Juliette Binoche: Chocolat
Joan Allen: The Contender
Julia Roberts: Erin Brockovich (winner)
Ellen Burstyn: Requiem for a Dream
Laura Linney: You Can Count on Me
I tend to conclude the “What’s Missing” portion of these posts with foreign films that deserved some love in the category. In the case of 2000, three of the four biggest misses are in films with a non-English primary language. First and foremost for me is Maggie Cheung’s performance in In the Mood for Love, which is still one of the most heartbreaking films I’ve ever seen. So much of the film’s emotional core is conveyed in her face (and that of Tony Leung) that her omission here feels wrong. Second and third (in whatever order) are Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I love both of their performances, Yeoh’s for the same reason I love Cheung’s and Ziyi’s for her rage. The fourth performance I think of as a miss is Bjork in Dancer in the Dark. I’m hardly a Bjork fan, but it’s a hell of a role and she manages it beautifully.
Weeding through the Nominees
5: I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the two stars of Erin Brockovich are Julia Roberts and her cleavage. Roberts’s performance isn’t a bad one, but I don’t think it’s worth a nomination here let alone a win. I’d take any of the four listed above to replace her. It probably doesn’t help a lot that I think the character is unlikeable and the film itself is overrated. Roberts is good; I just don’t think she’s great in this.
4: I find myself in a similar situation with Joan Allen in The Contender. This is a film I so wanted to like and in fact did like for almost the entire running time. Sadly, the film punks out at the end, and it’s Joan Allen who delivers the lines that essentially spoil the film. It’s such a good performance that is so unnecessarily spoiled at the end that I find it incredibly frustrating. I’d love to have Joan Allen ranked higher her because I’m a Joan Allen fan, but I just can’t.
3: I really liked Chocolat as a movie and I tend to like Juliette Binoche on screen (I also love Lena Olin at this stage in her career, but that’s immaterial). The problem I have here is that the role itself simply isn’t meaty enough to be worthy of much more than admitting it’s well done. This movie is more or less just Footloose based around food. While Binoche is great, she’s great in a role that simply isn’t very demanding of her talents. She’s an awfully big fish in what is ultimately a very small pond, performance-wise.
2: I don’t have a firm opinion on Laura Linney, perhaps simply because I haven’t seen her in enough. I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed by this film and this performance, but it’s actually very good and very nuanced. Linney works hard in this role to convey a range of emotional states. More importantly, where this could have easily slipped into being a quickly-forgotten Lifetime movie, she instead delivers something that comes across as real and natural. I like this nomination a lot, but it’s still not the best of its year.
1: I’m not exactly sure how Ellen Burstyn didn’t win. This was undoubtedly a challenging role and she is staggering in it. There is not a moment she is on screen that isn’t compelling and specifically isn’t compelling because of her. It’s not something I want to watch again any time soon (or ever), but she would be a reason to see it again. There’s no way she didn’t deserve this Oscar, and while Michelle Yeoh or Maggie Cheung can fight for second in my ideal Oscar world, this statue belongs to Ellen Burstyn and always has.