Article by Zack Mandell
Ten Years On – Entertainment – Movies
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The Oscars get it wrong. Frequently. There are very few who would argue otherwise. I’m not trying to be malicious by saying that. No organization is perfect, and we are talking about the process of judging art, an entirely subjective experience. Plus, the Oscars are far superior to, say, the Grammys at rewarding the best in the field. Having said that, the Oscars have made some noticeably large blunders during the 84 years that they have existed. “How Green Was My Valley” over “Citizen Kane?” Art Carney in “Harry and Tonto” beat out Jack Nicholson in “Chinatown” and Al Pacino in “The Godfather Part II?” It’s understandable why these things happen. Sometimes a performance or a film can get caught up in the moment, a publicity swirl bigger than the performance or film itself. There’s a sentimentality that comes into play. Plus, some of the films that we now consider among the greatest ever made did not necessarily open to great reviews when they opened, and didn’t gain their stature until they were keenly reexamined. That is why actor Matt Damon, an Oscar winner himself, has argued that the Oscars should be staggered so that a ceremony recognizes the films of ten years prior. For example, the ceremony from this year would not be recognizing 2011 films like “The Artist,” but 2001 films like “Moulin Rouge” instead. It’s not an ignoble idea. While it would be next to impossible to actually implement such a system, the reasoning behind it is sound. But all of this got me thinking: Given that it’s 2012, how different would the awards for 2002 be?
Or at least how different should they be. I can’t predict how the Academy would vote, but I do know what films from that year have stood the test of time, and which nominated films have not. The Best Picture winner of the year was Rob Marshall’s “Chicago.” This entertaining musical benefitted in that year’s race from a couple of factors: The popularity of stars Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones and the previous year’s “Moulin Rouge” igniting the resurgence of the Hollywood musical. Ten years later, this film is still wildly entertaining and filled with top-notch musical numbers, but was it really the best of its year? Not in the year of “About Schmidt,” “Far From Heaven,” and “Talk to Her,” no. None of these still highly regarded films failed to even garner nominations for the top prize. “Gangs of New York,” which apart from an electric performance from Daniel Day-Lewis is considered to be a rare misstep in Martin Scorsese’s filmography, managed to however. So did the largely forgotten film “The Hours.”
Nicole Kidman’s win in the Best Actress category for “The Hours” seems ill-advised ten years on as well. The performance is exceptional; no doubt about it. But she’s been even better in films that have stood the test of time, like “To Die For” and, again, “Moulin Rouge.” Julianne Moore, however, gave one of the most unforgettable performances of the decade in the all-around masterful “Far From Heaven.” The fact that this actress has never won an Academy Award for any one of her consistently exemplary performances is a scar on the Academy’s reputation. To defend the Academy though, it’s hard to argue with their selection for the Best Actor prize that year. Adrien Brody may not have received the Oscar bump that many anticipated after his win for “The Pianist,” but his mesmerizing turn as Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman is as gripping now as it was then. Kudos to the Academy for recognizing him over more famous stars like Nicolas Cage, Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson.
Roman Polanski’s win for Best Director was very controversial back in 2003. The notorious fugitive is still widely hated for fleeing to France after pleading guilty to a statutory rape charge back in 1973. Though his behavior in the past is certainly despicable, his skills as a filmmaker, particularly his stellar work on “The Pianist,” merits recognition. Although a win for universally beloved fellow nominee Pedro Almodovar for his work on 2002’s best film “Talk to Her” would have spared the Academy from controversy and from critics in the ensuing years.
There’s a lot that could have been different. The fact that cult classic “Punch-Drunk Love” failed to receive a single nomination is a shame. But the Academy is used to being a source of humiliation, and unless they follow Damon’s sound advice, the chances are they will stay that way for a long time to come. Movieroomreviews.com has great info on movies such as Chicagoand actors such as Renee Zellweger.
About the Author
Zach Mandell is a freelance writer for www.movieroomreviews.com.
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