Oscar Retrospective 2002

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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 and will give their opinions on whether the movies/winners held up, if they 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:  This is a fairly strong field, much stronger than some of the more recent fields, of best picture nominees.  You’ve got three worthy candidates in Gangs of New York, The Pianist, and Chicago (with The Two Towers getting an honorable mention).  Unfortunately Hollywood gives an automatic bump to any watchable musical so Chicago, being a pretty good movie, ended up beating out the much better Gangs of New York.  Perhaps Adrien Brody’s win for best actor over Daniel Day-Lewis’s great performance in Gangs of New York was due to Brody finally being given a good leading role in a good movie (his only other noteworthy role before The Pianist was in The Thin Red Line).  Also, was this the last time Nicholas Cage had a shred of respectability?  Lots of big name actresses duked it out for best actress but it is worth noting that Salma Hayek’s turn in Frida was and still is her biggest dramatic role she’s ever taken (although that doesn’t mean she should have won).  I’d say the Academy deserves props for giving Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away the award (in a pretty poor year for animated movies) and this was the last year where Pixar didn’t have a release every year (it took 2002 off making Finding Nemo).

Will:  If the Academy had been looking for a film to honor Martin Scorsese, “Gangs of New York” could have been it. Instead, the Academy chose for Best Picture and Director “Chicago.” That film’s camera movement and quick-style editing, seemingly innovative at the time, can now only be seen as a crutch to hide the less-than stellar dance performances by its actors. The Bob Fosse musical, however, was and is still a fair choice, even ten years later. Daniel Day Lewis’ bigger-than-life performance as Bill the Butcher in Scorsese’s masterpiece was and is more worthy than Adrien Brody’s work in “The Pianist” and Nicole Kidman’s nose in “The Hours” took the Oscar away from a more deserving Diane Lane in “Unfaithful”.

JoeDog: As much as I loathe the idea of giving out an annual award (Best Picture / Director) to a person because of a body of work, the Academy probably should have recognized Gangs of New York / Scorcese. None of the other pictures were special, though I loved Adaptation. Best Picture winner Chicago pailed in comparison in every way to the previous year’s best pic nominee Moulin Rouge! I thought it was kind of amazing that Adrien Brody won his award against acting heavyweights (Nicholson, Caine, and Day-Lewis…. even Nic Cage who already has a best lead Oscar). I didn’t see most of the lead actress flicks but when someone wins with a ridiculous prosthetic proboscis some eyebrows will be raised. Best Documentary had a couple of spectacular films in Bowling for Columbine, Winged Migration, and Spellbound.

Jake K: Chicago wins? What a weak year of nominees. Where was Adaptation? If the writing was good enough to support the Academy’s nomination of Donald Kaufman (a fictional character) surely the film was worthy of a Best Picture nod – and the win.

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