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The Oscar race, now on DVD

Films released earlier last year may have an awards-season edge: They're out on video.

February 01, 2004|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

For years, Oscar campaign conventional wisdom has been that films released before the fall would be largely forgotten when it came time for Academy Awards voting.

But this year, in the aftermath of the Motion Picture Assn. of America's mandated ban last fall on DVD and videocassette "screener" copies of films competing in the various awards, some of those films released before the fall may have had an extra boost: They're already out on DVD.

Such major studio releases as Disney's "Finding Nemo" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" and Universal's "Seabiscuit" were released theatrically during the summer and came out on DVD and VHS in time for the holiday gift season.

All did well in Oscar nominations -- "Nemo" is up for best animated feature, "Pirates" star Johnny Depp is contending for best actor, and "Seabiscuit" is in the best picture hunt.

Even though the academy's ban was partly lifted last month and VHS tapes were sent to members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, some smaller films are coming out on DVD and VHS, just in time for other awards season voting. After all, only Oscar voters can get screeners, but polls are still open for the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America and Writers Guild of America awards. This way, voters in all of the awards-season contests get a chance to see the films, and the films also get to capitalize on the promotional impact of expected nominations.

Fox released "Thirteen," which received a supporting actress Oscar nomination for Holly Hunter and SAG nominations for Hunter and Evan Rachel Wood, on DVD and VHS Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, HBO unveiled the two-disc set of its acclaimed documentary, "Capturing the Friedmans," which was nominated in the feature-length documentary Oscar category.

Two other smaller films released in the summer are coming out on DVD and VHS on Tuesday to take advantage of their Oscar nominations bounce. "Lost in Translation," whose four nominations were in high-profile categories, including best picture, is joined by "American Splendor," the offbeat look at Cleveland underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar, which picked up an adapted screenplay Oscar nomination.

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