Phillip French: Let's see Pedro up at the podium

...But don't hold your breath for Roman Polanski

Apart from the high quality of the movies and performances in contention for the 2003 Oscars, the most striking aspect of the Oscar nominations announced last Tuesday is the success of the New York-based producer Harvey Weinstein, head of Miramax. A few weeks ago, the New Yorker published a highly unflattering profile of him, presenting him as a vulgar bully not unlike the notorious founder of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn.

It also suggested that his luck was running out. We should all be that unlucky. The three most honoured films were all his productions - Chicago with 13 nominations, Gangs of New York with 10 and The Hours with eight - and they all figure among the five nominated for Best Picture and Best Direction. Altogether, Weinstein films attracted 40 nominations this year. What is remarkable is the variety of his pictures - ranging from the remake of Graham Greene's The Quiet American to a biography of the painter Frida Kahlo - and the fact that they were shot in Mexico, England, Rome, America and Vietnam.

Not for the first time a handful of pictures dominate, and there are few if any major shocks of inclusion or omission. It was good, though, to see Pedro Almodóvar recognised not in the Foreign Language Film section but as a potential recipient of Oscars for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for his Talk to Her; the Academy has acquitted itself well here. It was also pleasing to find among the nominees for Best Documentary Feature Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, a knockabout documentary that mercilessly mocks one of Hollywood's most illustrious citizens, Charlton Heston. Will its seemingly unpatriotic views be endorsed when the 5,800 members of the Academy come to vote? One also wonders how Martin Scorsese's view of America as a nation forged in blood and violence will strike academicians when they're considering a vote for Gangs of New York.

Most of the competing pictures are variations on long-standing Hollywood genres - the biopic, the crime film, the war movie, the fantasy adventure and, of course, the musical. It was a musical, The Broadway Melody, that won the first Oscar of the sound era in 1929, and until the genre became more or less defunct in the 1970s they were picking up statuettes every couple of years. Between 1959 and 1965 the Best Picture Oscars went to Gigi, West Side Story, My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music. Academy members must have been delighted to establish a link with the past through the nostalgic Chicago. The most interesting Chicago nomination, perhaps, is that for the ubiquitous John C. Reilly as the heroine's sad, insensitive husband. He played similar roles this year as husband to Julianne Moore in The Hours and to Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl, and also turned in a memorable performance as a corrupt Irish cop in Gangs of New York.

Also of note is the sad fact that the rap artist Queen Latifah, who plays the gay prison guard in Chicago, is the only black actor to be nominated this year following the landmark success of Halle Berry and Denzel Washington at last year's awards.

I have no predictions to make in what in most categories are likely to be close contests, though I wouldn't want to see Chicago walk off with an armful of statuettes or The Hours and Scorsese go unrewarded. I think it is reasonable to say that Roman Polanski is unlikely to be in the audience when someone opens the envelope for Best Director, unless he's been studying Catch Me If You Can for lessons on giving the cops the slip. I wonder, however, whether Catherine Zeta-Jones will be allowed to vet the cameramen and chose the shots that might accompany the second greatest moment in her life.

Phillip French

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Hollywood throws out the script...

Strange days at the Oscars last week.

Anne Thompson

30, Mar, 2003 @2:43 AM

Glitz out as stars ponder Oscar protest
Anti-war feeling leads to tight security and crackdown on glamour at ceremony.

Amelia Hill, London and Edward Helmore, New York

23, Mar, 2003 @3:17 AM

This show will run and run

As the bombs fell on Iraq, the debate went on. To hold the Oscars or not to hold the Oscars?

Anne Thompson

23, Mar, 2003 @3:17 AM

Focus: Gangs of Los Angeles

Bruising, bad-tempered movie producer Harvey Weinstein is at loggerheads with director Martin Scorsese over their epic $100m movie, out this week in the US. And if it proves a flop, the industry sharks are circling, reports Lawrence Donegan.

15, Dec, 2002 @3:13 AM

And the winner should be...

Oscars 2003: Will Chicago or The Hours dominate? Has Martin Scorcese's time come? Our expert panel say who they think deserves to win

09, Feb, 2003 @1:05 AM

Our tips to tonight's Oscars

Who will be going home with a statue? We pick the likely winners...

23, Mar, 2003 @3:17 AM

Roberto Benigni: A nose for trouble

Interview: Two Oscar wins don't guarantee future success. Just ask Roberto Benigni, whose Pinocchio has been savaged by the critics.

Amy Raphael

23, Mar, 2003 @3:17 AM

Letter from LA: 10 films you need to see if you want to be in the Oscar loop

There are 10 films you need to see if you want to be in the Oscar loop. And here they are... with accompanying gossip.

Anne Thompson

17, Nov, 2002 @12:59 AM

The 10 hottest films for the Oscars

This year, the drama and intrigue that surround the Oscars began even earlier than usual.

Anne Thompson

09, Nov, 2003 @1:28 AM

Julianne, Renée... they're all just so much window dressing
At the Oscars, don't let a handful of super-glamorous Hollywood actresses pull the wool over your eyes. Take a look at the list of nominations and you will get an all too familiar picture of the gender inequality in the movie business today.

Cherry Potter

23, Mar, 2003 @3:17 AM