The Oscar Quest: Best Actor & Best Actress – 2001

This is one of those, you knew what they were gonna do like three weeks out. And you couldn’t do anything about it. One was deserving, one wasn’t. But, the one who wasn’t actually didn’t have competition, while the one who was arguably had people nominated that did better than they did. So, I guess we call it a wash. (Certainly not a whitewash though.)

(Get it, because the winners are both black.)

(Yeah, I went there. I know. But how could you not? I mean, wash — the joke practically set itself up.)


And the nominees were…

Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind

Sean Penn, I Am Sam

Will Smith, Ali

Denzel Washington, Training Day

Tom Wilkinson, In the Bedroom

Russell Crowe. Okay, this performance is far and away better than the one he won for last year. Though I’m not sure if it’s as good as the one he gave back in 1999, which I don’t know if he should have won for (that was a tough fucking year). He does a really good job with the schizophrenia, and a really good job of keeping you invested in his character despite the movie being a terribly bad version of Oscar bait (like, maliciously so). so, kudos to you, Russell. In most other years you’d have won. You really didn’t think you were gonna win back to back, did you?

Sean Penn. Holy shit, I was blown away by this performance. Let’s all come out and say it now, the reason he didn’t win is because he went full retard. He did. Here’s a movie I only saw recently, and was actually blown away by it. It’s so goddamn touching. He’s a man with the capacity of a seven-year old, and he’s trying to maintain custody of his daughter, who is now 7, smarter than he is, and trying not to learn because she doesn’t want to pass him intellectually. It’s a brilliant performance. However, the reason I can’t vote for him to win is for two reasons — the writing of the movie is atrocious. You watch it and don’t notice, but, when you think about what the story really is, all the Beatles references and stuff, and the plot turns and stuff, how generic all the relationships are — and add it to the fact that it’s been openly stated that he improved a lot of stuff himself (as I’m sure most of the actors did) and you get a movie that turned out great because the actors took very stereotyped characters and made them real. Which is fine. I have nothing wrong with that. That doesn’t hurt the performance. It actually helps it. What hurts the performance is the way they edited it. In the big dramatic scene with him in the courtroom, where the prosecutor pressures him into admitting that he wants his daughter to have a smarter father, the camera cuts to many different takes of him doing it, which makes you think he did this so many times the performance came out of using so many takes. I personally don’t like seeing all the work that went into the performance. I know Fincher does 100 takes, but didn’t it seem like Eisenberg was just doing it all in 1 in Social Network? That’s what I’m talking about. It just felt manufactured, and made me cast doubt on the rest of the performance, which, is brilliant. So, I would give this man an Oscar almost every year for this role, except now, where there’s someone else I’d like to give it to, and the editing gave me a reason not to.

Will Smith. Dynamite performance. Man looks nothing like Muhammad Ali, but there were pretty much only two black actors worth casting in this role, and Denzel played a boxer already (and did the movie down there, which seemed to be the better decision). This was the movie that kept Will bankable and turned him into a real actor. It’s one of those performances that you get nominated for but don’t win for. Which is why he absolutely deserves to be here. He just doesn’t deserve to win. You can still see how he hasn’t fully matured as an actor yet, and how he’s still got some of those Will Smith tics in this movie. But, it’s still a great role and he does a fantastic job with it. I’m just not voting for him to win.

Denzel Washington. This was his time. And it’s cool. Because even though this performance wasn’t really worth the Oscar, the man is. People get upset when they give it to Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts unfairly, but on the flip side, you get Denzel to get one, (mostly) fairly. So, there’s a very hypocritical game going on with these Oscars. You rail against the shit you don’t like while also accepting the ones you do that commit the same crimes. This country was basically founded on double-dealing, so it’s not like it’s something new. But, the performance is awesome, and Denzel is amazingly badass. He’s a corrupt cop that’s essentially showing a rookie how things are done, while also trying to atone for stupidly killing a mob-connected Russian by coming up with a shitload of money to keep himself from getting killed. The man’s deserved an Oscar for years, from Malcolm X to The Hurricane. So, giving him one here may seem like a cop out, but he deserves one, and here he’s actually playing a villain, and it’s a scene-chewing performance that you just love. So, I’m totally fine with it, and there were enough flaws with the rest of the performances that people could vote for him and not feel bad about it. Plus, he’s black, and we know how that worked in 2001.

Tom Wilkinson. Tom does an amazing job with this role, and he’s really good. But he’s really low-key. I’m surprised he got in. But, he’s here, and good for him. I can’t vote for him, though. He needs a really weak year to even consider competing for the statue. And even then, I doubt he does. It’s a baity role. His son gets killed, he has to grieve, he has to go around, trying to keep the guy who did it in jail, even though he’s out walking the streets of their small town. He almost goes broke trying to get a trial, and ends up killing the guy quietly just so he can get on with his life. The killing part is where he gets good. He very methodically brings his friend along with him, works out all the details, making it look like dude skipped town while on parole, and kills him and buries him in the woods. Very good and effective performance by Wilkinson. Only downside, which only adds to why I won’t vote for him — they have these long conversations around the poker table, him and the guys, that seem way too contrived.

My Thoughts: Loved all five performances. Only three were worthy of a win. One won last year for a lesser performance, so they can’t give it to him for that. One was betrayed by both his bad boy persona as well as the poor editing of the film. And the fact that he went full retard. Denzel was a black man in a year where they said the Academy doesn’t vote for blacks. That, and he’s given awards-worthy lead performances many times in his career. This was his time. Good for him. He gets my vote too.


1. Denzel

2. Penn

3. Crowe

4. Wilkinson

5. Smith


And the nominees were…

Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball

Judi Dench, Iris

Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!

Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom

Renée Zellweger, Bridget Jones’s Diary

Halle Berry: Yeah, no, sorry Halle. You did not deserve this one. You got lucky. Congratulations, because you’ll never get up here again. I’m glad you won, I like you and all, but you did not deserve to win. That shit was a fluke. All you did was get naked and cry. And fuck Billy Bob Thornton. Then again, she’s the second person to fuck Billy Bob to win an Oscar, so maybe it’s something. Still, I saw nothing here to even nominate her. Okay — it was Oscar bait, so, maybe I can see why they nominated her, but I still can’t see why they voted her in aside from the fact that she’s black. Really, Academy?

Judi Dench: I really liked what she did here. Pretending to have dementia on screen is tough business. This is essentially Julie Christie in Away From Her with the benefit of having flashbacks. So, in a way, less deserving from my perspective, because Julie Christie was amazing, but, the screen time is roughly the same, and from an Oscar voter’s point of view, strengthened because she was given in very specific bursts. Like Forest Whitaker in Last King of Scotland. He was essentially a supporting character in that movie. Judi’s almost a lead here. But she’s essentially made lead because the title is her character’s name. So, we’ll give her that. But, because we don’t know about Julie Christie’s performance back in 2001, and also because this year is nowhere near as tough as Julie’s is in 2007, I say Judi gave the best performance. Seriously, watch it. It’s worth it when you see these other four.

Nicole Kidman: Okay, I’m two-sided on this nomination. I rarely understand what acting goes into the musical performance that warrants a nomination. On the other hand, I understand the work that goes into one of these performances. So, I’m very specific on my feelings with this nomination. One, she can’t sing. I think. She was dubbed, right? I’m pretty sure they said she was dubbed. She had to have been .She was awfully throaty while singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” That sounded like her real voice. But then that elephant duet with Ewan McGregor did not sound like her at all. But, disregarding that, I still don’t think she did that much acting here. However, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and allow her the nomination. However, the idea that she won in 2002 as a makeup for this year, when people were saying she should have won for this is ridiculous. No way should she have won an Oscar for this. Ever. Not even with this category as bad as it is. No. So, in closing, okay on the nomination as long as we can all agree to a no on the win.

Sissy Spacek: I didn’t see what she did here. Really. Grieving mother who doesn’t really grieve. She doesn’t really do anything. They don’t even show her finding out the news of her son’s death on screen. They just have her do her job, which is musical coordinator of weird African choir shit. She just kind of sits there and smokes as her husband and the people around her do all the acting. Kind of like Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums.

Renée Zellweger: You know your year is weak when this nomination gets in. Really? It’s a Rom Com! I mean, really? Really? I can keep saying really for a long time, let’s just say, not even the people who like Bridget Jones’s Diary think she should have been nominated here.

Here’s a list of performances that probably should have gone here instead of Renée:

  • Audrey Tautou in Amélie
  • Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind (I mean, seriously, she was the strongest performance in lead and you put her supporting? What is this, 1954? Actually, I can see why they did that in 1954.)
  • Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive (I mean, seriously. All three of these should have been there. Take out Sissy and at least put in 2 of 3.)

My Thoughts: In such a weak category, I’m taking Judi. It was the one I liked most. Not to say I loved it. I’d never vote it past a nomination 9 times out of 10. But, this is time number 10. If there’s justice in the world, Jennifer Connelly or Naomi Watts wins this award, hands down.


1. Judi.

2. Kidman. (Love musicals, so, why not?)

3. Berry. (Titties.)

(That’s about where this gap should be. Also, the gap between # 1 and # 4 most other years is about this size too.)

4. Spacek.

5. Zellweger.


2 responses

  1. Mike Morrison

    Crowe was obvious choice. Washington just acts the same way in all of the movies he has done. I do agree with you about dench. I think it is suspicious that washington and berry won in the same year sydney poitier was being honored

    February 12, 2013 at 3:01 pm

  2. Crowe wasn’t good at all in A Beautiful Mind, a movie which I hate (it fucking bored me to tears), and it should never have won Best Picture. Washington gets my vote hands down. Deal with it.

    September 14, 2013 at 7:21 pm

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