Friday, March 20, 2009

Oscars in The Year 2000

I never forget an Oola.

I also never forget an Oscars misstep*, although -- and I know, this is like totally groundbreaking here -- that fact tends to tax the memory from time to time.

*The Departed over United 93 for Best Film Editing in '06? Are you serious?

Oh, but let's be fair. To expect the Academy to post a 1.000 on-base percentage would be ridiculous, and to say the Academy always fails would be equally so. In the 2000s alone, I'd say there were four very, very good films (Chicago, LOTR: Return of the King, The Departed and No Country for Old Men) that won the top Oscar.

But sometimes the Academy just plain blows it. And by blows it, I don't mean it misses out on some obscure film that only I and like six other people liked*. I'm talking about movies that clearly got at least some Oscar support -- just not enough.

*Like The Weather Man.

Take The Year 2000.

Here are the Best Picture nominees:

-Gladiator (winner)
-Erin Brockovich
-Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

In other words:

-A fun-enough action movie
-An overdone, self-serious drug movie (although the Benicio Del Toro third of it is pretty good)
-A TNT movie (and by that I mean the network, not the AC/DC song)
-Didn't see the movie itself, but it was hard to avoid the endless allusions/homages/send-ups/ripoffs of the whole in-air-combat thing. Yawn.
-Didn't see it -- but can you blame me?

Meanwhile, check some of the other films released* in The Year 2000:

*Note: Contrary to what the link says, Memento indeed was not a 2000 release; otherwise it would be on this list, too.

-Wonder Boys: Proof that you don't have to be a downer to be a classic in The Film Official's eyes. Also proof that not all literary adaptations leave you wanting. (A horrendously snubbed) Michael Douglas nails it as a frazzled author/college professor who's got a lot on his mind -- and adds to the trouble during a three-day jaunt through Pittsburgh. Unendingly clever and creative. Deserved far more than its three nominations (Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing and Bob Dylan's winning Original Song).

-Cast Away: It's long and quiet. Some people say that like it's a bad thing. Me personally, I couldn't have rooted more for the lost soul and his pet volleyball. Plus, the ending is one of the all-time greats. So where are the nominations? It only got Sound Mixing and Best Actor (Tom Hanks). Not even cinematography. Oh, and side rant: Hanks was a thousand times better here than in his winning Forrest Gump role, yet Russell Crowe (who himself was a thousand times better in The Insider than in Gladiator) won the award in one of the worst Oscar Make-Up Calls ever.

-Requiem for a Dream: Seems like every hipster with a taste for the dark an uncomfortable considers Requiem to be one of the all-time greats. Me too. From Ellen Burstyn's Oscar-nominated (and should-have-been-Oscar-winning) performance ... to director Darren Aronofsky's innovative/influential style ... to Clint Mansell's chilling theme that still gets used in movie promos ... wow. Just one nomination?

-O Brother Where Art Thou?: It's perfect period Coen. Funny. Creative. Looks great. Sounds great (especially with all that catchy old-timey music). Features a trio of outstanding performances (George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson) ... and yet, just two nods (Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography).

-Almost Famous: Honestly, I don't see what the big deal is with this movie. It's fun (and has a great soundtrack, of course), but doesn't compare to the other four on this list. But is it better than the Best Picture nominees? Well ... yeah. What's weird is that people thought as much in 2000, and they certainly think so now. Still, it only got nods for Best Original Screenplay (which writer/director Cameron Crowe won), Best Film Editing and for Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand's supporting performances.

... So, uh, yeah. Not a good year for the Academy. Which is weird, because the year before, all five of its nominees (American Beauty, The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider and The Sixth Sense) ranged from pretty good to outstanding.

Or maybe it's not so weird. Through its history, the Academy has been pretty nebulous. One year, it honors Schindler's List with Best Pic. The next ... Forrest Gump. One year, it's Annie Hall. The next ... The Deer Hunter. Heck, the last two winners were a graphic, dark, intense thriller about a killer on the loose in the Texas/Mexico desert ... and an exotic fairy tale ride through the slums of Mumbai.

So what should we expect for '09? This?

Hope not. Here's hoping Oscar doesn't pull a 2000, no matter who gets picked for the Final Five.

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