who actually *deserve* their wins are able to capitalize on it, or at least continue unscathed.

NEAL WATSON: The best supporting actress category can be tough on ingenues - Mira Sorvino and Marisa Tomei are two good examples. Kate Hudson beware. You only have so long to cash in.

RANDALL KING: Two words and a letter: F. Murray Abraham. Success comes with being an overall pleasing presence, not acting ability alone, and the Amadeus star is the prime example. But then, the Oscars were never supposed to be about popularity, Braveheart notwithstanding.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: FUTURE SUCCESS? It is all hit and miss... Most of the actors have already committed to their next few projects before they get the Oscar so it takes them years to see the then...unless you're Tom Hanks...the industry has forgotten you.... Have all her nominations really benefited Meryl Streep... The least effect is felt for those who win in the best supporting categories.. Angelina Jolie's career would have gone off into the stratosphere without her little Oscar...and Charlize Theron certainly hasn't suffered for being overlooked... It no longer is the Oscar that determines a person's career.. louis b.

BRUCE KIRKLAND: None whatsoever - no guarantees. What it does do, however, is open up immediate opportunities and perhaps pushes the price for the next job up. Then it is up to the Oscar winner and his or her management to make smart decisions or simply luck into something good. So, when Benicio Del Toro wins as best supporting actor, which I think he will, it will be crucial for him to do strong, serious work that continues to excite the public. That will mean his Oscar elevates him in stature. If he does something stupid, it will be held against him.

DREW MCANULTY: It's certainly a guarantee of financial success, but you have to look no further than Louis Gossett Jr. , Marlie Matlin or Louise Fletcher to see many can be one-shot wonders.

Paul Cantin: Is the Academy membership too old and out of touch with contemporary audiences?

RANDALL KING: Yes. Well ... Duh. I think there should be more eight-year-olds in the Academy. Then Chicken Run would have got the nod it deserved for Best Picture.

STEVE TILLEY: The easy answer is yes, though the nominations for films like Traffic and Crouching Tiger would seem to indicate otherwise. Nominations-wise they did well this year. As for the actual winners? We'll see.

DREW MCANULTY: It's not so much age as it is whether they actually watch the films nominated.

NEAL WATSON:They did remember Traffic and they nominated Crouching Tiger - these are good signs. But they still tend to go for big epics as best picture and that is why, unfortunately, Gladiator will probably win for best picture

BRUCE KIRKLAND: Damn right, of course they are. At the same time, there must be enough Academy members who aren't dottering old fools that they seized upon Crouching Tiger, Traffic, Pollock, You Can Count On Me and Before Night Falls in the various categories. That took courage and hipness of some kind.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: DOES A BEAR........IN THE WOODS..... About 40% of the voters don't even work anymore unless they're doing guest spots on some TV few of the young stars are part of the academy so yes....they suffer...but it is great for sexy young starlets...all those old academy guys will vote for them without ever trying to see their films.. louis

Paul Cantin: This year, O Brother Where Art Thou got passed on the major awards, and this seems to happen a lot to comedies. Should the Academy consider making a separate comedy/musical category, similar to the Golden Globes?

STEVE TILLEY: NO! I hate the division of categories with the Globes. The problem is with the sensibilities of the voters, not the system. Although, maybe a separate comedy category would have given Dude, Where's My Car? the recognition it deserved. That movie got robbed, man. Robbed!

RANDALL KING: The good part of that argument is that comedies would get more acknowledgment. The bad news is: the show would be even longer. I don't want to sit longer than I have to, thanks.

DREW MCANULTY: No. If you move to comedy and musicals, where do you stop? Watering down the pool only takes away from the impact of winning.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: NOT ON YOUR LIFE!!!!! Look what happens with the Golden get drek like O Brother and The Grinch nominated because they are so desperate to fill that category... If a comedy is really great it will stand on its own....hence CHOCOLAT this year... louis d.

BRUCE KIRKLAND: No, no, no. That's a ghetto mentality and would just turn the Oscars into even more of a joke, something like the Golden Globes already are. What does need to happen is for attitudes to change, through lobbying, protests or common sense. George Clooney would have looked good as a best actor nominee for O Brother, perhaps instead of Geoffrey Rush.

NEAL WATSON: No. But it is unfortunate that comedy is afforded second-class status. Some great films are overlooked. When you consider the state of Hollywood comedy, it is not a surprise that Adam Sandler or the latest SNL disaster are ignored

Paul Cantin: Popcorn movies -- those big, crowd-pleasing spectacles like Gladiator and Braveheart -- used to get overlooked by the Oscars, but seem to be gaining some ground in recent years. Is this a good thing?

RANDALL KING: Popcorn movies are often about popularity, and Oscars shouldn't go to the most popular movie necessarily. Traffic is better than Gladiator, but Gladiator will probably win Best Picture. I can't say that's a good thing.

STEVE TILLEY: Believe it nor not, I don't think Braveheart compares to Gladiator. Gladiator has a lot more going for it than Mel's kilt epic, in my opinion. That being said, I think popcorn movies get their rewards at the box office -- they don't need hardware too. The last thing the Oscars need is to be dumbed down even more than they already are, and I'd rather see smaller films continue to get recognition.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: The popcorn movie has always been a staple of the Oscars...but like the popcorn in the theatres they've just gotten bigger and blander... It's a myth that once-upon-a-time Oscar really recognize great achievements in motion picture art...the truth is the Academy ocassionally stumbles on great art... It's just that some popcorn looks better and is tastier than others louis b.

NEAL WATSON: I don't think that's true. The real popcorn movies - X-Men, the Grinch - are still relegated to the effects categories. Gladiator is, like Titanic, considered a more serious film.

BRUCE KIRKLAND: Overlooked??? What about Ben-Hur, still tied with Titanic for the all-time record haul of statues (with 11 wins). I don't think anything has changed in the popcorn department, as far as awarding spectacles the big prizes. It just depends on whether they are worthy on some socio-political popcorn level - and Gladiator certainly is. The rotten ones, such as Battlefield Earth, get exactly what they deserve, nothing.

DREW MCANULTY: It's good in that it recognizes what the average movie goer enjoys. Imagine the isolation of tuning in to the awards show and finding none of your favourites -- which might also happen to be among the year's top box-office draws -- not getting representation. Just take a look at the TV numbers the year Titanic won (the best ever) as what happens when the Academy is in step with the public.

Paul Cantin: Is there anything amid the year's nominees that you took particular comfort in? Whether it's acknowledging the power and artistry of a movie like Gladiator, or making room for a small treasure like You Can Count On Me?

DREW MCANULTY: Again, harping back to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, it was nice to see the Academy wasn't scared off by a sub-titled film that started off relegated to the art house circuit.

STEVE TILLEY: I got down on my knees and thanked the Oscar gods for recognizing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's an amazing, genre-busting film that works on so many levels, and it's great that the Academy hasn't been scared away by the fact it's a foreign language film that isn't easily pigeonholed. Plus, kung fu rocks.

NEAL WATSON: The recognition for Crouching Tiger, the screenplay nominations for Wonder Boys and Almost Famous, the inclusion of Billy Eliott.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: I thought it was a great sign that someone other than the composers of title song from an animate film has a chance of winning an Oscar... Only The Emperor's New Groove is an animated movie this year and it doesn't have a hope in Hades... And where has Bob Dylan been all these years? louis b.

RANDALL KING: The best sign was that foreign-language films (Crouching Tiger) and foreign stars (Javier Bardem) were acknowledged. Usually Oscar's sole idea of "foreign" is "British."

BRUCE KIRKLAND: Aside from the obvious, because I already mentioned it earlier in this chat, I took comfort in the recognition accorded Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden for their magnificent work in Pollock. It is a dour, depressing, contentious bio-pic film that I bet most Academy members won't watch. Yet enough did that the quality of the work was given its due. That is comforting because it rarely happens with a film of this nature.

Paul Cantin: Of the current generation of young actors, handicap the surefire future Oscar winner. Submit the name of a male and female actor, and justify your enthusiasm

NEAL WATSON: Tobey Maguire and Laura Linney.

STEVE TILLEY: The young fella in Billy Elliot -- Jamie Bell? -- may have not been nominated this year, but he will eventually be. If that movie is any sign, it'll be a few years tops before he's walking away with some major prizes. Amazingly talented kid.

RANDALL KING: The star of Get Over It and Bring It On? Yes, Kirsten Dunst will one day get an Oscar if she stops appearing in films like Get Over It. See The Virgins Suicides if you don't believe me. Guys: Joaquin Phoenix, perhaps. Just not this year.

DREW MCANULTY: Benicio Del Toro is the flavour of the day and for good reason. He's possesses star aura and like Jeff Bridges, makes acting look easy. For actresses, I don't thing you have to look any further than Kate Hudson. Hopefully she follows up strongly with her next film to prove it wasn't a fluke.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: Mark Ruffalo was sorely overlooked this year in You Can Count On Me...but he won't be in the future... And maybe....just maybe .... someday the academy will recognize that Johnny Depp is the best actor of his generation ... I think that Zhang Ziyi from Crouching Tiger will emerge as a major Asian star...via America.. louis b.

BRUCE KIRKLAND: An emerging actor: Ryan Phillippe. Some day, after he refines his way of making choices and gets a little more gutsy, he will do something spectacular enough to warrant an Oscar nomination. And I can say that even with the memory of how lame Antitrust is. An emerging actress: Molly Parker and Sarah Polley, two young Canadians, will eventually be nominated for doing something exciting in an American movie. Each has the potential to be of Oscar calibre.

Paul Cantin: Name the movie industry figure most deserving of that lifetime achievement award. Presumably this is someone who has created a body of work that has been under appreciated by the Academy.

DREW MCANULTY: The guy who intorduced popcorn to movie theatres.

NEAL WATSON: Peter O'Toole.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD... Considering the talent that he inspired or who have come through his B-grade studios it's about time ROGER CORMAN got the recognition and award he deserves... His films are inspiring a whole new revival on cable TV and the young directors who are remaking his films aren't making fun of them...they're paying homage to them... Yeah ROGER.... louis b.

RANDALL KING: Let the Coen brothers split one between them. Or maybe Russ Meyer, a guy who revolutionized Hollywood editing. (I'd love to see the clip segment on that one.)

STEVE TILLEY: Kroger Babb. Where would modern cinema be without Mom and Dad and She Should Said No? Or maybe Russ Meyers...

BRUCE KIRKLAND: Among Directors: Ang Lee, because he defies categorization or national identity.

Paul Cantin: Oscar gaffs: What's your favorite example of an Oscar selection that, in hindsight, seems foolish? Robert Redford and Ordinary People beating Martin Scorsese and Raging Bull is my personal favorite.

DREW MCANULTY: John Wayne in True Grit over Jon Voight for Midnight Cowboy.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: I've never forgiven the academy for not giving Gene Pitney the Oscar for his songs TOWN WITHOUT PITY or THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE but that's just personal.... And hey...where is that Oscar for Montgomery Clift or James Dean... Whole shrines have been built to their talent and neither has an Oscar... louis b

NEAL WATSON: Titanic for best picture. Last Emperor for best picture. Driving Miss Daisy, Forrest Gump ... so many bad picks for best picture.

RANDALL KING: There are just too many examples. The one that springs to mind is The Greatest Show On Earth beating High Noon in 1952. Last year, Randy Newman was soooo ripped off in the Best Song category, When She Loved Me from Toy Story 2. Say what you will about the horribleness of the Grammies, at least they rectified that oversight last month.

BRUCE KIRKLAND: In hindsight, it is absurd that Elizabeth Taylor won for Butterfield 8, no matter who she was up against. In hindsight, it is regrettable that Jimmy Stewart, for The Philadelphia Story, won as best actor over Henry Fonda, who gave one of the century's greatest acting performances in Grapes Of Wrath. In hindsight, it is too bad that Paul Newman won as best actor for one of his minor movies, Martin Scorsese's The Color Of Money, instead of for something substantial. In hindsight, this list could go on forever.

STEVE TILLEY: Isn't Marisa Tomei the poster child for the undeserving Oscar win? Not that My Cousin Vinny wasn't a FINE film... sheesh.

Paul Cantin: There has been an explosion of awards shows in recent years of dubious merit (Blockbuster awards, etc). But there can be little doubt that the Academy Awards remain the most prestigious and the one we must watch. To what do you attribute the show's enduring appeal?

DREW MCANULTY: It was the first. Therefore it has real history and real glamour. You don't break out the best wine to accompany the appetizers, and the same is for all the other award shows. The stars hold out their best for Oscar night and audiences know it.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: The only way that the Oscars will regain any prestige would be to force all those other shows to run AFTER the Oscars...too many lazy Academy voters rely on THE GOLDEN GLOBES and now the BRITISH FILM AWARDS to help them on their ballots... The Golden Globes used to be considered just one big drunk pre-Oscar party and now it is touted as the indicator of the Oscars....80 odd journalists....AND I MEAN ODD...are having too much sway.... The reason people tune into the Oscars is that Hollywood still considers it the cream-de-la-cream.. the actors come out ... they only attend the other shows if they know they're going to win... louis b.

RANDALL KING: Sheer tradition. I grew up watching them when they were the only game in town. I've grown to dread award shows in general. There's way too many of them. It's like eggs benedict. I only allow myself that treat once a year, and that's what makes it special.

BRUCE KIRKLAND: Big stars, small dresses, big show, small minds, big silliness, small seriousness, big hype, no down side. It has hit Oscars #73 so the Academy has the advantage of history and lore. And there are far too many new awards shows. It's a plague and it devalues all awards, including the Oscars. But, to repeat, the Oscars win because their spectacle is so huge you can overlook it. Nevertheless, all awards for artistic merit are by definition never accurate, serious or really about the work. So keep it in perspective.

NEAL WATSON: A long, rich and often ridiculous history. Great and awful Oscar memories tend to burn into your memory - the streaker behind David Niven, Sasheen Littlefeather (SP?) accepting Brando's Oscar, Chaplin's honourary Oscar, Uma ... Oprah. No one remembers who won a Golden Globe or People's Choice or SAG award. Film fans remember the Oscars. People don't get together to watch the Golden Globes. The Oscars are the only awards that really matter.

STEVE TILLEY: The Oscars are the BIG show. The broadcast itself is long and boring and stuffed with filler that nobody cares about, but it's the Oscars that have the history of Hollywood behind them, from the golden age on up. Sure, you won't see Benicio Del Toro climb up into the set like the dude from Rage Against the Machine did on the MTV music awards, but ultimately they're the trophies we care about the most.

Paul Cantin: Thank you for participating in the round-table, to both critics and JAM! readers. To quote another critic, the balcony is now closed! Say goodbye everyone!

NEAL WATSON: So long everyone. Have fun on Sunday night.

LOUIS B. HOBSON: Thanks for your questions. It would be fun if we were in an actual room instead of just a chat room..... We can look forward to that in the future.... louis b.

RANDALL KING: Goodbye, God bless. May the force be with you all.

BRUCE KIRKLAND: It's been ... something. Thanks.

STEVE TILLEY: So long. See a movie. Be good to each other. Bye.


Full 2001 Oscar coverage

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