Giamatti gets cold shoulder

Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen star in "Sideways." Giamatti was overlooked for Oscar's best actor nomination.

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 10:48 p.m.
Somewhere, Paul Giamatti is drowning his sorrows in a bottle of pinot noir.
The quirky character actor had seemed a shoe-in for Best Actor when the Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday. His portrayal of a neurotic novelist in "Sideways," a dark comedy about two middle-aged men carousing through wine country, received universal acclaim, including nominations from the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, not to mention awards from a host of critics' groups.
Well, make that near-universal acclaim. When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled its choices for 2004, Giamatti's name was conspicuously absent.
As far as Oscar surprises go, this one was downright shocking.
The other four Best Actor nominees - Johnny Depp for "Finding Neverland," Don Cheadle for "Hotel Rwanda," Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Aviator" and Jamie Foxx for "Ray" - were also SAG nominees, along with Giamatti. So it appears that Clint Eastwood took Giamatti's Oscar spot.
I was happy to see Eastwood nominated. His portrayal of a grizzled boxing trainer is the best performance of his long and storied film career. But Giamatti should not have been the one to get booted.
My call: I'd nix Depp and replace him with Giamatti.
Also, with Giamatti's exclusion, Foxx's chances of winning the statue have been upgraded from heavy favorite to mortal lock.
  • No big complaints about what was a very weak category this year. Neither Kate Winslet or Catalina Sandino Moreno would've made the list of nominees in any other year. What about Bryce Dallas Howard in the under-rated "The Village" instead?
    This one will come down to Annette Bening vs. Hilary Swank, a replay of the '99 Oscars.
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Alan Alda snuck in, boosted by the strong showing of "The Aviator" with a leading 11 nominations. Foxx, with his nod, joins a small list of actors or actresses to be nominated in both the leading and supporting categories in the same year. Clive Owen ("Closer"), Morgan Freeman ("Million Dollar Baby") and Thomas Haden Church ("Sideways") were all comfortable choices.
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: I'm not a big fan of "Kinsey," so I would dump Laura Linney. Suggested replacements: Regina King as a brassy backup singer in "Ray" or Julie Christie or Kate Winslet from "Finding Neverland."
  • BEST PICTURE: A very good list, with "The Aviator" and late-charging "Million Dollar Baby" set to duke it out for the winner's circle. My only quibble is the inclusion of "Ray," a great-looking movie with great music and great performances, but an extremely pedantic approach to story and direction. I'd swap it out with "Spider-Man 2," but since I can't reasonably expect the Academy to nominate a web-slinger, let's go with the powerful "Hotel Rwanda."
  • BEST DIRECTOR: Could this finally be the year for long-snubbed Martin Scorsese? He'll have a pretty tough bout when his "Aviator" is paired up against Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby." Personally, I would replace "Ray" and "Vera Drake" with "Finding Neverland" (Marc Forster) and "Spider-Man 2" (Sam Raimi).
  • THE CONTROVERSIALS: Michael Moore's big gamble roll came up snake eyes. The liberal agitator specifically chose not to enter his anti-Bush "Fahrenheit 9/11" in the documentary category in order to boost its chances for a Best Picture nod. He was also hoping the overwhelmingly left-leaning Hollywood establishment would recognize his picture for direction, editing and writing. My feeling? It received exactly the number of nominations it deserved: zero.
    Surprisingly, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" did get three nominations. The Hollywood backlash against this violent and allegedly anti-Semitic film is so strong that word has spread of Academy members going out of their way to avoid watching it. Enough apparently did see it, though, to earn recognition for cinematography, music and makeup.
    Again, I'd say the Academy got it about right. I liked "Passion" very much, but it's not in the Best Picture league.
  • THE REST: No cinematography nomination for "Million Dollar Baby"? Tom Stern's use of shadow and light was masterful.
    I was glad to see the year's most over-rated film, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," come away with only two nominations. That's still two more than it deserved.
    Finally, there's just something wrong with the world when mindless eye candy like "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" receives more Oscar nominations (four) than a biting character study like "Closer" (two).
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