I continue my look at the best pictures of the last 10 years, and whether or not they were deserved or not. We have arrived at year 2002 with awards handed out in 2003. Oscar’s best picture prize was handed to the film version of the long running Broadway musical, “Chicago”. Directed by Rob Marshall and Starring Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger and Queen Latifah, Chicago featured extremely well choreographed lavish musical numbers. Based on the Broadway musical written by the legendary Bob Fosse it was the best of the recent resurrection of the movie musical, no doubt, but was it the best picture?
I subscribe to the thought that a great movie hits you between the eyes and leaves you stunned and heavy with thought, be it with reality or you are so enraptured in the story that you just can’t shake it once the movie is over. A great movie has performances so outstanding that you feel as if you are part of that persons life and are joining them at this specific moment of their life. With this criteria in mind, let’s examine 2002’s best films.
As usual we will begin by looking at the fellow nominees for best picture along with Chicago. First on the list, is the second installment of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers. Perhaps the finest of the 3 films with the most captivating segment of Tolkien’s story. Featuring truly epic battle scenes and more insight into the characters with great development and heart. The continuation of Frodo’s journey once again came up short on awards night.
The second of the nominees was Martin Scorsese’s brutal look at the birth of New York City and it’s five points. With outstanding performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and the genius Daniel Day-Lewis, it has been called Scorsese’s ultimate NYC movie and showed the brutality and violence that made NYC the metropolis of the world that it has become, delving into it’s dirty politics and hatred of the immigrants it now holds dear. Gangs Of New York would be shut out of all major category winners and once again leave Marty still seeking Oscars gold.
Next up brought us the return of Hollywood and America’s most famous outcast, Roman Polanski, and return he did. His film The Pianist examined the true story of a talented piano playing polish Jew on the run from the Nazi invasion. With a once in career performance from much deserved Academy Award winner Adrien Brody (who has yet to even sniff as good a role or performance) Polanski deservedly was awarded best director that night.
Finally we have The Hours which is the true story of Virginia Woolf as she writes her famous book Mrs. Dalloway. This movie proved to be Nicole Kidman’s finest hour as she was given Oscar that night for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf. With many other numerous nominations and a beautifully shot and directed movie, it at the same time had a small audience of those who truly loved the film.
Now for what was left off the nominee list. Three films really come to mind and all of the hail from the independent film scene. First is one of two films written by the immensely talented Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malckavich) and that was the bizarre twisting Adaptation which featured the Oscar winner for best supporting actor, long time character actor Chris Cooper. The second Kaufman film also featured the directorial debut of George Clooney, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which also had one of the most underrated performances of the year in Sam Rockwell as the eccentric and often extreme Chuck Barris. Finally is a movie about the age old topic of infidelity with the sitcom star Jennifer Anniston growing up and developing into a premiere actress before our eyes in The Good Girl. While all deserving their honorable mention in the discussion for best picture non of these three truly were the BEST picture of the year.
So that leaves us with those nominated films and while you can make a strong argument for them all it was clearly between Gangs of New York, The Pianist and of course the winner Chicago. While Chicago was visually stimulating and well made and extremely entertaining, based on this series criteria, the two best were The Pianist and Gangs of New York. Two evenly masterfully made movies but the movie that will transcend time and condition is The Pianist. It’s story of the greatness to survive and still love is something everyone can find with in themselves. It has the human spirit come thru and infect everyone who experienced this movie.
Well let the debating begin and look for the next article featuring the films of 2003 awarded in 2004.