Oscar nominee William Hurt in A History of Violence.
A favorite pastime for Oscar buffs is to compare how each year’s Academy Award winners stack up against previous winners.
The movie minutiae game is far more expansive than those few fleeting hours at the Kodak Theater; it’s a year-round exercise with the 2005 contenders now drawn against the annual pageants that have preceded them. We’re hoping there will be a few surprises in store this year when the awards are presented on Sunday night, March 5.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Small Roles, Big Moments
With his portrayal of a gangster in A History of Violence, which clocks in at a little less than ten minutes, William Hurt joins the ranks of the five Oscar-nominated actors with the least amount of screen time. The others are winners Anthony Quinn for his eight-minute performance in Lust for Life, Dame Judi Dench for her eight-minute appearance in Shakespeare in Love and Beatrice Straight for her seven-minute appearance in Network, along with nominee Sylvia Miles for her astoundingly short, six-minute stint in Midnight Cowboy.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: His and Her Oscars?
As a real-life couple receiving acting nominations for the same film, Brokeback Mountain Best Supporting Actress nominee Michelle Williams and Best Actor nominee Heath Ledger are part of a very select crowd. For example, only three husbands and wives have pulled off this feat, most recently back in the mid-1960s, when Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were both nominated Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Only Liz won.
BEST ACTOR: They Walk the Line
It’s rare for the Best Actor and Best Actress prizes to go to the lead performances in the same film. Seven films overall, beginning with It Happened One Night (garnering Oscars for Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert) and most recently, with As Good As It Gets (Oscars for Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt). This year, Walk the Line’s Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are the latest award-winning movie couple within reach of this elusive, Oscar trivia prize.
BEST ACTRESS: Transformations
Felicity Huffman is angling for not one but two very rarified trivia realms. With a win, she would become the first contemporary actress to win an Emmy and Oscar in the same year, for Desperate Housewives and Transamerica respectively. And as a female actor portraying a man on film, her brethren in this case are Linda Hunt for The Year of Living Dangerously and Hilary Swank, indirectly, for Boys Don’t Cry.
BEST ORGINAL SCREENPLAY: Game, Set and Match
At age 70, Woody Allen could make Oscar history for his multiple wins, and you never know, this time he might actually show up to accept an award. A win for Match Point would give him three Oscars total for screenwriting, placing in some prestigious company. The four others to accomplish this feat are the legendary writers Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, Paddy Chayevsky, and Franics Ford Coppola.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The McMurtry Picture Show
This year we may hear a first-time Oscar acceptance speech from one of the oldest writers to win a Best Screenplay award (the oldest winning writer being George Bernard Shaw, who won at age 82 in the late '30s). Seventy-year-old Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry -- along with collaborator Diana Ossana -- is a front-runner for the screenplay adaptation for Brokeback Mountain. It’s about time McMurtry gets his own Oscar, as the characters he created in his novels have garnered Oscars for many others in their film adaptations including Patricia Neal and Melvyn Douglas (Hud), Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson (The Last Picture Show) and Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson (Terms of Endearment).
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: CGI MIA
If Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride wins, it would be the first stop-motion feature to score an Oscar since the category was created in 2001. Perhaps even more remarkably, this is the first year that none of the nominees have been computer-animated (CGI), as this year’s other two nominees – Howl’s Moving Castle and Wallace & Gromit – are either hand-drawn or clay-animated.
BEST DIRECTOR: The Rookies
If either one of the first-time nominees, Paul Haggis (Crash) or Bennett Miller (Capote) wins, it would be the first time a newcomer director (these are the directors' first feature length eligible films) takes home the prize since Kevin Costner won for 1990’s Dances with Wolves. But perhaps even more remarkable is that this is one of the first times in recent memory that two rookies have cracked this elite category in the same year.
BEST PICTURE: Foreign Affairs
If Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain wins for Best Picture, Lee would become the first director to helm both a Best Foreign Language Film winner and a Best Picture winner. It was just five years ago that the filmmaker was honored for Taiwan’s Oscar winner Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
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