Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Oscar's Choices Don't Always Line Up with Critic's Favorites

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Oscar's Choices Don't Always Line Up with Critic's Favorites

Article excerpt

Since when did Gladiator get to be such a great movie?

Oh, it was a perfectly fine bit of summer entertainment, delivering on all its hype. But a dozen Oscar nominations? That's a bit much -- although you can see its appeal to Academy voters. It was a rousing, old-fashioned epic, and being a blockbuster didn't hurt it either.

Apart from Gladiator's success, two big stories came from yesterday's Oscar nominations from Beverly Hills, Calif.

One, of course, is Steven Soderbergh's double-double: two directing nominations and two best-picture nominations for Traffic and Erin Brockovich. Nobody's done it before -- and Soderbergh, who has successfully married arthouse edginess with mainstream entertainment, deserves the acclaim.

The other big story is the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which received 10 nominations, including ones for best picture and director (and another for best foreign-language film).

It has taken in more than $60 million at the box office, the most of any foreign-language film. After all these nominations, that figure is likely to soar as high as one of its gravity-defying warriors.

Any movie fan is going to have issues with every Oscar slate. I've got some.

Gladiator wouldn't have been on my best-picture list (the enjoyable trifle Chocolat wouldn't have shown up either), and neither would Ridley Scott as director.

But it's hard to argue with Russell Crowe's old-fashioned movie-star appeal, a larger-than-life quality that also worked for Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich. Both have to be considered favorites.

Among best-actor nominees, I would have subbed Billy Elliot's 14-year-old Jamie Bell, so fierce, so wounded, for the overly mannered Geoffrey Rush in Quills. In fact, I would have put Meet the Parents' sad-sack Ben Stiller, who disintegrated so comically, in there as well -- as if a comedy that crowd-pleasing could ever get such respect.

And I would have definitely put Bjork of Dancer in the Dark ahead of Juliette Binoche in Chocolat. Binoche is serenely beautiful, but Bjork, who comes from Iceland via some alternate universe, was simply astonishing.

It was gratifying, but not surprising, to see Tom Hanks back again for Cast Away. …

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