I begin my examination of, whether or not, the best picture of the year Oscar went to the right movie, 10 years ago with movies made in 2001 and awards handed out in 2002. It’s the year that started the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, saw acclaimed director Ron Howard bring him his first statue, proved that Will Smith has the chops and isn’t just a rapping sitcom star, introduced us to the incredible talent that is Christopher Nolan and showed that Heath Ledger was a force we would not soon forget.
Let’s begin with a look at what actually won Oscar’s gold, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s, A Beautiful Mind. Let’s make no mistake, this was and still is Ron Howard’s pinnacle and the best movie of his career. Russell Crowe delivered an all-time performance and quite frankly could have/should have won his second straight best actor award, but, due to the fact that it’s only been won twice in a row by two of Hollywood’s all time “good guys”, and Crowe doesn’t exactly play by the rules and his fellow nominee IS one of those good guys and didn’t have a best actor in his mantle case yet, naturally it went the way of the more, game friendly, Denzel Washington for Training Day.
Opposite Crowe was a veteran actress without much previous clout who absolutely blew the doors off her performance and, as they say in sports commentary, put on an acting clinic. Her much deserved Oscar and performance tends to be one of the more forgotten and under appreciated performances in recent memory.
The true and heart breaking and warming story of A Beautiful Mind and it’s principle, John Nash, is one that was little known of the Nobel Prize winner in the field of economics and his struggle with paranoid schizophrenia. Beautifully shot and a story told with perfect flow and rhythm as if he were conducting a symphony. But was it the “Best Picture” of the year?
To better answer that question first let’s look at it’s fellow nominees. The movies are as follows: Gosford Park directed by the legendary Robert Altman. The powerful family struggle piece, In the Bedroom. Peter Jackson’s epic The Lord of the Rings:Fellowship of the Ring. And the lavish and musical, Moulin Rouge.
In this writers opinion the only competition that A Beautiful Mind amongst it’s nominees was, In the Bedroom. It featured incredible acting performances by all it’s main principles, including an unknown among casual movie goers named Jeremy Renner who would invade the screen again in the intense and, to be discussed, Hurt Locker.
Gosford Park was the annual token British, well acted and seldom seen film. Featuring very fine performances by all including the lone American, Ryan Phillipe. But the movie failed to grab and awe it’s audience like a true movie of the year winner, let alone nominee, should.
Peter Jackson’s LOTR was a beautifully shot and true epic adventure film. It brought to life one of the most beloved stories of all time, like never before. The film is the first of a trilogy which was all shot in succession, thus leading the academy to wait and judge the three films as a whole before giving it such a coveted award as we will see in future articles.
Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge was an extreme and ornate musical which has been told multiple times since the begining of film. It’s lavish musical numbers and unique style of story telling is what drew the attention of the academy. In the end it’s not a film you ever hear someone say was their all time favorite, or even in their top 5 for that matter. It appealed to intelligent mature teenage girls and was unique it’s light but not Picture of the Year.
Now for the overlooked and not even nominated pictures. Thats not to say that they received zero acknowledgement, some were recognized by a single acting nomination or writing but some were completely overlooked on the academies part.
Of these films one of the first that jumps out to me was “Ali”, starring Will Smith as the famed boxer and Jon Voight as his longtime friend legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell. Two Dynamite performances and a terrifically told story of Ali’s early career and fight for religious freedom. Well directed by Michael Mann, it may have at times felt like an homage to Ali rather than telling the straight story and may have left out key elements but a fine film non the less.
Also to be noted was the movie Memento which truly introduced the world to Christopher Nolan and his very sharp film making talents, as the world would later come to love as he reintroduced the Batman franchise in a fresh and entirely new light. The films main principle, Leonard superbly acted by indie favorite, Guy Pearce who you may remember from L.A. Confidential. It’s unparalleled story of a man with a limited memory condition is told in reverse and forces the audience to truly pay attention and think for themselves. It was truly a once in a lifetime story. While maybe not picture of the year it at least deserved to be in the discussion, thank goodness for the Independent Spirit Awards.
Next in our countdown is Ridley Scott’s intense war time thriller, Black Hawk Down. A movie that left you sweating every second you were in your seat. Not just a summer time blockbuster but a masterfully directed film. If you weren’t grossly immersed in this movie from the word “go” you may need your pulse checked.
Last but most definitely not least is Monster’s Ball which brought a delighted Halle Berry her first Oscar but will forever be remembered at the movie that turned Heath Ledger from hunky heart throb amongst teens, to a force in the acting community. He showed what the world would be in for and how movie fans and fans of the art of acting would lose all too soon but not before he left his indelible mark on the craft.
When it’s all said and done, while you could make a case for all the previous movies mentioned, it’s safe to say Oscar went home with the right name on the base of his stand. It may have been a little bit of an honorary moment for Ron Howard and his body of work, but it was no less than deserved as it was done at the right time for him and with the right picture.
So let the comments roll in and let the debating begin!!