by RAY FLEMING

HOW many of us will sit up until the small hours to watch all the embarrassing little speeches about how many people the winners have to thank for their Oscar award?

It's difficult enough to stay awake during the later stages of Match of the Day, so forget the Academy Awards.
In any case, the event has become so overblown and self-regarding that it has lost the glamour it once possessed.
It has also become extremely conservative in what it shortlists for the final accolades.
How can it be, for instance, that two of the most arresting films of the year are nowhere to be found among the major nominations for tonight's awards?

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ had its critics but it took the American and international box office by storm and showed that there is an audience for a serious subject dealt with seriously.

Also missing is Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 which became the most talked-about film of the year. It didn't win the election for John Kerry but it would easily win an Oscar for Most Controversial Film of the Year if only the august Academy would bend a little and introduce such a category.

What can we hope for in the major awards? Since I haven't seen all of the nominations, my choices relate as much to “lifetime achievement” as to individual films.

I hope Martin Scorcese scores with The Aviator as Best Film because he has made many fine movies without every getting an Oscar.
I hope Mike Leigh is named Best Director for Vera Drake because his method of group-working with his actors is almost unique in the business and gets extraordinary results; but I know he's a long shot.

And Jamie Foxx must surely be Best Actor for his incredibly accurate impersonation of Ray Charles in Ray.

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