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February 24, 2005 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-02-24

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Su
12B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 24, 2005

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CATEGOPY

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REST DwPEcTop

Eastwood, Scorsese lead pack for Oscar

By Zach Borden
Daily Arts Writer
The Best Director category has been
a perennial favorite at the Academy
Awards, honoring those responsible for
creating a film's look and developing its
tone. This year, the five men vying for
the directing trophy share two things in
common - they are all Oscar veter-
ans (winners or past nominees) and the
films they are nominated for are com-
plex character dramas.
It's a long-held Oscar tradition that
four of the five nominated directors
are the ones behind the movies up
for Best Picture. The fifth nominee
is often a wild card, whose film is not

up for the top prize but for smaller
awards. This year, Academy members
favored Mike Leigh's helming skills
on "Vera Drake" over Marc Forster's
manipulative, and superficial style on
the glossy "Finding Neverland."
Leigh has been an Academy
favorite for quite some time - even
though he's never won, Leigh has
been nominated three times before:
in 2000 he earned a Best Original
Screenplay nod for "Topsy-Turvy"
and in 1997 he received writing and
directing nods for "Secrets & Lies."
With "Vera Drake," Leigh has craft-
ed a masterful, multilayered charac-
ter study of a female abortionist in
1950s London. "Drake" is truly one

-ROS.

of Leigh's most heartbreaking and
grim films but plays to his strengths
- it features fully formed char-
acters, flawless performances and
controversial subject matter that is
handled appropriately. Leigh won't
win the Oscar for directing, but
there's a strong chance the Acad-
emy will award him Best Original
Screenplay for the film.
Taylor Hackford's nomination sur-
prised many, as did the overwhelm-
ing support his pet project "Ray"
received from the Academy, with six
nominations. Hackford, who won
in 1979 for his short film "Teenage
Father," makes his portrait of the late
musician Ray Charles an exercise in
tedium. While the filmmaker is able
to draw strong performances out of
his actors and makes a competent
narrative out of Charles's womaniz-
ing and drug addiction, the movie is
ultimately a conventional biopic and
isn't as inspirational as it seems. The
only win "Ray" seems destined for
is Best Actor.
By taking in two nods for "Side-
ways," the dramedy following two
friends through California's wine coun-
try, Alexander Payne's status as one of
America's best storytellers has been
cemented. The brilliance of Payne's
directing is how he masterfully bal-
ances organic comedy with realistic,
personal conflict - not an easy task.'
As fabulous as Payne's directing is, it
seems that like Leigh, Payne will win
an Oscar for his adapted screenplay,
which he co-wrote with Jim Taylor (the
two were up for an Oscar four years

ago for their "Election" screenplay).
However, this year's race is real-+
ly only between two filmmakers:+
the beloved but previously snubbed
Martin Scorsese and industry vet-
eran Clint Eastwood. Eastwood,
who won two Oscars in 1993 for his+
western "Unforgiven" and was nom-
inated last year for "Mystic River,"
is the current front-runner for "Mil-
lion Dollar Baby." Eastwood won
the esteemed Director's Guild Of
America prize, which has an out-
standing track record: Out of its
previous 57 winners, only six have
failed to claim an Oscar.
Other than directing, Eastwood
is up for two other honors this year
- one for Best Actor and the other
for Best Picture (Eastwood was a
co-producer on the film). Out of the
three, Eastwood deserves a golden1
statuette the most for his direct-
ing prowess. While "Million Dol-
lar Baby" may seem like a boxing
drama, Eastwood has actually made
a riveting story about three desper-
ate souls. The movie is a classic
example of efficient filmmaking;
each scene serves a purpose and noti
a single frame is wasted. Eastwood
keeps the focus on the main char-1
acters, stages unflinching boxing
bouts and uses lighting and shadows1
in perhaps the best form ever put to
celluloid. Out of the 25 films East-
wood has directed, this is his best
work behind the camera.
Scorsese's nomination for "TheI
Aviator" is his seventh, and thata
could prove to be a lucky number.

s
"
s
"
"
"
"
*0

Clint Eastwood
will win and should win

His other nominations include four
for directing, and two for screen-
play writing. It would be nice to see
Scorsese win an Oscar, since he cer-
tainly deserves one, but "The Avia-
tor" doesn't represent his absolute
best work. With this biopic covering
20 years in the life of mogul Howard
Hughes, Scorsese proves yet again
that he is an actor's director and is
willing to tackle more difficult sub-
ject matter. While the film has plen-
ty of intricate details, it is filled with
too much visual spectacle. Scorsese
undermines many of the film's sub-
tleties and lets the story go on for
too long. Truthfully, the iconic film-
maker should have been nominated
and won for "Taxi Driver" almost
thirty years ago.
At this point, it seems like a lock
that Eastwood will win for Best
Director, and he certainly deserves it
the most out of this year's nominees
- no other film this year comes close
to capturing the same intense, raw
emotion that "Million Dollar Baby"
captures. However, Scorsese could
pull an unsurprising upset that would
most likely result in a standing ova-
tion and one of the most memorable
moments in the history of the Acad-
emy Awards.

" " c 0 0 "0! ! ! ! ! " " * * * *
P1 f U T

"
a
i
i
"
f
"
0
0
0

COURTESY OF WARNER B

Go ahead. Make my movie.

" " " " " "0 " " " " " "" "" "" "" "" "" "" "" "" " " " " " " " " " "

AND

THE

NOkMINEES AEL

"
"
"
"

0 00

Clint
Eastwood
"Million
Dollar Baby"

Taylor
Hackford
"Ray"

Mike
Leigh
"Vera Drake"

_n

Alexander Martin
Payne Scorsese
"Sideways" "The Aviator"
..............................
Courtesy of Fine Line Features, Fox Searchlight, Miramax, Universal, Warner Bros.

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