2004 saw no grand sweeping epics like the previous three years with Lord of the Rings, instead we were treated with another Scorsese masterpiece, another DiCaprio gem and a bio pic performance for the ages. Tom Cruise entered the film noir world with Collateral alongside double nominee Jamie Foxx. The final award of the night would cement Clint Eastwood not only as the Hollywood royalty he already was as an actor, but that he had become one of it’s finest film makers. Million Dollar Baby would all but sweep that night taking home best picture, actress, director and supporting actor. It’s controversial plot line would make it a shocking win for Eastwood and company.
Once again Mr. Scorsese would go home empty handed and no doubt disappointed. His magnificent Howard Hughes movie would prove to be the better of the bio pic genre that year but it’s counterpart Ray would bring Jamie Foxx his first Oscar. DiCaprio again loses out, sadly but that’s not to say Foxx didn’t earn it by any means. Ray was a fine movie with a once in a lifetime performance but it surely wasn’t the best picture.
Alexander Payne had already established himself as a fine unique film maker with such jewels as Election and About Schmidt, but it would be 2004’s Sideways that would make everyone stand-up and take notice. The story of two best friends spending the one’s last single days in wine country would prove to be a raucous good time and yet an extremely poignant picture.
Last of the nominees was as usual the annual British finely acted movie, Finding Neverland about the author of the beloved children’s story, Peter Pan. With a fine leading role portrayed by Johnny Depp it was the third of the bio pics to garner recognition.
Not recognized that night were movies that probably didn’t deserve a nomination but were great films non-the-less. First was Michael Mann’s homage to film noir Collateral. With two great principle’s in Jamie Foxx and love him or hate him, Tom Cruise. A well made and expertly shot movie, there was just no room on the ballot for it.
Next didn’t deserve a big picture nomination but this low budget clean comedy took the country by storm and once again showed that the indie world produces some of the most, one-of-a-kind films. Napoleon Dynamite received as much praise as any other movie of the year, and rightfully so.
One film that did get some love from the Academy was winner for best original screenplay. That would be Charlie Kaufman’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet took us on a great journey to forget heart break only to repeat ourselves. A great movie and clearly even better script.
So did the Academy get it right? Was Eastwood’s female boxing film the best picture? Hilary Swank played a down on her luck, untrained female boxer with incredible potential. Eastwood reluctantly begins training her and they soon experience success until tragedy strikes in the ring leaving the rough, hard nosed Eastwood with a difficult choice to make. Morgan freeman would finally be honored by the Academy as what can only be described as the soft side conscience of the movie. It’s controversial ending had many thinking Oscar would steer clear and that it would finally be the night of Scorsese. They were wrong! Oscar stood up and said, YES to what truly was the best picture of the night. Many will say that Eastwood’s feather in his cap is Unforgiven but in the opinion of this fan it will always be Million Dollar Baby!
Let the debating begin!!