Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Surprise Inclusion of 2003

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Retrospective. The Surprise Inclusion is the third in a series of projects looking back at the past eight years of the Oscars, dating back to the first ceremony I watched and closely followed.

Each year, the Oscar nominations announcement presents several shocking names and films. This series is devoted to analyzing the biggest and most surprising inclusion of all (in any category). It has nothing to do with personal opinion but rather with what was considered a surprise at the time compared with what most people were predicting. Once again, this is a film/director/actor whose nomination was unexpected.

The Surprise Inclusion of 2003:

Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) for Best Actress

Preface: 2003 should go on record as the signature year in the past decade that featured the most surprising nominations announcement and most boring awards distribution. “Cold Mountain,” Evan Rachel Wood, and Maria Bello were all snubbed, while Samantha Morton, Djimon Hounsou, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Marcia Gay Harden, and Fernando Meirelles all made it in. This was a tough choice, but it’s what I remember being the most surprising.

Why it wasn’t going to happen: “Whale Rider” was an indie from New Zealand that opened on nine screens in the U.S. in June and grossed only $20 million over the course of six months. The film earned a number of nominations and wins for Most Promising Filmmaker Niki Caro and Most Promising Performer Castle-Hughes, who was only thirteen years old at the time. Castle-Hughes was not among the nominees for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes, and the film didn’t earn any nominations either. When the SAG nominations were announced, Castle-Hughes was on the Best Supporting Actress list despite being the definitive and inarguable lead of the film. Even if Castle-Hughes had a long shot chance at a nomination, it would likely be in the wrong category.

How it happened: In 2003, only the winners in each of the Golden Globe Best Actress categories went on to earn Oscar nominations. SAG nominee Naomi Watts (“21 Grams”) joined Charlize Theron (“Monster”) and Diane Keaton (“Something’s Gotta Give”) in the Oscar lineup. SAG nominee Patricia Clarkson had to settle for just one supporting nomination for “Pieces of April” since the SAG-honored “The Station Agent” didn’t sway Oscar voters, freeing up a slot for “In America” star Samantha Morton. Strangely enough, Castle-Hughes earned a promotion and beat out similarly young Evan Rachel Woood, who at sixteen played the lead role in “Thirteen,” which voters clearly thought was supported amply by Holly Hunter as the teen’s mom. Castle-Hughes defied the odds and became the youngest Best Actress nominee in history.

Was it deserved? While Wood didn’t make it in, this is one of the rare cases where Oscar voters actually got it right and honored a deserving young actress in the right category. Her post-Oscar career may not have been too bright, featuring a lead role in the flop “The Nativity Story” and a pregnancy at age sixteen, but her performance in “Whale Rider” was an excellent, mature debut.

Come back next week for a look at the Surprise Inclusion of 2002. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments. Also, what do you want to see as the theme for the next Wednesday Oscar Retrospective series, beginning in two weeks?

1 comment:

Greg Boyd said...

Interesting selection. She was marvelous in this film, which is a real gem (although I wouldn't call it great).