Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A UN Gala? Try This Year's Academy Awards

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A UN Gala? Try This Year's Academy Awards

Article excerpt

For once, Billy Crystal may not be the best choice to host the Academy Awards. Tuesday's Oscar nominations included such an unprecedented array of nominees from around the globe that Kofi Annan might be a more appropriate emcee.

This year's acting nominees included not only the usual British contingent, but also an Iranian actress, a teenager from New Zealand, a Japanese thespian and - this, surely a first - a nominee from Benin. (In the future, James Lipton may have to employ a translator for "Inside the Actor's Studio.")

Add to the list Brazil's Fernandi Meirelles for best director, the French-Canadian director Denys Arcand for best original screenplay, France's "The Triplets of Belleville" in the animated category, and, oh yes, all those people from New Zealand for "The Lord of the Rings," and it's a year in which the American film industry doesn't look quite as dominant as before.

There have been notable foreign nominations in the past (remember "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") and, of course, Hollywood still sets the standard for moviemaking and marketing, but the sheer geographic and ethnic diversity of this year's nominees reflects an indisputable internationalization of cinema.

"It's getting more and more difficult to draw a line around the notion of the Oscars as being the American film industry, it's more and more the international film industry," says Garth Jowett, a communication expert at the University of Houston. "The voters here are pushing the envelope for American audiences and challenging them to go out and see movies that are not the usual Hollywood films."

Of course, there's nothing that unusual about this year's biggest nomination harvester, "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King." It's a US-financed film and a popular blockbuster. But, here too, foreign filmmakers - in this case New Zealanders - can take credit. Almost every aspect of the film's creation, including the remarkable special effects, originated in the upturned boot of an archipelago. "Rings" notched up 11 nods, one more than "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World."

The director of that seafaring epic, Peter Weir, is among the small corps of Australians who will walk the red carpet this year. He's joined by Naomi Watts, who was noticed for her work in "21 Grams." Also, from the Southern Hemisphere is Charlize Theron, a South African, was also nominated for Best Actress following her win at Sunday's Golden Globe Awards.

To portray serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster," Theron waxed off her eyebrows, gained 30 pounds, and used prosthetic makeup to give her skin a mottled appearance. Hollywood loves it when an actress undergoes what amounts to an ugly duckling transformation and, come Award night, the Aphrodite-like Theron will gracefully swan past Joan Rivers as a favorite. …

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