The Oscar Quest: Best Picture and Best Director – 2000
2000 was an interesting year for the Oscars. And the industry in general. They were coming off an incredible year for motion pictures in 1999. Just to recap, look at this list of movies that came out in ’99:
- American Beauty
- American Pie
- Analyze This
- Any Given Sunday
- Baby Geniuses
- Being John Malkovich
- The Blair Witch Project
- Blue Streak
- Bringing Out the Dead
- Cruel Intentions
- Deep Blue Sea
- Eyes Wide Shut
- Fight Cub
- Galaxy Quest
- The Green Mile
- The Hurricane
- The Insider
- Man on the Moon
- The Matrix
- Mystery Men
- Notting Hill
- Office Space
- Pokémon: The First Movie (That’s the real title)
- She’s All That
- The Sixth Sense
- Sleepy Hollow
- South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
- The Straight Story
- Summer of Sam
- The Talented Mr. Ripley
- Three Kings
- Toy Story 2
- Wild Wild West
As you can see a lot of iconic or touchstone films came out in this one year. Films that either changed the course of history, changed the trajectory of certain genres, are just plain awesome, or are films that you and/or I remember as key films of our youth. ’99 was a huge year for movies.
2000 — is the year after that. This is where we got over that whole, “The universe is gonna end, Y2K is going to kill us all!” bullshit, and we were sort of in that uncharted territory after Bill Clinton and before 9/11 (that’s essentially what it was).
For me, 2000 is marked by 3 films – Hannibal, Gladiator, and a re-release of The Exorcist. I saw a shit ton of the other 2000 films in theaters, but essentially, those are the ones I remember seeing the best. I remember Hannibal because one of my teachers was in the audience with her husband. I remember The Exorcist because it was the first time I saw it (age 11 or 12), and flashy face freaked the fuck out of me. Plus the movie is brilliant. And Gladiator was the big film that year. I like Cast Away better, but Gladiator was the big film. It was like, “It made almost $200 million, everyone’s raving about it” – it was the biggest film I’d known about since Titanic. So, it felt like a big thing when I went to see it.
What’s interesting for the year 2000 as it pertains to the Oscars is that it’s really the beginning of the end for independent film. 2000, 2001 and 2002 were kind of the three years of decline, with ’03 and ’04 blank years, held up by pseudo-independents by Miramax and then 2005 being the last gasp before the bottom fell out.
BEST PICTURE – 2000
And the nominees were…
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony Pictures Classics)
Erin Brockovich (Universal, Columbia)
Gladiator (DreamWorks, Universal)
Chocolat. Here’s a movie I thought I’d be indifferent toward the first time I saw it. I wasn’t really into the Oscars at that time past, “oh, this film I like is up, let’s see if it wins.” 2002 was my first real year of investment into the whole process, and 2001 was my first real year of watching with an eye toward what won. So, I hadn’t been obsessive about seeing everything nominated. I caught this sometime during college, and I expected to be like, “Yeah, indie, Miramax, not bad, just don’t care for it.” I actually really liked the movie. And I’m not sure why. Maybe because it wasn’t actually about all the things I thought it would be about. It just kind of, exists. I mean, sure, you can see where they veer from just showing you a universe and steering it down cinema-friendly lane with the whole, “…and now she runs into a gypsy who she sleeps with!” and “oh no! the gypsies are having their boat houses burned down because the villagers don’t like them!” that part seemed heavy-handed to me. But as a film that creates a universe, it does a really good job of that. It’s Lasse Hallström. That’s what he does best. That’s why his movies are usually very watchable. However, it’s still a romantic comedy, and it’s still up for the most prestigious award in show business. I liked this movie, but I didn’t like it that much.
Oh, yeah, it’s about the woman and her daughter that go to the town and open up a chocolate shop, and win the hearts of the town. And she fucks Johnny Depp. It’s like a French novel mixed with Hollywood storytelling.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I catch a lot of shit for this one, but I still fail to understand why. But I’m sticking to my opinion, because the only thing that matters is conviction. (Ain’t that right OJ?) I don’t see why this movie is a Best Picture nominee or winner. It’s a basic kung fu, martial arts movie, and the only difference is, they put the people on wires when they fight. Sure it looked good too, but when is that the margin of whether or not a movie gets a Best Picture nomination? (Plus, if that’s the case, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford was twice as beautiful as this movie was.) Speaking totally objectively here, as a movie, this is a damn good one. As a Best Picture nominee — no way. No way in hell. And it’s a shame, because my affection for this movie decreases because it was nominated here and because so many people think it should have won. No way. I’ll admit this was a weak year, but no way should this movie ever win Best Picture. There is nothing about this movie that will ever make someone convince me it should have won. Convince me it’s a good movie. I’ll listen, and I’ll probably agree. No way this is a Best Picture nominee.
Also, fuck if I know what it’s about. People with a sword and green monkeys and shit. Legends of the Hidden Dragon. I was rooting for the red jaguars. People are trying to protect a sword, then this old jewel thief lady wants to steal it, and her apprentice steals it, and there are sword fights and shit, and then she flies away off a waterfall. Honestly, just get really high and watch it. You’ll enjoy yourself.
Erin Brockovich. God, this was a weak year. They must have really been into Soderbergh this year. Or maybe they just loved Julia. I don’t really know what people saw in this movie. I mean, it’s interesting to watch, mostly because of Soderbergh, but the story and the characters are not compelling in the least. It’s very, very apparent that Soderbergh was much more interested in the aesthetics than he was in the story. It plays like he figured, “People will see this because of Julia and it’ll win a shitload of awards anyway, so let me do what I want to do and leave the rest.” And then he got nominated for Best Director. I see this as a shining example of Oscar taking the bait like a dumb fish (See also: The Blind Side). Well made movie, but let’s not pretend this is worth this nomination.
It’s about Julia Roberts displaying the tits she doesn’t have. She’s a former hooker or something who becomes a lawyer’s assistant. And she helps them win a big class action lawsuit. Apparently the chick is a real person. I’m sure she didn’t do half of what they put in this movie. Whatever. It’s basically one of those 80s, the corporations fucked us over, let’s expose it and win people a lot of money. Also, Aaron Eckhart has a wicked crazy biker look in this movie.
Gladiator. In a year like this, this movie is a runaway winner for this award. It’s clearly the most enjoyable, most well-made picture on this list. I mean, who hasn’t seen this movie? Sure, the special effects are more dated than those in Lord of the Rings but that’s not what we care about. (Also, that time lapse photography is just hysterical. And, there’s one shot with Oliver Reed standing behind a “window” that looks out into Rome that is either the worst green screen work I have ever seen or was necessary because he died — note, how he died is one of the best stories ever. Dude goes out drinking one night after shooting — he’s 61 — and decides to tell a group of sailors that he can outdrink every one of them and has a drinking contest with them — he lost.) This is a movie that, aside from certain action beats and things that seem really outdated, at the time, this was a thrilling fucking movie. So, the fact that the problems of this movie are limited when placed in the context of how awesome it is and what they were like when it came out, along with the fact that this was one of the weakest years ever for Best Picture, and there’s your winner.
Traffic. I can see why this got nominated. It’s a “message” film. It’s well-made, has that international-ness to it, wide cast of good actors. It’s a perfect Best Picture nomination movie. That said, does anyone really want to sit down and watch this movie past the first time? This is a tedious, tedious watch. As are a lot of the Soderbergh movies that he makes for himself. Like Che. That fucking movie is like Lord of the Rings without the action. Just, walkin’. And it’s like 6 hours long, too. Here’s a movie that’s interesting because he has three main storylines with three separate color schemes. He won Best Director for that. Michael Douglas is a judge whose kid is a smack addict. His color is blue. All his scenes have that blue tint, like that blue artificial light tint that you think of when you think of the Bourne movies. Catherine Zeta Jones is the wife of a drug lord. Her color is red. And Benicio del Toro is the undercover cop. His is yellow. That’s really all it is. Good movie. Fucking tedious, though.
My Thoughts: I pretty much said everything I needed to say up there for Gladiator. It was a really weak year, and that was the most well-rounded film on the list. I don’t think anyone can truly disagree on the choice based on nothing but the nominees list. Good job, Hollywood. I was entertained. That was totally why I was there.
- (I guess…) Chocolat
- Erin Brockovich
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
I guess that would just be the order I’d rewatch them. I really only care for Gladiator here.
BEST DIRECTOR – 2000
And the nominees were…
Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot
Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ridley Scott, Gladiator
Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brockovich
Steven Soderbergh, Traffic
Stephen Daldry. Can’t explain it. They must have really not given a fuck here. They nominate Soderbergh twice, and were like, “We don’t fucking know. Let’s nominate that British guy for that film we liked.” I don’t know why he’s here. But British comedies pop up every few years (mostly in the 90s), and he really was never a factor, so, whatever. You watch this and explain what makes him Best Director.
Also, let me point out, The Academy nominated him in the fifth spot, while the DGA nominated Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous. Which one do you think deserved it more? (Same goes for Best Picture.)
Ang Lee. Clearly, this is someone that probably is a frontrunner for this award. I won’t vote for him, but I’m perfectly glad he’s here. He directed the fuck out of that movie. Seriously, watch it and tell me 90% of that movie wasn’t his direction. The other 10% wasn’t Yuen Woo-ping’s choreography. (Also, it is my belief that this got in because they didn’t nominate The Matrix in 1999.) So, glad he’s here, I’m still not voting for him. I don’t think. Definitely worth a vote. He’s just not getting mine.
Ridley Scott. It’s tough to say if I think he deserved this. On the one hand, it’s a great job he did. But on the other — look at that CGI. (Also, not to look ahead or anything, but he’s much more deserving for next year. But, not knowing this at the time, I may throw a vote his way.) I don’t know. There isn’t much more to say about this movie that I haven’t already said. Worth a vote. Will I vote for him? Dunno.
Soderbergh. Both of them. Just to get it out of the way. Brockovich, not worth a vote at all. In fact, I don’t know why they nominated him twice. But whatever. He’s not getting his votes for this one. Like when Meryl Streep got nominated for two Golden Globes, one for Julie & Julie and the other for It’s Complicated. This is Soderbergh’s It’s Complicated. Traffic is clearly the better film and directorial effort, and it shows.
My thoughts: Here’s a tough one. It’s a toss-up between Ridley and Soderbergh for Traffic. Ask me on a different day and I’ll tell you the other. On the one hand, Soderbergh having an Oscar means a lot because of who he is as a filmmaker. He shoots in-camera, which is incredible. (Very few directors have ever done this. John Ford, Spielberg, Hitchcock, and him. It’s basically knowing what shots you need and getting only those shots. So that way, when you get them, you move on, and the film is basically shot and edited in camera, so the editor merely has to just assemble.) He also means a lot because he goes against the studio system for the most part. On the other hand, Ridley Scott is an amazing director who hasn’t won an Oscar yet. So, it’s tough. Ten years ago, it would still have been hard. I probably would have sided with Ridley, just because I love Gladiator. Though, if I’m thinking like me now, ten years ago, I’d say, “Ridley will win one, he has to,” and go Soderbergh. But, knowing Ridley still doesn’t have one really makes me lean toward him. So, I’ll vote Ridley.
My rankings: (based on directorial effort…shame this had to be the first year I did this for):
- Ridley Scott, Gladiator
- Steven Soderbergh, Traffic
- Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
- Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brockovich
- Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot