- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Year of the ‘Rings’

Barrie Osbourne wasn’t that surprised yesterday when he learned “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” had received 11 Academy Award nominations — the most of any film — but he’s not counting his Oscars before they hatch.

“It would be really cool, but I try not to make predictions. Otherwise, you get too nervous,” he told The Washington Times.

As a producer of the celebrated trilogy, Mr. Osbourne has a direct stake in the best-picture outcome. He’s pulling for director Peter Jackson, too. “I would love to see Peter receive recognition for this,” he said.

“We’ve been on this long, long journey,” Mr. Osbourne continued. “It’s been a lot of intense, passion-driven work, and it’s great to see it recognized by the box office and the Academy as well.”

Nominated in the best-picture, best-director and best-adapted-screenplay categories, “Rings” also stands to clean up several technical awards. Where it missed was in the acting department.

“That wasn’t unanticipated,” Mr. Osbourne said. “It’s such an ensemble piece that it would be hard to recognize any single actor. I’m not surprised.”

Crazy Oscar

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, on the other hand, was taken completely by surprise at the news that “City of God” had received four nominations, including one for best director.

“Has the Academy gone mad?” he said in a statement. “A Portuguese-language film nominated for best screenplay adaptation? What’s going on here?”

Redford-baiting

With reports that the State Department has been clamping down recently on American citizens’ travel to Cuba, we wondered how Robert Redford was able to breeze into the communist isle so easily last week, when he showed his movie “The Motorcycle Diaries” to guerrilla icon Che Guevara’s family.

The key, a U.S. official told us, was the nature of Mr. Redford’s business in Fidel Castro’s workers’ paradise.

“You can’t spend money in Cuba unless you have a license to do so,” the official said, and Mr. Redford’s license most likely fell under the rubric of cultural exchange. Religious or humanitarian missions, he said, are treated with a similar leniency.

As long as Mr. Redford showed the movie at minimal expense to Cubans — as Kevin Costner did with his “Thirteen Days” — his trip there was perfectly legit.

Still, anti-Castroites are frustrated by such high-profile visits to Cuba and, even more, by the continuing fascination with Guevara.

“I think it’s important to look beyond the bearded and beret-clad icon,” Mariela Ferretti, a spokeswoman for the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation, said over the phone. “His idealistic quest led him to execute many innocent people in Cuba.”

Miss Ferretti issued this challenge to Mr. Redford and any other director who wishes to mosey into Cuba in the future: If you’re such warriors of free speech, how about showing solidarity with Cuba’s prisoners of conscience?

“It would be a breath of fresh air,” she said.

Civil rock

“What Would You Say?” goes one of the Dave Matthews Band’s most famous songs. In this case, the boys could start with “Thank you.”

The biracial rock group will receive the special Chairman’s Award at the upcoming NAACP Image Awards for various social and environmental do-goodery as well as its “dignified representation of people of color,” the civil rights group announced recently.

“To see and hear them is to recognize great talent; to learn of their good deeds is to recognize they are good souls,” said Julian Bond, board chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“It is a great honor to us that an institution with the history and accomplishments of the NAACP has chosen to recognize our actions. We will always greatly value this award,” the Charlottesville-born band said in an official statement.

Mr. Matthews and company will pick up the award in a March 6 ceremony in Los Angeles, according to Associated Press.

Compiled by Scott Galupo from staff, wire and Web reports.


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