Sunday, April 20, 2008

Top 5 Worst Best Picture Nominees 2000-present

Tim's Top 5:
I was going to say films to win best picture, but since I'm quite certain I'm the only person on here who can tell you definitively how much worse The English Patient was than Cimarron...I figured I'd keep it current.

(For convenience sake, at the end, I've included all the films that fall into the category. For the record, I've not seen Babel nor Atonement. This completes the list of movies I haven't seen on said list. I suspect both might crack my top 5 list)

1) The Hours - This movie reads like a lifetime original motion picture. Nicole Kidman got an Oscar for being ugly in the same way Bill Murray almost came away with an Oscar for not being funny (see #2), and a movie that's supposed to be about women comes off as being one of the most chauvinistic films in decades. Women get by because of their gay friends with AIDS (Ed Harris in a truly punishing performance), or they don't get by at all. Meryl Streep comes off as an awful stereotype of the independent woman who is, as I wrote in my initial review "perpetually smug", hell, I have to quote me here "[Streep] occupies the screen like she's paying rent there, and emotes her way through an agonizing, yet critically-acclaimed performance." But since Streep is the focal point of the movie, there's little else to say. It's a dreadful assemblage of thin characters and obvious motifs.

2) Lost In Translation - Sofia Coppola has made three films, two of which I've had the misfortune of seeing. But while The Virgin Suicides suffered from a creepy narrator and not much of a story, Lost In Translation suffers from the fact that no one bothered to check whether the movie was finished before releasing it. You watch Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, they do things, they develop a bit of a relationship, and then the oh so touching ending THAT NO ONE WROTE. If you invite me to pay $10 for a movie, the least you can do is actually have a beginning, a middle, and an end -- not just make the entire movie hinge on words that no one hears. I love this -- someone trying to defend the movie on the IMDb said "pointless, plotless, and boring?" to try and defeat a straw man. But actually, they summarized it pretty beautifully -- I'll strike the question mark and this movie finally has an ending.

3) The Green Mile - Few movies have the gall to be so openly manipulative as The Green Mile, which is a woeful failure in all the ways The Shawshank Redemption was successful. Tom Hanks tries to play a bladder infection for laughs and fails, the Christian allegory is horrifically transparent, the movie is three hours long, and it manages to make every character unlikeable. Then throw in some heavy-handed Hollywood nostalgia. Also, if possible, try to make the movie completely anachronistic in geography and time period. Hey, you did it. Thanks.

4) No Country For Old Men - Few movies have left me feeling so angry. I walked out of there pretty much holding my head with anguish at what had just been declared a massively successful film achievement. While The Departed was a profound disappointment that amounted to little more than a bloodbath, there was a point...sort of. Nearly everyone's dead, you get to watch a lot of gruesome deaths, the sound is horrifying (I'll give them props, they were robbed at the Oscars, listening to this movie made me ill), and Bardem is pretty good at playing the remorseless psychotic with no purpose in killing, but it still adds up to a movie that leaves you pretty much where you started or worse. Fatalism and nihilism doesn't make for good filmmaking unless there's some sort of devolution throughout the film.

5) A Beautiful Mind - So how do you make a terrible biopic? Well, cast someone really unsuitable for a role -- wiry mathematician...enter Russell Crowe. Wipe their life story of anything the least bit controversial -- take that communist tendencies and homosexuality. Throw in a love interest that's not believable -- Jennifer Connelly with mathematician...check. Now add things that are utterly preposterous (like a mythical roommate) and change everything about the story to make it more Hollywood. Shudder. This is fish-in-a-barrel drama, but it's still executed as badly as Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile.

Honorable mention: Finding Neverland - Enough with the Johnny Depp blowing, film critics, it's been a while since he's made a good movie; The Sixth Sense - when you've got a one-bit premise, try not to make it totally obvious. Unbreakable was infinitely better; Chocolat - a film that was so painfully American in attempting to be French or Italian. Harvey Weinstein definitely engaged in sexual favors for it to be nominated; Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring - what happens, exactly? I'm not a fan of LotR, so I could go on, but all others like opaque cinema where you can actually see Peter Jackson making decisions with extreme close-ups, slow motion, soft focus, and everything but a constant barrage of center wipes; The Departed - it sucked. Scorsese needs to stay out of Boston.

Best Picture Nominees:
American Beauty
The Aviator
A Beautiful Mind
Brokeback Mountain
The Cider House Rules
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Departed
Erin Brockovich
Finding Neverland
Gangs of New York
Good Night, and Good Luck
Gosford Park
The Green Mile
The Hours
The Insider
In the Bedroom
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World
Michael Clayton
Million Dollar Baby
Moulin Rouge!
Mystic River
No Country For Old Men
The Pianist
The Queen
The Sixth Sense
There Will Be Blood

Ryan's Top Five

I have not seen but 30-40% of this list. I shall persevere.

1. "The Sixth Sense" - Tim's right--"Unbreakable" was a lot better (read: good, not bad).

2. "Lost in Translation" - I only saw this once, but damn, this movie was boring. I have to like characters to get involved, and I didn't like any of these people.

3. "Ray" - Jamie Foxx deserved to win best actor. That said, biopics BORE THE BEJESUS out of me.

4. "The Fellowship of the Ring" - I really liked "The Two Towers," this one as boring as sin. Seriously.

5. "Little Miss Sunshine" - I do really like this movie and Steve Carell was great, but the ending was a bit too off for it to be a "best movie." (Keep in mind there are probably many movies I could see that would knock this one off the list.)

Dan's Top 5:

I actually like all the films in the list that I saw in the aforementioned list, with exception of what is noted below.

1. Mystic River - I just flat out didn't like it.

2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - All I remember was seeing a bunch of flying around on wires. I didn't get to see the full movie, but I doubt I would have liked it.

3. Erin Brockovich - I like this movie, actually. But I get it already - the main character is a woman.

4. Little Miss Sunshine - Probably one of the worst endings ever, especially for india cinema.

5. Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World - I can't remember the main conflict of this movie. I've seen it, but nothing stuck. I was really expecting more out of this movie.

Honorable mention: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

1 comment:

Uncle Bub said...

Interesting topic - my five:

1) Master & Commander - Long, dull and an exercise in vanity. Just awful.

2) Lord of the Rings - I enjoyed the second, thought the third was overly long but still OK ... but the first was utterly painful to watch ... and if you're going to do essentially a 3-hour intro with nothing happening, I should at least be able to remember more characters than Legoland. Yawn.

3) Chocolat - Light, sweet but not a best picture nominee. The real shame came a year later when the far, far superior Amelie was passed over by many for being a Chocolat clone.

4) The Green Mile - Hard to tell whether this was a make-up nom for Darabont for shutting Shawshank out of any wins ... or more blind Hanks-love ... whatever the case, this rivals Master & Commander as a cure for insomnia.

5) In the Bedroom - An underappreciated performance by Tom Wilkinson (what else is new) and some good moments, but overall a mess.

Dishonorable Mention:
* Million Dollar Baby was a horrible choice for the win over Sideways that year
* And aside from a terrific performance, there's really not much to There Will Be Blood (certainly I can think of two other PT Anderson films that deserved nods over that)