Oscar time

Presenting the best and worst, most compelling and most pathetic performances in politics and movies in 2004.


With this year’s Oscar nominations just out and already sparking heated debate (Was Hollywood too chastened to nominate Michael Moore? Too Jewish to embrace Mel’s “Passion”? And what happened to Paul Giamatti?), I thought it would be a good time for this column’s traditional salute to outstanding achievements in the worlds of politics and entertainment — which have, after all, become increasingly hard to tell apart.

This year, I’ve decided to dub these awards “the Arnolds” — I mean, it isn’t every year that the chief executive of the most populous state in the union also lands a prominent role in a Jackie Chan flick (though the Governator playing a womanizing Turkish prince was a bit of a stretch).

So, without further ado, the envelopes please …


Best: “Shrek 2.”

Worst: Bush-Cheney 2004.

Performance by a Grizzled Veteran

Best: “Million Dollar Baby’s” Clint Eastwood gets another shot at glory when he trains a female boxer to fight for all the marbles.

Worst: Kentucky’s Jim Bunning gets another term in the U.S. Senate despite running a confused and incoherent campaign that leaves observers wondering if he’s lost all his marbles.

Creative Writing

Best: Charlie Kaufman for his mind-bending screenplay, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

Worst: Alberto Gonzales for his morality-bending memo calling the Geneva Conventions “quaint” (aka Eternal Torment of the Enemy Mind).

Freshest New Face: “The Phantom of the Opera’s” Emmy Rossum.

Scariest New Face: The Ukraine’s Viktor Yushchenko, after the dioxin kicked in.

Best Performance by a Rodent

Movies: Scabbers the rat in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

Politics: Tom DeLay.

Sex Exploration

Best: Liam Neeson’s Dr. Kinsey visits a gay bar to learn about the sexual habits of homosexuals.

Worst: Illinois Senate candidate Jack Ryan visits a sex club so he can watch his wife get banged by strangers.

Mega-Buck Action Fantasy

Best: Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2.”

Worst: George Bush’s A Democratic Iraq.

Most Over-Rewarded Lousy Performance

Movies: Vin Diesel, who received $12 million for mumbling and grunting his way through “The Chronicles of Riddick.”

Politics: George Tenet, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom despite presiding over the CIA during two of the most tragic intelligence failures in U.S. history.

Art Direction

Best: “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’s” simultaneously retro and futuristic color scheme.

Worst: Tom Ridge’s simultaneously confusing and alarming terror alert color scheme.

Most Vicious Attack

Movies: Daniel Travis bleeds to death after being set upon by hungry sharks in “Open Water.”

Politics: John Kerry’s campaign bleeds to death after being set upon by vengeful Swift Boat Veterans in Muddied Water.

Most Excruciating Performance by Siblings

Movies: The Olsen twins in “New York Minute.”

Politics: The Bush twins in New York at the GOP Convention.

Performance by an Anchorman

Best: Will Ferrell in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.”

Worst: Dan Rather in The Myth of Jerry Killian’s Memos.

Bang-for-Your-Buck Ratio

Best: “The Passion of the Christ,” which cost $30 million to make and has taken in over $610 million worldwide.

Worst: The Passion of the Democrats, who spent over a billion dollars on the 2004 campaign and got nothing to show for it but Barack Obama.

Most Compelling Clash of Legendary Figures: “Alien vs. Predator.”

Most Pathetic Clash of No-Longer-Legendary Figures: Michael Eisner vs. Michael Ovitz.

Performance Most Likely to Keep You Awake at Night

Movies: Tom Cruise in “Collateral.”

Politics: Dick Cheney in the vice presidential debate asserting three times that he was absolutely convinced that terrorists will try to unleash a nuclear weapon in the middle of an American city.

Achievement in Costuming

Best: Colleen Atwood for her whimsical, high gothic outfits for “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

Worst: John Kerry for his ill-chosen goose-hunting and windsurfing outfits in A Series of Unfortunate Campaign Tactics.

Most Convincing Transformation: The Wayans Brothers’ conversion from hapless black FBI agents into snobby white heiresses in “White Chicks.”

Least Convincing: The White House converting the reason for the war from wiping out Saddam’s WMD to bringing democracy to the people of Iraq.


Best: Howard Shore’s swirling and soaring music from “The Aviator.”

Worst: The $139 billion in profits drug companies will pocket as a result of the new Medicare prescription drug law.

Most Ludicrous Prison Scenes: Renée Zellweger singing Madonna songs with her fellow Thai prison inmates in “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.”

Most Revolting Prison Scenes: U.S. guards torturing Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib: There Goes the Moral High Ground.

Performance as a Stepford Wife

Worst: Glenn Close’s scenery chewing turn in “The Stepford Wives.”

Best: Laura Bush’s ever-smiling turn on Inauguration Day.

Portrayal of a Memory-Challenged Character

Best: Drew Barrymore in “50 First Dates.”

Worst: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in front of Congress for not being able to remember the number of soldiers who’d lost their lives in Iraq.

Best Fight Scene

Movies: Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah’s knock-down, drag-out duel in “Kill Bill Vol. 2.”

Politics: Zell Miller challenging Chris Matthews to a duel on “Hardball.”

Most Daring Rescue

Movies: Firefighter Joaquin Phoenix braves hellish heat to save a trapped man in “Ladder 49.”

Politics: John Kerry braves watery doom to save Licorice, the family’s pet hamster, in Humanizing the Candidate ’04.

Biggest Surprise of the Year: “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.”

Biggest Disappointment: Dubya and Dick Go Back to the White House.

Most Romantic Location: “Sideways’” rolling hills and wine vineyards.

Least Romantic: Bernard Kerik’s ground zero love nest.

Longest Cold Streak

Movies: Ben Affleck (“Surviving Christmas,” “Jersey Girl,” “Paycheck,” “Gigli,” “Daredevil,” “The Third Wheel”).

Poltics: Bob Shrum (Kerry ’04, Gore ’00, Kerrey ’92, Dukakis ’88, Gephardt ’88, Kennedy ’80, McGovern ’72, Muskie ’72).


Best: Nicolas Cage pinches the Declaration of Independence in order to protect it in “National Treasure.”

Worst: Ahmed Chalabi pitches the idea of Iraqi independence to Cheney and company and pockets $30 million from the national treasury — all while spying for Iran.

Arianna Huffington is a nationally syndicated columnist, the co-host of the National Public Radio program "Left, Right, and Center," and the author of 10 books. Her latest is "Fanatics and Fools: The Game Plan for Winning Back America."

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