Oscar Thoughts

I'd like to make a habit of talking Oscars every year, but I think in the future I'll need to do a better job of getting out to see even half of the films garnering the main nominations. With this in mind, let me share with you a gaggle of radom thoughts. (You can find a list of all current and historical nominations at Wikipedia)

Best Picture

I've seen Ray, Million Dollare Baby, and Sideways, and it seems MDB or Aviator will most likely pull down the trophy if the pundits are correct (and they often are). All the libertarians seem to be pulling for Aviator, with its championing of entrepreneurship, and I'm sure it is perfectly entertaining, but lets just say I have my doubts. Anyway, I have to conclude that this is just a bad year for this award. If I had to pick the best, I would say Ray, which surprises myself. If you had told me that I would have picked it as Best Picture after I walked out of the theater, I'd have said you're nuts. Good movie - it had Jamie Foxx's performance (more on that later) and the music of Ray Charles, which is more than enough, believe me - but the film itself had it's limitations. (Honestly, the best films I saw this year were Closer and Garden State.)

This all brings me to this: are we in a drought, or is just impossible to measure up to the movie-making of the 90's? Take a look at the nominations in the last 5 years, and then look at the 90's, and tell me there is not a big difference. (HUGE disclaimer: I have not seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have my reasons - mostly because the girl I dated for three years could not stay awake an hour into a movie, much less three, so we never made it out to see Viggo and the boys. Of course that's no excuse for the last year and the fact that I actually own two of them. Anyway, take this into account when reading my opinions, and I hope I have not offended anyone - I know how you LotR fans are.) I mean, tell me there is a single film in the last five years (outside of LotR) that is better than say, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, or Forrest Gunp. There isn't one. Well, guess what? Those three were all made in the same freakin' year. Are you kidding me?

There are only two films made this decade that I would pay to see again in the theater if re-released: Traffic and The Pianist. There's about two every year from the 90's. To answer the question I posed above - there is relative and absolute badness since 2000. These recent movies suck as a group, but I think we'll look back on the 1990's as the golden age of movie-making. It was interesting, when I looked more carefully, that these things seem to alternate decades. Judging from the nominees in the 00's, the 80's (which offered little of transcendent value, save Amadeus and The Empire Strikes Back), and the 60's (when they confused the Oscars for the Toney's), compared to the 50's (some of the first great films), the 70's (the decade to bring us the beginning of both the Godfather and the Star Wars trilogies, plus Rocky, The Sting, and The French Connection) and the aforementioned 90's (Silence of the Lambs, Goodfellas, Unforgiven, A Few Good Men, Schindler's List, The Fugitive, the pinnacle of 1994, Braveheart, LA Confidential - Jesus Christ, need I go on?) , we're in for a few more years of this purgatory before we can expect consistently good movie-making again.

I think I may start calling it "The Curse of Traffic." In 2000, the Academy decided to award the execrable Gladiator over Steve Soderbergh's wonderful film (even while giving him Best Director). Possibly the movie gods decided that if we didn't know what a great movie was, maybe they just wouldn't let us see anymore.

Best Actor

I think they should have changed the category this year from "Best Performance by an Actor in a Starring Role in 2004" to "Best Performance by an Actor of all time." Jamie Foxx may not have won that second one, but if there's been a better single performance, I've never seen it. Regardless, the actual award is the former, Foxx will win it, and it won't even be close.

Johnny Depp better be careful or he will become Al Pacino. Depp's the best actor of my generation, yet he only has two nomination (and no statues assuming he loses again this year). He should have won last year, but the Academy would never dream of giving Best Actor to a god-damned pirate. He'll end up winning some year with a pedestrian performance; mark my words.

Best Actress

Is Kate Winslett the worst actress ever to garner 4 (count 'em, 4) Oscar nominations? You sure Johnny Depp only deserves two? Positive?

I'm sure it will come down between Hillary Swank and Annette Benning, but my sentimental favorite is Catalina Sandino Moreno from Maria Full Of Grace. The problem is, I can't say either way whether I think she deserves it. The problem is that I don't speak Spanish, so I have to read the subtitles. It's impossible to really watch and judge a performance without, you know, actually watching the performance.

Best Supporting Actor

I've already thrown my hat in the ring for Clive Owen in Closer, but I have a suspicion he has two chances: slim and none. It's a shame, though. How often does a supporting actor make a film? In fact, when that happens, shouldn't that pretty much mean you should win hands down?

Best Supporting Actress

Oh, Clive Owen had a little bit of help, I should add. Natalie Portman is oh so hot.

Best Director

My only thought from this category is the inclusion of Taylor Hackford for Ray. I'm of two minds on this one. My first one, if you remember my thoughts from above, is that many of the things that Hackford did with this film took away from its overall value. The psychoanalysis crap was a low point and the timescope of the film fell into that "biopic trap." Many would argue that the only really good things about this film, Foxx and the music, had nothing to do with the director. But that brings me to my other side: isn't some of being a director a lot like being a baseball manager? The good managers just put the best players out on the field, preferably in situations where they can succeed, and let them play. Well, Hackford put Jamie Foxx where he could succeed, and he filled the theater with some great sound. And he just let it all play.

I still can't make up my mind on that one.

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Here are just a few of the

Here are just a few of the many, many, many movies from the last 5 years that I liked better than Forrest Gump and at least as much as the other two you mentioned:

State And Main(2000)
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Touching The Void (2003)
Cast Away(2000)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(2004)

As for your "would see again if re-released in theaters" criteria, I call foul: nobody would see a re-release in theaters until a decade or so has passed, and it takes quite a few years before it's clear whether a film is destined to be "a classic". Those that are win awards, do well on TV, inspire parody and homage and just generally stick around in our memories while we forget the fluff. In 2015 it'll be clearer which movies from now meet that criteria.

(I was disappointed not to be able to include _The Matrix_ (1999) and _The Zero Effect_(1998). Time sure passes, doesn't it...)

I agree. Hollywood seems to

I agree. Hollywood seems to just be churning out crap these days. I liked the Aviator though, and not just because it showed how corrupt politicians are.

There have been so many

There have been so many decent movies in recent years that they all start to blend together. I got the five I listed before from my Netflix rental list. Now that I've looked at a couple other people's lists, here are some worthies I left off:

2000: Unbreakable, Almost Famous, High Fidelity, Memento, O Brother Where Art Thou?
2001: Amelie, Waking Life, Moulin Rouge, Series 7
2002: Adaptation, Spirited Away, About Schmidt, The Pianist, Punch Drunk Love
2003: In America, The Station Agent, Kill Bill 1, The Cooler, Matchstick Men
2004: Garden State, Million Dollar Baby, The Incredibles, Kill Bill 2, Ray

If you liked Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill beats it in style and Memento and Series 7 beat it in sheer weirdness.
If you liked Shawshank, try Million Dollar Baby, About Schmidt, O Brother, The Cooler, The Pianist.
If you liked Forrest Gump, you're hopeless. But try Station Agent, Amelie, and Cast Away.

"Here are just a few of the

"Here are just a few of the many, many, many movies from the last 5 years that I liked better than Forrest Gump and at least as much as the other two you mentioned:

State And Main(2000)
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Touching The Void (2003)
Cast Away(2000)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(2004)"

You have got to be kidding me about Vanilla Sky. I thought that movie sucked big time.

I thought I posted on (in?)

I thought I posted on (in?) this thread already... oh well.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the best movie of 2004, and it isn't even close. And Kate Winslett was fantastic in her role.

Garden State was indie cliche bullshit. However, I happen to enjoy indie cliche bullshit, so I enjoyed it quite abit.

Forrest Gump is the worst

Forrest Gump is the worst MSM released in the last five years with the possible exception of AI. If anyone can explain to me why "Stupid is as stupid does" is such a great line...or even what it means, I would appreciate it,

My comments on some films

My comments on some films mentioned above...

Shawshank Redemption - I'm still kicking myself for missing that in the theater. It was a rental, and turned out to be my favorite drama of all time.

State and Main - I liked it, but it sort of signaled the decline of David Mamet. He hasn't recaptured the genius behind Glengarry Glen Ross, Spanish Prisoner, and even House of Games in a long time. Heist was merely entertaining, and Spartan was absolutely dreadful.

Station Agent - Kudos. Great film.

Sideways - Caught this in its first week of release. Glad to see the attention it wound up attracting.

Aviator - Big thumbs up.

Castaway - Bought this one too. I loved the slow pace, and the lack of a musical soundtrack (just heard the waves, trees, etc). I also enjoyed how his fiance(?) wasn't still "available" when he returned to land, i.e. they didn't succumb to the Hollywood sugar ending. And some in the theater laughed when Tom Hanks bawled as Wilson floated away, but I think we'd all get a little loopy after 4 years on that island.

Forrest Gump - Saw it, and never understood the "greatness" behind it.

Forrest Hump - A porno I've never seen. :grin:

Not mentioned...

Hotel Rwanda - One of the best films I've seen in the past year.

The 1990s had the wonderful Whit Stilman "trilogy" (Metropolitan, Barcelona, Last Days of Disco). 'Nuff said.

I do have to say and admit that I loved Oceans 11. It's too bad Oceans 12 was less than mediocre.

Glen: I respectfully

Glen: I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the "second time" test. The best movies, seen on a huge screen with surround sound, are an experience, and I often want to see them again almost immediately in the theater. There may be a time bias for some, but not for me.

I did forget two movies from this decade that you reminded me of: Memento and O, Brother, Where art Thou?. I had forgeotten that they were in 2000.

Luca: I do need to see Spotless before making a judgement of the bst movies of the year.

Everyone: I stand by my original judgement and hereby assert, without argument, that Forrest Gump is a great movie.

"Case in point would be

"Case in point would be Timeline (another Michael Crichton novel). The book itself was excellent; although the topics of time travel sci-fi and medieval history do interest me already, so mixing these topics together particularly attracted me.

But the best part of the book was when it described all the quantum physics and background, as well as full detail describing the ins-and-outs of 14th Century France. In the awful film most of this was left out, and what was left were basically all the typical Hollywood action scenes and a contrived love triangle (along with bad acting and lack of atmosphere in the direction). To Steven’s point, this engaging 500-page book did not translate well into a mass-produced 2-hour mainstream movie."

I didn't read the book but the movie was indeed god awful. I remember walking out of the theater feeling like I just wasted $10.

Case in point would be

Case in point would be Timeline (another Michael Crichton novel). The book itself was excellent; although the topics of time travel sci-fi and medieval history do interest me already, so mixing these topics together particularly attracted me.

But the best part of the book was when it described all the quantum physics and background, as well as full detail describing the ins-and-outs of 14th Century France. In the awful film most of this was left out, and what was left were basically all the typical Hollywood action scenes and a contrived love triangle (along with bad acting and lack of atmosphere in the direction). To Steven's point, this engaging 500-page book did not translate well into a mass-produced 2-hour mainstream movie.

"Indeed, where have all the

"Indeed, where have all the good plots gone?"

Books. Screenplays for general release films have a ton of restrictions imposed on them due to the fact that they have to appeal to a wide audience. To begin with, it is not easy to fit a good plot into a 2 hour time slot.

Indeed, where have all the

Indeed, where have all the good plots gone?

I have a hunch that they've all been done before.

If that's the case, what's the next big art form?

Even a bad Dark City is

Even a bad Dark City is pretty good!

I guess I do watch Law and

I guess I do watch Law and Order, none of the spin-offs though.

Thirteenth Floor is just a bad Dark City. Oh well, whatever floats your boat.

Lost is not bad. Nor is 24.

Lost is not bad. Nor is 24. And I can't get enough ER, original Law and Order, and original CSI reruns. Other than that, mostly crap.

And I still stand behind the greatness of 13th Floor. It's the best "virtual reality" movie I've seen in the last decade.

The Thirteenth Floor?!

The Thirteenth Floor?! WHAT?! That movie was pure garbage. God, I can't believe I went and saw that on opening night.

I've been saying this for a while now, but right now is the true golden age of television. On HBO you got The Sopranos, Deadwood, Carnivale, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sex and the City (RIP), Six Feet Under, The Wire (please, please, please bring it back, HBO). On FX you have The Shield and Rescue Me, both great shows in my book. For cartoons, you can't beat Adult Swim which has gems like Sealab, Aquateen Hunger Force, Space Ghost, The Family Guy, Futurama, Harvey Birdman, The Venture Brothers etc.

On the other hand, network TV fucking sucks.

Two cheers for Vanilla Sky.

Two cheers for Vanilla Sky. I saw it at least three times in the theaters and then bought it on DVD. The last few years of movie making, in my opinion, have been superb. Yes, there is a lot of crap, but that's always the case. We forget about the crap and remember the gems. From LoTR to Kill Bill to The Matrix to Eternal Sunshine to Memento to The Incredibles, The Aviator, Secretary, The Passion, Donnie Darko, Fight Club, Master and Commander, Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, 28 Days Later, Matchstick Men, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Thirteenth Floor, Dark City, Minority Report, the two X-Men movies, and the list goes on and on.

Ands that's not even mentioning all the great stuff churned out by HBO, from Angels in America to Deadwood to Sopranos to Six Feet Under to Carnivale to...

Generally agree with you but

Generally agree with you but you're forgetting the Pixar films. Many, many people would pay to see those again every year. I"m fortunate that I'm retired and can see them with the five year olds but they're fantastic movies viewed anytime. The Incredibles this year is probably the best of the lot for all ages.

I've been looking at this

I've been looking at this same issue on my blog. One thing to remember is that the 90's started kind of slow, too. Goodfellas and Silence of the Lamb towered over the rest of the nominees in their years. It wasn't until '94 that the decade really took off. There is still time for the 00's to turn it around. It's more likely that Oscar has simply lost their way. Some great movies like Memento and Amelie have already been ignored.

Traffic, the movie, was

Traffic, the movie, was taken from a BBC miniseries. Vanilla Sky was taken off of a spanish film (I didn't care for the film myself). The Ring was a Japanese remake. And I am a big Hayao Miyazaki fan. Maybe we need more foreign influences in our movie making for fresh ideas.