OSCARS 2004

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


             In an otherwise deadly dull movie year, some great ones slid into contention before the December deadline.  The nominees for Best Picture clearly deserve the praise that is coming their way.

THE AVIATOR - Howard Hughes, both the man and his eccentric visions, get intriguing treatment by director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.  Billionaire, test pilot, producer, and escort of movie stars, Hughes went from high profile glamour to sick seclusion.  The movie is colorful and fast - a big, glossy Hollywood entertainment based on an even bigger central character. 

FINDING NEVERLAND – This is a breathtaking view of the imagination of J.M. Barrie.  Barrie, who created Peter Pan from the threads of his friendship with a British widow and her family, believed mightily in play as the path to happiness.  Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, and a magical little guy named Freddie Highmore will step into your heart.

KINSEY – Alfred Kinsey moved from the academic purity of an obscure professorship to the notoriety of becoming the first to study and publish pioneering research on the sex habits of Americans.  As he walks the delicate line between human emotions and biological behavior, his colleagues begin to see him more as an oddball than a scientist.  Laura Linney and Liam Neeson are outstanding, with Neeson deserving the nomination he did not get.

MILLION DOLLAR BABY – Clint Eastwood’s direction and the performances of Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman lift this movie above all the others.  This team of three pays close attention to the small acts of loyalty and devotion that fuel transcendent friendship.  They have made a beautiful film that moves the audience slowly to absolute silence.   Listen, please, to the score Clint Eastwood has written.  It is quiet and perfect. 

 RAY – This story of Ray Charles’ slow climb through racism, drugs, and womanizing has a harrowing dark side.  Charles came this close to being destroyed by his heroin habit, but he made it and followed up with decades of success as the “Genius of Soul.” Jamie Foxx paints a strong portrait of Charles’ talent and his weaknesses. 

        Of the actors and actresses who were nominated, some were marvelous, especially Annette Bening in her sparkling creation of a British actress who never interrupts her life’s performance.  Johnny Depp creates a lovely J.M. Barrie for our fantasies; Leonardo Di Caprio shows that he is once again taking his profession as seriously as he did before he was derailed by “Titanic;”  Clive Owen reaches a spectacular height of human cruelty in “Closer.” 

And so a year that seemed like one of the worst in recent memory, made up for it with late year releases.  Hollywood’s tendency to bore us for eleven months only to dazzle us in December is surely a problem that could be solved.       

        My choices:  Best Picture: “Million Dollar Baby”.  Best Actor:  Johnny Depp.  Best Actress:  Hilary Swank.  Best Supporting Actor:  Morgan Freeman.  Best Supporting Actress:  Laura Linney.  Best Director:  Clint Eastwood. 

 

 


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