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Far from heaving

Despite some flaws, Oscar largely gets it right

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* The near-shutout of Minority Report. Despite critical raves and strong box office, it became clear early on that this summer sizzler wasn't even being considered for major awards like Best Picture and Best Director (i.e., the usual bias against science fiction was at work once again). Still, it was a no-brainer that the film would fill up about a half-dozen slots for its dazzling technical achievements (cinematography, film editing, visual effects, etc.). Instead, the movie ended up with only one piddling nomination, for Best Sound Editing. Huh?

* The lack of a nomination for Chicago's Richard Gere. Actually, I have mixed feelings about this one. Delivering his best performance since An Officer and a Gentleman (another film for which he was wrongly overlooked), Gere clearly deserved a nomination... in the Best Supporting Actor category. However, Gere insisted that he be promoted in the lead category, and that ego trip may have cost him dearly. It probably also didn't help that his inane, rambling acceptance speech on the Golden Globes -- one of the worst in recent memory -- was delivered while Academy members still had ballots in hand, doubtless leading many of them to think, "Why the hell would I vote for this idiot?"

Other Observations:* With her 13th career nomination (Best Supporting Actress for Adaptation), Meryl Streep has passed Katharine Hepburn as the most nominated performer in Oscar history.

* For the 11th consecutive year, Miramax Pictures is in the Best Picture running -- and how! The studio produced Chicago and Gangs of New York and co-produced (with Paramount) The Hours. What's more, Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein are listed as executive producers on New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, meaning that Focus Features' The Pianist is the only Best Picture nominee with which the brothers had no association (unless we end up discovering that they had served as uncredited caterers or key grips).

* The year's biggest moneymaker wasn't forgotten. Spider-Man ended up with two nominations, for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound. Nods for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Best Sound Editing wouldn't have been out of order, but its makers are probably still too busy counting its $400 million haul to worry about such matters.

* The media raised such a stink when Michael Moore's Roger & Me failed to earn a Best Documentary nomination back in 1989 that the Academy made sure not to repeat that mistake. Moore's provocative Bowling for Columbine is among this year's nominees -- a more than worthy selection, though I'm sorry the equally deserving Standing In the Shadows of Motown failed to earn a berth.

* From the slightly surreal department: From now on, they'll be referred to as "Academy Award nominee Eminem" and "Academy Award nominee Queen Latifah." But hey, it beats "Academy Award nominee Britney Spears" and "Academy Award nominee Mandy Moore," both of whom also released movies in 2002 (albeit to across-the-board pans).

HOW THEY COMPARE

Oscar's 5 Best
These were the films nominated by the Academy for Best Picture.

1. Chicago (13 nominations)

2. Gangs of New York (10)

3. The Hours (9)

4. The Pianist (7)

5. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (6)


Critics' 5 Best
Based on a national sampling of 100 reviewers, these were the films that appeared the most frequently on critics' 10 Best lists.

1. Far From Heaven

2. Y Tu Mama Tambien

3. Talk To Her

4. Adaptation

5. About Schmidt


Brunson's 5 Best
These were my picks for the year's best movies.

1. Far From Heaven

2. Minority Report

3. Spirited Away

4. The Hours

5. Chicago


Moviegoers' 5 Best
These were the year's biggest moneymaking releases.

1. Spider-Man

2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

3. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

5. My Big Fat Greek Wedding


...AND THE WORST
OK, we now have a sense of which films reigned as the biggest and/or best of 2002. But what about the worst? Glad you asked. We took a look at the "10 Worst" lists of over a dozen national critics and discovered that the following titles appeared most often:


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