Friday, February 22, 2013

Hindsight Oscars: 2002

Best Picture
Chicago (winner)
Gangs of New York
The Hours
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Pianist
Should have won: THE TWO TOWERS is as good and as entertaining as its predecessor while doing a masterful job of setting up the final installment in the trilogy. GANGS and PIANIST are pretty great too, but I'd give Jackson's film the edge.
Should have been nominated: There's no way in hell 8 WOMEN could ever have gotten a Best Picture nomination, but it seems remarkably shortsighted that the two 2002 releases that have had perhaps the greatest staying power- 25TH HOUR and PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE- were overlooked. The former in particular seems especially egregious- the Academy has never been all that keen on Spike Lee, but considering the timely setting and the emotional pull of the final reel, it might have found its way onto a good number of ballots had Touchstone given it any marketing push whatsoever.

Best Lead Actress
Salma Hayek, Frida
Nicole Kidman, The Hours (winner)
Diane Lane, Unfaithful
Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
Renee Zellweger, Chicago
Should have won: Even while submerging herself in the heightened style of 50s melodrama, Moore mustered more genuine feeling than any of her competition. No mean feat, that.
Should have been nominated: Isabelle Huppert is one of the world's great actresses, and few movies show off the depths of talent and fearlessness she brings to the screen than THE PIANO TEACHER. As the repressed educator of the title, she seems to give so little, but conveys so much as the emotions barely seem to flicker across her face.

Best Lead Actor
Adrien Brody, The Pianist (winner)
Nicolas Cage, Adaptation.
Michael Caine, The Quiet American
Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt
Should have won: Day-Lewis' Bill the Butcher is seriously scary, but that's really more of a supporting turn, isn't it? Instead, I'll take Cage's riotous double act as the neurotic screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and his genially doofy brother Donald. It's rare to see a Cage performance that keeps his wackadoodle impulses in check while still being powered by his crazy energy.
Should have been nominated: Hey girl. I know you think Ryan Gosling's all sensitive and swoon-worthy. But prepare to have your mind blown by his youthful turn as a Jew-turned-skinhead in his breakthrough vehicle THE BELIEVER. Hard to imagine him not being nominated if he gave that performance today- but would he dream of doing so?

Best Director
Pedro Almodovar, Talk to Her
Stephen Daldry, The Hours
Rob Marshall, Chicago
Roman Polanski, The Pianist (winner)
Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York
Should have won: There's a temptation to reward Polanski for exorcising his childhood demons or Scorsese to realizing his long-gestating dream project. Yet no nominated directorial vision came through more strongly than Almodovar's, which combined his love for melodrama, dark comedy, and sexual outrageousness in a way that he hasn't been able to duplicate since.
Should have been nominated: When is an Adam Sandler comedy not an Adam Sandler comedy? When Paul Thomas Anderson turns it into a jagged, candy-colored autocritique of an Adam Sandler comedy. Just that fact that he forced the ol' lunkhead to actually act speaks volumes about Anderson's achievement.

Best Supporting Actor
Chris Cooper, Adaptation. (winner)
Ed Harris, The Hours
Paul Newman, Road to Perdition
John C. Reilly, Chicago
Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can
Should have won: Hard to argue with Cooper's hillbilly charm or Newman's last great big-screen performance, but I'm partial to Walken, who finds real poignance in a con-man father who despairs that his son might have followed in his footsteps but also takes pleasure in how well his chip-off-the-old-block has done for himself.
Should have been nominated: Ten years after THE TWO TOWERS, the actor's branch still has yet to acknowledge the skill it takes to bring a motion-capture performance to life. So while it would have been super-cool of them to recognize the performance that pioneered the form- Andy Serkis' indelible Gollum, of course- it's inevitable that they would have overlooked it. Too bad.

Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Bates, About Schmidt
Queen Latifah, Chicago
Julianne Moore, The Hours
Meryl Streep, Adaptation
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago (winner)
Should have won: Meryl Streep has become such an institution, what with her knack for accents and her ability to play outsize characters, that it's easy to overlook what a pleasure she can be when she lets her hair down. ADAPTATION is one of Streep's best character roles, and she's rarely been this charming and funny. Too bad she keeps gravitating back to stuff like THE IRON LADY.
Should have been nominated: I can imagine half a dozen performances from 8 WOMEN meriting a spot in this category (because Queen Latifah sureyeahright). Since I already mentioned Huppert in another context, why not the film's youngest cast member, Ludivine Sagnier, who injects real life force into the proceedings while going toe to toe with some of the biggest names in French cinema.

Best Original Screenplay
Far From Heaven
Gangs of New York
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Talk to Her (winner)
Y tu mama tambien
Should have won: TALK TO HER is the best of the bunch, though it would've been fun to see Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN win as well.
Should have been nominated: ALL OR NOTHING has long been one of Mike Leigh's more sadly overlooked films, and considering the Academy's ongoing love for Leigh- and the relatively weak competition- it wouldn't have seemed out of place here.

Best Adapted Screenplay
About a Boy
The Hours
The Pianist (winner)
Should have won: ADAPTATION is the most writing-centric movie nominated, although THE PIANIST was pretty solid as well.
Should have been nominated: Watching MORVERN CALLAR, it's hard to believe it was adapted from a novel, which is a credit to how complete Lynne Ramsay's cinematic translation was.

Best Animated Feature
Ice Age
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Spirited Away
Treasure Planet
The Wild Thornberrys Movie
Should have won: SPIRITED AWAY. No contest.
Should have been nominated: In a category with one killer and plenty of filler (when was the last time you thought about SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON) it's hard to imagine that there's anything that could have been left out.

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