Tuesday, May 5, 2015

4 Ways a Best Picture Bloggers Roundtable: 2001

A few months ago I presented a few of my favorite bloggers with a blogging project I wanted their help on.  If you're a frequent follower of the blog then you'll know that I like to engage my fellow bloggers in Blogging Roundtables where we can discuss a specific cinematic topic.  For this project, we're taking the four films that have won a Best Picture Oscar (Documentary/Foreign Film/Animated Film/Best Picture) since all four have been established (so, starting in 2001 when the Animated Film category was created in order to honor Shrek) and, well, talking about them.  I decided to change things up a bit with this one.  In previous roundtables we have all watched specific films/performances and then submitted reviews for each with letter grades.  I liked this, but in all honesty it didn't feel as conversational as I wanted it to.  So, with this roundtable we did things differently.  We decided to chat about these, in order to actually establish a conversation.  Each week we'll be releasing our 'chats' about the next year.

I'm really happy with how this is turning out.

So, let's introduce everyone to our panel this go around!  I have tried to invite new faces with each panel, in order to get to know my fellow bloggers even more (so if you're interested in being a part of the next one, let me know), but of course there is always a familiar face or two.

Britt from Rambling Film
Drew (me, duh) from A Fistful of Films
Jeffery from jdbrecords
Wendell from Dell on Movies

So, just a little bit about scoring.  We will chit chat about the films and give everything a letter grade.  Each letter is worth a certain score, the highest a film can garner is 100 (A+ = 20 points) and the lowest is 0 (F = 0).  

Let's do it!

Drew:  To start we’re going to discuss Murder on a Sunday Morning.  I almost feel like I should cue Kevin to start, but whoever wants to kick this off can do just that.

Britt:  I love courtroom cases, so I thought this was very fascinating, but it played like an episode of Dateline on ID.

Drew:  I felt like it was modeled after an episode of Snapped, and it all felt so cheap.  LOL, but I’m sure Snapped came…afterwards.  And I’m just going to say this now: Patrick McGuinness looked high the whole time.  But in all seriousness, the story told here is truly incredible, and the way that the flaws in justice here are exploited is almost scary…like, this stuff happens?  I just wish that it were better made, technically.

Wendell:  This is one of my favorites of all the docs I watched for this.  I love courtroom cases, and (race card coming) I’m black.  It both amazes and saddens me that this doc is still so relevant, timely even, given the events of the last 2-3 years in this country.  As far as style points, it’s fairly straight forward, dryly made.  Even though it lacked pizazz, I still loved it.

Kevin:  This was the first movie I watched when we started this.  I messaged Drew to say how much I loved it.  He disagreed a bit.  This is still one of the only docs in this entire thing that didn’t bore me at some point.  That’s saying a lot.  Like Britt, I too love courtroom dramas, and this is both relevant today and really compelling.  But, it also, I agree, looks like an episode of something you’d watch on Network TV with your grandfather at 9 PM on a Friday night.  That doesn’t make it any less interesting for me though, and the chain-smoking Public Defender in McGuinness!  If more PD’s were like him, the world would be a much better place.  Dude worked his ass off for this poor kid more than likely pro bono.  That touches me.

Drew:  I think the dated score and strange editing and scene fading that recalled Cops had something to do with the film feeling ‘made for TV’.  But yes, despite the fact that I wasn’t sure for about half the film whether McGuinness was creepy, high or an idiot, he was obviously none of those things and was a VERY good person.  I just hated listening to him talk, unfortunately.

Kevin:  Yeah.  Strange dude.  I actually kind of liked the combination of oddity you mentioned, Drew.  Added to his one-of-kind-ness.  Make him hard to forget for me.

Wendell:  The public defender with all his quirks was awesome!  He sucked down so many cancer sticks, though, I swear I could see his lungs blackening through his shirt.  I got 2nd hand smoke through my TV.

Britt:  Hey man, Snapped is addicting!  I actually love how he had the nerve to tell the other attorney he liked to smoke before sex.  That was hysterical.

Kevin:  I’ve never heard of Snapped, but I don’t have cable so that may be why.  But yeah, Brittani, that line was classic.  Love the guy.  Did any of y’all feel bad for the old man whose wife died?  What a disservice this DA did to not only the poor teenager accused but also the poor old man who lost his wife.  Nothing gets under my skin as much as shoddy, rushed, manipulative police work.  Same story in Paradise Lost and Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line.

Drew:  You know, that’s also an area where I felt like the doc could have been constructed better, because while I know that the real point of the film was to show how this young kid was falsely accused, I felt like the murder itself was an afterthought.  I kind of don’t even remember that man.

Britt:  I feel bad for him losing his wife, but they made it seem like he just wanted someone arrested and it didn’t matter who.  Then when I looked into the case for the guy that actually did it, they said she threw coffee on him.  They should’ve touched up on that more.

Wendell:  I felt sorry that the old man lost his wife, but very disappointed he just kind of went along with the program just to see someone go down.  Pretty sure if someone killed my wife I’d want to make sure the right SOB went to jail for it.  Don’t want that dude running free.  Whole thing reminded me of an old Dave Chappelle joke.  He said he was listening on a police scanner and he heard, “be on the lookout for a black male between 4’9” and 6’4”.”

Kevin:  I honestly feel the movie is so vague on so many things because the State’s case was so vague.  The DA really had no arguments anywhere.  Maybe that’s why I felt bad for the guy.  He wanted it over with and was more than likely pushed by the DA’s office.  That’s where some more detail would’ve been good.  Both Paradise Lost and The Thin Blue Line are better docs that do give more time to fleshing out all the details.  Even still, this one works for me because it’s so amazing how little a case the State had against this poor kid, yet they still went through with the trial.  And I, even at the end, wasn’t sure how it would turn out.  That’s the level of trust I have in our country’s justice system.  It sickens me.

Jeffery:  Yes, I thought the film was frightening.  Very pertinent to our times still.  It’s very apparent how much more sophisticated and slick the doc form and reality-based TV shows have become over the decade, but I appreciated the no-frills presentation of the story.  Highlight moment was the mother’s emotional testimony.  Seeing the juror’s stoic faces was stirring as well.  McGuinness was a scene-stealer.

Kevin:  You’re onto something there, Jeffery.  I think this is more of a case of most docs were just like this back then.  I will admit I have very little exposure to a lot of award-winning docs before this one came out.

Jeffery:  Yeah, something about how raw it was (despite the bad, out-of-place score) I found affecting.

Drew:  I’m glad I’m not the only one who was bothered by the score.

Kevin:  I don’t even remember it for some reason.  I sort of wish I did.

Drew:  No you don’t.

Wendell:  I needed more details on what happened to the case following this trial.  I wanted/needed more info.  The Central Park Five from a couple years ago handled that aspect much better.  In fact, I think it’s a better overall doc.  I may be biased because the case was big when I was growing up in NY so I remember much of what was discussed.  Please give it a look.  FYI, I haven’t seen any of the other nominees for this year.

Kevin:  I’m right in line with you on this one I think, Wendell.  I also haven’t seen any of the other nominees.

Wendell:  Yeah, seems we’re on the same page, Kevin.  Great minds…

Britt:  Neither have I.

Jeffery:  Doesn’t anyone think that the filmmaker, being French, was making some sort of statement?

Kevin:  Definitely.  About how unfair, biased and even racist the American justice system was then and still is now.  Also, how about that cop that beat this kid up?

Wendell:  The cop that beat the kid up sickened me to my stomach.  Baffling how a black man could do that to a black teen…any teen, but…  I’m sure he knows a number of black kids have been railroaded by similar tactics.  At some point, you think common decency would prevail.  You’d think he’d be the first one to say something doesn’t smell right.  I guess when they bring you in specifically to whup ass you don’t think about those things.

Drew:  Yeah, I looked up the director, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, and it appears that he made a career out of scrutinizing society itself and the justice system.

Britt:  Even with the TV quality, it was fascinating.  I gave it a B+.  It it had a bit more into it would’ve been an easy A.

Drew:  Here is where this discussion is taking effect because I was going to give this a C, and now I’m feeling inclined to give it a B.

Kevin:  I enjoyed this film from the start and couldn’t look away.  Once of the best docs of this whole thing.  A-

Wendell:  Going with A- also, despite the lack of flair.  Still one of the best docs in this group.

Jeffery:  Giving this an A!

FINAL SCORE:  78/100

Drew:  Let’s talk about No Man’s Land

Britt:  So, this is embarrassing; for my notes I wrote, “Interesting, film did well with its micro budget” but I do not remember anything about this.

Kevin:  Couldn’t say it better myself.  The story is incredibly unique and really unbelievable.  Even with a low budget though, it is so boring in its production.  This is a story where suspense is everything.  I never felt any.  I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way too.  This movie beat Amelie.  Time told on that one, eh?

Britt:  Yeah, that’s insane.  I’m not sure how the rest of you watched it.  I watched it on Youtube and I truly don’t think the subtitles were right.  That may have contributed to me not remembering any of this because I kind of wanted to give up on them.

Drew:  LOL, I saw it on Netflix, so now I’m wondering what exactly your subtitles said.

Britt:  It felt like broken English and they occasionally would have weird symbols following them.  LOL

Drew:  Hmmm.  My feelings on this were pretty…well…I don’t have any.  Like, it was a compelling story that was told rather un-compellingly.  My notes say, “Great story told rather poorly”.  I think that beating Amelie at the Oscars also shows a real problem that Oscar has with being narrow-minded when it looks at foreign film.  They have a tendency (as we’ll see as we dig into these years) of mass voting for the war movies.  It’s like, talk about war and Oscar will come.  It’s like America thinks that the only important things anyone foreign has to say is about how they were mistreated during war times.

Britt:  Exactly, and Amelie had what, 5 nominations that year?  It’s shocking that it didn’t win and this did.

Drew:  Like Kevin said, time told.  I mean, had anyone heard of this movie before we started this thing?  But we’ve all heard of Amelie!

Kevin:  Not only have we all heard of Amelie, but I’d imagine we’ve used its charms to our advantage.  It is an aphrodisiac on the level of oysters, dark chocolate, even Spanish Fly.

Wendell:  I’m actually not that big a fan of Amelie, but year, that’s the better movie by a long shot.

Jeffery:  There were some interesting aspects to the movie: the setup itself (the landmine), slight satire, the reporter (which reminded me of Three Kings).  The script was very sharp.  I thought it was a good movie but am also surprised it won over Amelie.  I do remember there may have been slight Amelie fatigue by the time the Oscars rolled around.  I loved that movie and it’s still my #1 for 2001.  Surprised the Oscars went with such a dry, unsentimental choice.

Kevin:  I could’ve said the same thing in agreement with both Jeffery and Drew.  This is Oscar just going with a safe ‘message’ movie about the ‘atrocities of war’ when a crowd-pleasing, gorgeously shot French comedy was the obvious favorite among pretty much everybody in the world.  I also agree that the script was really good.  Some of the dialogue was really well-written and the performances from the two male leads were really solid.  I too loved the reporter character as well as the French UN guys.  The language barrier issues were really nicely written and quite unexpectedly comedic.

Wendell:  Ummm…hmmm…I like the script and appreciate what it’s trying to do.  It just needed to do it better.  It has some really good ideas by integrating the UN and the media, the execution on them was ‘meh’.  However, it’s got that air of importance the Academy loves.  The only way this could’ve been more of a lock for Oscar was if it changed the setting to Nazi Germany and had a Nazi solider and a Jewish prisoner stuck in the trench together.

Drew:  The story has heart, I just felt like the way the body of the film was handled was so uninspired.  I guess it’s hard to tell this story in a different manner, but it just felt so unmoving, and yet this probably has a lot to do with the fact that it’s premise didn’t allow it to move.

Britt:  It didn’t help that this film felt like it was shot entirely in someone’s backyard.

Wendell:  Backyard, lol.

Kevin:  I like the word ‘move’ up there, Drew.  I wanted this movie to ‘move’ me.  I wanted the camera to ‘move’, for heaven’s sake.  A little music to ‘move’ the story along maybe.  This movies’ downfall is, as Brittani just alluded to, the poor production design.  Movies have been made on smaller budgets and had much better looks and sounds and feels.

Drew:  LOL, the backyard comment is priceless, and so accurate.  Like, I could build the entire set out of the scrap fence posts in my backyard!

Kevin:  So true.  Haha!

Jeffery:  I did find the ending kind of haunting though.

Kevin:  Totally.  Quite disturbing even…and pretty powerful.  I wish that had been enough for me.

Wendell:  The ending really does work, though.  Haunting is a great word to describe it. 

Britt:  I give it a C.  Sorry, backyard.

Kevin:  I’m gonna go with C+.  Good script, good performances, boring execution.  Amelie forever.

Drew:  LOL, Amelie forever!  I’m at a C, personally.

Wendell:  Gonna go with status quo, here.  Solid script, below par execution, excellent ending = C-

Jeffery:  B from me.

FINAL SCORE:  45/100

Drew:  I’ll get this one rolling by saying…haters gon’ hate, and there are serious haters for this one…but I’m not one of them!

Kevin:  Shrek is witty, clever, genuinely funny, especially with all the fairy tale in-jokes.  Seriously, this script is genius.  Having said that, I failed to re-watch it for this project, mostly because it’s just one I don’t have a desire to go back to, partially because I’ve seen it 15 times or more and don’t think I can handle Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy for another minute.  Flick is played out.

Drew:  Having kids, I’ve seen this MANY times, and each time I’m reminded how clever it is.  I will agree with you that this film suffers somewhat from over-exposure.  It was one of the first ‘kids movies’ to exploit pop culture in such an abrasive way, and I think that caught like wildfire and made the film almost too quotable for many.

Kevin:  Yeah.  There are so many references I can’t remember any.  Plus, I really only remember the first 15 minutes or so anyway.  The beginning is the only part that stood out for me as genius the first time I watched this and now is all I remember.  I certainly understand its importance and why is was so well received.  I appreciate it for being truly a crossover for adults.  Hate to be the one to play this card again, but Monsters Inc. is better and should’ve won.  Since this is the first animated movie in our discussion, I want to go on record and say that I generally do not like animated movies.  I really have to be in the right mood, and that mood doesn’t strike often.  Pixar’s movies have always worked best for me.

Drew:  I used to be like that, regarding animated films as kind of lesser, but being a parents has forced me to watch A LOT OF THEM, and I’ve really grown to appreciate them and find so many that I genuinely love.

Kevin:  I definitely don’t hate them.  I just don’t seek them out.  I don’t have kids yet either.  I’m sure I’ll find my appreciation as well when my wife and I have kids one day.

Jeffery:  I really find the computerized animation in this film fugly.  Even though that may be OK since it’s a film that embraces fugliness.  It has a nice message, Eddie Murphy is funny.  But it feels so corporate – those Smashmouth songs and the animated…ick.

Drew:  OMG, I hate Smashmouth!  The music in the series got better with the third film…you know…when they actually had a Damien Rice song on the soundtrack.

Kevin:  Me too!  That’s all I hear when I think about this movie.

Drew:  Fucking ‘All Star’

Kevin:  That cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ is on point.  That’s the soundtrack choice I remember.

Jeffery:  Oh yes, ‘Hallelujah’ is great.

Kevin:  I like Jeffery’s ‘corporate’ line.  This movie is like that.  It doesn’t have the heart or visual mastery of something from Disney/Pixar.

Drew:  Heartless and corporate…you guys are brutal!  LOL!  Like, I get it, I do…but it has charm, right?

Kevin:  As if Pixar isn’t a billion dollar corporation, right?  Haha!  I’m standing by what I said earlier,  but it is charming among other things.

Jeffery:  Yeah, def. has charm.

Britt:  Smashmouth, lol.  It’s hard for me to judge this one now because I really liked this when I first saw it, now I’m just ‘meh’ about it.  It doesn’t hold up throughout the years and doesn’t feel special at all.  Animated films just kept getting better.

Kevin:  I so agree.  It hasn’t stuck with me at all beyond initial enjoyment as far as its charm and comedy go.

Drew:  I think a lot of the ‘aging poorly’ has to do with the ‘beat it to death’ sequels too, though.  I mean, the original is so vastly better than what followed.  2 was endlessly boring, 3 was decent and 4 was a fucking disaster.  At least with other animated franchises the sequels improved and so they preserved the legacy of the original.

Jeffery:  There’s been so many imitators as well.

Britt:  I actually thought Shrek 2 was probably the best of the bunch.

Kevin:  I only saw the first two.  I remember not liking the second one as much.

Drew:  I guess I’m probably the one here that likes this the most.  I know it almost tries too hard to be liked…like it practically SCREAMS “LOOK, I’M A FILM FOR EVERYBODY” and yet I still feel it worked, sort of.  B+, or something like that.

Jeffery:  I would give this a B-, but I have a little bit of a heart so…B

Kevin:  I’m going B- on this one.  It’s not a bad movie, and it’s hilarious at times.  It just doesn’t have the lasting effect of a Pixar movie, especially one like Monsters Inc., which lost to it.

Britt:  I give it a B.  Not bad by any means, just not outstanding.

Wendell:  Shrek is BRILLIANT!!! (drops mic, exits stage left)…(comes back on stage, pics mic up)…Srsly, Shrek is excellent.  The pop culture references are wonderful, but not what make it great.  Two other things make it so.  1st, it’s a complete deconstruction of the fairy tale.  It skewers the silly stories we grew up with, perfectly.  That’s why I’ve always considered it to be a spoof more than a straight forward story.  Like a great spoof, it has a certain reverence for making fun of all the tropes its target is known for, yet still using those same tropes to create its own story.  2nd, this is really a product of the first thing, but it was really the first kids movie to honestly say ‘it’s okay to be who you are without having to conform to society’s notion of beautiful’.  This was huge for boys, but unbelievably ginormous for girls since they have to deal with that superficial pressure to look and act a certain way a lot more than boys.  As a dad of (at that time) an infant daughter, I can’t tell you how happy I was, how big my smile was when Fiona’s ‘true form’ was revealed to be the ogre version of herself and Shrek tells her she’s beautiful.  I fully expected for her to be the waifish princess we first met.  I now have two daughters, 12 & 14, and I appreciate that part of the movie even more now than I did then.  So, for me, it’s as much relevant as it is good.  Aside from the things I just spent all that time gushing over, it was also one of, if not the first, kiddie-flick that truthfully crammed in more humor for the parents than it did for the kids.  So many references and jokes fly right over their heads.  When I was re-watching it for this, my kids came in the room and wondered what the hell was so funny.  They just didn’t get all the little things put into the movie to keep us grown folds entertained.  Well, that and they’re at that age where they think they’re too cool for animated movies.

Drew:  OMG!  Where were you this afternoon?!?!

Wendell:  Work…can’t tweet at work…Twitter spies.

Drew:  I love how you made the connection to the inner beauty aspect, which I also think is a great aspect to the film.  I was always impressed that Fiona’s truest form was an Ogre (which made no sense once the sequels explained her story).

Wendell:  That’s, I think it’s the most important aspect and it still holds weight…bad pun.  True, the sequels totally undermine the way Fiona’s story plays out here.  That said, I did like Shrek 2 quite a bit.  The 3rd was meh and…they couldn’t kept the fourth.

Kevin:  Dang it, Wendell!!!  Now you’re making me feel bad for not re-watching it for this!

Britt:  I feel like Dell kind of owned all of us with that analysis, LOL.

Wendell:  Thanks, Britt!  I’ll respond directly to a couple more from earlier:  I like Monsters Inc.  It’s a really good movie.  It’s not nearly as memorable or ground-breaking, IMHO.  I think the Academy got it right.  Not a Smashmouth fan, but whether or not it’s actually good, All-Star is damn catchy.  Can’t get it out of my head for days after watching.  It plays on a loop in my brain, accompanied by I’m a Believer, of course.  So during the movie this works for me, after the movie I hate it.

Drew:  I do feel, upon reflection, that the constant pop culture references, albeit fun in concept, really date this movie.

Wendell:  You’re right, Drew.  The pop culture references do date the movie, but for an old guy like me, they’re easy reference points I can laugh at.  I agree that some of the animation has aged quite a bit, but at the time it was considered really good.  Hard to fault the movie.

Drew:  Yes, the animation, while not particularly ‘pretty’, was good for the time.  But this is Dreamworks too…like, their animation is crude.

Wendell:  Yup, going straight A+ with this one.

Drew:  Oh my!  I guess I don’t like this more than everyone else!

FINAL SCORE:  70/100

Drew:  Alright folks, we’ve reached the big one!  Best Picture of 2001…A Beautiful Mind!  Now, this one has that stigma attached of beating out some beloved films with passionate fan bases.  Many consider this the worst BP win of the aughts.  I don’t.  A Beautiful Mind may have been the safe choice in a field of incredibly diverse films, but it holds up surprisingly well, IMHO.  For me, this gets everything right that films like The Theory of Everything got wrong.  It’s enthralling, informative and emotional.  It does not cover every base (what biopic does) but when it ends you feel like you know Nash, you connect with him and you’re moved by him.  And Crowe…MY GOD, he’s great here!  The fact that A Beautiful Mind is not only a drama about mental illness but also a romance, thriller and uplifting drama about perseverance and manages to make it all work is nothing to scoff at.

Kevin:  And I agree, brother.  On all levels.  This movie is, for lack of a better word, ‘beautiful’.  The Theory of Everything was devoid of everything but prettiness.  It glossed over so much.  I always felt like the greatest strength of A Beautiful Mind was that it really took us down the rabbit hole with the John Nash character.  I felt such a part of his struggle.  This movie, like many biopics, doesn’t hold its audience at arm’s length.  This happens only when actor and director totally come together.  You can so tell this happens between Howard and Crowe.  It’s also evident in the gorgeous period boxing film they did together; the wonderful Cinderella Man.

Drew:  They really made a great team!  I like your point about not being held at arm’s length.  I completely agree.  This film really embraces the audience.

Kevin:  Thanks, Drew.  I really just fell in love with this movie the first time I saw it.  Few biopics have done that to me.  As far as Oscar going the safe route, they at least picked a great one. 

Drew:  I mean, AMPAS was never going to award Moulin Rouge (too weird) best pic, or In the Bedroom (too small) or even LOTR, at this point, so…I think this is a very respectable ‘safe choice’.

Wendell:  I feels like a safe Oscar pick because it is pure Academy bait, but it’s done very well.  I can’t argue with the win anyway.

Britt:  I always say I don’t mind Oscar baity biopics if they do it right (I loved The Theory of Everything and Imitation Game this year) and this one did it right as well. 

Kevin:  And I love Ron Howard’s visual flare here.  Getting us inside Nash’s head with the floating symbols and numbers.  The scene in the bar where he advises his friends to not go for the blonde, but to devide and conquer.  I love stuff like that.  And Jennifer Connelly is so effing hot!!  In all seriousness though, this is one of my favorite Russell Crowe performances.  He is so truly in it.  Love the supporting cast as well.  Love Josh Lucas and Adam Goldberg and Anthony Rapp.  Ed Harris is always awesome.  Paul Bettany is perfect.

Wendell:  Connelly was also really great.  Thought Bettany gave a nod worthy performance, too.

Drew:  Bettany’s absence from the awards game that year was odd considering the love for the film.  He was great.

Wendell:  He really was.

Jeffery:  I still don’t get why Connelly became such an awards sweeper that year.  I find her miscast and I can’t envision her in the older time periods.  She’s too contemporary looking in my opinion.

Kevin:  I love Jennifer Connelly here.  She really works for me, much like she did in the 50s period piece Inventing the Abbotts a few years before.  Oh, and I cry, like, real tears every time I watch this.

Drew:  OMG!  The scene in the room, the beautiful heart moment, and the last scene, Connelly in the crowd…I blubber! 

Britt:  Crowe should’ve won though.  Why did he have to punch that guy?

Drew:  Damn his temper!  I would personally award Tom Wilkinson, but Crowe really should be a two time Oscar winner and Wilkinson didn’t have a chance.

Wendell:  I’ve seen this a few times now and I always like watching it, but I do have some issues with it.  Don’t get me wrong, it is excellent and Crowe is amazing, would love to have seen him win the Oscar, but the way it all comes together is a bit bothersome for me.  It’s that whole ‘love cures all’ aspect that doesn’t sit quite right with me.  Still, I have to say Ron Howard pulls it off effortlessly.

Drew:  I get the issue with ‘love cures all’ and yet, it didn’t cure it really, just helped him learn to deal with it.  Like you said, regardless, it’s so well done.

Wendell:  Agreed, Howard just nailed everything he was going for.               

Jeffery:  I think I liked A Beautiful Mind a little less than all of you.  Probably one of my least favorite winners of the decade.  Not sure what the hype was about.  It’s handsomely made however.  I also dig James Horner’s score even if it’s on the schmaltzy side.  The scenes with Ed Harris are awkward.  Russell Crowe is very good.  Probably would have won if not for his antics at the time and if he hadn’t won the year prior.

Britt:  The aged up makeup at the end was kind of bad, but that’s honestly my worst complaint.  LOL.

Drew:  Thankfully it was one scene.

Wendell:  Lol, I thought the age make-up was okay.  Definitely seen worse.

Wendell:  The only other nominee I’ve seen from that year was the first LOTR.  I wouldn’t mind if that had won, but not bummed that it didn’t.

Kevin:  In the Bedroom was the best of the nominee that year.  I don’t mind it losing to this though.

Drew:  In the Bedroom was the best film of the year, period!

Jeffery:  My personal fave from the bunch was Gosford Park.  Would have been cooler for Altman to win rather than Ron Howard.  In the Bedroom was a fave of mine too.  But there were some other awesome movies that year, Ghost World & Hedwig, that Oscar overlooked.  Can see why this won Best Picture…just on the blander side for me. 

Kevin:  I could totally see the Director Oscar going to Altman that year, splitting Best Picture to A Beautiful Mind, but Howard really did pull off a solid movie, especially for the biopic as a genre.  I see your point as far as the misses like the great Ghost World, among others.  As far as 2001 itself is concerned, my favorites of the year are Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky and Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums.

Drew:  2001 was such a strong year in general.  I mean, when you compare the Oscar winner to the films of the whole year, it pales…but for what Oscar tends to go for…I mean, A Beautiful Mind is a lot more interesting than The King’s Speech!

Kevin:  Most Definitely.  This gets a solid A from me.

Wendell:  Going B+

Britt:  Same.  B+

Drew:  I’m a solid A, for sure!  #suckithaters

Jeffery:  B-

FINAL SCORE:  77/100

YEAR SCORE:  270/400


1) Murder on a Sunday Morning (78 Points)
2) A Beautiful Mind (77 Points)
3) Shrek (70 Points)
4) No Man's Land (45 Points)

Closing Comments

Britt:  The foreign winner for me brings the average down a bit, but other than that, I’d say this was a fairly solid year.

Drew:  Yeah, it was pretty solid.  A little safe, and yet it was all well done.  Of course, Amelie would have changed things.

Wendell:  The foreign pic winner was definitely the weak link.  The other 3 are all solid winners.  Feeling like I need to rewatch Amelie.  Didn’t love it when I saw it years ago.

Kevin:  With Dell going to town on us on Shrek, I do feel as if I should’ve re-watched it or at least should see it again at some point soon.  Either way, I don’t think 2001 was a bad year, per se.  I find it mediocre.  And there were nominees in each of the four big categories that were just better, even if just a little bit.  The biggest highlight is the small powerhouse documentary.  I was glued to that thing, despite its production value.  Murder on a Sunday Morning wins Oscar 2001 for me.

Jeffery:  Weak year for me Oscar-wise, but not movie-wise.  But, it could have been worse.

Let's get TRENDY!

So, in discussions this week, Britt suggested that we make 'Amelie Forever' (if you'll recall, Kevin made that comment) the year's tagline.  I loved the idea and was trying to find a way to fit it in.  So, I came up with an idea of taking a comment made from each week and making it our hashtag for the week.  It seems fitting since we're utilizing Twitter to have these conversations.  So, let's get this Bloggers Roundtable trending!  Please link us and use the hashtag #AmelieForever and see if we can make this happen!  Each week we'll pick a new comment, which you'll be able to see on the thread's banner at the top (you'll see #AmelieForever in the lower right hand corner on the image at the top).

And, of course, comment below your thoughts on our thoughts and your personal thoughts on the winners, the races and the films in general!


  1. This looks great, Drew! You did an excellent job fitting in my Johnny-come-lately comments in the appropriate spots. Having lots of fun participating in this.

    1. It was fun editing these together. You guys are such a great panel!

  2. This is such a fun discussion idea! I quite like this film when I first saw it, I mean Crowe's performance is just ace. I also like the relationship between him and Connelly. I haven't seen it in ages though, so not sure how I'd feel about it now.

    1. Glad you enjoyed! Hope you come back for next week's discussion!

  3. I've only seen Shrek and A Beautiful Mind - both amazing movies. A Beautiful Mind was well done and Crowe was fantastic in it. I liked how the whole film came together and made it a compelling film. Despite the Shrek franchise being exploited for a couple more movies, the first one was the best.

    1. Yes, that was what impressed me most about A Beautiful Mind, especially upon this revisit. It covers so many themes and tones and yet makes it fit and is thoroughly compelling.

  4. Great job throwing this all together! This is so much fun.

  5. Very cool, guys!

    The only one I haven't seen is the Doc winner. Haven't seen No Man's Land in quite a while, but I remember it being a heavy favorite at the time, despite Amelie's other nominations outside of the "ghetto" (same with Monsters, Inc.). I remember liking it but LOVING Amelie. But yeah, Oscar likes IMPORTANT films, especially in Best Foreign Film, so that probably had something to do with it.

    That also probably had something to do with the Best Picture win that year, which is one of my least favorites since I've been alive. Literally EVERY SINGLE OTHER NOMINEE is better than A Beautiful Mind. Crowe is really, really good, as is Connelly, but for me their relationship never feels real. It is pretty and romantic and "epic", but feels very "Hollywood" - it doesn't feel lived in. It's stately and manicured, much like the film as a whole. I also find that the film peaks early (game theory and the blonde in the bar), whitewashes Nash's personality and life (perhaps to focus on the mental illness, which, okay, but I did not find that as compelling as the filmmakers did, although it's handled well), and features some of the worst makeup jobs in a Best Picture winner. It's not that I HATE the film, or think it's AWFUL, just that I find it merely fine: Purely middle of the road, handsomely mounted, finely acted, unexciting, Hollywood product.

    If Shrek (enjoyable but hasn't aged well because much of its comedy is rooted in pop culture) is a B, and No Man's Land a B+, A Beautiful Mind is probably around a B- for me.

    1. Yeah, it's pretty common for the 'important' film to win out over the consensus, but this always felt odd to me because AMPAS clearly loved Amelie.

      Your reaction to A Beautiful Mind is one I hear a lot. I kind of loved the old Hollywood feel to it, but I always felt that it came from an honest place. Sure, it didn't get into every aspect of Nash's life, but if there wasn't some kind of focus the film could have been really messy. I remember reading an interview with Crowe where he said he felt like the film dropped the ball by not exploring Nash's bi-sexuality. I think that could have added another layer to the film, but I also feel like, at that time, with that director and that target...it could have been botched and it may have hurt the film (and the story).

  6. Really cool, I loved reading this! :)

    1. Awesome, hope you stop by for each entry!

  7. This is a wonderful idea, wish I had seen more of the films. The only one I've seen fully is A Beautiful Mind, I've seen bits and pieces of Shrek (ugh), and while it was a good movie I've only watched the once and it wouldn't have been my choice for the win this year. I thought In the Bedroom and Gosford Park (my choice for the win) were better.

    Crowe was great, he a tremendous talent anyway, but he shot himself in the foot as far as his losing the award. Although I thought there was better work out there this year then the nominated performances except for Tom Wilkinson, who would be my preferred winner from the field. The unnominated Anthony LaPaglia would be my choice for his work in Lantana in a perfect world. The loss that really burns from this year is Sissy Spacek's superior performance to the ordinary work from Halle Berry.

    I thought Jennifer Connelly was very good as Nash's wife though her part as supportive wife didn't really give her much to work with, Marisa Tomei would have been my choice followed by Helen Mirren.

    Are you going to go numerically through the years or will you be jumping about?

    1. We'll be doing these numerically, so next Tuesday will be 2002.

      I agree that A Beautiful Mind was not the best of the nominated 5, but it was a very strong 5 all the way around, so while A Beautiful Mind was clearly the safest of the nominees, it was a worthy winner, IMHO. I'd still place it above LOTR, but I'm just not a fan of that trilogy (more on that in 2 weeks).

      Crowe and Connelly were great, but in my opinion both Wilkinson and Tomei should have won Oscars instead.

  8. I have not seen the documentary but from what you have all written I am thinking that maybe it was "new" for its time. The documentary style we see now on all these types of shows about murder may have borrowed it from this film. The foreign film-I only know Amelie but any film that has humour, feel good etc... is doomed. Any war film is gold especially if it is all about the harshness and cruelty blah blah. I love Shrek! If you watch the old Bugs Bunny cartoons they also have humour from the day that many will not get but it is still entertaining. I love the Grimm Fairy tales and know about them so this just enhances the film even more. The one scene I love -evil of me-is when the little fart is talking and you see that mamma bear is now a rug in front of the fireplace. I give this a solid A. A beautiful Mind I had no idea people hate it so and find it one of the worst Oscar winners. I found everything about it excellent. Crowe deserved an Oscar since his personal stuff should have no bearing on his performance. I think Crowe is one of the best actors period! I would have given the Oscar to LOTR since it is superior in so many ways. I would not give anything to In Boredom (sorry Drew). So I give this best Picture another solid A (LOTR gets an A+)

    1. LOL, poor fun films with charm and character being DOOMED!

      Yeah, A Beautiful Mind working against it that it was in a field filled with diverse un-Oscary films that have passionate fanbases, especially LOTR and Gosford Park. If it had won in a different year (like 2002 maybe) I don't think it would be as hated.

      But, I didn't care for LOTR, so what do I know :-P

    2. Thanks for the Shrek love, Birgit!!!

  9. Great work, man! Again, I'm loving this! So glad to be a part of such a knowledgable group of bloggers.

    1. It really is great to be able to have in-depth conversations with people who have a real opinion and express it so well. You guys are all awesome.

  10. A Beautiful Mind is shit. It is a terrible and overrated film. How in the hell could something so boring beat something as great as Mulholland Dr., Amelie, Gosford Park, and Moulin Rouge!? Not to mention that it written by the asshole who nearly killed the Batman franchise with such stupid lines like "Hi Freeze, I'm Batman".

    1. I don't know...I'd almost argue that A Beautiful Mind is underrated, since everyone fucking hates it now :-P

      And all four films that you mentioned are better films, but that doesn't mean that A Beautiful Mind is a bad film.

  11. Feels a bit disappointing, this year, and none of those are favourites of mine. But your comments make them so much more bearable!

    1. Overall, I think it's solid...but safe. But I'm glad our comments were at least enjoyable! Hope you come back next week when we dish on 2002's Best Picture wins!

  12. Great idea! I'm glad you found a new way to work in these Oscar panels because they are so entertaining. I have only seen Shrek so far out of these movies and I'd probably give it a B (I'll have to watch A Beautiful Mind sooner or later). Also, I've wanted to check out Murder on a Sunday morning since watching The Staircase and this made me push it to the top of my Netflix queue.

    1. I'm glad that enjoyed this! Hope you get a chance to check out the other films here...well, not No Man's Land :-P

  13. OMG!!! This is amazing! :D

    A Beautiful Mind and Shrek both feel dated. While one is pure (albeit well-made) Oscar bait and the other is clever and charming, they pale in comparison to winners from other years. Still, I have no real problem with ABM's Best Picture win. There have been much worse winners. I'd also give Wilkinson the win, but Crowe should've won. (That said, I do kinda love Washington's win, even if does deprive Crowe of Oscar #2.) I've always preferred Shrek over Monsters, Inc., though I like both films. Probably a B+ for both ABM and Shrek.

    I haven't seen No Man's Land or Murder on a Sunday Morning, but at some point I'd like to see EVERY winner from those two categories.


    1. YAY! Yeah, I didn't really say this, but I'm also Team Shrek in that race. I like both, don't really love either, but Shrek is far more memorable for me (good and bad ways).

      Crowe not being a two-time Oscar winner basically makes me hate Denzel Washington, and I know that's unfair but...there's bad blood between us since 2001.

  14. I like the format of this roundtable -- nicely done!

    Of these movies, I've only seen Shrek and A Beautiful Mind. I've seen Shrek an embarrassing number of times, and I like it a lot. Fun take on the whole fractured fairy tale concept. I am not a fan of A Beautiful Mind, but I'll concede that it was well made. I added Murder on a Monday Morning to my Netflix queue, since you all piqued my curiosity.

    Great post! I'd like to participate in one of your blogger panels one of these days.

    1. I have you down for the next one!

      Glad you're enjoying this. Next week's in a lot of fun :-D

  15. I've only seen Shrek and A Beautiful Mind. I LOVE Shrek. It is perhaps one of my favorite movies. A Beautiful Mind, on the other hand, not so much. I did think the acting was good, but I thought the pacing was slow and its sentimentality was too ham-fisted. I don't think it should've beaten Lord of the Rings or even In The Bedroom, but worse crimes have been committed imo (*cough* The King's Speech *cough*).

    1. Oh, that King's Speech discussion is going to be interesting.

    2. Yeah, it's going to be fun.