It's a red carpet race in high heels and Harry Winston jewelry. The prize at the end? A little naked gold guy holding a sword and the opportunity to enter a very exclusive club, the society of Academy Award winners. As always, this year's Oscar competition is filled with old favorites (Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese) nouvelle Hollywood royalty (Johnny Depp, Hilary Swank) and surprising dark horse contenders (Catalina Sandino Moreno, Imelda Staunton). Even before the envelopes are ripped and the statue owners announced on Sunday, there are a few clear winners and losers in this year's Academy Awards.
Sideways—Many films experience a bounce in box office when they get Oscar nominations, but Sideways is the textbook example of how to market an Oscar contender. (Kudos to little Fox Searchlight, I guess.) The film made $32 million in its 14 weeks of release before the nominations were announced and more than $25 million in the four weeks since.
Pixar—Just as the computer animation studio poises to break free from idiotic overlord Disney, the folks at Pixar have landed four Academy Award nominations for their smash hit The Incredibles. And this is the film that Disney chairman Michael Eisner said would be Pixar's first flop. Pixar would be wise to pick up their considerable laurels and run very far away from Disney when their wildly unfair contract expires later this year.
Jamie Foxx—Foxx landed himself in a very exclusive club this year, having been nominated for both Best Actor (Ray) and Best Supporting Actor (Collateral). He's got the night's most solid-gold lock for his role as Ray Charles, and his star was already on the rise. Expect him to start beating aging pretty boys like Tom Cruise out for some of Hollywood's A-list roles. Next in the pileline: films for Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious), Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and Michael Mann (Ali).
African Americans—With Fox up for two statues, Don Cheadle in the Best Actor category, Sophie Okonado in Best Supporting Actress and Morgan Freeman in Best Supporting Actor, it's a record-breaking year for African-American actors. Foxx is probably the only one with a reasonable chance to win, but odds are Jesse Jackson won't be protesting this year.
Paul Giamatti—It's generally agreed that Giamatti got screwed out of his Best Actor nomination by the last-minute addition of Clint Eastwood in the category. Why is pretty much anybody's guess. Although he's gathered some respect as a director, the star of Every Which Way But Loose isn't usually considered an actor of notable range. Giamatti lost out on a Best Actor nod for American Splendor and certainly deserved another shot at the gold for his blistering portrayal of middle-aged meltdown in Sideways. What, did he run over Karl Malden's dog or something?
Mel Gibson—To his credit, Gibson decided it would be crass to campaign for Oscar glory. Turns out, he should have. His worldwide box office sensation, The Passion of the Christ was snubbed in any memorable category, getting nods only in Cinematograpy, Makeup and Score. (What, no Adapted Screenplay?)
Michael Moore—Moore, on the other hand, decided not to submit his film Fahrenheit 9/11 in the Best Documentary category, instead lobbying for the much higher profile Best Picture category. Looks like the Academy decided to tread the moderate road this year, ignoring Moore's liberal screed even more than Gibson's conservative sermon.
Non-Actors—In order to speed up the notoriously long telecast, producers have decided not to allow certain category winners up on stage to give acceptance speeches this year. Runners will be placed in the audience and will hand the statuettes to people in their seats. Other categories will have the contenders ascend the stage en masse. The winner will be picked out of the crowd “Miss America”-style. Don't worry, we'll still get to see Hilary Swank in whatever hot dress she's wearing, but no-name nominees like those in the “Best Documentary Short Subject” category are sure to be cheated out of their 35 seconds of fame.