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Recall the gold, yes, please! Who really was the best actor of 2003?

October 16, 2008 |  4:55 pm

I think Entertainment Weekly has a great idea to take on past Oscars races, asking readers to "Recall the Gold." I cried "Yes!" when they targeted Sean Penn's best-actor win of 2003 for "Mystic River," but so far their readers are giving it back to Penn anyway with 36% of their vote with Bill Murray ("Lost in Translation") coming in second place at 30%. That's not the final EW tally, though. READ MORE


But of the results to date, come on! Penn cut off a 10-inch slice of salty ham in "Mystic River," mugging, scowling, shouting, screaming, yellin'. That same year Penn had a topnotch perf in "21 Grams" that won best actor at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated by BAFTA. If he was going to win for anything, it should've been "21 Grams." Or he shouldn't have won at all. Why give an Oscar to someone who often acts like he doesn't want it? Just a few years earlier Penn didn't even bother to show up when nominated for "Dead Man Walking."

And, well, as for Bill Murray in one of the two overrated Oscar pix I love most to trash, "Lost in Translation" (the other is "The Hours" — natch), one of Hollywood's most notorious grouches just growled on screen most of the time, looking bored, as if his bartender wasn't pouring fast enough.

Besides, even if you disagree about Murray's performance, he shouldn't have won because of obvious hypocrisy. Remember how ticked off he got when the best-actor envelope was opened up? It's one of the classic, close-up TV shots in Oscar history, right up there with Lauren Bacall's diva meltdown when she got beat by Juliette Binoche.

Before Oscar night, Bill Murray told reporters: "It's a really unattractive sight to see an actor or actress who really wants an Oscar. And you often see it on the show, you see their faces and the desperation is so ugly. Desperation is not a quality I long for. I'm over the Oscar. Sometimes people win it and you think, 'This can't be true.' It's a little bit of a popularity contest, too. Sometimes it's right, but it's wrong just as often, so I don't care. I'd rather make movies that lots of people saw and liked. I'm happy with the results."

Speaking of ticked-off divas, the one superstar who was M.I.O.A. (Missing in Oscar Action) that year was Russell Crowe. When "Master and Commander" got 10 nominations, including best picture, it looked like everyone associated with the flick got a bid except its own master and commander. Crowe's bad boy antics had finally caught up with him even though he was trying hard to be a sudden good boy.


"Have you noticed Russell Crowe has become P.C. this year?" Variety editor in chief Peter Bart observed. "I'm sure he's noticed that if Ben Kingsley, Jude Law and Tom Cruise say the right thing, they all get awards." It didn't help.

(An earlier draft of this article incorrectly referred to the EW poll as "Recall the Vote" instead of "Recall the Gold." Read more about the EW series, CLICK HERE.)