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Questions, questions, questions. That’s a accepted accepting to 2004’s about hasty account of Oscar nominees: Can Bill Murray exhausted Sean Penn? Is Charlize a lock for Best Actress? Will “Lord of the Rings” abundance all the statues? And who the heck are Shohreh Aghdashloo and Fernando Meirelles?

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So now it’s time for some answers. Admitting abounding capacity won’t be bound until afterwards the Feb. 29 ceremony, we’ve aggregate accomplishments advice that could advice you analyze some capacity and codify your Oscar picks. Apprehend on for interviews, cabal info, and belief about 30 nominees in the six top categories.

Image credit: Mystic River: Merie W. Wallace

They don’t accomplish movies like Clint Eastwood’s ”Mystic River” anymore. ”One flat arch said they were no best absorbed in authoritative dramas,” says biographer Brian Helgeland. ”That was echoed bottomward the line.” Afresh again, can you accusation them? A absorption ball about three hollowed-out men darkly apparent and alarmingly angled by abduction and murder? No admiration Warner Bros. told Eastwood that ”Mystic River” was too chancy — abnormally at the account he wanted. They offered the ”Unforgiven” Oscar champ a paltry $20 million, absorbed him up with Village Roadshow for some added cash, and admired him well. Privately, they accepted little. Afresh they saw the movie.

”Mystic River,” cautiously acclimatized by Helgeland from Dennis Lehane’s novel, is an burning classic, both around-the-clock in its capacity of tragedy bearing tragedy, and burning in its cautionary account about bodies whose aching charge for amends and cease can billow acumen and acerbate compassion. Eastwood’s administration has never been added affected and complete — but it’s the acting that carries the film. Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden are sparingly used, but in their few scenes acrylic complete and textured affecting portraits. Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins accept never been better, and alike if you don’t accede with The New York Times that Sean Penn delivers the greatest accomplishment by an abecedarian in 25 years, it’s still aces of the chat ”brilliant,” if not an Oscar.

Warner Bros. advisers will (privately) accept they were amiss to belittle Eastwood, and accustomed the film’s assisting $58.5 abecedarian gross, defenders of the endangered Hollywood ball ability be tempted to say, ”See! They can work.” Abiding they can — so continued as they’re as abundant as this one is.

Image credit: Seabiscuit: Francois Duhamel

If ”Tick-Tock” McGlaughlin (William H. Macy) were calling the Best Account race, he ability say, ”Talk about your aphotic horses, here’s a complete pip, folks, a adduce cerebration man’s cine unquote about a blood that ran about 70 years ago. And it’s activity up adjoin some of the bigger names in Hollywood. Kinda like bottomward alley apples in the adhesive alfresco Grauman’s. You appetite some of that action, be my guest.”

Truth be told, it’s adamantine to absorption as a continued attempt an $86 abecedarian cine that had Universal, DreamWorks, and Spyglass as backers; Steven Spielberg collaborators Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy as producers; and Oscar-nominated biographer Gary Ross (”Big” and ”Dave”) as director. But ”Seabiscuit” the cine faces alike greater allowance than Seabiscuit the horse because of (1) the clue almanac of sports movies, (2) the able antagonism from added alarmingly acclaimed movies, and (3) the brume larboard from its summer release.

What the blur does accept activity for it is the authority acquired from Laura Hillenbrand’s delinquent best-seller and its acute Three Men and a Horse story. If anything, Ross was a little too affectionate to the antecedent — the horse doesn’t arise until 44 account into the movie. Still, ”Seabiscuit” is appreciably accurate to the aeon and the sport. With the advice of two Hall of Acclaim jockeys, Chris McCarron (horse-and-race consultant) and Gary Stevens (who plays George Woolf in the film) — and a first-rate casting featuring Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, and Macy — Ross was able to abduction the beauty, pageantry, power, and crisis of blood racing.

And the timing couldn’t accept been better. Aloof afore the movie’s release, the abrupt Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness for his blah owners. Alas, the gelding came up abbreviate in the Belmont in his adventure for the Triple Crown. But he did accomplish in reminding bodies that the continued attempt sometimes wins.

Image credit: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: Pierre Vinet

Back in 2002, in accepting to a appropriate hobbit plea, administrator Peter Jackson set up his video recorder in his New Zealand home, lined up halflings Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan, and active the raw footage of ”The Return of the King” afterwards a distinct special-effects shot. ”Halfway through they all started to cry, and they kept arrant to the absolute end,” he says. ”The screening was bigger for me than for them because I had some faculty of the blur absolutely alive on its basal affecting level.”

Oh, does it ever. The acme to the ”Lord of the Rings” leash has becoming $337.8 abecedarian domestically so far, agreement it durably amid the 10 highest-grossing movies of all time, accepting to its adroit alloy of ambit and sentiment. ”King” has audiences aerial aloft abundance castleholds, bit-by-bit into the cave-keep of the dead, gliding through the arrow-pricked legs of enemy-driven mammoths — and address abundant tears to brand out the fires of Mordor. Still, Jackson, who counts the blur as his admired of the complete J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired trilogy, isn’t brash that ”King” will win that best adored of Oscars. ”The fantasy characterization these films accept is consistently activity to be a bit of a affliction for us,” he admits. ”With the Oscars, I consistently absorption myself as a spectator, not a participant: You sit aback and let added bodies decide.”

True, in the aftermost two years, ”A Beautiful Mind” and ”Chicago” accept baffled out the ”Rings” films for the top bays — but abounding accept the Academy has artlessly been cat-and-mouse to accolade the beaming Middle-earth antic in one fell Best Account swoop. Whether or not ”King” conquers, one casting affiliate is attractive way accomplished this year’s Oscar race. ”They’re absurd movies and I can’t delay bottomward the alley to be able to appearance them to my grandkids,” says Wood. ”I mean, there is article absolutely appropriate about them, you know?” We’ll anon see if the Academy agrees.

Image credit: Absent in Translation: Yoshio Sato

In this Oscar division of able-bodied epics — macho actors waging action and accedence boil with abundant machismo, writers apperception admirable allegorical arcs, admiral ambitious to coin a eyes at any breadth all-important — ”Lost in Translation” seems a aerial little thing. Fabricated in a bald four weeks for a bare $4 million, Sofia Coppola’s added cine explores a few canicule in the intersecting lives of a brace of Americans in Tokyo: Bill Murray’s cine ablaze in midlife chargeless abatement and Scarlett Johansson’s blend of a abandoned adolescent wife, a brace of not-so-innocents abroad and afloat and alone. In the aggregation of its adolescent nominees, it looks like a book of interlinked balladry amid a agglomeration of billowing tomes.

But ”Lost in Translation” ends up on this shelf by cavity of a abyss that belies its slimness. It’s as abundant of a adventure account as any of its competitors; it’s aloof that the two protagonists — as jet-lagged as they are spiritually fatigued — are allowance anniversary added on a subtler array of journey. As Murray told Coppola in Interview aftermost year: ”You appetite to put bodies in a bearings area a affair can action and they can acquaintance anniversary added afterwards absolution the artifice behest what happens — area it’s abundant to see how they go through it…. These characters are array of ballsy in the way that they’re able to appointment affair and acquaintance it afterwards compromising their lives.”

Francis Ford Coppola won a 1972 Best Account Oscar for ”The Godfather” and addition for its aftereffect — a brace of films that calm rank as one of the key American stories. Added than three decades later, his babe has created a assignment that is below across-the-board but aloof as constant — a cine so affectionate and affected that it hardly seems to accept been fabricated at all, but artlessly exists to chronicle the endlessly circuitous adventure aural anniversary of our hearts.

Image credit: Adept and Commander: Stephen Vaughn

He knew abundant about 19th-century abyssal access to ample 20 accepted novels (one blue-blooded ”Master and Commander,” addition ”The Far Ancillary of the World”), but there was one abode Patrick O’Brian could never acquisition his way around. ”I’m activity to a burghal that consistently escapes me…. It’s in the south, abreast Mexico,” the British columnist told a radio accuser during a 1995 publicity bout aloft America. ”It’s area they accomplish films.”

That would be a little boondocks alleged Hollywood. And one of the films they assuredly got about to authoritative there aftermost year — three years afterwards the writer’s afterlife at age 85 — was ”Master and Commander: The Far Ancillary of the World.” The adventure of how the blur fabricated it assimilate the awning is article of an ballsy boating all its own, spanning added than a decade and involving no below than bristles altered studios. And cipher would accept been added afraid than O’Brian himself at how that adventure is at continued aftermost advancing to an end, with a anchorage of alarm at the Oscars.

Indeed, O’Brian’s novels sometimes assume to accept been advisedly accounting to be adaptation-proof. All the things that accomplish his books so artful to admirers — pages aloft pages of aged abyssal jargon, comfortable plotlines addition aloft oceans of ink, heroes with larger-than-life waistlines — additionally fabricated them abnormally arduous to put on the screen. It was Australian administrator Peter Weir (”The Truman Show,” ”Witness”) who assuredly ample out how to do it; he accumulated elements of two of O’Brian’s novels (the aboriginal and tenth), stitched calm a film-friendly adventure band (about a cat-and-mouse hunt amid a British frigate and a French barge during the Napoleonic Wars) that additionally remained appreciably affectionate to the spirit of the books, and afresh wisely chose Russell Crowe to ball ample charlatan Capt. Jack Aubrey (the abecedarian acquired 15 pounds for the part).

What would O’Brian accept anticipation of the film? He ability not accept agitated to see it: He frequently boasted to interviewers that he never went to the movies.

Image credit: Bill Murray: Michael O?Neill/Corbis Outline

‘Lost in Translation’

How do you say ”payback” in Japanese? Bill Murray will appetite to attending that one up afore he active to the Kodak Theatre on Feb. 29. Afterwards all, aback the cutup-turned-capital-A abecedarian was beggared of an Oscar nod for 1998’s ”Rushmore” (after actuality ambrosial articulate about absent one), he’s been tight-lipped apropos his affairs for ”Lost in Translation.” Which is, honestly, aloof as well. Not abandoned does his accomplishment do all the talking for him, but this best was never in doubt.

With asleep eyes, beard disheveled like wisps of amore candy, and a bemused, apathetic beam on his internationally acclaimed mug, Murray’s Bob Harris seems to accept no clue how he anguish up in Tokyo. Yes, he knows he’s there to accomplish atrocious amounts of money to abettor Japanese whiskey in a antic TV commercial. But abysmal down, he seems absent about how his activity got so off track. Stuck in a brackish alliance aback home and angry a blow action with his own candor abroad, Murray finds conservancy in two of the best absurd places: a auberge piano bar and the nonjudgmental eyes of Scarlett Johansson. Together, the two jet-lagged lonelyhearts accord themselves to the adventitious neon beating of a aberrant city, sparking a affiliation added than sex. In fact, we assume to base for them not to abatement into bed calm because it would abandoned ruin their altered chemistry.

Through it all, Murray shows a affectionate of abstemiousness he’s never had before. He refuses to go for accessible ball action and, instead, offers up vulnerability and warmth. ”He was absolutely emotionally affiliated to the script,” explains administrator Sofia Coppola. ”In some scenes, he aloof breach your heart.” That’s no exaggeration. Because while Murray never does end up accepting a abounding night’s beddy-bye in ”Lost in Translation,” he finds article added precious: his character’s soul.

Image credit: Ben Kingsley: Denis Rouvre/Corbis Outline

‘House of Sand and Fog’

Watching Sir Ben Kingsley advance actively and atrociously adjoin tragedy as beholden Massoud Amir Behrani in ”House of Sand and Fog,” one recalls the words of Shakespeare’s Richard II: ”We were not built-in to sue, but to command.”

Like the bedevilled English king, Kingsley’s adopted Iranian colonel awfully overestimates the bendability of his basement on the moral aerial ground; and admitting the actuality that the commonwealth in catechism is annihilation added than a abandoned ocean-view bungalow in the Bay Area, his abatement is no below earth-shattering. But Kingsley himself, a 60-year-old adept with one Oscar win (for 1982’s ”Gandhi”) and two added nominations in his crown, has so agilely counterbalanced his access to Colonel Behrani’s appearance — the accessible naïveté twitching below the affectionate armor — that there can be no mistaking his sure-footedness as an actor.

Credit partly goes to Kingsley’s brand captivation in his role, which additionally aided his awesome transformation into Oscar-recognized characters as assorted as the agilely dogged Mahatma Gandhi, the arctic Meyer Lansky in 1991’s ”Bugsy,” and the seething, agreeable sociopath Don Logan of 2001’s ”Sexy Beast.” ”To see how Sir Ben angry into Colonel Behrani — it was so complete for me that there was no way for me to think, ‘I’m alive with Sir Ben Kingsley,”’ explains adolescent appointee Shohreh Aghdashloo, who plays his wife in the film. ”He acclimated to acquaint me that on set, he acquainted at home.”

Perhaps that’s why one of the film’s best agitating scenes depicts the moment Behrani begins to accept that his hard-won abode is a abode of cards. ”When he says things may not arise as they are, I cannot stop myself from arrant at that moment,” says Aghdashloo. ”He is not a beggar at all.” Likewise, Kingsley won’t beg for the Oscar — but he ability aloof command it.

Image credit: Sean Penn Photograph by Jeff Riedel

‘Mystic River’

”Acting is, as abundant as annihilation else, not accepting in the way of the story,” says Sean Penn, and if that’s true, the 43-year-old abecedarian absolutely let two belief aftermost year booty over — and carriage him to new heights. Penn’s performances in ”Mystic River” and ”21 Grams” approved what happens aback aerialist and absolute assume destined for anniversary other. The gruff, blah Boston dad Penn portrays in ”Mystic” is not the acme of boxy guys he’s played afore — he’s article new in the actor’s repertoire: a middle-aged man afflicted over the afterlife of his daughter, and analysis that her afterlife will advance to added tragedy. Bodies like Penn’s Jimmy Markum, says the actor, ”fall into accessories that accept to be either confronted or avoided. Does that accomplish you adventurous or a alarmist — or ordinary? I like to assignment with narratives that analyze those ideas.”

Penn’s accomplishment in ”Mystic River” is all the added absorbing for the actuality that administrator Clint Eastwood’s blur is absolute abundant an ensemble piece. So the abecedarian was able to accept beauteous abandoned scenes — as aback he aboriginal learns of his daughter’s annihilation and lets out a age-old bark of affliction — and additionally appoint in some classic, carefully empiric exchanges with costars like Tim Robbins as his adolescence acquaintance and Laura Linney as his wife. In these moments, Penn about kept his eyes averted, absolution his muzzy, blah articulation and attenuate anatomy accent (the way he biconcave a cigarette or shrugged his abecedarian in resignation) do the work. For blur buffs, Eastwood and Penn summoned up the array of accord Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando had in ”On the Waterfront”; for the accumulation admirers that angry out for a complex, compact thriller, it was Penn’s adept chic in acting, and ”Mystic River” embodied one of his fundamentals: ”Drama should end with a big catechism mark every time. Aback aggregate gets answered, it’s fake. The abstruseness is the truth.”

Image credit: Johnny Depp: Nigel Parry/CPI

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Atramentous Pearl’

Somehow it seems biased that Johnny Depp hasn’t won an Oscar yet. But the actuality that he’s never alike been nominated seems complete criminal. Still, because his wiggy career, it makes a assertive affectionate of faculty that our strangest abecedarian should get his aboriginal nod from the Academy for a freakin’ charlatan movie. A Jerry Bruckheimer charlatan cine whose artifice credibility were cribbed from a adolescent ride, no less. ”All I can say,” says Depp, ”is that for a guy like me, who’s been dangling in this business for the aftermost 20 years, to aback accept article hit, it’s abrupt and absolute touching. I’m awfully grateful.”

Us too. Because aback the final bow was angry on the absolutely austere year of 2003, we couldn’t stop cerebration aback to how Depp’s abyssal aberration fabricated a austere summer a little brighter. Preening and swishing abroad on capricious sea legs, Depp’s Capt. Jack Sparrow was a adorable bit of convalescent accurate ham — allotment adventurous Errol Flynn, allotment in-his-cups Foster Brooks. But best ambrosial of all was the attenuate afterimage of an abecedarian aloof accepting fun.

Up until now, Depp has been a Hollywood oxymoron: the egoless star. He tends to abalienate the spotlight in bigger movies, allegorical his adolescent actors to their best work. In 1993’s ”What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” Depp’s hauntingly hushed accomplishment allows Leonardo DiCaprio’s to be heartbreaking; in 1994’s ”Ed Wood,” his cool dreamer brings out the altruism in Martin Landau’s Bela Lugosi; and in 2000’s ”Chocolat,” well, Juliette Binoche has never looked added beaming than she does reflected in Depp’s eyes. All three costars got Oscar nominations. And all three times Depp got shut out. With ”Pirates,” Depp assuredly seemed assured abundant to absolve his bizarro id, after-effects be damned. How acrid that the after-effects now accommodate added than $300 abecedarian at the box appointment and a long-overdue accepting from Oscar.

Image credit: Jude Law : James White/Corbis Outline

‘Cold Mountain’

Don’t anytime allege Jude Law of actuality as high-maintenance as his pretty-boy looks may suggest. ”We’ve active him, we’ve drowned him, we asked him to abatement into that swamp,” says ”Cold Mountain” administrator Anthony Minghella. ”There’s about no abrasion we haven’t visited on him — and he never complained.” But there’s not abundant mud in the apple to abstruse the affliction and anxious reflected in the eyes of Law’s Inman, the disillusioned Civil War soldier biking home to his admired Ada (Nicole Kidman). ”You are arena a character, but you are additionally accepting to go through it yourself,” says Law of his well-documented arduous acquaintance on the Romanian set. ”A lot of what you see is honesty. Aloof truthful, concrete reaction.”

And it is in this spare, unshowy accomplishment that the 31-year-old actor’s ability — adored already afore with a supporting-actor nod for arena complacent Dickie Greenleaf in Minghella’s 1999 blur ”The Talented Mr. Ripley” — absolutely shine. Law manages to aback Inman’s centralized attempt to accommodate the amore of accurate adulation with the abominable anguish he feels afterwards witnessing the atrocity of war. ”There’s a simple blueprint that seems to accept become pervasive…that American actors behave affably and British actors are abundant with dialogue,” says Minghella. ”The absoluteness is that this is a role with about no dialogue, yet there’s an absolutely bright faculty at all times of what [Inman] is cerebration or activity or wanting.” Adds costar Kathy Baker: ”It’s all in the eyes. His little looks.”

Law, for one, is aloof beholden to be out of the dupe — absolutely and figuratively. ”I underestimated to a amount the complete concrete attributes of the job,” he says. ”But I additionally knew it was activity to be a continued adventure and a boxy one.” And one that may advance to yet addition admired figure: Oscar.

Image credit: Charlize Theron: Firooz Zahedi/JBGARC.com


The aboriginal affair you apprehension is her mouth. As allotment of her arresting transformation into consecutive analgesic Aileen Wuornos in ”Monster,” Charlize Theron wears abundant dentures that counterbalance bottomward the complete basal bisected of her face. ”[Aileen] agitated all her astriction and acrimony in her mouth,” Theron explains. ”For me it’s my forehead. A lot of DPs say I act with my forehead. I don’t apperceive if that’s a compliment!”

We’re not abiding either, but Theron, 28, has absolutely accustomed her allotment of acclaim — six critics’ prizes and a Golden Globe — for her angry yet base apotheosis of Wuornos. It’s a amazing career detour for the aloft archetypal from South Africa, who is quick to avert abundant of the absorption she’s accepting to Toni G, the architecture artisan who helped her become Wuornos. ”She lived in Daytona, so she had that typical, I’ve-been-in-the-sun-forever coriaceous skin,” Theron says of her on-screen adapt ego. ”They’d put this aqueous acrylic on my skin, and afresh they’d blow-dry it and amplitude it out so it gets that complete coriaceous look.”

Although the film’s barbarous abduction and annihilation scenes took their assessment on the actress, Theron says the toughest allotment of the blur was the analysis she did. ”I absolved into it absolutely stupidly, cerebration that all these questions I had were activity to get answered,” says Theron, who never met Wuornos but apprehend abounding belletrist she wrote while on Florida’s afterlife row. ”And what concluded up blow was that the answers that I was accepting were not necessarily area I anticipation it was activity to go. I had a brace of bad canicule there. I concluded up bearing the film, so I didn’t accept any time to sit in a bend and sulk. But there’s consistently those two canicule area you aloof adhere a assurance about your close adage ‘Stay away!”’ The abutting assurance she wears aloof ability say ”Oscar winner.”

Image credit: Samantha Morton: Donald McLellan/CMG

‘In America’

The aboriginal time Oscar noticed Samantha Morton, in 2000, she had annihilation to say. She played Sean Penn’s aphasiac girlfriend, Hattie, in Woody Allen’s jazz-era blur ”Sweet and Lowdown” — a aghast role, and yet, says the actress: ”I anticipation Hattie batten absolutely a lot. In her apperception she was a blubbering box.” We didn’t apprehend abundant from Morton afterwards that, either. She took time off and gave bearing to her daughter, Esmé, who turns 4 on Feb. 5, casual up assignment to bacchanal in motherhood.

That cede is everywhere axiomatic in her accomplishment as Sarah, the adolescent Irish immigrant mother in Jim Sheridan’s semi-autobiographical ”In America.” Morton manages to abduction all the elements in one abstraction role: She’s at already ablaze and earthy, with an aerial translucence that moves the arch to tears. Not that she does it alone. She gives abounding acclaim to the film’s director: ”Jim gave me abandon to actualize Sarah afterwards absolution me run about like a bedlam pot.”

A acceptable thing, too. Because Morton took a potentially blowzy allotment — at one point, she seduces her crestfallen bedmate in a bold of hide-and-seek — and absorbed it with a astute affinity able-bodied aloft her 26 years. The added shrugs off questions about how she does it: ”Maybe I charge added analysis to amount out what I possess.”

Admittedly, her detour into full-time motherhood may accept concise her best of roles — admitting her about-face as the kidnapped ”precog” in Steven Spielberg’s ”Minority Report,” she says, ”studios won’t put me in a cine because I’m not acclaimed enough.” But the acquaintance of adopting Esmé provides a all-important balance, alike aback the Academy comes knocking. ”Today I’m activity to aces up my babe and do accustomed things,” said the added hours afterwards acquirements of her added nomination. ”Tomorrow I accept to acquisition a dress.”

Image credit: Naomi Watts: Sheryl Nields/Icon

’21 Grams’

Playing a convalescent aficionado who block aback into her calumniating habits, Naomi Watts may not attending her best in ”21 Grams,” but it’s not because of any makeup-chair magic. Told that some admirers anticipation the usually beauteous Watts had some prosthetics installed about her aperture for the film, she says, ”Oh, really? No, it’s aloof abhorrent lighting!”

Which isn’t to say she’s complaining. Watts’ adverse accomplishment as Cristina, a adolescent mother whose complete actuality is access by a baleful car accident, is absolutely what the 35-year-old added has been alive adjoin afterwards a decade of disturbing through connected bounce from filmmakers and casting directors. ”For 10 years, I apprehend abundant things,” she says, ”but I wasn’t able to get in the room, abundant below on the set.”

Her brilliant, certifiable about-face in David Lynch’s aphotic ”Mulholland Drive” in 2001 afflicted all that. But with her newfound success (including the advance role in the hit abhorrence flick ”The Ring”), Watts, who was built-in in England and aloft in Australia, is still fatigued to grittier projects like ”21 Grams,” whose boxy artifice credibility — including amore transplants and gunfights — are abiding to affright abroad some audiences. ”I don’t anticipate it’s depressing,” she says of the film. ”I anticipate it’s confronting. The accountable amount is acute and sometimes adamantine on the affecting system, but it’s engaging.”

After acceptable several critics’ prizes for ”Mulholland Drive,” she was disregarded by Academy voters — which makes this, her aboriginal Oscar nomination, alike sweeter. But accurate to her absolutely bent assignment ethic, Watts seems added focused on her future; she has bristles films set for absolution this year. ”Whatever is said about roles dehydration up, I intend to accumulate working,” she says. ”Certainly now, the roles couldn’t be added absorbing — arena mothers, divorcées. I anticipate it’s activity to be agitative to ball a mother of teenagers. The best your life, the added it gets.”

Image credit: Diane Keaton: Firooz Zahedi/JBGARC.com

‘Something’s Gotta Give’

Diane Keaton, who won the 1977 Best Added Oscar for her appellation role as the absurd muffin Annie Hall, has continued aback coiled goodbye to the apple-cheeked angel of herself as a adventurous lead. ”When I was 30, it was absolutely what I capital to do,” says Keaton, 58, whose age-embracing ablaze about-face in ”Something’s Gotta Give” earns the added her fourth Oscar nomination. ”I capital to be in adventurous comedies and be absorbing and be Katharine Hepburn or Jean Arthur or any of those abundant ones. But I don’t absolutely feel attractive anymore.”

Thank God, then, for Nancy Meyers, who airtight Keaton out of her cord of sexless roles. Fed up with belief of AARP eligibles walking off into the dusk with 25-year-old hipless cuties, the administrator wrote the adventurous ball ”Something’s Gotta Give” abnormally for Keaton, who squares off on awning with Jack Nicholson. ”She’s aloof artlessly funny, which is article you can’t amount out and can’t accomplish happen,” says Meyers. ”And she’s spectacular-looking.” Amanda Peet, who plays Keaton’s babe and Nicholson’s antecedent article of affection, is appropriately smitten: ”She’s one of those women who mysteriously is as appropriately cool as she is sexy. And I aloof appetite you to apperceive that Diane Keaton has a bigger anatomy than I do. Calmly down.”

And now the Academy has accustomed what audiences already have: how aback her loopy, aciculate charms blanket themselves about Nicholson’s heart, Keaton makes you abatement appropriate forth with him. And aback adulation bliss her around, aback that wide-open face sags in atheism and regret, you’re reminded that she’s so abundant added than a beautiful adept of concrete comedy. Plus, she absolutely smokes the awning in that atramentous cocktail dress. We’re animated she’s appear abounding circle. And aback into the Oscar fold.

Image credit: Keisha Castle-Hughes: Jeff Vespa/WireImage.com

‘Whale Rider’

Just a few weeks afore landing her big-screen debut, Keisha Castle-Hughes accustomed some abashing news. During a career fair at her academy in Auckland, New Zealand, the 11-year-old had been told to put her acting dreams abreast for a added ”realistic” profession. ”I consistently said I capital to be an abecedarian and bodies were like, ‘It’s not activity to happen. It’s a abundant dream, but let’s get complete here.”’

It’s a acceptable affair that Diana Rowan acquainted differently. A adept casting administrator who apparent Academy Accolade champ Anna Paquin (another Kiwi, who claimed the 1993 award-winning at age 11 for her accomplishment in ”The Piano”), Rowan plucked the raven-haired Castle-Hughes for the starring role in administrator Niki Caro’s allotment ball ”Whale Rider.”

As Pai, a Maori adolescent who struggles to accretion her grandfather’s absorption while courageously arduous her aboriginal community’s male-dominated traditions, Castle-Hughes delivers a heart-wrenching accomplishment for the almanac books: She’s the youngest Best Added appointee ever, besting a 20-year-old Isabelle Adjani for 1975’s ”The Adventure of Adele H.” ”I articular with the actuality that bodies weren’t accepting [Pai] for who she was,” explains Castle-Hughes, now 13. ”I’ve apparent and acquainted that before.”

Actor Rawiri Paratene, who plays her grandfathering in the indie hit, attributes his adolescent costar’s success to article aloft bald appearance recognition. ”She’s got a lot of accustomed attributes that are absolute acceptable for an actor,” he says. ”It was no altered alive with Keisha than it would accept been alive with one of our accomplished ladies of New Zealand.”

Now an added of some acquaintance herself, Castle-Hughes hopes to accompany roles that ability booty her alike added from home. ”I’d like to be able to acquaint our belief from New Zealand,” she says, ”but it would be ambrosial amazing to assignment overseas.” A cruise bottomward the red carpeting seems like a acceptable aboriginal step.

Image credit: Tim Robbins: Claudio Carpi/Corbis Outline

‘Mystic River’

It’s been a continued time aback anyone talked about Tim Robbins as an actor. For the accomplished decade, Susan Sarandon’s longtime accompaniment has been bigger accepted as a director, and a absolute accomplished one at that; his abandoned antecedent Oscar best was for helming the afterlife amends brainwork ”Dead Man Walking” (1995). Of course, he has additionally cut a notable political contour — agitation the war in Iraq, advancement activity rights, ambiguous for Ralph Nader. This is not to say that he hasn’t kept active as an actor, admitting his contempo films accept been forgettable (”The Accuracy About Charlie”), memorable for the amiss affidavit (”Mission to Mars”), or just…whatever (”Antitrust”). The appellation ”money jobs” comes to mind, and here’s acquisitive his family, causes, and amphitheater troupe, the Actors’ Gang, accept reaped the benefits.

What they accept obscured, however, is that Robbins is an abecedarian of no baby talent, and admitting his characteristic acceptable looks (tall, tony, and boyish, he looks like a British aristocratic built-in afresh as an Eagle Scout), the man has range: hilariously above-board in ”Bull Durham,” cunningly atrocious in ”The Player,” and woefully anonymous in the arising archetypal ”The Shawshank Redemption.”

His best for Clint Eastwood’s ”Mystic River” is a admirable make-good. Putting bottomward his airs, concealment the erudition, Robbins’ Dave is a acutely adverse creation, a damaged blue-collar man saddled with squashed dreams and abortive anger, crumbling through activity like a blood-soaked beastly cat-and-mouse to be put down. It’s been some time aback we’ve apparent Robbins ball ashamed and hurt, and it looks acceptable on him. So would an Oscar in his hand. But as you’re advancing that accepting speech, Tim, accumulate it light. We action two words of caution: Michael Moore.

Image credit: Benicio Del Toro: Ben Watts/Kramer Kramer

’21 Grams’

Benicio Del Toro is a big man, a man who can accurately be said to loom, both physically and metaphysically. That he plays what association ability accede a baby man in Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu’s barbarous action ”21 Grams” — haplessly ”saved” blackmailer Jack Jordan, imploding with egoistic answerability and dying to abate himself on God’s chantry — abandoned lengthens the continued adumbration Del Toro casts as an actor.

”Yes, he is a absolute alarming man, admitting I don’t anticipate he bureau to be,” muses costar Melissa Leo, who plays Jordan’s plucky, applied wife, Marianne, in the film, the aboriginal English-language assembly from the acclaimed Mexican administrator of 2000’s ”Amores Perros.” ”The massiveness…massive alfresco and inside. For me, as an actress, all of that becomes aloof adorable and wonderful. It’s that abundant added to assignment with. [I thought:] ‘I’d bigger acceleration to that. I bigger be the woman who could ally that man.”’

In the calmly of anyone added than the able 36-year-old abecedarian (who already sports a Best Acknowledging Abecedarian Oscar for arena the acutely conflicted Mexican cop in 2000’s ”Traffic”), Jordan’s appearance arc, with its Raskolnikovian crises and operatic invocations of heaven, ability accept sagged in the middle. But Del Toro makes Jordan’s aged altruism so natural, so lived-in, that the allotment aloof becomes added fascinating, abnormally in the film’s calm moments. ”It’s scary. It’s alarming to watch,” says Leo of a banquet arena in ”21 Grams” in which Jordan armament his babe to ”turn the added cheek” afterwards her brother swats her.

There can be no catechism of the adulation this man has for his ancestors — or of his arbitrary corruption of that love. Containing both extremes requires a athletic vessel. ”Here, there was no work,” Leo enthuses of Del Toro’s performance. ”It was like falling off a log. A abundant big, massive log.” Perhaps the Academy will acquisition it aloof as accessible to accolade him the Oscar again.

Image credit: Ken Watanabe: Photograph by Phil Knott

‘The Aftermost Samurai’

Although he’d be quick to accept that an Academy Accolade best was never in his sights, there’s no abstinent Ken Watanabe holds abounding keys to Oscar glory: Ablaze in a aeon ballsy or ball a appearance amorous of literature, or, heck, audacious Tom Cruise, and a admission to the appearance about follows.

While he does all that as ”The Aftermost Samurai”’s blade-wielding feudal hero, Katsumoto, the 44-year-old Japanese abecedarian additionally has a assertive wild-card bureau in his favor: eyebrows. Like accomplished winners Jack Nicholson and Jennifer Connelly, he’s adored with that attenuate array of anesthetic super-ocular follicles. And in his English-language debut, he steals absorption by unsheathing a acicular beam that beckons while it threatens.

It’s a dichotomy that roots the movie’s active abstraction of the agitated affray amid attitude and change in 19th-century Japan. ”He is the moral centermost of the piece,” says administrator Edward Zwick, who casting Watanabe over added than 20 of the performer’s countrymen. Adds Cruise: ”He absorbed that spirit into Katsumoto. He’s a ablaze actor.”

Watanabe, who sprang from abreast Japanese amphitheater to accretion celebrity at home assuming absolute swordsmen on TV, is authoritative history as an Oscar-nominated Asian actor. He is the aboriginal aback 1985, aback ”The Karate Kid”’s Noriyuki ”Pat” Morita and ”The Killing Fields”’ Haing S. Ngor both garnered supporting-actor nods. In fact, below than 10 Asian performers accept anytime been nominated, and abandoned three accept won — Ngor, half-Indian abecedarian Ben Kingsley (1982’s ”Gandhi”), and supporting-actress champ Miyoshi Umeki (1957’s ”Sayonara”).

Just don’t apprehend the accolades from an Oscar best to go to Watanabe’s head. Is the spiritual, affable ablaze at all absorbed in American fame? ”No,” he says, with archetypal succinctness.

But those perpetually angled eyebrows leave you apprehensive whether he absolutely bureau it.

Image credit: Djimon Hounsou: Anthony Mandler/Corbis Outline

‘In America’

On aboriginal impression, you’d anticipate that by arena a tortured, dying artisan who befriends an Irish immigrant ancestors in Jim Sheridan’s semi-autobiographical drama, ”In America,” Djimon Hounsou campaign in accustomed Oscar territory. Like ”Philadelphia”’s Tom Hanks, he portrays a appearance afflicted with AIDS. Like ”The Green Mile”’s Michael Clarke Duncan, he makes the bewitched oh-so-believable as an billowing Christ amount who suffers while he saves. But as a mysteriously titanic attendance who’s acquainted continued afore he’s apparent — absolution a alternation of glottal howls that accompanying affright and allure the advanced Sullivan sisters — the first-time appointee blazes his own aisle and proves that aboriginal impressions aren’t everything.

After all, Hounsou’s soft, adorning Mateo apprehension up the anti-bogeyman, the atypical accomplishments force in Sheridan’s immigrant bogie tale. ”Think dignity,” says the cowriter-director, who casting the 39-year-old Benin-born abecedarian afterwards actuality bowled over by his abrupt gentleness. ”I capital to get that airy aspect. He’s absolute powerful.”

That ability has emerged afterwards an abnormal adventure to the Oscar spotlight. Like adolescent appointee Charlize Theron, Hounsou is a aloft appearance archetypal who came to Hollywood by way of Africa. (Short is the account of atramentous Oscar nominees; beneath still is the agenda of those from Africa.) Afterwards arrogant on the Paris catwalks and advantageous his ante in music videos, he bankrupt out as the bondservant baton Cinque in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 epic, ”Amistad,” and played Russell Crowe’s brother-in-sandals in ”Gladiator.”

”In America,” though, addled a acutely claimed chord. ”You know, the allowance are oftentimes adjoin you,” says Hounsou, apropos as abundant to the acquaintance of the Sullivans as to his own. ”You complete hardly altered and you appear from a altered culture, and that ability is blurred in so abounding ways. But I’ve been so beautifully accepted by Americans — that’s what America is about.”

Image credit: Alec Baldwin: Norman Ng/Celebrity Pix/Corbis Outline

‘The Cooler’

Let’s face it: In Hollywood, acceptable guys about rule, and white-hat types accept consistently been the surest Oscar bait. Villains, on the added hand, abide a dicier proposition. Do cine mavens absolutely appetite to endorse an abecedarian who plays a sleazy, sociopathic, berserk exploited bloodthirsty as calmly and assuredly as Alec Baldwin, 45, does in ”The Cooler”? In a word, yes. Baldwin’s afire about-face as aloft Las Vegas bank bang-up Shelly Kaplow has netted him his aboriginal Oscar nod. The agnostic Baldwin — who afresh admitted, ”Things for me career-wise accept been below than admirable for several years” — has becoming a somewhat bottomless rep as an abecedarian accommodating to booty on about any role, the added off-the-wall, the better.

In fact, he about angry bottomward the Kaplow role afterwards account the arena in which his appearance berserk beats a woman, smashing her arch into a mirror. ”I got to that folio area he’s accomplishing what he does to her, and I bankrupt the script, alleged my agent, and said, ‘I’m not accomplishing this,”’ Baldwin has said.

Thankfully, he was abiding to apprehend further, and to ascertain a consecutive arena that appear there was a redemptive sliver of altruism in Kaplow afterwards all. Accepting begin that, he jumped into the part, imbuing Kaplow with a able-bodied animal force and cold-eyed airs that’s complete chilling. ”The appearance is absolutely aloof a guy who hates change,” Baldwin has mused. ”He’s aggravating to aloof authority on to his world. As I get older, I acquisition the movies that are added ambrosial to me are area I’m arena bodies who can’t handle change.” Here’s acquisitive the anticipation of abacus an Oscar to his mantel won’t be too abundant for the change-phobic abecedarian to handle.

Image credit: Renee Zellweger: Warwick Saint/JBGARC.com

‘Cold Mountain’

From the moment she stomps on awning — coiled beard a-flying, decrepit apron swishing, blooming face formed with an announcement amid a beam and a face — Renée Zellweger’s belligerent acreage babe Ruby imbues the atramentous war ball ”Cold Mountain” with a access of ball as aesthetic as a North Carolina breeze. ”She’s absolute practical, and she’s a survivor,” Zellweger told EW. ”She doesn’t see the amount of accepting an affecting activity — she abandoned uses her acuteness to breach problems.” Hired to advice aerial Ada (Nicole Kidman) assignment her circuitous farm, the straight-talking Ruby blithely decapitates a rooster, plows fields, and manhandles wood.

Ruby is a far cry from the characters who becoming Zellweger Oscar nods the aftermost two years: teeny, bright — not to acknowledgment singing and dancing — Roxie Hart in ”Chicago,” and the pre-Atkins article charlatan of ”Bridget Jones’s Diary.” In fact, it may be easier to acknowledge the 34-year-old actress’ transformations than to accept them. ”She’s circuitous and buried and amazing and aloof a…creature in some means — it’s adamantine to allocution evidently about [Renée],” says ”Cold Mountain” administrator Anthony Minghella, who offered Ruby to Zellweger alike admitting the added had envisioned herself as Ada.

Zellweger’s efforts in ”Cold Mountain” aftereffect in that attenuate concoction: a appearance who initially provides banana abatement but ends up carrying band aloft adorable band of emotion. Whose amore doesn’t breach aback Ruby bursts in on Inman (Jude Law) and Ada’s reunion, hotly downplays their lovey-dovey endearments, and afresh scuttles off to bed alone? ”Her ability is you can consistently see her arrant inside,” says costar Kathy Baker. ”She’s this abundant little boxy girl…[who] cares so deeply.” Abundant to about-face in a scruffy accomplishment with a amore of (Oscar) gold.

Image credit: Holly Hunter: Denis Rouvre/Corbis Outline


When bodies allocution about an added authoritative a bold choice, they usually beggarly she fabricated herself attending ugly. In Holly Hunter’s case, the bold best was accomplishing ”Thirteen” at all. It was administrator Catherine Hardwicke’s aboriginal film, there was no distributor, and, oh yes, Hunter, 45, would be a acknowledging abecedarian to two boyish girls.

Still, aback Hardwicke was absorbed about her ideal actuality to ball Melanie — a convalescent aficionado who watches, impotently, as her 13-year-old daughter, Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood), spirals abysmal bottomward into biologic use, promiscuity, and acerbity — Hunter kept bustling into her head. ”I’ve aloof been a accoutrement for her,” Hardwicke says. ”She can [be] amusing and affecting and heartbreaking. I aloof anticipation Holly would go all the way with this appearance and be adventurous and not anguish that sometimes Mel is not the absolute mother.”

Indeed, the four-time Oscar appointee (who won for 1993’s ”The Piano”) plays Melanie as a almighty mix of caring mom, animal woman, and egoistic recoverer — in capricious stages of denial, fear, bewilderment, and corruption at what’s blow to her daughter. All done in a affair 24-day shoot. In preparation, Hunter speed-bonded with Copse and her boyhood costar Nikki Reed (who cowrote the calligraphy based on her own life) during a girls’ sleepover at the absolute Los Angeles home in which they attempt the film.

The added additionally kept watch for moments that acquainted genuine. It was Hunter’s abstraction to blur a nude arena (with on-screen admirer Jeremy Sisto) that’s so attenuate you about don’t annals that she’s naked. ”Nudity in movies is about consistently sexualized, and this was dishabille from a absolutely skewed place, which is one of absoluteness — and it’s banal,” says Hunter. ”It’s dishabille in a way that commonly isn’t acclimated in movies. I thought, ‘What a abundant opportunity.”’ And yet addition bold choice.

Image credit: Marcia Gay Harden: Miranda Penn Turin/CPI

‘Mystic River’

Weak is tough. This assumption sounds paradoxical, but it happens to be true. It’s accessible to slink, shout, bluster, and berserk your way about a cine set. But assuming addition who’s agilely broken? It takes the absolute best to do that.

And Oscar voters apperceive it. If you appear to agnosticism it, aloof attending for Marcia Gay Harden on Feb. 29. She’ll be the admirable 44-year-old in the chic dress, demography a abode in one of the advanced rows of the Kodak Theatre for her assignment in Clint Eastwood’s ”Mystic River.” Her Celeste Boyle was a atramentous aperture of want, a woman chewed to pieces by isolation. Trapped with a scraped-hollow bedmate whom she suspects of annihilation and condescended to by Sean Penn and his association of blue-blooded brutes, she was the arctic ablaze to Laura Linney’s Annabeth. Shattered. And now Oscar-nominated for the added time (she won in 2001 for embodying the apathetic Brooklyn-born painter Lee Krasner in Ed Harris’ ”Pollock”).

”This all is amazing,” says Harden, demography a breach from disposed to her daughter, home ailing from academy with strep throat. ”Of course, anybody says that. But it is.”

Deserved, too. Celeste’s arguably adventitious betrayal of her spouse. The annihilation that follows. The hire it rips in her blue-collar Boston world. It all comes to a arch in the final arena of Eastwood’s movie, the haunting, austere array that splits the characters forth moral accountability lines. ”One of the best bashful scenes in blur history,” she calls it. ”Sean and Laura on the ablaze ancillary of the street. Kevin [Bacon] and I on the dark, with the array adding us. Amazing.” But it was the aberrant on the sidelines — Harden scampering up and bottomward the sidewalk, the ability that her bedmate is asleep at her calmly blubbering up central her — that was the constant image. That moment, that absolute added aback it all sinks in, well, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? That’s the actuality of Academy Awards.

Image credit: Shohreh Aghdashloo: Mark Andrew/Kramer Kramer

‘House of Sand and Fog’

In ”House of Sand and Fog,” a lower-middle-class revenger tragedy pitting an Iranian immigrant ancestors adjoin a beggared adolescent American woman, Tehran-born Shohreh Aghdashloo plays a woman afterwards country, afterwards agency, afterwards voice. To get central the accessory yet adamant wife of a bullheaded aloft colonel (Ben Kingsley), the 51-year-old date added dug in: ”Two and a bisected months I backward [in character] with Nadi. Because I accept witnessed these blurred women, and as an added I acquainted it was my assignment to portray them.”

For a blurred woman, Aghdashloo’s Nadi speaks rather loudly, sometimes in burst English, sometimes with abandoned her eyes. But the bulletin is clear: She aloof wants aegis for her family, and she will persevere in the headwinds of affairs not of her choosing.

It’s a attempt accustomed to Aghdashloo, who fabricated her awning admission in acclaimed administrator Abbas Kiarostami’s 1977 blur ”The Report” — a cine that charcoal banned in Iran. ”I capital to be an added aback I was 8 years old,” she recalls. ”But the aboriginal time I told [my mother] I capital to be an actress, she was accepting a faint. ‘No, no, no! Don’t alike acquaint me that! We don’t appetite our ancestors name complex in that industry!’ I had to change my ancestors name in adjustment to assignment on the stage.”

Though she fled Iran during the 1978-79 revolution, aboriginal for London and afresh for Los Angeles (where she still resides), Aghdashloo can about accommodate her activity aback she talks about extensive audiences in her built-in land. ”I’m so animated they’re assuming ‘House of Sand and Fog’ there now!” she exults. And who knows? Perhaps the ayatollahs will acquiesce a advertisement of the Oscars aback the Academy has accustomed their countrywoman’s chaste grace.

Image credit: Patricia Clarkson: Joseph Cultice/Corbis Outline

‘Pieces of April’

For a continued time, it seemed that everybody admired Patricia Clarkson except the Academy. She was absolutely aces of Oscar’s embrace assuming a drug-addicted German added in 1998’s ”High Art,” for example, and abounding anticipation she was beggared aftermost year afterwards declining to get a nod for arena Julianne Moore’s acerb best acquaintance in ”Far From Heaven.”

But now, with her brittle, ball role as a mother dying of blight in ”Pieces of April,” Clarkson, 44, is assuredly accepting the Academy’s approval. ”It makes me so blessed to see somebody who’s so authentic at what they do and still so unpretentious,” says Oliver Platt, who plays her ”Pieces” husband. ”It’s a abundant American added accepting her day.”

Writer-director Peter Hedges had Clarkson durably in apperception for Joy, the acerbic dame of a abortive ancestors who’s actuality apprenticed (literally) to a confrontational Thanksgiving banquet with her conflicting babe (Katie Holmes). ”One of the abundant things about actuality a biographer is if you accept in an actor, you may be able to actualize a role that will advice the apple apprehend what you already know,” he says. ”A big allotment of me aloof wants the world, in a year or two from now, to go, ‘Oh, Patricia Clarkson’s in that movie, I’ve got to see it.”’

While she’s afraid to get too actor-y about her performance, the feline-voiced Southerner will say that she took the role of a woman angry blight absolutely seriously. ”Not accepting been through that, actually, was the difficult part,” she says. ”You feel an added burden, a albatross — as you should.” Admitting the Oscar nod may shoot Clarkson into the mainstream, don’t attending for her to ball it safe and shy abroad from the pricklier ancillary of life: ”I’m consistently gluttonous article that will claiming me, article that will get me going. And affright me — it’s acceptable to be frightened.”

Image credit: Peter Jackson: Pierre Vinet

20. Peter Jackson

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’

What a alluringly absurd guy to actualize one of the bigger films of all time: Peter Jackson, 42, a aged New Zealander, a scruffy, giggly adolescent whose pre-Tolkien films grossed below than $21 million. ”The Return of the King,” Jackson’s soaring, aerial acme to his ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy, has nailed his cachet as a filmmaker of agrarian aptitude and grace.

Not to acknowledgment stamina: ”King” was filmed four years ago, in the bosom of ”Rings”’ acclaimed 15-month shoot. And admitting the burden of the immense production, the administrator approved to accumulate the accent on the set light. ”He’s got a complete artless nature,” says ”Rings” ablaze Elijah Wood. ”A lot of why he was able to aftermost so continued is that he’s aloof absolute airy — he never got irritable.”

Still, by the time key scenes for ”King” came up, he acquainted like he was ambiguous on the border of burnout: ”My academician was shrinking. My acuteness was dehydration up, and that was freaking me out. So I acclimated to go home and watch actuality like ‘JFK,’ ‘GoodFellas,’ ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ Those movies are aloof admirable examples of action and imagination. They gave me a bang about the face: ‘You apperceive what your job is now — go aback and do it.”’

Jackson will anon see if he’ll be adored with his aboriginal cruise to the Oscar podium. Aftermost year, the administrator wasn’t alike nominated for ”The Two Towers,” but assembly anticipate the Academy may accept been biding its time until the final film. With a duke in aggregate from the calligraphy (which he cowrote) to the film’s appropriate effects, Jackson larboard no bean of Middle-earth abandoned untouched. ”He doesn’t accept a huge anguish about what added bodies are activity to say or think,” says hobbit Billy Boyd. ”The films accept one person’s vision. So it’s ‘Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings,’ really.”

Image credit: Coppola & Murray: Lance Acord

‘Lost in Translation’

When you congratulate Sofia Coppola on her admirable affection allotment ”Lost in Translation” and curiosity at its amorous reception, the shy administrator is affably appreciative. But the 32-year-old — abandoned the third, and the youngest, woman to acquire a Best Administrator nomination, afterwards Lina Wertmüller (”Seven Beauties”) and Jane Campion (”The Piano”) — isn’t one to anticipate on reviews or awards for validation. Shredded for her abecedarian acting in 1990’s ”The Godfather Allotment III,” continued absolved as ”the babe of…,” Coppola could accept taken the well-trod avenue of abounding celebrity offspring: drugs, excess, and absoluteness TV. Instead, she directed 1999’s well-received ”The Virgin Suicides,” based on Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel. And with her green effort, based on her Oscar-nominated calligraphy about two abandoned auberge guests who blossom in one another’s company, she’s assuredly risen aloft the annoying comparisons to her dad. ”I acquainted a little bit this time, a little bit, like bodies were able to see my cine afterwards seeing my family,” Coppola says.

Armed with a beggarly $4 abecedarian budget, she attempt the cine in Japan in aloof 27 days. Not abundant time or money for agrarian appropriate furnishings or blatant twists or busy costumes. Coppola artlessly ceremoniousness the arresting Bill Murray with a appropriately astute and breakable role. She understands that complete affair is about accompanied by agitating restraint. She captures the neon adorableness of Tokyo at night and pairs it with the absolute soundtrack. ”I feel like aback I watch the cine that it’s the cine I set out to make,” says Coppola. ”The activity of it, which I had in my head, aback I watch it I get the aforementioned feeling. Like what a song gives you or something.” What will she blanket her arch about next? An Oscar would be sublime, but bigger things await.

Image credit: Clint Eastwood: Merie W. Wallace

‘Mystic River’

To apprehend bodies allocution about the way Clint Eastwood makes movies, it’s a admiration article as instantly archetypal as ”Mystic River” can appear out. Routinely beneath account and advanced of schedule, his productions hum with the ability of a well-greased accoutrement factory. ”Clint makes you apprehend how abundant bulls— there absolutely is on best cine sets,” Kevin Bacon told EW. But isn’t aerial art declared to be hard? Where’s the time-intensive abandonment of Kubrick? The absurdity of Cameron? For an auteur, Eastwood seems added Henry Ford than Francis Ford Coppola.

Are we ridiculously aberrant here? Seems so. Apparently, this Eastwood guy has been authoritative movies for a while. He knows that aback you get a abundant casting — Bacon, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney, and Marcia Gay Harden absolutely authorize — you assurance them to do their jobs. Moreover, his ability with blur storytelling is so mature, the claiming of apprenticeship a biographer through an adjustment of a psychologically close atypical like Dennis Lehane’s ”Mystic River” absolutely isn’t so challenging; he accepted allegedly what subplots could be jettisoned, what characters could not (the women; Eastwood consistently knew the blur bare the women), and how to about-face a catchy coil of backstory — adolescence abduction and corruption — into a simple alternating beheld motif.

He additionally knew he was freakin’ Clint Eastwood. He knows what that inspires in people. ”As actors,” says Bacon, ”we came accessible to play.”

Ironically, Eastwood’s ability about wasn’t abundant to get ”Mystic” made. Few studios saw this as a accompaniment to ”Unforgiven” — a abreast riff on men, violence, and America. They saw a austere ball with austere prospects. Turns out Eastwood’s aerial art was harder than it looked. ”Maybe the difficulties fabricated him accord it that article extra,” says ”Mystic” book Brian Helgeland. ”When no one abroad loves it, you accept to adulation it a little harder.” You apperceive what? Eastwood apparently knew that, too.

‘City of God’

Fernando Meirelles didn’t apprehend this. In fact, he anticipation so little of his Oscar affairs that he fabricated added affairs for the day of this year’s announcements. It was a cafeteria date with espionage biographer John le Carré, whose atypical ”The Connected Gardener” is the base for Meirelles’ abutting film. But aback the 48-year-old administrator of ”City of God” begin out that his name would be immortalized in Oscar’s Chic of 2003, Meirelles and his cafeteria accompaniment absurd accessible a brace of beers to celebrate. ”I didn’t anticipate this was the affectionate of blur the Academy Awards would go for,” says the Brazilian director, aloof aback from cafeteria and still absolutely shocked. ”A blur in Portuguese, nominated in four categories — it’s absolutely unusual.”

True. But afresh again, about aggregate about ”City of God” feels unusual: its slow-building, articulate success; the bound advance of its documentary-style delineation of the agitated barrio of Rio de Janeiro; and, best of all, its acutely out-of-nowhere architect — the TV and commercials administrator who added than a few critics accept compared to the Martin Scorsese of ”Mean Streets.”

Named afterwards one of Rio’s bleakest and best belled apartment projects, ”City of God” is about the added Brazil — the abominable shantytowns busy by blocked kids who run drugs and beachcomber accoutrements afore they’ve hit puberty. Alike added abashing is the actuality that abounding of these kids are abecedarian performers who aren’t absolutely acting. ”All those boys we formed with, they all came from slums,” says Meirelles, crediting the efforts of ”codirector” Katia Lund in training the adolescent cast. ”Some of them formed for biologic dealers. They knew abundant added than me about the blur I was doing.” Armed with abandoned his camera, Meirelles is below the administrator of ”City of God” than the film’s Virgil, arch us all through hell.

Image credit: Peter Weir: Stephen Vaughn

‘Master and Commander: The Far Ancillary of the World’

Usually aback a flat controlling whips out a continued knife it’s to ache addition in the back. But aback Fox cochairman Tom Rothman arrive Peter Weir into his appointment three years ago to angle him ”Master and Commander: The Far Ancillary of the World,” the brand he unsheathed was a 19th-century British fleet saber, which he promptly laid at the director’s feet.

Weir’s reaction? ”I told him, ‘I’m activity to say no to the movie, but can I accumulate the brand anyway?”’ Weir had, in fact, said no to administering the blur before, aback it was aboriginal actuality developed at Samuel Goldwyn in the aboriginal 1990s. ”I anticipation it would accommodate itself too calmly to farce, with a big fat captain and a little angular doctor,” he explains. ”But afresh afterwards that affair with Rothman, I reread some of the [Patrick O’Brian] books and started to anticipate about how it could be done.” In some ways, the 59-year-old Australian was a analytical best to captain the project. He’d never directed a $135 abecedarian cine before, let abandoned one involving aeon apparel and ballsy argosy battles. But he did accept a lot of acquaintance axis absurd absolute into Oscar-contending hits that additionally becoming him Best Administrator nods, like that agitating cultural banter starring Jim Carrey (1998’s ”The Truman Show”), that prep-school tearjerker starring Robin Williams (1989’s ”Dead Poets Society”), and that Amish adulation adventure starring Harrison Ford (1985’s ”Witness”). And now, with ”Master and Commander,” he’s done it again, adapting O’Brian’s historically abstruse and absolutely uncinematic abyssal novels into a beauteous account audiences can admire alike if they’ve never so abundant as stepped aboard the Staten Island Ferry.

Weir, by the way, did get to accumulate Rothman’s aged saber. It’s on affectation in his home in Australia, area it may anon be abutting by an alike added adored block of metal — a little gold statue.

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