Monday, February 12, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 2005

The Contenders:

Brokeback Mountain
Capote
Crash (winner)
Good Night and Good Luck
Munich

What’s Missing

There are a lot of movies I like quite a bit released in 2005, which means this will be a beefy paragraph. As usual, I’ll start with the movies that didn’t really have a hope of a nomination. That starts with The Descent and continues on to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Hard Candy. The three high-profile comic book-based movies of 2005, Batman Begins, A History of Violence, and V for Vendetta are both excellent, but not likely to be nominated because of their source material. The nomination of Brokeback Mountain was probably as far as the Academy wanted to go in the pro-LGBTQ direction, which left Transamerica out in the cold. Match Point got Woody Allen his typical screenplay nomination, but could have arguably been nominated for Best Picture. Cache is probably the most likely non-English nomination. North Country was probably left out because there was enough social justice with the movies already nominated. The same is likely try of both The Constant Gardener and Syriana as well.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I didn’t love Munich because it falls into the same problems that so many of Spielberg’s movies do, and unlike many of his films, this is one that clearly doesn’t need it. Spielberg tends to over-emotionalize his content and do anything he can to wring an emotional reaction from his audience. With Munich, we’re dealing with the murder of Israeli Olympic athletes and the revenge against the perpetrators. There’s emotion a-plenty for this film, and what we end up with is something that feels oddly muted despite Spielberg’s best effort to make it as emotionally charged as possible. I get why it was nominated, but I don’t think I’d put it on the list.

4. The win of Crash is one of the more controversial in Oscar history, and (I think) calls into question the way the winner is ultimately determined. The backlash against it is really undeserved, though. Crash isn’t a bad movie. In fact, it’s a pretty good one; it’s just not anywhere close to being the best movie of its year. That puts both Crash and me in a weird position. It’s not really nomination-worthy and didn’t deserve to be here, let alone to win. But at the same time, it’s not the terrible affront to cinema that its reputation has made it. Chill out, dear reader. I agree it didn’t deserve to win, but it’s not anywhere close to the abomination you seem to think it is.

3. The consensus winner of this Oscar was Brokeback Mountain. I am bucking that trend and opening myself up for tons of criticism in the comments below by putting it third. In my head, it is more or less tied with the movie that follows it on this list. I’m putting it third simply because, of the two of them, this is the one that I’m least likely to watch a second time. I get why people love it. Truth be told, I think it’s a hell of a movie, too. Release this in a lesser year and it wins without much question from me. The problem is that there are simply two movies from this year that I like better and that I think deserve this more.

2. The beauty of Capote is not in its story but in its performances, that are glorious from beginning to end. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Chris Cooper, Clifton Collins…the list of performances that work perfectly in this film simply doesn’t end. I’ve read In Cold Blood, and Capote rings true as the story of the birth of Capote’s book and the genre of the nonfiction novel. Talk to me tomorrow, and I might flip this position with Brokeback Mountain. That’s not likely to be the case, though because I would much rather rewatch this one nine times out of ten.

My Choice

1. My winner is Good Night, and Good Luck, which I think is not merely wonderfully made, but still incredibly relevant. In fact, I think it’s a film that has become more and more relevant as time goes on. Sure, it’s a bit of hero-making in how it treats Edward R. Murrow. Then again, Murrow was a true hero, so it’s not like a lot of work was needed in that respect. It is, for me, not merely a film where I find myself in tune politically and ethically, but a film where I can’t see a specific place to improve it. Top to bottom, it’s my favorite film of 2005, and just writing this makes me want to watch it again. It’s my winner, hands down.

Final Analysis

6 comments:

  1. Well Brokeback would be my winner but I can't really argue with Good Night and Good Luck. It's a wonderfully constructed and as you say very topical film loaded with terrific work.

    Capote was good if by necessity grim and deserved its nomination but I don't think it deserved a win. How did Clifton Collins miss a nomination for best supporting actor though? But then there were many weird exclusions (Joan Allen for The Upside of Anger) and placements this year...Rachel Weisz as Best Supporting Actress in The Constant Gardener-really? Her story drove the film.

    I didn't hate Crash (I detested Munich however) but I did find it unmemorable. My buddy and I saw it when it came out and thought it was okay but when year's end came and it started to gather so much attention we had to remind each other that we'd even seen it and what it was about. That should never be the reaction to a Best Picture winner.

    Glad to see the mention of A History of Violence in the misses though I thought North Country was just Norma Rae redux. The only one I'd add is Pride & Prejudice which would have been very high on my list.

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    1. I think Brokeback would be a lot of people's winner, and I don't really take exception to that. I think it's a position that could be argued, even if I don't agree with the conclusion.

      As for the misses, I agree. Clifton Collins was near perfect. I'll always stand up for Joan Allen in just about anything, and I agree on Weisz, too.

      We'll disagree on North Country, which I found pretty powerful in a lot of respects, and I love Frances McDormand in that film. As for Pride & Prejudice, to me, it never compares favorably to Sense & Sensibility for me, which I think is just about perfect.

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  2. An interesting year!

    I found Good Night, And Good Luck rather average (too black and white in the characterizations), and I haven't seen Capote yet. Brokeback Mountain was too long for the story it was trying to tell. Crash was actually released at TIFF in 2004 (but only received it's Oscar qualifying release in 2005).

    From among the actual nominees, I would go with Munich for Best Picture, followed by Crash.

    From what I've seen to date, my top 5 from 2005 would likely be:

    Munich
    Syriana
    Sin City
    Lord Of War
    A History Of Violence

    Other strong contenders include Broken Flowers, Thank You For Smoking, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Batman Begins and The Wedding Crashers.

    Best Picture overall? Probably Syriana.

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    1. I was wondering how long it would take until someone brought up Sin City. While I love the style of that film as well as the visuals, I think it's an awful film in almost every respect. It's not one I've ever thought to want to watch again.

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  3. I've seen all of the nominees except Munich, and I wasn't huge on any of them. I remember liking Crash, but I agree with you that while it's not winning worthy, the backlash is a little crazy. I actually didn't care for Brokeback. I just thought it was kinda boring and a little long, but I'm not a huge Ang Lee fan. I definitely agree with you on Capote--fantastic performances over everything else. I wasn't as huge on Good Night and Good Luck as you, though, either.

    Of all the movies you listed, I'd give it to KKBB or V for Vendetta, though I know they aren't the typical winners. Those are the movies I've rewatched numerous times each and will keep going back to.

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    1. In all fairness, most people aren't as in love with Good Night, and Good Luck as I am. It's the same experience I have with Master and Commander.

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