The Academy needs to evolve
by WEST LEECOLUMNIST
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on March 7, 2003 | PRINT

This year, as Oscar season swings into full effect, the topic of the town has ranged from redemption, as it looms on the horizon for Martin Scorcese, to lasting impressions, as Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates and Meryl Streep are all carving out their niches in the realms of Hollywood lore. "Chicago" has the most to win or lose with thirteen nominations, but this year, it's anybody's game.

So much gets made of those films considered worthy enough to garner Oscar's attention. Independent films can be made into giants, and foreign movies sometimes shine most brightly. But occasionally a film slips under Oscar's radar and, though possibly more deserving, it does not receive the same amount of recognition. It is for these films that I reserve today's article. This is my tribute to the most significant "also-rans" of this award year.

Let's start with this year's Oscar omissions. The first, and most obvious, is "Punch Drunk Love". This movie should have gotten Adam Sandler his first, and most likely, only Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of Barry Egan (yes, the same character from Sex vs. Weightlifting), a shy, quiet man who is small in size and demeanor, but who is at the same time funny and charismatic. This movie shows love at its most innocent and honest. Sandler and Emily Watson exhibit the most natural chemistry of any on-screen couple I've ever seen; plus in his role as the very understated Egan, Sandler is surely the best he'll ever be. In the end, the movie is more of a beautiful painting of life than a story told in any one direction; but Sandler is so real, it's almost frightening.

Another film that should have been nominated was "Y Tu Mama Tambien," either for Best Foreign Language Film or Best Original Screenplay. Set in Mexico, it tells the story of two young boys and the summer that would not only change them into men, but alter the way they see friendship and love for the rest of their lives. Now, I know what you're thinking, but I tell you friend, foreigners have a capacity for film that we Yanks have yet to attain. The story drips of nuance and craftmanship in such a way that even the fart and sex jokes used here are infinitely more funny and meaningful than any found in our own movies.

Easing back to last year, I would have liked to have seen "Ocean's Eleven" get a nod. I can't think of any particular category in which one would put an award for this film, but for this reason I think we ought to create a new category and call it The Bravado Award or something like that. That way a movie such as this one could not go home without some sort of statuette. I would also have liked to see a statuette get thrown "Memento" director Chris Nolan's way. His direction was without a doubt more original than any seen by the Academy in a long time.

Another couple of awards I think the Oscars should start including are the Worst Movie, and the Funniest Movie category. The funniest film of this year was almost certainly "Super Troopers." Actually, it may have come out last year, but it's still funnier than any movie released since. On paper, it's about a bunch of rag-tag cops who have to defend their station from shutting down. But, as "Police Academy" as that sounds, the humor here is refreshingly original.

Worst Film could actually turn out to be Oscar's biggest draw if he'd make room for it. This award would be reserved for a movie so bad that its director, actors and, most importantly, producers are all called out on stage and forced to make some kind of speech explaining the thought process that led them to make such a film. This year's choice is easy. Dana Carvey enjoyed his glory days as Wayne's good buddy Garth, and though I feel bad for him that those days are past, he should not be allowed to make movies as bad as "The Master of Disguise."

Well, this has been a tribute to my golden friend Oscar, a false idol like no other.

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