Friday, March 14, 2014

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 2002

The Contenders:
Chicago (winner)
Gangs of New York
The Hours
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Pianist

What’s Missing

Overall, the Academy did a decent job of naming films for this category, although there are a few that I think are worthy of consideration. As it turns out, 2002 was a damn fine year for film. The forgotten genre of science fiction offered up Minority Report. Other films include Adaptation, Catch Me if You Can, Road to Perdition and the underrated Far from Heaven. Spider-Man, The Bourne Identity, About Schmidt, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and 8 Mile also showed up in 2002. On the foreign front, Russian Ark is interesting, but lacks the power of Talk to Her, Hero or (and especially) City of God.

Weeding through the Nominees

5: This will come as no surprise, but I’m pitching Chicago immediately. There’s a lot to like with Chicago. It’s incredibly well-staged for starters and very inventive in how the story is told. I genuinely dislike the story, though and I dislike almost every aspect of every character. It’s an ugly story all the way through. But more than anything, I’m not sure I’m ready to accept a film with Richard Gere singing as the best from any given year. Of all of the nominees, this is the one that I think shouldn’t have even been nominated.

4: I said in my review of The Pianist that I tend to either like or love Polanski’s films, and I merely like this one. It’s possible, even likely that on repeated viewings this would come to be a film that I love. I guess more than anything that eventually I tire of the “triumph of the spirit over great evil” films of this nature. I understand the importance of the story and was even moved by it, but at some point, watching another person’s misery becomes too much for me. I reached that point with The Pianist. I think it’s a worthy nomination, but I can’t bring myself to love it.

3: My first official reviews on this blog were for the Lord of the Rings movies. I’m a huge fan, so it may seem odd to put the second installment here. Really, though, this is one-third of a movie despite its daunting length. I was holding my breath for the third installment, hoping against hope that Peter Jackson and company could finish the trilogy at the same level they began it. Awarding this Best Picture would be too soon—the trilogy needed to be completed and whole before it could really be judged. In that sense, it was almost unfair to nominate it at all.

My Choices

2: I was very impressed with The Hours when I watched it. Oddly, that review has been one of the more controversial ones on this blog this year, or as close as I tend to get to real controversy. I understand why others don’t get the same sort of feeling I did from this film, but I thought it was smart and beautifully acted all the way through. I love the blending of the three stories and the way each one plays off the others. More importantly, this is a film that demonstrates once again something that Hollywood frequently needs to be reminded of: films about women are compelling and stories about real women should not be ignored.

1: But my vote goes to Gangs of New York, a film that somehow went 0-for-10 at the Oscars that year. I’ve been told by others that this film goes on too long, and I can’t agree less. I’m absolutely riveted the entire time I watch this every time I watch it. It’s got a dream cast at the top of its game, and I am still absolutely impressed by the ending every time I see it. This is what Oscar should have picked of the five nominees. I could see others (City of God comes to mind) in this position, but I might still well lean in this direction.



Final Analysis

13 comments:

  1. I remember watching this telecast thinking, after Actor, Screenplay and Director, that The Pianist was going to pull an upset for Best Picture. It would've been my personal first choice, with GoNY close behind.

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  2. We actually recently talked about this on our last episode of We Sing Poorly (Chicago). It's a movie that we believed to be unfairly maligned due to it beating out better films (Crash syndrome). It's actually quite good--even great in some areas. I actually think The Pianist probably should have won Best Picture (though I'm with you on both City of God and Gangs of New York both being strong choices). Though I wouldn't have minded Rob Marshall snatching Best Director. It really was a fantastic vision he brought to screen.

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    1. I realize that I'm in the minority on The Pianist since both of you prefer that choice. I'm not sure exactly why I didn't love it, but "like" and "respect" were as far as I could come.

      Just to be fair, I agree that Chicago is beautifully staged. Marshall did really well at presenting something that hearkened back to its stage origins and still did enough to take advantage of the film format. And in my defense, I'm hardly reacting to something like Crash syndrome here. Knowing my preferences, it's hardly a shock that I wasn't a fan of Chicago. It would be my bottom pick even if everyone still loved it.

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    2. Oh, I didn't mean you in particular had Crash syndrome here. I meant the population at large seems to react to Chicago that way.

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    3. Oh, I get that. I think Crash, despite not being the best film that year, is still a pretty good film. That sort of backlash isn't that uncommon. I've seen the same thing happen to a lot of films. Human nature, I guess.

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  3. 45 minutes into Chicago my wife and I looked at each other and switched to another channel. This was a real stinker. My choice this year would have to be The Pianist, but then again I never saw Gangs of New York.

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  4. The foreign films you mentioned are interesting choices: City of God-powerful but so depressing, Russain Ark-gimmicky but fascinating, Hero-a film I liked, but haven't seen in ten years so I can't tell you why-Talk to Her, a totally original film. My favorite among the batch would be Talk to Her, but I think most would choose City of God from this list, which I certainly understand.

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    1. I think City of God is a top-10 subtitled film for me, and I could get behind it winning Best Picture if someone suggested it over Gangs of New York. I liked Talk to Her, but I find it kind of amusing that you aren't of the opinion that it's really depressing, too.

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  5. I love musicals and even I am not a fan of Chicago. I haven't seen many movies from 2002 but would like to give a huge shoutout to Far from Heaven.

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    1. Far from Heaven is a film that caught me completely off guard. I found it for a couple of dollars and bought it, knowing I'd have to watch it eventually. Once I watched it, I was so happy that I owned a copy of it. I don't think I'd put it over Gangs of New York, but I would have nominated it before I'd have nominated Chicago.

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  6. While I liked some of the nominees (Chicago, Two Towers, Pianist) I'd go with "none of the above" for the winner and instead go with two five star films (you know how rare those are from me) - City of God and Hero, and some four star films - Adpatation and Talk to Her. To round out the nominees I'd go with the four star The Two Towers. I agree it wasn't deserving of a Best Picture win, but for a different reason - it was the weakest of the three films in the set.

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  7. I loved City of God (evidenced by the picture above), so I don't take issue with that at all. I know I like Gangs of New York more than you do, and I'm okay with that, too.

    This would've been an interesting year if the Academy had expanded the nominations as they started doing in 2009.

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