With the awards season being in full swing and most of our Message Board posters lamenting (or should I say whining) that voters left off mixed bags like Episode III in favor of more mixed bags like Crash, rest assured they’ll have plenty to continually gripe about come March 5th. The biggest entertainment awards show – besides the Antis, is mere days upon us. And in celebration, your friends and immortal enemies at CHUD are giving away a limited amount of Universal’s Oscar Prize Packs on DVD.

Included in the Oscar Prize Pack are three incredibly good movies – Cinderella Man (read Nick’s review here, and Eileen’s DVD review here), The Constant Gardner, and Pride & Prejudice (read Ian’s Book review), the latter of which streets on DVD on Tuesday the 28th. The other two are already out and there’s no excuse to not have discovered them. Not only are all three films spectacularly wonderful in their own regard, but winners will receive ALL THREE bundled together. A word to the wise, though – you’ll have to work for it. You must face several devices of such lethal cunning that you might even have to use the Chronicles of Sir Lancelot to guide yourself through. Most likely it’ll be Google.

CGIf you haven’t seen these films you’ve surely missed out on some sensational performances and a lot of marvelous filmmaking. Not only is Cinderella Man one of Ron Howard’s better films, it’s also another of his cautious steps to create a directorial style; one that’s starting to take hold even moreso than before. Russell Crowe’s Jim Braddock is down-and-out much like the rest of the country during the Depression, although his boxing abilities have never faltered. Howard’s narrative is one of the true underdog and Crowe fights his way to the top, including a roustabout with Craig Bierko all the while being coached by the criminally unrecognized Paul Giamatti (who has finally been recognized for his supporting role – yes!).

The Constant Gardner, on the other hand, is Fernando Meirelles’ (City of God) probing focus on the transformation of Africa and a few of its ills at the hands of maleficent pharmaceutical companies. Rachel Weisz, who is tractably stunning in her performance (in fact, she’s nominated for her role), learns more than she bargained for and when she’s decimated into the afterworld (that’s not really a spoiling attribute), husband Ralph Fiennes starts taking the mystery into his own hands at the cost of life, limb, and various nefarious English accents. The Constant Gardner was one of my favorite films of 2005, so see it for its powerful message underneath its command of new cinematic heights.

 Lastly, Pride & Prejudice finds Keira Knightley (who was also nominated for her role – see a pattern?) donning arguably her best performance in her fledgling career as Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett and her moral crisis; that is, running rampant around her heart in the matters of Mr. Darcy. But whereas most period pieces would have you checking your watch in order to satisfy your significant other, Director Joe Wright (read his interview with Devin here) infuses the story with a nouveau sensibility that is like a shot of adrenaline into the stodgy Austenian worlds presented prior. Pride & Prejudice manages to be charming, funny, and above all immensely watchable in every regard, especially if you don’t happen to be a fan of these types of movies. Knightley really inhabits Elizabeth like a gale wind of excellence, and she’s one of the best items about the film – the other being the great Donald Sutherland (whose terrific interview with Devin you have to read here– RIGHT NOW!). In short, it’s just a tremendously entertaining film.

Now, the nitty-gritty. Want to win one of these Oscar Prize Packs? To do so, ANSWER these questions and make sure to give me your FULL NAME and ADDRESS with OSCAR PRIZE PACK in the subject line (and if you’re an independent producer looking for talent – your phone number). You MUST answer these questions. If you don’t, you will be disqualified and will probably cry yourself to sleep.

E-mail your responses using THIS LINK.

Ready? Start your inadequate engines:

1. What was the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, Production?
2. Ron Howard and Cinematographer Salvatore Totino collaborated before Cinderella Man. Name that film and tell me if you enjoyed it.
3. What was the first John le Carré book to be nominated for an Oscar?
4. What famed Author helped write the 1940 version of Pride & Prejudice?
5. Finish this infamous Bob Hope Oscar quip – “Welcome to the Academy Awards, or as it’s known at my house ——–.”

And remember – ANSWER ALL of the above questions and give me your FULL NAME and ADDRESS with OSCAR PRIZE PACK in the subject line. Winners will be chosen at random and notified shortly after this contest ends (in exactly one week). Personally, I think this is a damned good contest and all three of these films should find worthy spots on your DVD shelf. Additionally, make sure to cheer on these fine nominated films during their times of you pretending not to watch The Academy Awards on March 5th. You can say you don’t watch, but I know you do.

All this spewed forth -

Good luck!