Oscar Retrospective 2001

Leading up to the 84th Annual Academy Awards the In The Bagg staff will take a look back at the past ten years of the awards, giving their opinions on whether the movies/winners held up, if the academy completely shat the bed, and how strong that particular year was for movies.  Please note that the date in the title is for the year the movies were released, not the year the actual awards ceremony took place (so the Oscar Retrospective 2001 are for the awards that took place in 2002, or the 74th Academy Awards).

Chris:  In a solid, but unspectacular year for movies, A Beautiful Mind took home the best picture award which was probably deserved.  The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring would have also been a deserving choice because it was a surprisingly good adaptation of a book that was formerly thought to be non-adaptable (not to mention the casting and performances were pitch perfect).  The Academy shot their history making wad in the same year by giving the Best Actor and Actress Awards to the first African-American winners.  Denzel Washington’s performance was good (not as good as his performance in He Got Game) but I would have to give the slight edge to Russell Crowe.  I would say Monster’s, Inc. was robbed of the Best Animated Feature by Shrek, but I suppose Shrek got the nod due to it being a movie that didn’t just play down to kids, supposedly.  Also, what a great year for Original Screenplays with Gosford Park beating out other fantastic screenplays including Amélie and The Royal Tanenbaums (so far the best written Wes Anderson film).  The fact that Amélie didn’t win for Best Foreign Language Film is also disappointing as it has been incredibly influential on many independent style films since.

Will:  “The Lord of Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” was the first and best film of the Peter Jackson-led trilogy and was the best film of 2001.  Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind” was good, but a by-the-book movie that does not hold up all these years later.  This error in judgment, however, paled in comparison to the flaws exposed in the Academy’s nomination process.  The Academy was intent on this being the first year with two black winners in the major acting categories of Best Actor and Best Actress.  Although Halle Berry deserved her Oscar for “Monster’s Ball,” Denzel Washington’s win was quite a stretch, seeing as he played a supporting character to Ethan Hawke in “Training Day.”  Although Washington’s work was masterful, he was nominated in the wrong category, whereas Russell Crowe  deserved the nod for Best Actor for his role in “A Beautiful Mind”.  In regards to the Best Actress category, Berry was the obvious shoe-in so the Academy decided to nominate Jennifer Connelly in a supporting role for her performance in “A Beautiful Mind,” although her screen time was pretty comparable to Crowe’s.

JoeDog:  No problems with the major awards. A Beautiful Mind is a nice enough picture, but certainly not one that remains in the collective consciousness. I very much preferred the flamboyant Moulin Rogue! to the other nominees. Fellowship is obviously an achievement but let’s be honest, it’s not a complete story, obviously. Absolutely no problem giving the lead acting awards to Denzel and Halle. But there wasn’t really a tour-de-force performance by any of the nominees. Chris Nolan / Memento probably should have been nominated for Best Director over Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. Gosford Park certainly got a lot of attention considering the plot / themes were done (better) in The Rules of the Game.

Jake K:  A Beautiful Mind wins best picture, besting the far superior first installment of The Lord of The Rings.  The Academy presumably was trying to avoid several years of LOTR taking top honors and in the process sidestepped the best film in the series.  As for Denzel, he’s one of the great leading men but his Oscar for Training Day feels more like a life achievement award.  Let’s not forget David Lynch and Mulholland Drive.  The fact that a surrealist picture transcended the art house label to a coveted ceremony is noteworthy.  Lynch turned a rejected TV pilot into a powerful film.  A deed that should have  landed him the Best Director Oscar.

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