The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, March 23, 2003
Lead Article

Haves and have-nots of the starry Oscar night
Vikramdeep Johal

Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia
Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia

WHEN the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in January that it would give an honorary Oscar to Peter O’Toole, the 70-year-old actor seemed more amused than overjoyed. He asked the awards organisers to defer the honour until he turned 80 as he was "still in the game and might yet win the lovely bugger outright." However, it appears that the Academy is keen on making it up to O’Toole without further delay, having denied him the coveted statuette for such a long time.

One of the foremost Oscar have-nots, O’Toole has been nominated in the best actor category on no less than seven occasions. His first nomination was for arguably his best performance — as the enigmatic adventurer in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) — but he lost to Gregory Peck, who was good but not great in To Kill a Mocking Bird.

Nicole Kidman: Will The Hours do what Moulin Rouge couldn’t?
Nicole Kidman: Will The Hours do what Moulin Rouge couldn’t? 

His subsequent nominations have been for a wide variety of roles, such as King Henry II (Becket and The Lion in Winter), a singing schoolmaster (Goodbye Mr Chips) and a boozy movie star (My Favourite Year), but it has been the proverbial there’s-many-a-slip-between-the-cup-and-the-lip story every time.

Another major have-not, director Martin Scorsese, is tipped to win an Oscar at long last. Though his Gangs of New York has received mixed reviews, it might do the trick for the sentimental favourite. He should have won it for The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), but the controversy surrounding the film probably turned the tide in favour of Barry Levinson (Rain Man). Twice he has been pipped at the post by actors-turned-directors Robert Redford and Kevin Costner. And don’t forget that he was not even nominated for Taxi Driver, one of the best films of the 1970s.


The play-it-safe policy of the Academy is likely to go to his advantage this time. Two-time loser Roman Polanski, whose The Pianist has won several big awards in Europe, might miss out at the Oscars due to the resurfacing of the infamous child rape case that made him flee the USA over two decades ago.

Jack Nicholson in About Schmid
Jack Nicholson in About Schmid

Among the haves, a prominent name is Jack Nicholson, the perennial favourite of the Academy members. He has already won three Oscars — best actor for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and As Good As It Gets and best supporting actor for Terms of Endearment — and is in line for another. His role of a loser in About Schmidt has won him a Golden Globe, an award which often translates into Oscar success. If he does it again, he will join Katherine Hepburn at the top with a record four awards.

Giving him stiff competition will be Michael Caine, who is himself looking for his third Oscar. The Academy might have given British actors like O’Toole and Richard Burton a raw deal, but it has been kind to Caine. Best supporting actor awards for Hannah and her Sisters and The Cider House Rules, and now a best actor nomination for The Quiet American. Two other nominees, Nicolas Cage and Daniel Day Lewis, are also past winners, while Adrien "Pianist" Brody is the dark horse, thus making it a strong field.

Renee Zellweger: Banking upon Chicago
Renee Zellweger: Banking upon Chicago

In the Best Actress category, there might be a first-time winner. Having bagged the Bafta and Golden Globe awards for playing writer Virginia Woolf in The Hours, Nicole Kidman is expected to literally nose ahead of the others. It will be adequate compensation for last year’s disappointment, when she lost to Halle Berry despite an inspired performance in Moulin Rouge. Not to be counted out is Renee Zellweger, who will be hoping that Chicago does for her what Bridget Jones’s Diary could not.

For Indian viewers, this year’s awards ceremony will be quite unlike the previous one. Lagaan raised our hopes sky-high, the entire nation waited with bated breath to hear its name being announced, but it was not to be. There will be no such drama this time as Devdas has been unfairly left out. No less disappointing has been the omission of the British entry, London-born-and-bred Gujarati Asif Kapadia’s much acclaimed The Warrior, starring our own Irfan Khan.

Despite the outcome, it must be said that at least we did a sensible thing by sending one of the year’s best films. Unfortunately, many undeserving movies have been entered for the Oscars, like the atrocious Jeans, only to be torn to shreds by the competition. If only the good ones are sent consistently, backed by aggressive publicity (and lobbying), it is not unlikely that one fine Oscar night, Indian cinema will shed its have-not tag. Meanwhile, the wait goes on...