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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Thoughts On The Recent Nominations

Okay, I've been fielding a lot of questions from friends lately asking what I think about the recent nominations. I don't have to tell you that there have been a lot of surprises -- the obvious candidates doing what they were supposed to do, but just not in the way that they were supposed to do it.

Let's start with the big contenders: after the time spent laying the groundwork, everyone knew that Lord of the Rings was going to come on strong in Iowa, but the real shocker was that there were no acting nominations -- nabbed, obviously, by the insurgent Kerry. Now he's enjoying the reverse side of that press negativity that had written him off as recently as two weeks ago: the Kerry surge created that "everybody loves a winner" feeling that carried Lord of the Rings to a commanding lead in New Hampshire and has Peter Jackson a sure lock for the Vice-President nomination.

But here's the tricky part: a strong military feeling in the voters has been pushing not only Vietnam Vet Kerry, but also Master and Commander, and New Hampshire was the real battleground. Thus, Best Actor turned into a three-way fight between men with proven credentials: Sean Penn (Golden Globe winner for Mystic River), Bill Murray (Golden Globe winner for Lost in Translation), and Wesley Clark (Commander of NATO forces in Bosnia). At this point, it's just a crap shoot as to who can prove to the voters that he has the gravitas to deserve the nod, but look for a surprising showing from Johnny Depp, whose strong anti-Navy position is a sharp contrast to the other contenders and whose rousing antics really fired up the base. But he's still a pirate, no matter what he managed to do in Vermont, and a lot of voters who flirted with his charm won't commit when it comes time to get hitched.

And there's just no way to talk about the nomination fight without mentioning the backlash. Howard Weinstein used his newly-minted Internet campaigning machine to rise to an unexpected dominance, but he peaked too early when he used his sway to get "Chocolat" onto the cover of "The Nation," which left only enough influence to get lefty-darling Kucinich another nomination. (Weinstein owed it to Kucinich to make up for his disappointment at losing Chicago to that overhyped, underwhelming ham with the putty nose, Lieberman. "Joementum" my ass -- he'll always be Mr. Tom Cruise to me.) After that stumble, the rumors that Weinstein was "unbalanced" and had shouted "Miramax" at Sundance petered out the momentum completely and kept him to a surprisingly poor result. That left the field open for a studio release about a horse with a big heart that just wouldn't quit -- John Edwards -- to come from nowhere to post a strong showing. With that kind of feel-good populism matched with a glossy sheen, there was just no room for the "independent." The small-potatoes hippie stuff was fun for a while, but it's going to be the big money boys when the rubber meets the road.

And it has also been a remarkable time for the ladies as well. The women that bared it all won it all: Charlize, Diane, Naomi. But Judy Steinberg Dean played it close to the chest and failed to ignite the base. As for the nomination of Shoreh Aghdashloo, it seems obvious that no one is ready to vote for a woman of color, so her campaign must be nothing more than a vanity project.

It seems that we're looking at a horse race at this point. Until we get a little further down the road, there's just no way to tell who will have that golden chance to walk down the aisle, look straight into the TV cameras, and spew a line of self-serving bullsh*t.

 11:53 PM

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