Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Deadlocked Duel of 2004

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Retrospective. The Deadlocked Duel is the fourth 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 after the Oscar nominations are announced, there’s at least one category where two nominees end up in a heated battle for the award right up until Oscar night, dividing predictors and keeping Oscar watchers anxiously in suspense. This series is devoted to analyzing the biggest and most intense of those battles each year, in any category.

The Deadlocked Duel of 2004:

“The Aviator” vs. “Million Dollar Baby” for Best Picture & Best Director

The background: Marty vs. Clint. Martin Scorsese had never won an Oscar despite being nominated for “Raging Bull,” “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “Goodfellas,” and “Gangs of New York.” Clint Eastwood had won on his first try for 1992’s “Unforgiven” and earned a subsequent nomination in 2003 for “Mystic River.” Marty’s big budget epic was a historical chronicle about Howard Hughes, while Clint’s film was an intimate film about a boxer and her trainers.

Why it was just the two of them: It almost wasn’t. I actually predicted “Sideways” to win as the result of a vote split. Its Golden Globe win for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical and SAG triumph had me thinking it could pull off the ultimate upset, but it had to settle for the Best Adapted Screenplay prize. “Finding Neverland” wasn’t take terribly seriously, while “Ray” was all about star Jamie Foxx’s performance which was a lock to win him the Best Actor Oscar.

Setting the stage: “The Aviator” was considered a contender for the Oscars pretty much as soon as anyone dared to make early guesses in the first months of 2004. “Million Dollar Baby,” on the other hand, came out of nowhere in November and suddenly emerged as a major threat. The Golden Globes awarded “The Aviator” Best Picture and gave Best Director to Clint, with the lead acting trophies going to one star from each film – Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Actor and Hilary Swank for Best Actress. “Million Dollar Baby” went on to win both the DGA and PGA.

Oscar night: “The Aviator” dominated with eleven nominations, while “Million Dollar Baby” picked up a still-impressive seven, including a surprise nod for lead actor Clint Eastwood. While “The Aviator” took a bunch of technical awards, for cinematography, art direction, costume design, and editing, as well as Best Supporting Actress for Cate Blanchett, that was it. “Million Dollar Baby” won two acting prizes and picked up both Best Director and Best Picture.

Consolation prize for the loser: Even though it didn’t win the top award, it still stands as the most-rewarded film of 2004, with five wins in total.

Other notable duels: Annette Bening (Being Julia) vs. Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby)

Come back next week for a look at the Deadlocked Duel of 2003. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments. 2003 stands as the most predictable ceremony in recent Oscar history, so I’m all ears in terms of ideas.

No comments: