Reactions pour in about the nominations, with an Aviator vs. Baby battle brewing

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated January 26, 2005 09:25 AM

Monday morning quarterbacking on the Oscar nominations have people talking about Clint Eastwood’s filling Sideways star Paul Giamatti’s Best Actor slot, Michael Moore and Mel Gibson’s obvious snubs, and a final showdown shaping up between Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby and Martin Scorsese’s aerial epic on Howard Hughes, The Aviator.

Although oddsmakers in London give the Best Picture advantage to Aviator, which leads the movie nominees with 11, the only shoo-in on both sides of the Atlantic appears to be Jamie Foxx as Best Actor for his portrayal of music legend Ray Charles in Taylor Hackford’s Ray. Asked if he said any prayers in anticipation of Tuesday morning’s announcement, Foxx told USA Today: “We always say prayers, man. Just being able to get up in the morning – but maybe a little extra on this one.”

Foxx went on to tell the Associated Press of the six nominations for Ray: “It’s mind-blowing. It’s a celebration right now. It is happiness right now. If we win, it’s going to be more happiness, but right now, it’s simply time to be happy and reflect on what a fantastic year it’s been for me.”

One of Foxx’s rivals, Leonardo DiCaprio, whose realistic portrayal of phobic billionaire Hughes in The Aviator amazed many critics and audiences, tells AP that he hopes the Oscar recognition will at long last bring a statuette to Scorsese – especially after their previous collaboration, Gangs of New York, was shut out two years ago.

“I have the ultimate respect for him as a director and as a person,” says the actor. “What he has contributed to the world of cinema is phenomenal and unprecedented. All I can say is, I’m voting for him.”

Likewise singing the praises of her director, Eastwood, whose Baby scored seven nominations including one for her as Best Actress, Hilary Swank says: “I heard his name and I screamed. I’m so happy. In my humble opinion, it’s his best work to date.”

But when it comes to the thought of Eastwood’s usurping Giamatti’s nomination, that comedy’s Supporting Actor contender Thomas Haden Church expressed surprise. “I wanted to believe that three performances (in Sideways) could get nominated, but I dreaded that somebody was going to get clipped,” Church said. “My performance, and I’m sure Virginia (Madsen’s) do not exist without Paul’s. One performance does not exist without the other.”

And while neither Gibson nor Moore (very uncharacteristically) have made formal comment on their snubs, film critics Elvis Mitchell, expressing a so-called liberal point of view, and Michael Medved, with a decidedly conservative one, faced off on Wednesday’s Today show. Medved considered the minor nominations accorded Gibson’s controversial The Passion of the Christ an insult to Christianity, while Mitchell noted that the Academy is very clear in its choice of movies for its top spots. He cited the 1982 Best Picture Gandhi over the edgy and prophetic Blade Runner, and said The Passion just wasn’t to the Academy’s tastes.

As for Moore’s misfortune, most observers agree that he shot himself in the foot by demanding that Fahrenheit 9/11 be considered only in the Best Picture category – to the exclusion of its consideration for Best Documentary. It received nothing.

The Oscars, hosted by Chris Rock, will air live Feb. 27 on ABC.