A Beautiful Mind (winner)
In the Bedroom
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
This is another case where I don’t have a massive problem with the actual nominations here, but there’s some clear room for improvement, or at least change. I need to bring up both Ali and The Son’s Room right away. Both would be worth thinking about, but it’s unclear as to whether they belong in this category or Original Screenplay. I’m not entirely sold on A.I. Artificial Intelligence, but I think the story is the best part of the movie. I liked Bridget Jones’s Diary a lot more than I thought I would have, and for that reason, I think it’s worth a mention. Scotland, PA flew under the radar of almost everyone, but it’s a wonderful reimagining of MacBeth. I also want to mention The Mummy Returns because it’s a dandy sequel and a hell of a lot of fun.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I have a genuine problem with A Beautiful Mind, and that problem is inherent to the screenplay. The first time the movie is watched, it’s interesting. The second time, a lot of the foreshadowing becomes clear and obvious. And then there’s nothing really more to recommend the film at all. After a second viewing, there’s nothing here new to find in the story. That’s a problem with a lot of movies that depend on a twist, although there are a few that can overcome it. A Beautiful Mind can’t overcome that.
4. I won’t be shy about the fact that I think Shrek is a clever film with a number of good jokes and a very fun and inventive story. That all of this carried over into the actual movie is a good thing and is one of things that makes it as good a film as it is. Clever isn’t enough, though, and Shrek, while clever, is really sold on the strength of the vocal performances. I rather enjoy it when Oscar nominates animated films outside of their category, so I don’t really dislike this nomination. I just don’t like it as much as I do most of the others.
3. In the Bedroom is a movie that I had no real expectation for and left being a true believer. In its own way it suffers from the same problem as Shrek, because, while the story is compelling, it’s the performances that really sell everything here. All of the performances, top to bottom, are as good as you’re going to find. I like this movie a great deal. It’s poignant and difficult and sad. And while the story is well-written, it’s not that difficult of a story in the sense that it’s a very good version of one you’ve seen before.
2. I dearly love when comic book movies get nominated, and I love it even more when a big chunk of the world is unaware that the movie in question came from a comic book. With Ghost World, we get a film that is comfortable being difficult and giving us characters who are hard to like and yet impossible to dismiss. I love where this story goes and I also love that the film has the patience to get there. Had there not been an absolutely monster of a clear winner for this year, I would have no problem handing it to Ghost World.
1. With an undertaking as huge as adapting all three books of Tolkien’s trilogy, things had to be as close to perfect as possible with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. If the adaptation wasn’t great—not merely good—the entire project is put in jeopardy. Knowing what to cut (Tom Bombadil) and what to keep, knowing just how much to ramp up the danger and the battles, and how to streamline the story is critical, and it’s about as good as you’re going to get. I don’t know how this gets adapted better, and for that reason, it’s my winner.