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Chatting About the Oscars

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Chatting About the Oscars

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Feb. 27 2004 9:37 AM

Chatting About the Oscars

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Lynda, I have to be honest with you and our readers. Revisiting my post from yesterday, I nearly fell asleep. I don't think I've ever written anything so profoundly boring in my life. Even people who have no use for the Oscars beyond an excuse to get together with friends and get drunk and make fun of stars (mostly women, I'm afraid) now get nonstop Oscar talk for six months out of the year. I don't have anything to add to it. I am much more interested in your thoughts as an insider—although I understand if, owing to your position in the industry, you must be more political than either of us would like. I mean, I wouldn't want to say anything not nice about Anthony Minghella if I'd sat next to him on a plane for hours. (Actually, I wouldn't want to say anything not nice about him anyway—except that I hope he someday makes another masterpiece on the order of Truly, Madly, Deeply, one of the most emotionally overwhelming romantic comedies I've ever seen and an Oscar non-nominee.)

My favorite movie of last year was the documentary Spellbound, which was somehow nominated the year before and lost to Michael Moore. My second favorite, the Brazilian documentary Bus 174, has been little-seen. (I didn't even see it until way late, but it's more powerful than City of God by a factor of a hundred.) After that, I'm down with Lord of the Rings, Master and Commander, and Lost in Translation. I'll be pleased when Peter Jackson's passion and industry are rewarded, and I do hope that Sofia Coppola takes home something for her bravely Chekhovian Lost in Translation. There is another reason to rejoice in Coppola's success: Her casting in The Godfather Part III was the greatest act of parental sabotage in the history of cinema, and I am thrilled that she is now triumphantly free of it. (Of course I do not mean it was deliberate sabotage—it was the act of a father who loved not wisely but too well.)

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There are two potentially explosive issues, and they're connected. The first, of course, is The Passion of the Christ. Will there be Mel Gibson jokes? The people who love that film regard an attack on it as an attack on their faith and believe that to question Gibson's vision is by definition anti-Christian. (Especially when the questioners have Jewish surnames. Careful, Billy.) A segment of the American public will be watching and waiting to hear its savior's name taken in vain. It will also be waiting to hear one of sundry outspoken lefty nominees (Penn, Robbins, Baldwin, etc.) malign its president. I'm fine with political statements like that in a year like this, but I hope whoever makes it has better instincts than Michael Moore, or the moment will end up as a recruiting poster for the right wing.

Party on.
David

David Edelstein is Slate's film critic. Lynda Obst is a producer at Paramount Pictures and author of Hello, He Lied. She can be reached through her Web site, LyndaObst.com.