Critic's Picks

Film: The Oscars

March 23, 2003|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN STAFF

* BEST PICTURE

Academy Pick: Chicago, because it thrillingly revitalizes the movie musical, and because Los Angeles knows, even better than Chicago does, how to turn notoriety into show-biz clout.

Sragow Pick: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (above), for preserving the life of larger-than-life spectacles while conjuring awe-inspiring images -- and putting them at the service of an epic story that sees the good and evil within us all.

* BEST DIRECTOR

Academy Pick: Rob Marshall, because in Chicago he brings contemporary cutting and pizazz to singing, dancing and banter while showcasing his rich human material, the tip-top performers, instead of reducing them to hideous puppets a la last year's Moulin Rouge.

Sragow Pick: In the inexplicable absence of Peter Jackson (The Two Towers), Roman Polanski (above), for expressing the strength of artistic conscience with harrowing beauty in the bracingly unsentimental Holocaust tale The Pianist.

* BEST ACTOR

Academy Pick: Michael Caine, because he caps a career of unceasing industry and accomplishment with a performance in The Quiet American that is surgically cutting and brave in its emotional nakedness.

Sragow Pick: Ditto.

* BEST ACTRESS

Academy Pick: Renee Zellweger, because in Chicago she zestily brings old-fashioned gumption and musical-comedy chops to a fresh new minting of that perennial backstage figure, the amoral innocent.

Sragow Pick: Diane Lane (above), for expressing a real woman's explosive sexuality in Unfaithful with vibrancy and imagination equal to action poetry.

* BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Academy Pick: Christopher Walken, because he gives grace and depth to the fallen father in Catch Me If You Can -- and because his dancing scene reminds us that he should have co-starred in Chicago.

Sragow Pick: John C. Reilly (above), for showing, in Chicago, how a dash of poignant lyricism can redeem the same sort of luggish-hubby role that makes him such a drag in The Hours.

* BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Academy Pick: Meryl Streep (above), because to Oscar voters she remains "Magic Meryl," and because her characterization of a New Yorker journalist in Adaptation is uncannily insightful in its comic self-absorption.

Sragow Pick: Catherine Zeta-Jones, for lighting up the soundstage and every multiplex or movie palace where Chicago makes its home, while achieving sizzling sluttishness -- the essence of impurity.

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