Sunday, February 22, 2009

Best Picture? Hardly.

Here's what this post is trying to say: there are a lot of undeserving producers with Oscar statues on their mantles. Take a look back at what's won Best Picture, it's pretty ridiculous in some cases. Not as ridiculous Cary Grant never winning and Oscar and Alfred Hitchcock never winning Best Director, but still...

2000: Gladiator
[What it Beat: Chocolat, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,
Erin Brockovich, Traffic]
[What Should Have Won: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon]

If you were half as blown away as I was by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and half as underwhelmed by Gladiator, then you understand my dismay concerning the 2000 Oscars. Do you remember the first time you saw Chow Yun-Fat running up through the trees? It was incredible! But it wasn't just the special effects that made CTHD the most deserving nominee that year, the story was deep and powerful, and every performance was delivered impecably. I'm saying this fully aware of how many friends I have that love Gladiator but it just did nothing for me. Even the fight scenes, and in my younger years, I loved me some fight scenes, bored me. Russell Crowe is one of the least captivating leading men this side of Kevin Sorbo. Sorry to all those who love Gladiator but if the academy hadn't pawned Crouching Tiger off on the Best Foreign Film category, we would have had a different winner.

2001: A Beautiful Mind
[What it Beat: Gosford Park, In the Bedroon,
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, Moulin Rouge!]
[What Should Have Won: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings]

Don't get it twisted, I am NOT a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies. At all. The first film was a torturous experience for me, the second literally put me to sleep, and the third has still be sucessfully avoided. That being said, while I didn't personally enjoy the movie, I wholeheartedly respect it and can recognize that it deserved to win Best Picture in 2001. I really enjoyed A Beautiful Mind when it was released, but if you go back and watch it, you'll realize just how cheesy, conventional, poorly written, and nearly unwatchable it really is. Out of the five films nominated, ABM really should have come in dead last. I understand not wanting to give out three Best Picture awards to one trilogy, but if the award is truely going to the "best" movie, then give the statues to those films which truely earned the title.

2002: Chicago
[What it Beat: Gangs of New York, The Hours,
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist]

[What Should Have Won: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers]

Here's where my emotions are split. I wanted Chicago to win that year. I loathed The Two Towers. After much consideration, I have to maintain my same logic used with 2001's nominees. A film on such a grand scale, with an attention to detail unmatched by nearly any filmmaker (except for maybe Gilliam), filled with convincing performances and an awe-inspiring visual style is probably going to deserve to win Best Picture. That being said, Chicago, in my opinion, is an almost equally impressive film. One year after proved that musicals still held their place in mainstream Hollywood, Rob Marshall's film knocked it out of the park. Everything the musical should be, Chicago is. Thankfully, I didn't have to make the decision of choosing a winner. The academy chose the film I wanted over the film over the film that should have won.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
[What it Beat: Lost in Translation, Master and Commander,
Mystic River, Seabiscuit]
[What Should Have Won: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King]

Same logic as before. The Lord of the Rings films...I hate them. Cannot stand them. That being said, they're fuckin' impressive. My vote would have went to either or Lost in Translation or Mystic River. How the hell did Seabiscuit get a nomination? Even Finding Nemo could have (and should have) kicked the piss out of that damn horse. Blech.

2004: Million Dollar Baby
[What it Beat: The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways]
[What Should Have Won: Sideways]

Fuck Million Dollar Baby.

2005: Crash
[What it Beat: Brokeback Mountain, Capote,
Good Night and Good Luck, Munich]
[What Should Have Won: Brokeback Mountain]

I'm not even going to try to lie about how much I love Crash. There are just too many people who would call me on my shit. When I first saw Crash, it hit me like a ton of bricks (in a good way). Why people don't like...actually despise is a better word, this movie makes complete sense. It's the opposite of subtle, it's over-the-top at times, and screams when it should whipser. BUT...for myself, personally, this was the film I needed at that time. kick-started my interest in studying racism, American history, the Civil Rights movement, etc. Looking back on Crash, it wasn't as good of a movie as Brokeback Mountain (the most-deserved winner) but I'll always appreciate it and its Tony Danza cameo.

2006: The Departed
[What it Beat: Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima,
Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen]

[What Should Have Won: Hustle and Flow]
It's better than Babel.
It's better than Letters from Iwo Jima.
It's better than Little Miss Sunshine.
It's better than The Queen.
Want to know what it's not better than?
Hustle and Flow.
Hustle and Flow
got screwed over. No screenplay nominations. No picture, directing, actress, cinematography, or editing nominations either. Three 6 Mafia won Best Original Song though. Thanks academy.
[Edit: My research team has been fired. Hustle and Flow was actually released the previous year...where it earned all of the awards it should have. Suddenly, my day just got a little better. In closing, Hustle and Flow is still better than all the movies previously listed.]

2007: No Country for Old Men
[What it Beat: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood]
[What Should Have Won: No Country for Old Men]

Damn, what a great year for American cinema. I didn't understand why Michael Clayton was nominated but at least Tom Wilkinson almost picked up Best Supporting Actors. This slot clearly should have went to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. And say what you will about Juno, it deserved its nomination. It didn't deserve to win, but it deserved its nomination. But overall, 2007 saw the best films nominated in more than couple years.

No Country for Old Men took two viewings for me to fully appreciate its innovation and its various strengths. The second viewing allowed me to forget that Josh Brolin gets to sleep with Diane Lane every night and that Woody Harrelson still gets acting parts. Learning to love the ending was difficult at first but after seeing the film again and discussing the film with my MA Westerns class, it became clear that No Country for Old Men was the best film of the year (slightly edging out TAOJJBTCRF and There Will Be Blood which completely falls apart in the third act).

This brings us to 2009. Tonight is the Oscars ceremony.
I'm about to go see Slumdog, saw Milk last night, hated The Reader.
The Wrestler wasn't nominated.
If Slumdog isn't as good as the hype has made it seems then it looks like we're back to normal.


J.D. said...

Hustle & Flow was from 2005?

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Hustle and Flow put me to sleep, several times. I wish I was kidding.

Taylor said...

Great post. I think you are right on with most of it. I assume I am one of the people you are referring to in your year 2000 critique. Nevertheless, I understand why you would feel the way you do. Gladiator was an epic film, and looking over the track record of the Academy, sometimes they just feel like giving the gold to epic films some years. I took a look at the films competing against Braveheart in 1995 for Best Picture as well and saw a similar pattern. Someone could easily make the case for Il Postino that year. Similarly, a case can be made for CTHD in 2000.

I think, however, when looking BACK on which films won and which did not, it is very difficult to do so without having all that has happened in film since the movie was made cloud one's judgment. Braveheart, at the time revolutionized an epic war movie--the camera angles, robotic horses, and large battle scenes with so much going on. Yet one could easily say, having watched Saving Private Ryan years later, that Braveheart just doesn't cut it for an epic war movie.

Gladiator I think fits this same premise. I remember all the buzz the year it came out. Everyone was raving about the CGI effects when they recreated what the Roman Ampetheater looked like as well as the acting performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Djimon Hounsou. Not to mention the action scenes with tigers and chariots that everyone believed had finally put Ben-Hur to rest. But since Gladiator, there has been other epic war films with epic battles (like Lord of the Rings) that have easily surpassed Gladiator. Nonetheless, Gladiator was an epic film, and apparently, every couple of years one of them wins. CTHD was great, don't get me wrong, and in my opinion was equally worthy of winning best picture. I guess that's where we differ.

On a side note, I still never understood why you thought Chicago should have won in 2002. Given the other choices available (of which I have not seen The Hours) I think ANYTHING else should have won. But then again I hate musicals as much as you hate FOX news so my opinion is fairly biased.

My question is: how does the Academy decide who/what should win an award? Do they get together in a conference room and cast votes? Is it done separately? Maybe I am just an imbecile when it comes to this but I was just wondering.

seanisbored said...

I also loved Crash both times I saw it.

I was a wreck after it and its blaring trumpets of drama.