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oscar run iii: seabiscuit


Seabiscuit was nominated for seven Oscars, and I can't say that I understand most of them. It's a horse racing movie, and you can't go wrong with those ... even if all else fails, it's pretty hard not to make a horse race exciting. It has some of my favorite actors, although appropriately, none of them won Oscar nods. Jeff Bridges is adequate, but he's capable of so much more, and William H. Macy is wasted in a weird role. Chris Cooper comes off best; for some reason, he actually makes corn pone flowery dialogue sound right coming from a taciturn man's mouth.

Seabiscuit has grand ambitions, and I suppose that's why it got nominated for Best Picture, but it falls short of most of them. It purports to tell the Big Story of America, but it's at its best telling the smaller story of an unappreciated horse. It reaches for epic stature in telling the story of three very different men, but their stories are a fragmented botch, making the first 40 minutes or so of this 2 hours and 21 minute movie seem somehow unnecessary, as if they could have gotten to the same point with a 30-second scrolling screen of information. The film blends documentary and fiction, but the attempts at actual documentary, via old photos and a portentous narration, aren't worth the trouble. If this is one of the five best movies of the year, it's not much of a year.

The other nominations are for cinematography/art direction/costumes (there's nothing wrong with the film in any of those areas, nor was there anything that made me say "whoa"), editing (for me, the editing drew attention to itself to no purpose, especially in scenes that gave us elongated stories in a handful of seconds), sound (this was the one nomination that made sense, the pounding of the horses' hooves really gets the old subwoofer going), and screenplay (as big a joke as the Best Picture nod). This isn't a bad movie, but it's nothing special, and I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up losing in all seven of its categories. Six on a scale of ten.