Since everybody else is looking back on the films of 2003, I might as well do the same. And, since I feel the Oscar-winners rarely end up reflecting those actually deserving it, let's go with that...
Best Picture: Lord of the Rings, Return of the King. Okay, the award would really be for the entire trilogy not just the final chapter, but Peter Jackson's film version of an un-filmable book is an incredible achievement and is very much Oscar-worthy. Two other films just as worthy: Lost in Translation, which is one of the best character studies ever put to film, and The Last Samurai which is one of the most beautiful films I've seen in years.
Best Actor: Bill Murray for Lost in Translation. Bill Murray is a comic genius that can salvage even the most inane roles (re: Bosley in Charlie's Angels). But it's his more dramatic turns that make him Oscar-worthy. First there was Rushmore, then there was The Royal Tenenbaums, and now his absolute best role to date in Lost in Translation which completely dominates any other actor this year. And the best is yet to come... Bill is re-teaming with Wes Anderson for The Life Aquatic next year!
Best Actress: Uma Thurman for Kill Bill. Oh come on. Forget Jennifer Connely, Nikole Kidman, Charlize Theron, and all the rest... that sappy drama crap is cliche, and each role is interchangeable with the others. Uma's stylish performance elevates this grinder-flick to new heights, which takes a talent no other actress came close to this year.
Best Supporting Actor: Ken Watanabe for The Last Samurai. Easily one of the best performances this year, it really chaps my ass that he will probably be overlooked. Anybody who has seen this film knows Watanabe's quiet dignity and mind-blowing charisma on the screen deserves the Oscar.
Best Supporting Actress: Scarlett Johansson for Lost in Translation. How many actresses could have held their own against Bill Murray in this film? Very, very few. Johansson actually deserves Best Actress for her stunning work here.
Best Director: Sophia Coppola for Lost in Translation. Yeah, yeah, Peter Jackson did an amazing job for Lord of the Rings. But such effects-heavy films have me question what the role of a director actually is in such a spectacle. And, as if the performances that Coppola managed to coax from Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson weren't enough, she wrote Lost in Translation as well. Every scene was perfectly orchestrated for effect, then sewn together to create a film that was brilliant and Oscar-worthy.
My only regret is not finding a place for Johnny Depp in my list. His performances in Pirates of the Caribbean and Once Upon a Time in Mexico were classics in 2003. Likewise, I haven't a clue as to where Master and Commander should go, but that was a pretty good flick as well.