Million Dollar Baby (winner)
As usual, there are plenty of movies that I think could be mentioned in the context of Best Picture for this year, and as usual, there are a bunch that I love that would never get a notice from the Academy. Those “never in a million years” movies start with Hellboy, a movie I genuinely love and never get tired of. The same could be said of both Kung Fu Hustle and Shaun of the Dead. Still unlikely but slightly more in the ballpark is Layer Cake and also Collateral, which is a far better movie than most people seem to remember. It’s always a stretch to consider an animated film for Best Picture, but The Incredibles absolutely qualifies. 3-Iron was probably far too strange a romance to attract much attention, and while The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind got a lot of award buzz, it was ignored when it came to Best Picture. While I probably wouldn’t nominate Vera Drake is the sort of movie that typically gets attention in this category. I’m genuinely surprised at the lack of nomination for Downfall. I’m even more surprised that Hotel Rwanda didn’t make the cut.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. With Million Dollar Baby, I officially became tired of boxing movies. I understand that this is a movie that uses boxing to tell its story and it’s a boxing movie the way that Field of Dreams is a baseball movie, and I don’t really care. It’s well made, well-acted, and I can’t specifically pinpoint something about it that I think needs to be changed except for the fact that I just don’t like it a whole lot. It’s not a movie I’ve ever thought about watching a second time, and I don’t know that I ever will. I wouldn’t have nominated it, let alone named it as Best Picture. The Academy should’ve known better.
4. I don’t have anything against Finding Neverland except that it’s the sort of movie and story that doesn’t really stay with me. When I posted my review of this, I said that it was a film that felt like a very nice dessert to me. It’s delicious in the moment, and once digested, makes absolutely no impact. It’s another film that I wouldn’t nominate from a year this strong. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but also nothing about it that recommends it past a single viewing. In a year with this many good and great movies, it doesn’t belong here.
3. With Ray, we’re starting to get to films where I understand the nomination a little more clearly. The best part of Ray aside from the music is Jamie Foxx, who was awarded the Best Actor Oscar for the performance. In a case like this, it’s difficult to separate the performance from the movie itself, especially when that performance has so much to recommend it. And that’s really my issue here. Once we get past Jamie Foxx, there’s just the story and not a lot else that I remember very well. It’s a good film, but not good enough for this year.
2. The same could be said of Sideways, which I am putting above Ray because it has more performances that I really like. The lead performance from Paul Giamatti is a great one, and he is ably assisted by Thomas Hayden Church, Sandra Oh, and Virginia Madsen. It also has one of the best and most heartbreaking film moments of its decade. It’s a hell of a good movie, but probably still wouldn’t end up with a nomination from me in a completely open field. In a weaker year, though, I’d support the nomination and possibly a win.
1. Given the five nominations, The Aviator is my favorite of them. I realize that, having said that, I’m likely to get a lot of pushback since, like Gangs of New York, I seem to like this movie a lot more than everyone else does. I find the story fascinating as a character study and as the story of a very interesting life. It’s beautifully put together and grand in a way that a lot of modern movies aren’t. Limited to the nominations, it’s the one I’d pick, consensus be damned since I have the feeling that I stand alone here. But it’s my blog, and ultimately, it’s not my real pick.
On my Letterboxd page, there are two movies from this year that I think could have been nominated that I have at five stars. Those are The Incredibles and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I would happily take either of those. I have Collateral, Downfall, 3-Iron, and The Aviator all at four-and-a-half stars, which means that three of those would likely round out my list of five nominations. But whichever three get added, they all take a back seat to the first two. My head goes with Eternal Sunshine, but my heart goes to The Incredibles, which I think is still the greatest animated film ever made.