» Movies » Wonderful year for women at Oscars

Wonderful year for women at Oscars

By Arthur J Pais
February 13, 2003 16:42 IST
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Critics of Miramax, the mini studio fabled for its award-winning medium budget hits, had to eat humble pie when its movies won at least 30 Oscar nominations this week.
Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman in The Hours
In addition, The Hours, which Miramax produced with Paramount, received 9 nominations.

Miramax, whose Oscar-winning hits include Shakespeare In Love, has never had this kind of run. All its nominees, including The Quiet American, which brought Michael Caine the Best Actor nomination, are doing good business at the box-office, with Chicago expected to gross $100 million even before its 13 nominations were announced on February 11.

The Oscars will be presented on March 23.

Among the big surprises were Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Adrien Brody) nominations for the Holocaust drama, The Pianist, which received half a dozen nods. Director Roman Polanski, who fled America in 1978 after being charged with consensual sex with a minor, makes a comeback with the autobiographical film, a sizeable hit in Europe, with a $40 million gross. In America, the movie, which grossed $8 million, could now expect a good boost.

Among the big budget hits, The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, which is in its last days in America, received the Best Picture nod and a slew of technical nominations. With a $320 million gross in America and nearly $500 million minted abroad, the movie will certainly benefit from the nominations.

A few months ago, Miramax's rivals and admirers wondered if the studio, which is owned by Disney, overreached itself by investing some $60 million out of an estimated $110 million in Martin Scorsese's Gangs Of New York; about $30 million out of $70 million in Shekhar Kapur's The Four Feathers; and about half of Robert Benigni's $40 million Pinocchio.

The Four Feathers, which Miramax distributed overseas, tanked along with Pinocchio. The studio distributed Pinocchio in America where it made a meagre $3.7 million.

The Scorsese movie, which is on its way to become a moderately profitable venture, grabbed 10 nominations. There is speculation that Scorsese will receive his first Oscar in a career spanning three decades. Daniel Day-Lewis received the best actor nomination for his splendid work as a ruthless thug in Gangs which was also nominated for best picture.

The movie, which is on its last legs in America with a $70 million gross, could now earn about $15 million more. Abroad, where it is doing far better business and is yet to open in countries like Australia and Germany, it is expected to grab at least $130 million, making it a decent hit, with plenty of big bucks to come from video and DVD sales.

Scorsese, who has been trying to produce Gangs for nearly two decades, will compete with, among others, first-time director Rob Marshall, whose Chicago won the most nominations. Miramax invested some $40 million in the musical which had been looking for a financier for over a decade.

The Salma Hayek-produced Frida, the story of the controversial Mexican painter known for her tempestuous relationships including one with Leon Trotsky, bagged six nominations.

Hayek, who struggled for over six years to make the film, received a Best Actress nomination. The movie also won  nominations in departments like costume and music.

The movie, which is nearing the end of its run in America with a decent $24 million, could linger for a few more weeks in the wake of its Oscar nomination glow.

Chicago, inspired by the innovative musical choreographed and directed by Bob Fosse which has been running on Broadway since 1976, could become the most profitable film for Miramax in recent years. The film revolves around women on murder row in a corrupt court system in Chicago in the early 20th century. It is about how one woman in particular, a failed vaudeville actress, uses the media's hunger for sensation and subverts the system.

The movie has grossed $65 million in North America. In anticipation of the Oscar nominations, Miramax added about 1,200 theatres, taking its total count to 1,841 theatres.

The movie, which received the Best Film nomination, also earned a nomination for Renee Zellweger in the Best Actress category but failed to earn Richard Gere a nod as Best Actor. As a splashy, conniving lawyer, this is the best performance in Gere's career. His tap dancing and singing are a big highlight in the film.

John C Reilly as the cuckolded and dim-witted husband was lucky. The actor, who is also in Gangs Of New York and The Hours, has never had it this good in 20 years at the movies. He received a Best Supporting Actor nomination while Catherine Zeta-Jones as another conniving prisoner and Queen Latifah as the wily warden received nods in the Supporting Actress category for the same movie.

The Hours, a surprising best-seller about writer Virginia Woolf and how two women living in two different periods of time are affected by her, was doing encouraging but moderate business before it received nine nominations. The movie could have ended with about $30 million in North America without the Oscar encouragement. Now experts believe it could reach the $50 million mark by March 23.

Diane Lane, who played the adulterous wife in Unfaithful which earned a decent $110 million worldwide, was among the surprise nominees. So was Christopher Walken for Catch Me If You Can, whose big names Leonardo diCaprio and Tom Hanks were ignored. 

While there was speculation that Meryl Streep would be nominated in two categories, Best Actress and Supporting Actress, she received one nod for her work in Adaptation in the latter category.

On the other hand, her costar in The Hours, Julianne Moore could become the first artist to win in two categories in the same year. She was nominated as Best Actress for the 1950s period drama Far From Heaven (Dennis Quaid who was brilliant in the movie was luckless) and in the supporting actress category for The Hours.
Streep earned her 13th nomination, surpassing the legendary Katharine Hepburn's record as the most nominated actress ever. 'It's a wonderful year for the women, and also the movies themselves are so diverse,' said Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars.

Similar sentiments were heard at the Golden Globes which awarded the Best Musical/Comedy Award to the women-dominated Chicago and the drama category globe to The Hours. Nicole Kidman, Golden Globe winner for The Hours, requested at the Golden Globe ceremony that Hollywood write more solid parts for women.

Kidman, whose career has become upwardly mobile following her turbulent divorce from Tom Cruise, was nominated last year in the Best Actress category in Moulin Rouge.

The intriguing comedy about a writer's creative problems, Adaptation, has been struggling at the box-office, with just about $18 million grossed in America. Now, with nominations for Nicolas Cage who plays dual roles, Streep and for the screenplay, the movie could fare better.

The emotional drama About Schmidt, about the self-discoveries a difficult middle aged man must make and the sudden friendship he finds most unexpectedly, has turned into quite a success with a $54 million gross. Expect it to make big bucks now that Jack Nicholson has been nominated for Best Actor along with Kathy Bates in the Supporting Actress category.

With his 12th Oscar nomination, Nicholson has earned the distinction of more nominations than any other male actor.

Two-time Oscar winner Michael Caine campaigned hard for The Quiet American to be released. A political thriller inspired by the classic Graham Greene novel, the arthouse release has grossed about $1.5 million in America but done far better in Europe. In England it is headed for a $3 million run.

Sam Mendes' Road To Perdition was expected to be a big winner but it got only a few nominations including a Best Supporting Actor nod for Paul Newman. Other nominees in this category are Ed Harris for The Hours, Chris Cooper for Adaptation, Walken for Catch Me If You Can and Reilly in Chicago.

Steven Spielberg had two hits -- Minority Report and Catch Me... -- in the running but the movies won only a few nods.

Spain's Pedro Almodovar, whose poignant and unusual love story Talk To Her was not nominated for the foreign film category by his country, was nominated in the Best Director section. He will compete with Scorsese, Polanski, Marshall and Stephen Daldry for The Hours.

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Arthur J Pais