The Oscar Quest: Best Picture & Best Director – 2002

2002 was a pretty good year for American film. I know that’s not necessarily represented in the Best Picture nominations (well, it is, kind of) — but there were certainly a very fair share of good and even great films that came out — some of which still get very repeated play in my house.

I will say though — this was kind of a dead year for Best Picture. It was clear they were waiting for the end of the trilogy to award Rings — to the point where Peter Jackson didn’t even get a Best Director nod. That and, with the amount of campaigning Harvey did for Gangs, it pretty much led everyone away from voting for it. Not that they’d have voted it Best Picture — it’s great and all, but it’s kind of an unwieldy mess. But to go against Marty for Best Director — ooh, that hurts. And it’ll hurt again in 2004. But, without those two, it’s really a dead year. Those other three really aren’t Best Picture material.

But, it’s important to note that Miramax had three of the five nominees here for Best Picture. Three. And John C. Reilly is in all three of ’em. Add that to the fact that Two Towers was clearly not winning, and Harvey and Bob had a 75% chance of winning Best Picture. So, they can say all they want about him campaigning too had for Gangs, but essentially come Oscar night, the fight was between his two other pictures. He was all but assured this one no matter what he campaigned for. He even got a Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress out of the deal. That man’s a fucking genius.

Best Picture – 2002

And the nominees were…

Chicago (Miramax)

Gangs of New York (Miramax)

The Hours (Miramax)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (New Line Cinema)

The Pianist (Focus Features)

Chicago — This was a fine musical, well done and all, but, really, Academy? I mean, really? There’s really nothing here that screams “Best Picture” to you. In fact, I’d argue that Moulin Rouge is by far the more entertaining film. If you didn’t give it to that, then — oh, now I get why this won.

I liked it and all, but — really?

Gangs — This was (clearly) my favorite film on the list that isn’t part of a trilogy. Probably my favorite anyway. It’s great. Well-directed, always at least somewhat interesting — it’s only weak links are the fairly weak and obvious storyline that structures the film of Leo trying to get revenge for his father (since there’s a good hour of the film where you forget about that part entirely and are just interested in watching the whole recreation of New York in the 1860s, and then Leo turns on Bill and you’re like, “Fuck! I was more interested in that other stuff”), the fact that the film isn’t 100% sure exactly what it wants to be (which isn’t so much of a dealbreaker as much as it is confusing. Perhaps it’s because they couldn’t agree on a cut), and Cameron Diaz. But still, in this field, it’s the only viable candidate to vote for.

The Hours — As it is, the movie is full bore melodrama. Like, full stop melodrama. Making all local stops to Lonely Housewifeville and Repressed Sexuality Station. And it’s about three separate stories of women that are connected through the book — you guessed it — Hop on Pop. Mrs. Dalloway. Doesn’t my version sound much better?

Anyway, version one is Julianne Moore, who I talked about yesterday, as a lonely housewife and closet lesbian, whose husband (John C. Reilly) is home from WWII and isn’t satisfying her. And she almost kills herself, and makes out with a neighbor whose husband lost a ball or something, and she doesn’t kill herself because of the book and goes on with her life for her son.

Second story is about her son. Well, not really, because this movie is about the women. Meryl Streep is a book editor or something who has a platonic friendship with Ed Harris, who is gay and dying of AIDS. He’s an author and he’s the grown up version of Julianne Moore’s son. We find this out later as one of those, “Oh my god” revelations they like to throw on you just before the moment where it comes off as a plot twist. Act two is a revelation. Act three is a plot twist. This is one of those tying it together moments. Anyway, so, there’s that.

And, part three, is Nicole. Deeply depressed author. I honestly don’t even remember what the fuck her part of the story was about, because it seems she’s barely on screen, and all she does is look sullen with her big ass nose. She’s just sad all the time and then kills herself. That’s pretty much it.

It’s a fine movie because of certain performances in it that didn’t win Oscars, but still — definitely not a Best Picture. Shit like this always seems to get in, so let’s just be glad it didn’t win.

Two Towers — That battle was awesome. There’s really nothing to say here. You already know my thoughts on the trilogy, you know how it’s going to fare, and you really don’t need me to tell you anything about it except — this is part two from last year.

The Pianist — I never, and still don’t get got the appeal of this movie. I mean, it’s fine and all, but — Best Picture? Best Director? Best Actor? Really? Why does the Holocaust make everything seem better than it is? This is like the Diary of John Tesh. Seriously, all he does is hide. And he’s not a 12 year old girl, so there’s really no character arc for him to go through. Seriously — watch it. Tell me what his character is, and what it becomes? You can’t do it, can you? That’s the Best Actor part of it. The Best Director part — okay, fine, a nomination, but a win? Seriously? Is it because of Chinatown? Because he lost that one pretty fair and square. But seriously, what makes this such a brilliant movie? I really don’t see it. And I saw it.

My Thoughts: I find it hard to vote for Rings knowing the first one didn’t win — that would just be weird — and that only leaves one film I find worthy of a vote. It’s Gangs. Easily. I guess, if they weren’t voting for that, Chicago is the best consolation prize of it. But seriously though, not Gangs? 2001-2003 was a fucked up time in the Academy’s life. I can empathize — those were my middle school years. (Okay, not really, but, they were 13-15.)

Rankings:

5. Hours

4. Pianist

3. Chicago

2. Two Towers

1. Gangs of New York

Best Director – 2002

And the nominees were…

Pedro Almodóvar, Talk to Her

Stephen Daldry, The Hours

Rob Marshall, Chicago

Roman Polanski, The Pianist

Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York

Just gonna say — anybody’s name jump out at you on that list? Seriously, Academy, what the fuck were you doing this year?

Pedro Almodovar — I really don’t know what the hell he was doing on here. He’s a fine director and all, but I think when they have a director like this, they take the weirdest, most abstract film and assume it’s brilliant. I didn’t make sense of anything that happened in this movie. A dude’s a nurse, working on a bullfighter in a coma, thinks he has a relationship with her, fucks her in her sleep, gets her pregnant, goes to jail, offs himself — all of this not really ever shown on screen definitively — and some other story of a dude fucking another bullfighter, finding out she’s married after she’s in a coma. I don’t fucking know. Seriously, why is he on this list? I’ll accept because he’s Pedro Almodovar. Anything else won’t make any sense to me. (Not even that it was a weak year. I can come up with at least three nominees that could have gone here instead. Probably five.)

Stephen Daldry — Uhh, to go along with the picture nod, I’m assuming. What did he do here? He’s been nominated for all his movies. Who is he, William Wyler? Seriously, did you notice any direction here? I’m not even gonna bother. This annoys me.

Rob Marshall — This, I can see. He won the DGA, too. Why, I don’t know, but I can at least see why he should have been nominated. Will I be voting for him? No. But it’s nothing against him. In fact, if Marty’s not on this list, Marshall probably does get my vote. I think he did a fine job with it, and his direction was noticeable (and the film wasn’t fucked up and actually made sense). So, good job, Rob.

Roman Polanski — Makeup Oscar! Seriously, dude’s stuck in France for the rest of his life. I guess if there was any year to do it, it was this one. Since Marty really should have won before this, and definitely both of the next two times he was up. So, fine, we’ll give it to Roman. He still doesn’t get my vote, though.

Martin Scorsese — If I told you that the man who directed, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, The Last Temptation of Christ, etc. had never won an Oscar, wasn’t even nominated for Taxi Driver, lost the Raging Bull Oscar to Ordinary People and the Goodfellas Oscar to Dances with Wolves — well, first you’d say to me, “Why the fuck do Actors keep beating him for Best Director?” Which will be funny when we get to 2004 and Clint Eastwood beats him — and then told you that he directed an epic film about New York in the 1860s and it was gorgeously shot and well-directed (aside from a few story flaws and such), and he was widely thought of as the best living director in Hollywood. You’d probably say, “Well, he has to win this Oscar no matter what, right? I mean, if they can give Ron Howard an Oscar just because they like him, they can give Scorsese one for a (somewhat) lesser film, for which he’d be deserving to win it anyway.”

Seriously, Academy — thank god you made up for it eventually — but not before disgracing him by giving it to Clint Eastwood for a film that required about as much direction as a Nascar race and letting Three Six Mafia win an Oscar before he did. It’s disgraceful what you did. You better give this man one more before he retires. He should be treated like a Native American from now on. That’s the policy.

My Thoughts: Fucking really? Marty. Come on. Be better.

Rankings:

5. Daldry

4. Almodovar

3. Polanski

2. Marshall

1. Scorsese

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