AND THE WINNER IS….Just in the nick of time, I have now seen all five of the Best Picture nominees. Last on the viewing list was The Pianist, which I found oddly flat and tedious for a subject that can evoke considerable emotion even when treated clumsily. Some of the early scenes, showing day-to-day Nazi treatment of Polish Jews on the street, were powerful and stomach clenching, but as a whole the film just didn’t work. Because it covers six full years, it is forced to provide mere snippets of action, and in the end they seem somehow disconnected from each other, ultimately failing to provide an emotional portrait, as opposed to a chronological one.

So which film gets my vote? Not Lord of the Rings Part 2, which I thought was not as good as Part 1, and not Gangs of New York, which was too melodramatic for my taste and which also (I thought) completely fell apart in the last half hour. I’ve already written that I liked The Hours, and I liked Chicago too, which successfully captured a tremendous sense of energy and bottled it for the screen.

It’s a tough choice between those two, but I think I’ll vote ? barely ? for The Hours. In the end, it seemed a bit more ambitious than Chicago and pulled off the very difficult trick of making a trio of depressed women seem genuinely sympathetic and interesting. So here’s the final order:

  1. The Hours

  2. Chicago

  3. Gangs of New York

  4. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

  5. The Pianist

After all that, I sure hope they don’t decide to cancel the awards just because we’re bombing Baghdad. The 1942 awards were held two days after all Japanese Americans on the West Coast were ordered to evacuate inland and just a few weeks before Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo and the Battle of Coral Sea. If World War II didn’t stop the show from going on, then neither should Gulf War II.

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