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8B - The Michigan Daily - WeekIId Magazine - Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine

HOLLYWOOD'S FINEST BATTLE
FOR SUPPORTING ACTORS

By John Hartman
For the Daily
r In a year when many pundits agree
that the leading actor and actress awards
seem like done deals, there are no sure
bets in the supporting categories. These
categories have been traditionally diffi-
cult to predict, sometimes picking
industry favorites who have been
snubbed before, or oppositely, up-and-
coming stars who may arrive, win their
Oscar and never be heard from again
"'remember Mira Sorvino'? Yeah, I don't
either). This year, the nominees range
from newcomers with tongue-twisting
names to old-time Hollywood favorites.
Here's a recap of some of this year's
best second bananas.
Starting with the supporting actor
category, Benicio Del Toro grabs his
second nomination for his work in "21
-Grams." In a film heavy on exception-
al acting, Del Toro steals every scene
he's in, which is no easy task when
sharing the screen with fellow nomi-
nees Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.
Benicio won once already for
"Traffic," and his acting range is even
wider here. Hailed as the next Brando
by some, he'll be sticking around for
some time.
- Sharing screen time with megastar
Tom Cruise is no cake walk, but Ken
Watanabe is able to do that and then
some in "The Last Samurai." A new-
comer to American cinema, Japanese-
born Watanabe is what holds
"Samurai" together through its slow
parts. He holds one of the few nomina-
tions for this film.
You may not have heard of Djimon
Hounsou, but you: will. This West
African actor is a powerful presence on
screen, and he brings the heart and soul
to "In America," a fact-based personal
account of an Irish-American family's
'transition to New York City. He plays
the AIDS-stricken Mateo, the type of

Courtesy of New MarketCu
CONTEST WANES BETWEEN THE LADIES

Below: Alec Baldwin got a nod while colleague William H. Macy failed to capture
the Academy's attention.
Left: Shohreh Aghdashloo portrayed a tragic character in "House."
Above: Ken Watanabe skillfully won a nomination for "The Last Samurai."

By Hussain Rahim
Daily Arts Writer

role Academy voters love, so watch this
underdog carefully.
Believe it or not, Alec Baldwin has
never won an Oscar. And beyond that,
he's never even been nominated. That
changed this year, with his nomination
for his role as grisly casino boss Shelly
Kaplow in "The Cooler." While the
film doesn't succeed on every level,
Baldwin is always on, and he's doing
his best work here, including an
already distinguished career. William
H. Macy may have been snubbed for
his acting in this film, but maybe hard-
luck Alec won't be.
Finishing off the category is Tim
Robbins, who recently won a Golden
Globe for Clint Eastwood's "Mystic
River." The last time Robbins was
nominated at the Oscars was for direct-
ing ("Dead Man Walking"), but this
marks his debut at the ceremony being
honored as an actor. The most buzz of
this category is around him this year,

and if his wife Susan Sarandon doesn't
hold up the night with an anti-war
speech, he might get to make a speech
of his own - an acceptance speech.
The supporting actress category is a
tough call as well this year, leading off
with surprise nomination Shohreh
Aghdashloo for the brilliant and tragic
"House of Sand and Fog." While there
has been much talk of Ben Kingsley's
mind-blowing performance in the film,
this Iranian actress has been quietly
winning several critics' awards for her
understated and heartbreaking work.
While not a favorite yet, Marcia Gay
Harden wasn't either when she won for
"Pollock" in this category, so she may
be a surprise come Oscar night.
Speaking of which, Marcia is back
this year, after a dry spell, with her per-
formance in "Mystic River." In a film
filled with great performances, it is
hard to single out the best ones, but
hers ranks at the top. As the jittery and

Even in this age of Hollywood
divas, actresses still don't command
the power or screenplays their male
counterparts do. Looking back on the
previous winner's list for Best
Actress, there are some great actress-
es in the winner's circle, but they
don't show much of a pattern or a
steady career afterwards. The rela-
tively thin list of choices for the Best
Actress category compared to the
Best Actor category show the dispar-
ity in quality acting roles available
for women.
While there were several powerful
performances this year, the consensus is
that Charlize Theron's channeling of
Aileen Wuornos is just about the best
thing since, well ... anything. Shattering
her mold as the pretty wife or girlfriend,
Charlize displayed some serious acting
chops in "Monster." She put on a
method acting clinic as she disappeared
into her role and showed the side of
prostitution and love that Julia Robert's
"Pretty Woman" never came close to.
As a maelstrom of beer and ciga-
rettes, this is one of the rare instances
when you don't even realize you are

watching an actress. Although it
requires severe amounts of make-up to
make Charlize Theron look ugly, there
remains something organic about the
transformation. Between her adoption
of Aileen's unusual gait and the deli-
cate balance between Aileen's vulnera-
bility and strength, she conjured up a
little screen magic. The Academy gen-
erally likes when the Beautiful People
pretend to be ugly, and if the category
means what it says, then she will walk
up to the podium and remind everyone
how pretty she is.
If this were an odds game, the second
favorite would be Diane Keaton for her
role in "Something's Gotta Give." The
Oscars are just as much about symbol-
ism and politics as they are about merit.
The nomination here is more for
Keaton's ability to look as good as ever in
a middle-aged romantic comedy than for
anything uniquely grabbing about her
performance. She went the full range,
voters like to see, crying, being funny,
having sex and crying some more. The
Academy loves Diane, and a win for her
would be nostalgia trumping merit. It
wouldn't be the first time.
In terms of pure emotion, the best
thing after Theron was Keisha Castle-

Hughes as Pai in Niki Caro's "Whale
Rider." The Academy showed some
courage in nominating the 11-year-old
Australian over the other not-so-
unknown native Aussie, Nicole
Kidman. Despite Miramax's shameless
pleading for every award, the voters
showed some preference for subtlety
over melodrama. Castle-Hughes por-
trays a prepubescent Maori girl strug-
gling with the patriarchal trappings of
her society. As she proves her ancestral
right to lead, her performance was the
picture of stoic preservation and quiet
restraint. However, even when a child
actor turns in an incredible varsity-
level performance, the Academy is
often reluctant to hand out awards to a
rookie with such a short resume
attached to her career.
Naomi Watts's performance in "21
Grams" was a devastating portrait of
a woman shattered by tragedy, both
random and deep. As the female third
of Inirritu's triumvirate of grief and
chance, she rivals Benecio del Toro
for raw emotion and confusion. She
suffers beautifully, wailing and wal-
lowing, all with intense conviction.
With this film she establishes herself
as an elite actress, especially after her

role in "Mulholland Drive." The onl
penalties come from her adventurou
movie choices. David Lynch's surre
alism and Iiirritu's fractured narra
tive are not the types of movie
rewarded comes Oscar night. Th
Academy's myopic vision doesn'
take her great performance.
Finally, there is Samantha Morton'
anchoring performance as Sarah, th
mother of a struggling Irish immi
grant family in Jim Sheridan's "It
America." While powerful, her role it
the film was not prominent enough t<
present her as a true contender fo
this award. Scene-stealing perform
ances by Djimon Hounsou as the
dying neighbor, and the two daugh
ters in the film, Sarah and Emm,
Bolger, make it almost impossible fo
her role to stand out enough to wil
the Best Actress nod.
One performance that was over
looked was Uma Thurman's turn a;
"The Bride" in Quentin Taratino's sadl)
snubbed "Kill Bill." Definitely lacking
the depth the Academy seeks, she wa<
still unusually powerful for a simpl<
revenge heroine. Uma may still be wig
gling her big toe, but Charlize is taking
it all come Feb. 29.

frightened wife of a suspected killer
(Tim Robbins), she proves here that her
previous Oscar win was no fluke.
Holly Hunter has a remarkable Oscar
history in that in 1994, she was nomi-
nated twice in two categories (Best
Actress and Best Supporting Actress),

t

winning Best Actress for "The Piano."
This year she is nominated for the teen-
angst drama "Thirteen." Hunter has an
effortless quality in her acting, making
her one of the most fascinating actress-
es of our time to watch. "Thirteen"'s
Oscar buzz has cooled down consider-
ably, so it may not be Holly's year to
win, but she will remain a hot item for
years to come.
A two-time Oscar nominee, Ren~e
Zellweger grabs her third for the Civil
War romance "Cold Mountain."
Understated would not be the word for
her work in this film, as her spunky
performance seems to scream "give me
my Oscar NOW." The film itself has
received mixed reviews, and some have
already forgotten it. Still, many voters
may think that she is due, and after
coming off a strong Golden Globe win,
Renee may have it.
Finally, we have the hardest-working
actress this year, Patricia Clarkson. She
appeared and was lauded for her excep-
tional work in both "The Station Agent"
and "Pieces of April,' and she will soon
be seen in Lars von Trier's ("Dancer in
the Dark") latest film "Dogville'" star-
ring alongside Nicole Kidman. If consis-
tency means anything, Clarkson should
get the award. Going from rarely seen to
being everywhere, Clarkson has had a
remarkable year, and what better way to
reward that than with an Oscar.

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