It used to be that we had to wait until an election year for negative campaigning, rumor mongering, mudslinging and win-at-all-cost consultants. But, now, thanks to the increasing convergence of Washington and Hollywood, we get to be treated to these unseemly political staples every year come Oscar time.
Movie studios have been importing more than just story lines from Washington. They're now employing professional campaign consultants called "Oscar strategists," who are paid to make sure their studio's films win. More and more, this means making sure the other nominated films lose.
Witness the ugly whispering campaign mounted against this year's frontrunner.
In the parlance of Hollywood, it's "A Beautiful Mind" meets G. Gordon Liddy.
So, since political candidates long ago went Hollywood, and since Hollywood has now gone political, it's a perfect time for my annual political Oscars. Without further ado, the envelopes please ...
Best Performance in a Drama: Tom Wilkinson as the grief-stricken father in "In the Bedroom"
Worst: Jeffrey Skilling as the amnesia-stricken Enron exec in "In the Senate Hearing Room"
Best Art Direction: "Moulin Rouge's" swirling, eye-candy color scheme
Worst: Tom Ridge's confusing terror alert color scheme
Most Amusing Portrayal of a Ditzy Airhead: Reese Witherspoon turns Harvard Law School on its ear in "Legally Blonde"
Least Amusing: House Speaker Denny Hastert -- third in line to the presidency -- fails to say or do a single thing of interest in "Legally Bland"
Best Response to Charges of Anti-Semitism: In "A Beautiful Mind," John Nash's explanation that he was having schizophrenic delusions
Worst Response: In "The Nixon Tapes," Billy Graham's explanation that his anti-Jewish rants "do not reflect" his "views"
Best Portrayal of a Hobbit -- Movies: Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
-- Politics: Robert Reich as Robert Reich
Phoniest Accent -- Movies: Nicolas Cage's hokey Mama Leoni-meets-Guido Sarducci Italian accent in "Captain Corelli's Mandolin"
-- Politics: John Walker's hokey Osama-meets-Cat Stevens pan-Muslim patois in "Captain Walker's Talibinge"
Smartest Couple: Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind"
Dumbest: Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat in "An Ugly Situation"
Most Romantic Couple: "Kate & Leopold"
Least Romantic: "Chandra & Gary"
Best Special Effect: Daniel Radcliffe using the Invisibility Cloak to make himself disappear in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"
Worst: Tom Ridge using the Technicality Cloak to avoid appearing before Congress
Most Image-Altering Performance -- Movies: Halle Berry's star-making turn in "Monster's Ball," changing her rep from mere beauty to serious artist
-- Politics: Rudy Giuliani's star-making turn in "Monsters Attack Manhattan," changing his reputation from narcissistic adulterer to America's hero
Best Short Subject -- Movies: "Artists and Orphans"
-- Politics: "In and Out," Tipper Gore's 72-hour flirtation with running for the Senate
Best Stunt -- Movies: Paul Walker's death-defying leap from a careening tractor-trailer into a jet-black Honda Civic speeding alongside it in "The Fast and the Furious"
-- Politics: President Bush's death-averting face-first flop after choking on a pretzel in "The Salty and the Curious"
Most Convincing Portrayal of Heartfelt Fatherhood: Sean Penn's finger-twisting turn as a mentally challenged father in "I Am Sam"
Least Convincing: Rusty Yates' finger-pointing turn as a responsibility-challenged father in "I Am Damn Lucky They Didn't Charge Me Too"
Most Memorable Line -- Movies: "Eat me!" -- the Gingerbread Man in "Shrek"
-- Politics: "Let's roll!" -- Todd Beamer
Most Shocking Performance in a Sophomoric Comedy -- Movies: Tom Green, who drinks from a cow's udder, scuba dives in a toilet and masturbates a horse in "Freddy Got Fingered"
-- Politics: George W. Bush, who makes funny faces, rolls oranges down the aisle of his campaign plane, and delights in putting his hands on the head of bald reporters and shouting "Heal!" in Alexandra Pelosi's "Journeys with George"
Most Creative Story -- Movies: Wes Anderson, "The Royal Tenenbaums"
-- Politics: Arthur Andersen, "Cooking Enron's Books"
Best Score: John Williams' dark and hypnotic music from "A.I."
Worst Score: The $500 million Global Crossing CEO Gary Winnick pocketed while leading his company to bankruptcy
Most Regrettable Act of Censorship -- Movies: A shot of Britney Spears flashing her bare breasts in "Crossroads" ends up on the cutting room floor for fear of an R rating
-- Politics: Attorney General John Ashcroft demands that curtains be placed across the bare breasts of a Justice Department statue during his press conferences for fear of distracting reporters from the even bigger boob standing in front of them
Best "Take No Crap From Anybody" Performance -- Movies: Denzel Washington as Detective Alonzo Harris in "Training Day"
-- Politics: Don Rumsfeld as secretary of defense in any press conference
Best Mega-Buck Action Fantasy: Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"
Worst: George W. Bush's "The National Missile Defense Shield"
Performance Most Likely to Keep You Awake at Night -- Movies: Ben Kingsley in "Sexy Beast"
-- Politics: Tom Ridge, John Ashcroft and Robert Mueller for their vague yet ominous warnings about pending terrorist attacks in "Something Wicked This Way Comes, We Just Don't Know Who, What, When or How"
Best Return on Investment -- Movies: "Memento," which cost $5 million to make and has grossed over $35 million worldwide
-- Politics: The airline industry, whose over $40 million dollar investment in lobbying, in one year alone, greased the wheels for the no-strings-attached $15 billion Congressional bailout
Special Achievement in Product Placement -- Movies: The tender close-ups afforded Sissy Spacek's Marlboro Lights in "In the Bedroom"
-- Politics: The Taliban scrambling all over Afghanistan in their Toyota Land Cruisers
Lamest Ad Campaign -- Movies: The ads for "Swordfish" that promised: "This summer, you will believe a bus can fly."
-- Politics: The White House ads drawing a link between violent acts of terrorism and smoking pot
Biggest bomb -- Movies: "Glitter"
-- Politics: The Daisy Cutter
Best Man Who Wasn't There -- Movies: Billy Bob Thornton as the Cohen brothers' blackmailing barber
-- Politics: Dick Cheney as the American people's cave-dwelling vice president
Best Rip-off: George Clooney, Brad Pitt and company walk away with millions after taking down three casinos in "Ocean's 11"
Worst Rip-off: Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling and company walk away with millions after defrauding employees and shareholders in "Enron's Chapter 11"