Friday, July 11, 2014

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 2001

The Contenders:
A Beautiful Mind (winner)
Gosford Park
In the Bedroom
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Moulin Rouge!

What’s Missing

Two of my favorite movies ever came out in 2001. The fact that both of them are non-English language films makes their nomination a longshot, though, so I suppose in retrospect there wasn’t a great deal of hope for Amelie or The Devil’s Backbone. Sticking on the foreign front, Spirited Away, Safar e Ghandehar, Monsoon Wedding, Kairo and The Son’s Room were also released in 2001. Monsoon Wedding probably had the best chance of those, although Spirited Away won the Animated Film Oscar. On the English language front, Ghost World, I am Sam, Monster’s Ball, The Royal Tenenbaums, and possibly Mulholland Drive could all have a case made for them. If I don’t mention that this was also the year for the first Harry Potter movie, Nick Jobe will kick my ass, but I think if he’s honest with himself, he knows it didn’t really deserve a nomination.

Weeding through the Nominees

5: Goodbye Moulin Rouge! I know there are people who love this movie; I’m just not one of them. I felt as if I was under constant assault by this film when I watched it. When the music stopped and we got smaller, intimate scenes, I was so relieved that I wasn’t being pelted with noise and color that I almost couldn’t concentrate on what was happening. This was little more than Titanic put on land, and I was happy when the final credits rolled. In my world, it wouldn’t have gotten a nomination at all.

4: Next to drop off the list is Gosford Park. I understand completely why Gosford Park earned a nomination, and I disagree completely with every reason it did. Yes, it’s a well-made period drama. And I don’t care. There are too damn many characters, it goes on for too long, and I can’t be arsed to care about any person involved. Worse, it washed over me completely—I had to go back to my review of it to remember that it was a murder mystery. That can’t bode well, can it? Something that leaves that little of an impression can hardly be considered worthy of Best Picture.

3: With eventual winner A Beautiful Mind, we’re at least getting into territory where I liked the movie. The problem with this one is more or less the reason it won. A Beautiful Mind is a wonderfully made film on a first viewing. It’s rich and filled with interesting ideas and it is beautifully filmed from start to finish. The problem is that it doesn’t hold up on a reviewing. See it a second time and you’ll know what’s coming, and there’s nothing special to see about what you missed before you understood the mystery. It’s completely flat in that respect. No rewatchability makes it good, but hardly great.

2: I went into In the Bedroom cold, knowing only some of the people in the cast and nothing about the story. I emerged on the other end a believer. This is a tightly-wound little film about love, loyalty, anger, and revenge. That it’s played out in the lives of such average people and that such average people are driven to the points they are is only in its favor. What on the surface would seem extreme seems perfectly natural in the context of the film, which is the reason it’s so damn good. An excellent cast, particularly Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, and Marisa Tomei seal the deal. With In the Bedroom, we’re hitting a film that I could justify winning, limited to the five nominees.

1: Of the five nominees, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is not only the one with the longest title, it’s also the one I like the best. When Peter Jackson started the LotR films, the question was whether or not he could pull it off. With the release of this, people realized he could, and then asked a much more serious question: can he finish as strong as he began? Ultimately, as much as I like Fellowship, Jackson needed to complete the trilogy for anyone to really judge it. This is, despite its length, one-third of a film, so it was too early to judge. I’d have been unable to vote for it in 2001, and I’m not sure I’d vote for it now, even in hindsight with the trilogy completed.

My Choice

Which means that Oscar screwed the pooch in 2001 completely. Go back to the top paragraph and read through it again. In a year with this many great and important foreign language films, how did they all avoid nomination? How did I am Sam or Ghost World get passed over? While some of the nominees here deserved nominations, in a perfect world, we’d be talking about 2001 as the year Amelie won Best Picture. Instead, we live in a world where a piece of cinematic magic couldn’t even win Best Foreign Language Feature. Sometimes, the Academy sucks, and 2001 is one of those times. If a foreign language winner doesn’t work for you, go with The Royal Tenenbaums.

Final Analysis

26 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I don't entirely disagree, but I'd love to have some context for that comment.

      Delete
  2. The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite of the three LOTR films, and I agree that it's the best of the four that I've seen. I do like Gosford Park more than you (and A Beautiful Mind), but I don't think either of those deserved the top prize. There were a lot of great films in 2001, but few of them really scream "OSCAR!" They were bound to screw up this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm going to guess that the one you haven't seen is In the Bedroom. It's worth tracking down.

      It is kind of an off year. I'm not surprised A Beautiful Mind won. I didn't even completely disagree the first time I saw it. It just doesn't work on a second viewing.

      Delete
  3. I agree with you completely, Steve. Both Ghost World and Amelie had far more Best Picture potential than any of those nominated. I have seen both countless times and enjoyed them every single time. In a good an fair world they would have been the two fighting over the prize.
    Why is Ghost World not even on the List?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have no idea. Ghost World is one of my favorite graphic novel-to-screen conversions. My guess is that The List isn't a big fan of graphic novels. They seem to hate superhero films in general, and appear to be of the opinion that graphic novel = superheroes, which is, of course, stupid.

      Delete
  4. I admit that A Beautiful Mind had me fooled the first time I saw it. The second time I watched it I really looked for clues that I missed the first time, such as the birds not scattering when the little girl runs around them. I think the audience wanted what Nash to see was real (at least I did) so much that we may have thrown away logic and believed something we probably should have seen through. Of course, maybe Fight Club or The Sixth Sense may not be as good the second time around either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Sixth Sense offers a mountain of clues and is great on a second viewing. After that, it's got nothing for you. As for Fight Club, it's a different movie every time I watch it. I've never gotten tired of it.

      Delete
  5. Great post here. I too thought the 2001 Oscars were a very poor reflection of the movies that came out that here. Tenenbaums, Amelie, The Devil's Backbone, Ghost World, and many of the others you listed are such fine films that deserved more recognition. Oscar fucked up, indeed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I don't want to upset you, but according to the first reply, you might well be an idiot, too.

      Some years, Oscar just gets it very wrong.

      Delete
  6. You won't be surprised that I agree with your choice of the five, Fellowship, but I disagree with your ultimate choice, which should also have been Fellowship.

    Best of the three Lord of the Rings movies, and that's saying something. Nearly perfect movie as important in its way as Star Wars.

    (My daughter LOVES Moulin Rouge. I do not, although I do really love Ewan McGregor.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I stand by the claim that it really couldn't be evaluated until we'd seen the whole trilogy. When Jackson won, I'd argue he won for the trilogy and not just Return of the King.

      That said, if everyone agreed with me, there'd be no need for comments. Oh, and don't forget that I'm an idiot.

      Delete
  7. I would agree that Jackson won for the whole trilogy. Had Fellowship been a stand-alone film, I think it would have had a much better chance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. I think that's absolutely true, and had it been a stand-alone film, I'd have had far less of a problem with it winning.

      My heart still says Amelie, though.

      Delete
  8. 2001 was a really great year for movies. Like you, I absolutely love Amelie and now having seen the Best Foreign Language Film winner, Oscar fucked up there, too. I actually consider this year one of the worst travesties for what won vs what should have won (like some people look at Crash or Shakespeare in Love - both of which I hold in higher regard than A Beautiful Mind.)

    Any time a film relies on a surprise twist for it to be entertaining I tend to downgrade it - regardless of whether I figure out the twist or not. (For the record, I did on this film.) That makes A Beautiful Mind one I'd put at or near the bottom of the ballot among the five nominees.

    I'd also go with FOTR as the Best Picture, but I respectfully disagree that it could not be properly judged before the entire trilogy was out. I feel that the entire trilogy hinged on the success of this film. It had, BY FAR, the hardest job of the three: it had to get general audience and critics to take a movie about elves, dwarves, and an enchanted ring seriously AND it had to satisfy the millions of people who had read the books. It succeeded brilliantly across the board. Critics loved this film and amazingly, so did most of the hardcore book fans. Once this film established the serious cred, the other films were left free to simply entertain. Like with many actors/actresses who had deserved an Oscar for a superior, earlier role over the one they belatedly won for, Jackson just had to not screw the pooch on the next two and the Best Picture Oscar was his. Jackson won the Best Picture not for The Return of the King, but for the entire trilogy. In fact, more than one of that film's 11 for 11 wins that night probably deserved to go to other nominees (i.e. Belleville Rendezvous rather than Into the West for Best Original Song).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I liked No Man's Land just fine, but not on a par with Amelie. Of course, I don't think many things are on a par with Amelie.

      I'm kind of with you on twists. It's one of the reasons that I have a great deal of respect for films like Fight Club and The Crying Game which are both deep and effective even if you know the twist. The twist in those films are great the first time you see them, but if you know the twists, you can still enjoy the films just as much, just in a different way. The Sixth Sense, for instance, relies so heavily on the twist ending that there's not much there after one or two viewings.

      I still think we need the trilogy to judge each film. Unlike a lot of other trilogies, LotR was very much a single story. And for the record, I like Return of the King slightly more (slightly) than Fellowship, but I love both. In fact, I love all three, but there is a dip in the middle.

      I agree that it didn't deserve all 11 Oscars, and Belleville Rendezvous is the damn poster child for that. There's no way it should have lost.

      Delete
  9. FOTR is my favorite of the trilogy and would have been my pick. Amelie is charming and a good alternate choice. Tropic Thunder summed up my opinion of I Am Sam. I saw Beautiful Mind the one time, I own a copy and Crowe is terrific but I've never felt a strong need to return to it. In the Bedroom might be my second favorite. Every performance was great in that film. Tom Wilkinson breaks my heart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was so knocked sideways by In the Bedroom. I knew nothing about it but the cast going in, and it works so well all the way through and on all levels.

      Crowe is great in A Beautiful Mind, but there's just nothing there after a first viewing.

      Nice comment on I am Sam. Took me a minute, but...

      Delete
  10. Fuck Gosford Park. God, I hate that movie. It shouldn't even be on the list, though I'd definitely put it at #5. I also happen to really like Moulin Rouge, which should be surprise to nobody. (Tango de Roxanne is probably my all-time favorite scene in a movie, just from an editing standpoint alone. It gives me chills every time I watch it.)

    I've not seen In the Bedroom. It's been a long time since I've seen A Beautiful Mind, so I can't really comment there, at least not accurately. Fellowship is good, but I can't give it the win here. Of all the movies you brought up, no, I don't think Harry Potter should have been nominated. But my favorite of the bunch is probably Spirited Away. At least that got Animated.

    Amelie is a strong choice, though. Other films not mentioned? Memento. Training Day. Ocean's 11. Memento and Ocean's are long shots, but Training Day? Definitely a contender.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't (yet) seen Training Day, but the other ones are good calls.

      The first few Harry Potter films probably didn't deserve nominations, but the later ones did. Of everyone in those films, Alan Rickman is the person mostly badly and seriously snubbed by the Academy.

      Delete
    2. Hell yes to Alan Rickman.

      Delete
    3. I knew that was an easy sell for you.

      Delete
  11. I love Amelie, too. However, I am not pleased that you dissed Moulin Rouge--not one bit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can live with that. I realize I'm in a minority on it.

      Delete
  12. I like some of the movies mentioned quite a bit, especially Amelie, The Royal Tennenbaums, Spirited Away and Gosford Park. But it seems like there's something missing for 2001 because I don't remember ever deciding which of these is better than the other three. Which must mean something came out in 2001 that I like better than any of these.

    I went over to IMDB to look at my Favorite Films, Year-By-Year list and I have The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra for 2001. I can understand why nobody else has brought it up. But, man, I sure do love The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.

    Ignoring my Lost Cadavra mania, I'd probably go with Spirited Away.

    Sticking to the choices offered by the Academy, I'd go with Gosford, but I've never seen In the Bedroom or Moulin Rouge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I genuinely disliked Gosford Park despite being able to recognize the skill with which it was made.

      In the Bedroom is pretty spectacular. It's very much worth your time, but it's not a happy film by any stretch.

      Delete