Oscars Preview — editing, makeup and visual effects

Well folks, it’s that time of year again – when the bigwigs behind the biggest films of the year butt heads to take home a golden statue of a nude man holding a sword. Actors and actresses compete to come up with the longest running, driest and/or most politically offensive speech of the evening. And viewers at home cheer on, regardless.

It’s the time of the year when Oscar ads for films no one outside of New York has heard of run rampant in trade magazines. Welcome to Oscars Season 2004.

Now, many people complain that the Academy Awards are a joke. Much of the voting process seems to be political (if you’re an older actor up for an award, or one that has been snubbed many times over, you can bet your chances improve).

So let’s say you’re a movie buff and you bet on your movies like Pete Rose bets on baseball – you want a guide to choose who will win what on Feb. 29, right? Well, look no further as The Signal brings you the Oscar rundown for the year 2003.

First off, there is the Film Editing category, where “City of God” (not to be mistaken for the Meg Ryan-driven “City of Angels”), “Cold Mountain,” “Return of the King,” “Master and Commander” and “Seabiscuit” face off. Now, I am a huge “Lord of the Rings” fan, but even I’ll admit that if there was a fault to the film, editing may have been it – so I was surprised it got a nod here rather than cinematography (the category for the look of the film).

“City” may not have garnered enough attention for voters to have seen it, and “Mountain” didn’t seem to get enough publicity behind it either. “Seabiscuit” benefits from a huge DVD release around Christmas, and “Master and Commander” has been plastered over every movie magazine. But my gut instinct tells me “King” may come out on top, as a tribute to Peter Jackson’s efforts. My dark horse pick is “Seabiscuit.”

Best Makeup in a film is a unique category – if a person notices outright that the star is wearing makeup, it’s a bit of a failure. But if the makeup becomes part of the character, it is applauded.

In this category, you have three of the monster pictures from 2003 – “Master and Commander”, “Return of the King” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

Now, I would love to see “Pirates” take home the award, simply because the makeup job on the villains and on Johnny Depp enhanced the film – they looked like they had been out on a wooden raft for months without a shower. But “Return of the King” required countless hours of prosthetics and makeup for each member of the crew – it deserves a statue for sheer effort. The dark horse here is “Pirates.”

Finally, the last preview for this week comes in the Visual Effects department, where the previous three competitors (“King”, “Commander” and “Pirates”) duke it out again for supremacy of the digital domain. Now, “Commander” has the advantage in that it is a historical drama (which, if you didn’t know, the Academy voters seem to be obsessed with).

However, most critics were surprised at the amount of nominations it received, and frankly, I don’t think it has enough going for it to win most categories. “Pirates” was a polished effects bonanza (the underwater moonlight march was a breakthrough), but probably not enough to beat out “King,” simply because, well, this is THE movie to beat. “King” deserves this one as well, but look for “Commander” to put on some heat.

Check next week for my predictions on Best Art Direction, Costumes, Score, Song and more!