Scott's World -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By VERNON SCOTT, United Press International  |  Jan. 4, 2002 at 6:28 PM
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HOLLYWOOD, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Is Tinseltown ready for yet another movie and television awards show?

For that matter, is the world prepared for a new back-slapping whoop-dee-do along with the Golden Globes, Oscars, Emmys, Screen Actors Guild, Grammys, Obies, Country Music, Tonys, Razzies and Plumber of the Year Award?

Like it or not, a new awards show rolls on CBS on Saturday, giving it the distinction of being the first such show of 2002.

Sponsored and founded by the American Film Institute, the AFI awards -- as yet without a cutesy nickname for its hardware like Oscar or Emmy -- arrives with a certain distinction.

The American Film Institute is a highly respected organization specializing in the preservation of old films, recognized worldwide for its contributions.

Moreover, the AFI isn't as subjective as most other show biz awards because its members have no personal axes to grind or favorite pictures for which to motivate voters.

The AFI doesn't produce commercial movies, although it does develop new directors, writers and producers through its programs for advancing new talent.

AFI is known for its annual Life Achievement award, rewarding Hollywood's greatest directors and actors of the past 30 years, from John Ford -- the first recipient -- to Tom Hanks, who will be given that distinction in a few months in a TV special.

Among the 30 winners: actors James Cagney, Henry Fonda, Clint Eastwood, Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Poitier, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Lillian Gish, Fred Astaire and James Stewart; directors Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, William Wyler, Billy Wilder and Robert Wise.

Perhaps the most important element of the AFI Awards is that it precedes the Golden Globes as the first such honors of the year, thereby becoming a bellwether for all succeeding awards.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globes had held that distinction for many years, providing the organization with enormous publicity and industry attention.

Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI's director and CEO for 20 years, wisely selected longtime TV producer Gary Smith to produce this first annual show.

Smith says his three-hour special will " ... appeal to film buffs nationwide and be of special interest to the movie industry itself.

"We are presenting the show to people who really know and understand what it means to make a movie."

A jury of 100 movie historians, filmmakers, actors, exhibitors, scholars and critics has voted on the nominees who were selected by panels of three AFI members, three historians, critics and film professionals, in addition to three TV authorities.

Two nominations committees composed of 13 TV people and 13 film experts met in weekend discussions to arrive at the nominees.

The final jury made its selections last week, voting for nominees in 11 movie and seven television categories.

Worth noting: AFI's nominees are less a popularity contest than serious considerations arrived at by professional members of the industry.

Notably absent are over-publicized movie and TV stars who shine more brightly in tabloid stories than they do on screen as professional actors.

Box-office receipts are not a factor.

The nominees for this premiere year:

Movie of the year (2001): "Black Hawk Down," "In the Bedroom," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Man Who Wasn't There," "Memento," "Monster's Ball," "Moulin Rouge," "Mulholland Drive" and "Shrek."

Note: All acting nominations are limited to four per category.

Actor of the year -- Male: Russell Crowe ("A Beautiful Mind"), Billy Bob Thornton ("The Man Who Wasn't There"), Denzel Washington ("Training Day"), Tom Wilkinson ("In the Bedroom").

Actor of the Year -- Female: Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball"), Stockard Channing ("The Business of Strangers"), Sissy Spacek ("In the Bedroom"), Naomi Watts ("Mulholland Drive").

They've changed "supporting players" to "feature" players.

Featured Actor of the Year -- Male: Steve Buscemi ("Ghost World"), Brian Cox ("L.I.E."), Gene Hackman ("The Royal Tenenbaums"), Tony Shalhoub ("The Man Who Wasn't There").

Featured Actor of the Year -- Female: Cate Blanchett ("Bandits"), Jennifer Connelly ("A Beautiful Mind"), Cameron Diaz ("Vanilla Sky"), Frances O'Connor ("A.I.: Artificial Intelligence").

Director of the year: Robert Altman ("Gosford Park"), Todd Field ("In the Bedroom"), David Lynch ("Mulholland Drive"), Ridley Scott ("Black Hawk Down").

The other categories include best screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, production designer, digital artist (a new category) and composer.

The 11 TV categories are composed of best drama and comedy series, movie or miniseries, actor and actress performances in a movie or miniseries as well as in series.

Curiously, the AFI nominees include only one of the great box-office block-busters released during the 2001 holidays, "The Lord of the Rings: The

Fellowship of the Ring." The only comedy is "Shrek," which also was the only

animated film recognized.

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