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The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered (Best Picture, 2001-2002)

The Oscar Quest began in May of 2010. I finished about fifteen months later, and wrote it up for this site. That was essentially the first thing I did on here. Five years have passed since then. I’ve grown as a person. My tastes have changed, matured (or gotten more immature, in some cases). So it feels fitting, on the five year anniversary of the site and of the Oscar Quest, to revisit it.

I want to see just how my opinions about things have changed over the past five years. I didn’t do any particular work or catch-up for this. I didn’t go back and watch all the movies again. Some I went back to see naturally, others I haven’t watched in five years. I really just want to go back and rewrite the whole thing as a more mature person, less concerned with making points about certain categories and films than with just analyzing the whole thing as objectively as I can to give people who are interested as much information as possible.

This is the more mature version of the Oscar Quest. Updated, more in-depth, as objective as possible, less hostile. You can still read the old articles, but know that those are of a certain time, and these represent the present.

2001

A Beautiful Mind

Gosford Park

In the Bedroom

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Moulin Rouge!

Analysis:

A Beautiful Mind is a biopic of Charles Nash. You know… that guy.

He’s a mathematician who is brilliant but also… there’s mental illness involved.

It’s standard biopic fare. Bolstered by great central performances from Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly. A good film, but a fourth choice most years. Here, third for me, but still, I wouldn’t dream of taking it. The fact that it won… well, we’ll get to that.

Gosford Park is Robert Altman’s last foray at the Oscars.

This is a story about a weekend at a country manor, told from the perspective of the guests and the servants. It’s actually Downton Abbey before Downton Abbey. Written by the same guy.

It’s — the movie’s fine. Altman used his style on it, which is that casual style where some conversations are overlapping as some people enter and exit a room. Not every single line particularly matters here, and it offers a more relaxed, realistic experience. Which is nice. I can’t say that I love this film, but it is solid. It would fall to the back of the pack most years for me just because it’s not my cup of tea. The fact that three of them are in this year (at least) makes it a really tough category to have to get through for me.

In the Bedroom is a solid indie movie that would be a nice #5 most years. Here, I feel like it drags down the rest of the category. But a good film is a good film.

Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek are a New England couple. Their son, just entering college, has started dating a woman twice his age with kids. She’s separated from her husband. They don’t love the idea of this relationship, but the boy is happy so they let it go. One day, the woman’s husband comes by the house and, in a fit of rage, murders their son. And the rest of the film is about the grief these people feel and what they do about it.

It’s a really strong drama. Like I said, would make a solid #5 most years. Still a #5 here. I wouldn’t take it, but I like that it got recognized here because it’s really well done and well acted.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. There’s really no way you haven’t seen this movie before reading this. So here’s a very specific moment from this film that’s never not funny to me:

This movie is probably the best of the three. And this is the weakest category of the three the trilogy was in, so I’m surprised this didn’t win. I guess they needed three films to come around to it. Either way, this is gonna be my choice. This category doesn’t even give me the opportunity to even consider something else. The rest of these films are so weak compared to this. This is far and away the #1 for me.

And if you think otherwise, then we can discuss it over second breakfast.

Moulin Rouge!

All right! Stop shouting at me! I get it!

This is an insane ride of a film. Ewan McGregor is a writer who ends up at the famous cabaret and falls in love with its star prostitute. And they all sing and dance to pop songs.

It’s a really energetic film that’s a lot of fun to watch. Can’t say I love it nor that I’d vote for it. I prefer other Baz Luhrmann films to this one. Still, it’s very well made.

Never would take this, but in a category as weak as this, it probably ends up a second choice just because at least this is bursting with energy rather than the same old Oscar shit.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: It’s strange to me how this doesn’t go down as one of the worst Best Picture winners of all time. Everyone shits on Crash — and they’re right to shit on Crash — but this is equally as bad. The only thing that saves this from as much vitriol as Crash is that this category isn’t as strong as that one is. To me, the choice is worse here because here, they didn’t deliberately make a statement. Here, they actually thought this was the best film. Which is just… wow.

Not that it’s a bad movie, and I’m pretty much taking care of the Last Word portion of the article up front, but who the hell actually votes for A Beautiful Mind here? I guess you almost have to, given the rest of the category. But I feel like this is a category where — unless you’re taking the film that I assume is the consensus among most people — Fellowship — everyone has their own personal preference. I imagine Gosford Park has its share of voters, as does Moulin Rouge. Beautiful Mind I think has a couple of fans. In the Bedroom, less so, but I’m sure they’re there.

For my purposes, it’s Fellowship and then everything else. (Gangs of New York, by the way, could have won this had they released it when they originally intended to. Marty could have had his Oscars rather than going 0-fer the year after this against much stronger competition.) Fellowship is the only choice here and runs away with this. Easily the choice.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category and films):

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  2. Moulin Rouge!
  3. A Beautiful Mind
  4. Gosford Park
  5. In the Bedroom

My Vote: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Recommendations:

Me, when I find out you haven’t seen The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

Moulin Rouge! is essential. At least for anyone within five to ten years of my age. Since this is a huge movie for us. If you didn’t see this, you were a piece of shit. Plus it’s Baz Luhrmann, and he makes great movies.

A Beautiful Mind is a Best Picture winner, thereby making it essential. Yes, one of the lesser essential winners, but it should be seen. It’s a solid movie with great lead performances, and Ron Howard is always good for a 4 star movie a lot of the time.

Gosford Park is Robert Altman and the film that gave us Downton Abbey. So if you like that show, you’ll like this. Otherwise, it’s solid. Worth a watch. I don’t consider it essential unless you’re getting into Altman.

In the Bedroom is a really good indie. Great performances, solid adult drama movie. Though not overly essential. Just very much worth seeing.

The Last Word: Legitimately one of the five or ten weakest decisions they’ve ever made. The only thing that redeems this slightly is the fact that they basically had no other choice to make. In the Bedroom or Gosford Park never stood a chance. Moulin Rouge is too polarizing a choice and wouldn’t have been that great a winner. (Look at Chicago. How’s that hold up, fifteen years later? And that’s the classier of the two.) The only other choice is Fellowship, and there’s that weird thing where you know two more are coming right along after it. Though theoretically you can vote the first one and not have to take the next two. I guess they decided to backload it. Either way, the choice they made is not a strong choice. It’s one of the weakest winners ever and only becomes slightly okay because the category is so bad.

– – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – –

2002

Chicago

Gangs of New York

The Hours

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Pianist

Analysis:

Chicago is one of those stories that’s hung around Hollywood for years. It was made as Roxie Hart in 1942, then was turned into the stage musical with the iconic Bob Fosse choreography, and here’s the film version of the musical.

It’s about a showgirl who murders her lover and claims it was self-defense, and the circus of a trial that ensues.

It’s a great musical. Not sure it’s a great winner, but it’s a great musical and a really good film. It really doesn’t get anywhere above a fourth choice in the category for me. Even if I don’t take my favorite film, I still have two decidedly better choices than this to take. So, while I like it — no.

Gangs of New York is the beginning of new era Martin Scorsese.

Crazy story, this one. The sets burned down, Weinstein forced recuts, they released it a year later than expected. Yet… still holds up.

It’s a history of the gang violence in New York. Culminating in the Draft Riots of 1863. All centered around arevenge story.

I just watched this again recently. It holds up. Certain parts aren’t as good as others, and it’s definitely one of those movies that feels cut down from a four hour version. But I love it. I think it’s one of his better films. I might take this. We’ll see.

The Hours is our third Weinstein film in this category. How fucked up is that? He got three of the five nominees!

It’s a story about three women. One, Virginia Woolf. The other, a housewife in the 50s. Third, Meryl Streep. And they all deal with shit in their own individual times.

It’s a good film. Not gonna say it’s great, but it’s very good. This was (seemingly) the favorite to win this going in. Though I think we all figured that wasn’t gonna happen. This is right around the start of me paying attention to the Oscars, so my memory is fuzzy. Either way, fifth choice all around for me. Wouldn’t even think to take this, especially over the other four films, which to me are much stronger choices.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Yup.

Maybe it’s Maybelline.

This movie’s awesome and is easily my favorite in the category. But it’s arguably the weakest of the trilogy, being the one that bridges the gap between the other two. And if they didn’t take Fellowship, there’s no point in taking this, because they’re not gonna vote for it en masse. So while I would like to take this, I’m probably gonna go elsewhere, because at least here I have alternative choices.

The Pianist is Roman Polanski’s Holocaust epic.

Adrien Brody is a Jewish pianist who deals with the horrors of the Holocaust. That’s really all you need to know.

It’s an incredible film. A lot of people think this was the choice here, and I can’t really argue with that. It probably should have won, over Chicago. But, will I take it? I don’t know. It’s between this or Gangs, since I don’t think I’d feel okay taking Two Towers when Fellowship had already lost.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Reconsideration: This is a really tough category. They boxed me into a corner here, because Two Towers is my favorite film. But if they didn’t vote for Fellowship, and I know Return of the King is happening… do I take all three Rings movies? Technically I should be voting what I want to win. But in this one, knowing I’m literally between two other films, and knowing the first one lost, I don’t feel any real need to vote for that, despite liking it best. Plus, unlike 2001, this category is way stronger.

I’d never take The Hours. And Chicago, I’d still take Two Towers over that. But Gangs and The Pianist? Those are legitimate choices here. I think they’re not only both great but also they’d be solid winners.

The Pianist is a film I didn’t fully appreciate in 2002, and now each time I watch it, I’m more and more impressed by it. But, I don’t love it. I like it a lot, but it’s like Traffic. Sure it’s great and it would be a great winner. But do I love it enough to take it? Over Two Towers? Maybe. Quite probably. But over Gangs? That’s tough.

I rewatched Gangs recently because I went through a bit of a roller coaster history with that one. At first I loved it, thought it was awesome. But I never voted for it because I always had that feeling of it being overdone. Then as the years went on, I lost some respect for it, for whatever reason. Then I came way back around on it again five years ago, and somehow in the past five years again forgot about it during my increasing love for The Pianist. And then after watching it again within the past three months, I fell in love with it all over again. I love that movie. Yes, it’s overdone, but goddamn, is it good. That’s my choice. Things are made different because of the Lord of the Rings trilogy thing, but I fucking love Gangs, and I’m taking that.

– – – – – – – – – –

Rankings (category):

  1. The Pianist
  2. Gangs of New York
  3. Chicago
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  5. The Hours

Rankings (films):

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  2. Gangs of New York
  3. The Pianist
  4. Chicago
  5. The Hours

My Vote: Gangs of New York

Recommendations:

So have you not seen The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers?

Gangs of New York is essential. Scorsese, DiCaprio, that fucking Daniel Day-Lewis performance? You need to see this. There’s only one response to not having seen this:

The Pianist is essential. Because it is. Roman Polanski, won Best Actor and Best Director. Great film. Everyone must see this. It’s fantastic.

Chicago is a Best Picture winner. That makes it essential. One of the lesser essential winners, but it’s a solid musical. The story is essential, so let’s call it straight up essential.

The Hours is a solid movie. Essential for Oscar buffs, but otherwise just a good drama with great actresses that’s worth seeing.

The Last Word: Well, Two Towers wouldn’t hold up, since how would it look with the second two thirds of a trilogy winning and not the first (especially when the first is considered to possibly be the best of the three)? The Hours would have been awful as a choice. Chicago isn’t great as a choice. Hasn’t held up at all. People have forgotten about it, and it hasn’t gained anything as a winner. Gangs would have held up well. Wouldn’t be an amazing winner, but it would be a solid one. The Pianist is the one that, had it won, would have held up and looked great and been in the top half of the winners of all time. That was probably the right choice. Chicago just seems below average for them.

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(Read more Oscar Quest articles.)

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