Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Deadlocked Duel of 2002

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 2002:

Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs of New York) vs. Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt)

**Note for those who are paying attention: I did in fact skip 2003 since there really wasn’t a duel that occurred aside from everything vs. “The Return of the King.” I chose to move on to this year because it was much more interesting. If you disagree, please say so in the comments.

The background: Day-Lewis was an accomplished actor who had made fewer than fifteen films in his twenty-year career, and had won an Oscar for his 1989 performance in “My Left Foot,” receiving a second nod in 1993 for “In the Name of the Father.” His previous film was 1997’s “The Boxer.” Nicholson was a three-time champ, winning in 1975, 1983, and 1997, with eleven nominations total. Day-Lewis had created one of the most intense, memorable characters of his career, while Nicholson was finally playing his age.

Why it was just the two of them: Both Michael Caine and Nicolas Cage were Oscar winners already as well. Caine’s film didn’t garner much attention aside from his performance, and all the buzz for “Adaptation” was for costars Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. Adrien Brody was a relative newcomer with his first major lead role.

Setting the stage: Nicholson started off strong when he won the Golden Globe at a ceremony where his film was up for five awards, including Best Picture (it also took home Best Screenplay). Day-Lewis’ movie was honored for Martin Scorsese’s direction and U2’s song. Day-Lewis then took the lead, winning the BAFTA and the SAG. When Oscar nominations were announced, Nicholson and costar Kathy Bates earned their film’s only nominations, while “Gangs of New York” scored ten nominations.

Oscar night: In one of the biggest upsets in recent Oscar history, Adrien Brody, who had previously won two critics’ awards and nothing else, scored the win. He was so excited that he even made out with Halle Berry on stage. Brody accomplished an incredible feat: a first-time nominee beating out four Oscar winners. “The Pianist” also scored major upsets for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, and some believe that it came close to winning Best Picture as well.

Consolation prize for the loser: None at the time. Bates lost too, and “Gangs of New York” lost all nine of its other bids. Day-Lewis would have the chance to take home his second Oscar five years later without any real competition for “There Will Be Blood,” and Nicholson has managed to have some great roles in films like “Something’s Gotta Give” and “The Departed.”

Other notable duels: Meryl Streep (Adaptation) vs. Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago) for Best Supporting Actress

That’s a wrap for the Deadlocked Duel series, and possibly even the Wednesday Oscar Retrospective, for now at least. Stay tuned on future Wednesdays for reviews, and at some point soon (based on releases each week), a return of the Wednesday Oscar Watch.

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