Tuesday, May 12, 2015

4 Ways a Best Picture Bloggers Roundtable: 2002

So, last week a few bloggers joined me for a pretty extensive blogging project entitled 4 Ways a Best Picture, where we take the Oscar winning 'Picture' films (Animated/Documentary/Foreign/Best) from the year 2001 (when the Animated film category was created) on through 2014.  We tackled 2001 last week, so if you missed that discussion, check it out here.

For this week we discussed the Oscar year that was 2002.  If you thought last week was a fun discussion, just you wait.  Between the controversy that was Bowling for Columbine to one bloggers scathing thoughts on Spirited Away to a certain blogger telling the rest of us to...um...bend over and take it...this was such an awesome discussion.

So let's get on with it!

First, our panel:

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

Drew:  LOL, my notes literally say, “kick in the balls”…I wasn’t expecting this, to be honest.

Britt:  This doc was absolutely fascinating to me.  When I saw it the first time years ago, I was expecting it to be more about Columbine itself so I ended up a bit disappointed in that sense, but it really does pack a punch when it comes to gun culture.  That rally held in Littleton right after this happened was so wildly offensive.  I can’t believe that happened.  I’m glad I chose to revisit this one instead of just going by memory.

Wendell:  I was also a bit disappointed by the lack of Columbine related content, but otherwise it’s fantastic.

Drew:  This was a first time watch for me.  I’m with you on being confused with the lack of Columbine talk…but this went so much deeper.  I think it was inspired of Columbine but Moore didn’t want to make it too specific.  Columbine raised awareness but I think Moore did a great job of showing that this was not an isolated incident.

Wendell:  Moore did a superb job of showing that this was not an isolated incident, and the stats on gun related deaths in the US compared to other ‘First World’ nations was eye-opening.

Kevin:  I’ve seen this movie a half dozen times and it always works on so many levels.  It’s a documentary, sure.  It’s also a dark comedy, a satire and even a thriller (think, the Columbine scene).  Those parents calling the school.  Oh My God! 

Drew:  Speaking of satire, the whole Brief History of the USA was brilliant.  Al Gore should have watched this before attempting animation in his power point presentation.  Also, Charlton Heston proved he’s not just a wooden actor but also a shitty person.  Like, he’s just all around an overrated individual.  Either that, or he’s truly THAT ignorant…

Kevin:  I almost feel it was wrong for Moore to go pick on Heston like that though.  You’re not gonna get a man like that to turn over.  I can’t believe his people even let him do the interview.

Drew:  Eh, in my eyes there is no excuse for being an ignorant dick.  I don’t care how old or how respected you are.  I know a lot of people feel Heston was ambushed, but honestly, if you can’t explain what you feel and defend it then…GET IN YOUR CORNER!

Kevin:  I don’t respect him at all.  But he’s a puppet and Moore knows that.  Heston just went where they told him to.  I hear you.  He sure didn’t have any points to make, because there fucking aren’t any!!!

Wendell:  The Brief History of the USA was perfect.  Moore absolutely ambushed Heston, but I’m pretty sure there was no other way to get to ask the questions he did.  Heston is fully entitled to his beliefs, but common human decency should have prevailed and the NRA should’ve delayed their rally, at least.  Why couldn’t that happen is the question I wanted answered.

Drew:  One thing that struck me strongly with regards to the rallies was the fact that Heston kept claiming that he had no knowledge of the shootings in those specific areas that happened, like, a week prior.  Someone did, if he didn’t (which I’m skeptical of) and so the rallies felt of clear agenda, which made me seethe with anger, to be honest.  Capitalizing on the death of children (anyone, really, but CHILDREN) in order to incite protest and ‘human rights activism’ is sickening.

Wendell:  Yeah, his not having knowledge of these events felt like a bold faced lie.  Even if he wasn’t initially aware, it should’ve clicked when people were directly calling out his organization and him for going them before he took the stage.

Drew:  YES!!!  I honestly feel like we could talk about this specific film for the whole 15 weeks of this project.  So many moments here really rocked me.  The interviews with the released bomber brother…K-Mart…Marilyn Manson schooling EVERYBODY!

Kevin:  Dude!  Nothing gets me more than ‘What a Wonderful World’ on the soundtrack while Moore breaks down all the times our government gave money and weapons to Iran and Afghanistan, culminating with the towers falling.  Goodness!  I choke up every time.  Chills, I tell ya!

Britt:  I loved the Marilyn Manson bit to be honest, and I don’t feel bad for Heston at all, ambushed or not.  K-Mart coming out and saying they were pulling bullets off the shelf was pretty bold.  That surprised me.  I kind of felt bad for that lady who had to play messenger though.  It’s so awkward when higher ups make a pion handle that stuff.

Kevin:  I always felt bad for that Kmart lady too, Britt.  Corporate scum, her bosses are.

Britt:  I always go back to Manson’s line, “I wouldn’t say a single thing, I would listen to what they had to say, because no one did.”

Drew:  UGH!  He’s so right, too!  That’s why I say this doc is so much deeper, because it hits so many truths and raises so much awareness and never trips over itself.  And Kevin, I love that you admit to crying so much.  Like…I feel like that’s all I do!

Kevin:  I know man.  I’m a little baby…or a big baby, depending on how you look at it.

Drew:  Dude, I’m the same way.  My wife is visibly embarrassed when we see movies together.  LOL.  I actually LOL’d when Moore got a free gun from the bank, cuz, I live in Texas and I swear this sounds so much like the town I used to live in…

Kevin:  In my hometown of Knoxville, TN, a car dealer did a thing about 15 years ago called ‘2nd Amendment Saturday’…Buy a used car, get a voucher for a free rifle.  It made The Today Show.

Wendell:  Wow.  Similar to that bank.  Smh.

Drew:  That’s America for you.

Wendell:  Unfortunately.  What makes this stand out from the crowd of docs we watched is that while it is journalistic, its approach is very artistic.  The storytelling flair on display is light years ahead of the Best Doc winner of just one year prior.  I loved Murder on a Sunday Morning for the light it shed on its story, but that was a news report while Bowling for Columbine is a much more regular movie.  By regular I mean it takes time to develop its overriding theme as well as a few subplots.  There is attention paid to the character development, or at least fleshing out each person’s heroism or villainy.  It’s easier to be absorbed by this doc that any other we watched.

Jeffery:  The use of footage and editing in this doc is incredible.  Also, Moore’s dry use of humor.  I forgot how compelling the movie is.

Drew:  Yeah, I know we’ll talk more about this in a few weeks, and I kind of already hinted towards this, but Al Gore should have paid attention.  Both this and Gore’s doc cover VERY relevant and important things that effect everyone that we often ignore, and yet THIS makes an impact.  I also feel that this film feels very much ‘at home’ to the viewer.  I felt like he was talking to me, showing me things I was familiar with (faces, places, stories) and making them move me in a very honest way.  I’m not sure I’m wording it right, but I hope you get what I mean.  It felt ‘real’…’relatable’…it felt American.

Wendell:  Yes!  He did a great job bringing the viewing into the movie.  Relatable is good.  Works for me.  American is interesting.  Could the American feel be attributed to the almost tongue-in-cheek approach?

Drew:  When I say American, I guess that’s more the ‘relatable’ aspect.  It just all felt very easy to digest, even when everything was so hard to watch.  It felt developed with Americans in mind, obviously given the subject, and so it felt very, I don’t know, palatable.

Wendell:  Great point.  It definitely felt like one of our own lovingly scolding us and trying to put us on a better path rather than an outsider shining a light on us to point out every blemish and wave a finger at us.

Drew:  Exactly.  I almost said it felt like a loved one pleading with us to fix our wayward path.

Wendell:  Great minds…

Britt:  I think this might be the strongest of all the docs I’ve watched for this project.  There’s some great ones to come, but this is excellent.  Also, that ‘get a free gun’ thing at the bank, then at the car dealership that Kevin pointed out, is so insane to me.  Like, people should give out free ice cream cone cards at Dairy Queen, not guns!  LOL!

Wendell:  I’d be all for free ice cream!  Hell, I’d even take a free Planet of the Apes box set just to appease Mr. Heston.

Kevin:  I was on my High School newspaper staff at the time and we ran the headline: ‘You sell a guy a lemon, he’s coming back with a gun.’  I’d much rather have ice cream as well.

Drew:  BAHAHA!  You know, I’m going to accuse AMPAS of tending to vote all ‘important message’ with these docs (like, some are just fun), but this is a message we NEEDED to hear.

Jeffery:  Time has been kind to it, which is kind of unfortunate because its subject matter remains so pressing.  Going back to these movies is making me remember what life was like when I first saw some of them in the theaters.  It’s interesting to think of the changing times in the context of these movies.

Wendell:  Regarding this movie’s subject matter, I’m not sure times have changed all that much.

Jeffery:  Yeah, which is sad.  Like Brittani, I’m glad I revisited this one too.

Kevin:  I’m in general agreement with all of you.  This is the most entertaining doc I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen plenty of good ones.  It sheds a lot of light on an issue I see as still very relevant if not even more so now.  Think about the stuff about the ‘fear of the black man’, the segment where he goes to South Central.  Police are still using excessive force most often against minorities.  What makes Bowling for Columbine so great is that it covers an entire experience of violence in America.  And Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech WAS THE SHIT!!!  He invited all the other nominees on stage to accept the award with him, threw down on W like crazy and called the War in Iraq ‘fictitious’, and that was mere weeks after we invaded Iraq for the first time in ’03.

Drew:  Another point I think should be addressed is that, while many have used this to discredit Moore, the fact that he’s a member of the NRA and owns guns himself is so crucial to his message because he’s not condemning owning guns…he just sees the need for caution!  He believes in our ‘rights’ but also sees the need for common sense and a degree of control.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should…which is something Charlton Heston clearly needs to learn.  His “because I can” comment slayed me.

Jeffery:  Good points Andrew.

Kevin:  Excellent points, Drew, as far as Moore truly desiring, even though he does rub people the wrong way and isn’t afraid to show bias, to draw out some common sense and understanding as far as smart gun control is concerned among other things.

Jeffery:  This is an A- for me.

Wendell:  I’m giving this a straight A.

Drew:  A+.  Boom!

Kevin:  A all the way.

Britt:  A from me.


Drew:  So…now we talk about Nowhere in Africa.  I don’t know about y’all, but to me the foreign winner was, yet again, the year’s weak link.

Britt:  I’m not sure this year has a ‘weak link’ (for me anyways).  They are all very strong.  I loved this film.  It was so touching.  I thought it was fascinating.  I started off not caring for either of the parents, but grew to like them better throughout.  And I had the ugliest cry face when Owuor left. 

Kevin:  This year does have a ‘weak link’ (for me)…this isn’t it.

Wendell:  Thought this one was pretty good.  It’s certainly a visually striking piece of cinema.  The mother’s story is also a very interesting one.  That said, I didn’t love it.  The pace was just too slow to sufficiently pull me in.  While I could see the artistry on display, it lacked sizzle.

Jeffery:  I found the story to be interesting.  The actors were very natural.  The film was a bit shapeless, but probably because it was based upon a memoir.  This is totally in the Oscar’s wheelhouse, easy to see why it won.  It’s cool that it was directed by a woman.  I found Jettel’s transformation engaging to watch.

Drew:  Shapeless.  That is a great way to describe the film.  I like it enough, like it was pleasant and ‘nice’, but it just kind of laid there.  I quickly forgot all about it the minute I ejected the disc.

Jeffery:  For some reason it didn’t have much staying power with me either.

Kevin:  I honestly sort of felt the same way when I hit eject.  It ran long and played slow and I was a little glad to be done with it.  What saves it is the incredible visual achievement.

Wendell:  Really like the term shapeless.  It doesn’t quite come together the way it needs to.  The acting here is excellent across the board, helps keep the movie afloat, along with those visuals.

Britt:  Shape this! 

Drew:  LOL, and dare I bring up the whole ‘Jews/Nazi/OMG MESSAGE’ aspect of the film.  I almost wonder if this benefited from the sudden surge of support for The Pianist leading up to the Oscar ceremony.  Talk to Her was, strangely, passed over by Spain back in 2002 in favor of Mondays in the Sun (who’s heard of that?) so it wasn’t eligible for Foreign Film Oscar (which it probably would have won in a walk), so I wonder if having such a strong frontrunner OUT of the race left this win kind of open for a film like this to sweep in with passion building for another (much better) film competing in Best Picture.

Kevin:  I didn’t realize that Talk to Her was left out.  Major mistake (#AlmodovarForever).  I found this film astonishingly beautiful in its cinematography.  That was my favorite thing about it.  Director Caroline Link (“You Go, Girl!”) really killed it, as did her DP.  As for the lack of ‘shape’ (I like that as well, Jeffery), I felt the same.  I really only engaged with this as a narrative part of the time.  The performances were really great.  I LOVE the arc of Jettel (the mother), and that actress is just perfect…and beautiful.  Unlike Britt though (and unusually enough for me), I didn’t cry at this one.  I think I choked up a little at the same scene she’s referring to though.

Drew:  Honestly, I would have killed for some ugly cry face reaction, personally.

Kevin:  Me too, man.  I think it could’ve happened with some ‘shaping’ in the editing phase.

Britt:  I really loved it and it’s now very high in my favorite German language films list as well.

Jeffery:  Oh, wow Britt.  What else did you like so much about it?

Britt:  I suppose I’m a little bias because it’s a German film and my parents are from Germany.  I liked that it felt so different from other WWII films.  The cinematography in Africa was gorgeous and I just loved the relationship between Regina and Owuor specifically.  It was so sweet. 

Kevin:  I totally agree.  This movie shed light on something I was never even remotely aware of, German Jews escaping the Nazis in Africa.  Beautifully shot, beautifully made; period.  I wish it had held my interest the whole time.  I just really dazed out at times.

Britt:  I also don’t really feel it was the ‘safe’ choice winner.  The Pianist being popular too should’ve hurt its chances a bit.  Until I watched this, Hero was the one I recognized right away.  Wasn’t that the safe/most popular choice that year?

Drew:  I do believe that Hero was considered a slight frontrunner, but this feels far more in Oscar’s wheelhouse.  I get the beauty aspect, and like I said, the film was pleasant.  It has a languid flow that feels very comfortable.  The film is effortless.  Sadly though, for me, that ease made the film entirely forgettable.  I kept thinking, what if Claire Denis has directed this?  Like, I wanted some bite.  I wanted something to grab me and shake me and make me take note.  But I love that Brittani finds a personal connection here.  For me, that is what film is all about and that is why film affects everyone differently.

Wendell:  Granted, it’s a different take on things with our heroes escaping to Africa, but it’s a movie that feels very much like Oscar material.  Seems to offer more proof that members of the Academy are just suckers for WWII/Holocaust related movies.  Hero is the only other nominee I’ve seen and I love that one.  Admittedly, I love martial arts epics, but Hero is amazing on so many levels.  I would have chosen that one over this movie in a heartbeat.  Truthfully, the movie we’re talking about next could have beaten this out had it been nominated.

Jeffery:  B for me.  I think.

Britt:  A for me.

Kevin:  I’m going B+.

Drew:  I’m at a C+

Wendell:  C+ also.

FINAL SCORE:  66/100

Drew:  Let’s talk Spirited Away!

Wendell:  Cool.  I’ve seen a couple of Miyazaki films and this is my favorite.  The visuals are just flat out amazing and the story is so engaging.  It can be a little hard to follow at times, but that adds to its charm – gives us the sense of figuring things out with our little heroine.  All the different creatures she encounters are all amazing.  Miyazaki manages to give them all fully formed personalities and motivations.  The opening perfectly sets us up for what’s sure to be a wild ride.  I would think it was too wild for the Academy to be honest.  It still surprises me this won over the much safer, and less weird, Ice Age.  But, it was a good call.  Have to say, I love the irony of the DVD, at least the one I’ve seen several times, being distributed by Disney.  This is about as Un-Disney as it gets.

Drew:  Yes, this is so un-Disney!  I also love that this is as much a story about a child’s journey through life as it is a social commentary on Japanese prostitution.  There are all these subtle (and not so subtle) details that make this a real weighty piece despite its light appearance.  That being said, this isn’t my favorite Miyazaki…

Wendell:  I easily picked up on the journey through life…missed the prostitution angle, or chose to miss it after a certain documentary we watched.  What’s your fave Miyazaki?

Drew:  My Neighbor Totoro, without question!  There are a few fascinating articles where Miyazaki spoke in length about this story’s exploration of prostitution.  Takes the film to another level, honestly.

Wendell:  That certainly adds some layers to it.

Britt:  I’m excited to talk about this one because I LOVED it.  Easily the biggest surprise out of all the new films I watched.  When I was looking over the list of winners at the beginning of all this, I mixed this one up with Spirit and was like, “Damn, I have to watch that stupid horse movie.”  I was so happy to be wrong there.  Like you guys said, it’s very un-Disney, but still teaches some good lessons and the animation is spot on.  I can’t rave about this enough.

Kevin:  Here comes the buzzkill:  I HATED THIS MOVIE!!!  Hated it.  It is gross, scary and incomprehensible.  I am astounded at the level of love for this movie.  Please don’t take this hard, everyone.  I know I’m in a very small minority.

Drew:  THIS IS YOUR WEAK SPOT!!!  I had a feeling.

Kevin:  I recently took a ‘How Many Movies from IMDb Top 250 Have You Seen?’ survey on Facebook.  This movie is number 36!  WTF!!!?

Drew:  I should say, I don’t LOVE this…I liked it, quite a bit, but I also think it’s pretty flawed, and the overwhelming placement at the top of the Miyazaki heap is just weird to me, especially when he has stronger and more coherent work. 

Britt:  Well, Yubaba WAS pretty scary.  That’s another thing I liked about it though.  It didn’t shy away from that freaky imagery.

Drew:  I didn’t find it gross of scary, but, and I think Wendell touched upon this already, it’s hard to follow at times.  I found it almost too cluttered.

Kevin:  Sorry, it’s better than 36.  That is Hitchcock’s Psycho.  No, according to the populous, this movie is better than Psycho at #34.  It is a disgusting movie.  It tortures a little girl for way too long at over two hours.  Oh, the early scene where her parents eat themselves into pigs.  I almost turned it off.  How messy and ugly!  Then I just lost track of the story all together.  I had no idea what was going on as the creatures and situations just got sloppier and sloppier.  Granted, there are a few scenes of real beauty, especially dealing with water.  The ocean shots are beautifully drawn.  I also applaud Miyazaki for using old school animation techniques when digital was already in full swing, but it wasn’t near enough.

Drew:  OMG!!!  I love this!

Britt:  Chihiro’s parents sucked.  They deserved to get turned into pigs.  LOL!  They’re lucky their daughter was so determined to save them instead of just bailing.

Kevin:  Why!?!  Because they made her move to a new town?  How unfair to the audience to make parents bad for making difficult decisions like moving.

Britt:  no, for eating all that food at a place when clearly no one was there.

Kevin:  Little Chihiro was not without bravery and determination, I’ll give her that.  I just felt so uncomfortable watching this thing.

Britt:  I definitely get that, though she did have people looking out for her and helping her.

Kevin:  I guess I just don’t get the message.  It was disgusting that the parents did that and I still don’t get the point of it.

Wendell:  I don’t think the movie itself was trying to say her parents were bad people for moving, but to tell its story completely through the eyes of a little girl.  At that age, kids might think their parents are evil for making them move away from their friends and the life they know.  The family appears to be pretty well off, so moving for something presumably better, to a child, might seem gluttonous…or piggish.

Britt:  It was just a fantasy, thought I think the director wanted to make a statement about the problems with prostitution.

Kevin:  Yeah, I didn’t grasp that either.  I think I had difficulty cutting through all the visual overload most of which was not enjoyable for me to look at.  This is a case where animation distracted me from thematic appreciation.  I couldn’t wait for it to end.  I wouldn’t allow myself to eject the disc.  I powered through.  And, yes, it is cluttered.  Way too cluttered, Drew.  I couldn’t cut through any of it.  I get the fantasy aspect, Britt.  That’s always gonna be hard for me.  I’m so much of a realist.  I like to identify with character grounded in some sort of shared experience.  Nothing of that here, for me anyway.

Wendell:  Woah.  Kevin went hard!

Britt:  Man, I’d almost love to see a sequel or something to this just to see what Chihiro is up to nowadays.

Drew:  I have to admit that my appreciation for this film came AFTER watching it and reading the interviews with Miyazaki.  While I didn’t find it as off-putting as Kevin, I didn’t really care much about it, to be honest.  I was turned off wholly by the clutter and found it rather pointless and confusing, but after reading how this points to the prostitution issues (even child prostitution) in Japan, I grew to appreciate what Miyazaki did here.  Obviously this speaks stronger to those in cultural Japan, since they see those details and it affects them more, considering that they live it (or have lived it or know someone who has) but I think understanding its cultural and societal statement helps put into our mind what this film was trying to accomplish.  I still don’t love it, and I still find it messy, but I like it much more than I did when I first saw it.

Britt:  I kind of wondered while watching it if he was making a statement about prostitution.  So reading that it was his goal was kind of cool.  Also my kid watched this with me…the same one that got up and left during My Neighbor Totoro because he could not handle the cat bus.

Drew:  Um, the cat bus is effing amazing.

Britt:  I thought so too.  He wanted none of that.  The whole film is on Youtube.  That’s where I watched it.

Kevin:  Maybe I should give another try it one day after having read some literature on the film.  I just skimmed enough to know that it was more highly praised that just about any other animated movie. Maybe that hurt it for me too, that everyone loves it and I just couldn’t connect to it at all.  I’ve always heard good things about Totoro.  But I don’t know…

Wendell:  Without knowing anything about the whole prostitution deal, I read it as a young girl trying to deal with being a new place.  The fact that it is ‘messy’ really helps convey the idea that she is trying to put it all together as she goes.  Haven’t seen Totoro.  Feeling a need to, now.

Drew:  Totoro, next to Beauty and the Beast, is the greatest animated film I’ve ever seen.

Wendell:  Strong words.  Now I really have to see it.

Kevin:  I totally hear you, Dell.  The messiness just got in the way for me, way too much in the way.

Jeffery:  The movie was very eerie and disturbing.  Some incredible visuals and a strong score.  Lots of creativity on display.  Reminded me a little bit of Alice in Wonderland.  I watched both the dubbed version and the original.  The dubbed version wasn’t too bad as far as dubbed films go, but I much preferred the original voices.

Kevin:  If only this were filled with wit and humor and other such wordplay…I loved Alice in Wonderland.  This has the structure, but not the fun.

Wendell:  I’ve only seen the dubbed version.  Curious to see it with original voices.  Alice and Wonderland is a very apt comparison.

Drew:  I’m at a B+ here.

Jeffery:  I give this a B+

Britt:  I’m at an A+.  Looooooooooooooove this!

Kevin:  I’m going D, and this is being nice.  The only reason it’s not an F is because I appreciate the craft and hard work it took to hand draw this hot mess.

Wendell:  The different in opinions here is great.  I’m going with a solid A.

Britt:  This is quite the variety.  I love it.

Drew:  I love Kevin straight up calling this beloved Miyazaki classic a ‘hot mess’!

Britt:  It does make me feel a little better about some trashing I will do later on.  LOL!

Kevin:  Someone had to be the first.  And I don’t feel bad about it at all.  This isn’t the only one I’m trashing either, Britt.

Wendell:  Love that you’re firmly against it and not afraid to say it.  Like Britt said, makes me feel better about when I’ll be in that position.

Kevin:  Oh hell no.  Won’t bow.  Don’t know how.

Wendell:  Ha!  Love it.


Drew:  Are you guys ready for…All That Jazz!

Kevin:  So sexy!  Some parts of it work better than others for me.  I never fully fell in love with the whole thing.  I’ll start with this: the ‘Cell Block Tango’ sequence is my favorite musical number in any movie musical.  It is so perfectly performed, shot and edited.  It’s fun.  It’s catchy.  It’s sexy as hell!  I love it. 

Wendell:  Of all the movies we watched in this category, Chicago is my only first-timer.  I knew it was a musical and that it starred Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah and Richard Gere.  Really, that’s about it.  Honestly, I was ready to hate this movie.  Thankfully, I didn’t hate it at all.  Especially as of late, most musicals have serious issue with the plot…as in actually having one worth a damn.  This one had a pretty solid one and weaved it seamlessly into the musical numbers.

Britt:  I love musicals, and I had a really good time with this despite not typically liking the lead actors in this at all.

Kevin:  Yeah.  Apart of John C. Reilly, I don’t LOVE any of the actors in this movie.  I’m not a fan of Queen Latifah at all as an actress, and I really don’t like her ‘Be Good to Mama’ number.

Drew:  Um, Catherine Zeta-Jones forever!

Wendell:  Easily the best work I’ve seen from Catherine Zeta-Jones.  She was really good in the plot department of Rock of Ages, but her song was atrocious with a mannequin-esque mimicry of Michael Jackson movies.  Remember that, I was fearing the worst from her, but she was really good here.

Jeffery:  CZJ is so fierce in this.  Her win was deserved.

Kevin:  Zeta-Jones is so hot!  Zellweger…I don’t know…I’ve always been lukewarm on her.  My mom loves her, though.  Chicago is an odd BP winner, isn’t it?  I mean, musicals hardly ever win, right?  I would’ve voted for pretty much any of the other nominees over this.  It’s not without its merits.  It is great to look at, perfectly shot, nicely polished.  It’s no surprise this movie won for Film Editing.  There are some genius match cuts in this movie.  I love how it weaves in and out of sets and stages.  So cool.  I just really got bored with it at times.  The songs aren’t all good, so I zone out on the ones I don’t like and lose track.

Britt:  Yeah, they don’t win typically, but this film was a powerhouse.  It had a bunch of noms.  I really loved Reilly and Latifah getting in for Supporting too.  They were my favorites.

Drew:  Yeah, Chicago was like the return of the musical, which had its heyday in the 50’s and 60’s and then became a dying art.  Moulin Rouge! kind of brought them back, but Marshall’s conventional telling was more palatable for Oscar voters.  And, like, 2002 was such a weak ballot overall that I’m kind of stoked it won.

Britt:  I wanted Gangs of New York to win at the time, but I wasn’t angry about this.  This is worthy.

Jeffery:  The Hours is one of my all-time favorite movies, but I was OK with this win.  The movie has aged well I think.  I love to have it on in the background sometimes while I’m cleaning.  I agree certain set pieces are better than the whole.  Love ‘And They Both Reached For the Gun’ number.  Also the finale is a knockout.  Looked so great on the big screen when it came out.

Wendell:  My favorite numbers were early in the movie, Zellweger’s first number and ‘He Had it Coming’.  Spotted R&B singer Mya doing the last verse of the latter.  Oh yeah, ‘They Both Reached for the Gun’ is excellent, too.  John C. Reilly doing jazzy tunes…lol.  The only thing musical I ever associated Reilly with is Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.  When he started in on his song, I was just about done…I mean, hilarity ensues…I seriously had to take a knee at that point…needed a moment.  Love Queen Latifah.  Charisma for days.  Too bad she wasted a lot of it on crappy movies.  This is a good one, though.

Drew:  ‘Mr. Cellophane’ is my favorite moment in the film!  His voice is incredible, but he’s done Broadway many times, so…

Wendell:  Sorry, I just couldn’t.  I’ve seen him act like a nincompoop too many times, I guess.

Drew:  UGH, before Will Ferrell got ahold of him, he was a far more serious character actor.  LOVE HIM!

Wendell:  You’re right, but the memory of his comedic stuff looms large over his entire career now.  Loved him in We Need to Talk About Kevin, though.

Britt:  John C. Reilly is the best.  Don’t put your ball on his drum set.  That’s all.

Wendell:  Exactly.

Kevin:  In 2002 I was 18.  This movie was not for me, and I was bitter when it won.  I was definitely for Gangs of New York.  I personally still like it and The Pianist better.  It’s so great the Academy gave Polanski the Director Oscar.

Jeffery:  Polanski was a great, surprising win that night!

Drew:  For me, Chicago is the one time that Marshall got the overall ‘stage to screen’ musical correct.  He’s tried, like, twice since then to recreate his own Oscar success (he’s probably still shocked and deeply depressed he lost that Directing Oscar) but he’s failed both times.  He doesn’t get every aspect right here, but he understand the dynamics of this musical more than he did his other two ventures and it shows.  The way ever number is framed is so stunning to watch.  So many balk at the staging here, but I think it adds so much to the film.  The whole film hinges on this phrase “all that jazz” and the way that every set literally glistens with the flash of lights really sell that theme.  I love musical though.  Like, I LOVE them.  I also LOVE the music here and the way that the majority of the cast sells it.  I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing this on the stage, and I have to say, what Marshall captured is the very spirit of this production. 

Jeffery:  I agree that Marshall displays a lot of great craftsmanship.  Must have been a tricky movie to pull off.

Drew:  Yeah, and to think that this was Marshall’s FIRST theatrical feature film.  Before this was only…a TV version of Annie.  He showed great potential that he, unfortunately, squandered in repeat variations of the superior work and…a Pirates sequel!  Really, the films only flaw, for me, is Richard Gere.  Unfortunately he’s a massive flaw.  Like, gross.  Zellweger’s lack of vocal ability is pitch perfect with the character she is playing, and she sells that character so bravo to her…BUT, there is no reason that Billy Flynn should have sounded so tone deaf.  AND, if they were going for sleezy charm, the completely dropped that ball, since he sells neither.  I would have preferred Pierce Brosnan.

Britt:  Gere is always a massive flaw, LOL!

Wendell:  I thought the stars all gave wonderful performances…even Richard Gere.

Drew:  I kind of love that Bill Condon, who like has the same reputation as Marshall, penned this film because I always get the two of them confused.

Jeffery:  What other films have people loved from this year?  I thought Far From Heaven was so striking when it came out.

Drew:  Far From Heaven is my favorite of the year.  Late Marriage, Y Tu Mama Tambien, 25th Hour, Adaptation, Talk to Her, The Piano Teacher, Heaven…I kind of find Oscar’s ballot so bland.  It’s all so…dark and murky.  Chicago was like the only light in that lineup, so I’m glad it won.  I loathe The Hours…like…more me to an early grave loathe it.  Two Towers is pretty much 3 hours of charging armies that resemble a swarm of ants climbing all over each other.  Gangs of New York is a handsomely mounted drain of a film that feels like bottom tier Scorsese to me.  The Pianist is really well done and I really like it, but it’s also very technical in retrospect and kind of cold…so matter of fact.  So, for me, Chicago was like this beacon of inspiration in an otherwise tepid and dull group of films.

Britt:  It definitely was the least depressing.  I guess the Academy needed a pick me up.

Drew:  For years I just thought that 2002 was a shitty year for film based on the BP nominees that year…like…you couldn’t do better than this?  But once I started to dig around, I’m shocked at how full of greatness it really is.

Kevin:  25th Hour is the best movie of 2002 for me.  Y Tu Mama Tambien!!!  Oscar misses so much!  This may be a plus for the more than 5 BP nominees.

Drew:  Like, Adaptation, About Schmidt and Talk to Her were obviously on Oscar’s radar…and they were snubbed…and all three were better than all five of the nominees.  Most likely they would have made it in an expanded field…maybe even Far From Heaven.  UGH, what could have been.

Kevin:  Agreed.  I really wish I had more to say about Chicago.  I agree that is a top notch musical and that Marshall did a great job adapting this for the screen.  It’s really cool to look at.  It’s just a movie I may go another 13 years without watching again, maybe more.

Wendell:  I like the movie, it really works for the most part, but it’s far far from being one of the best movies of 2002.  Of the nominees, I was pulling for Gangs of New York.  I enjoy, but don’t really love, The Two Towers.  Those are the only two I’ve seen.  Really, Road to Perdition and Y Tu Mama Tambien are the two best movies I saw from that year, with 25th Hour and Frida not far behind.

Drew:  Loving the Y Tu Mama Tambien love!  #CuaronForever

Wendell:  It’s a masterpiece! 

Britt:  I was really surprised at 2002 grade wise for this project.  All of these are strong winners, IMO.  I give Chicago an A-.

Drew:  I think I’m also at an A-.  Just talking about this and gushing over it has boosted what I assumed would be a B+ to an A-.  Like, if Gere weren’t in this, I’d probably think it was perfect.

Britt:  I’m glad I’m not the only one that is underwhelmed by Gere.

Kevin:  Chicago is a B for me.  Perfectly fine movie.  Great at times!

Jeffery:  B+ for me.

Wendell:  Coming in with a B-.  I really enjoyed the movie, just not quite sure how it walked away with Oscar gold unless, like you guys have said, it was the only cheerful movie in the bunch.


YEAR SCORE: 300/400


1) Bowling for Columbine (90 Points)
2) Spirited Away (73 Points)
3) Chicago (71 Points)
4) Nowhere in Africa (66 Points)

Closing Comments

Britt:  When I first looked at this, I didn’t expect 2002 would be such a strong year, rating-wise for me.  These were just excellent films. 

Kevin:  The Academy shoulda Spirited that one Oscar Away to Lilo and Stitch.  Other than that, a fairly mediocre year for me with an absolutely perfect Doc winner.  And there are, as most of us agreed, just way too many great movies that year that received virtually no mention at all.

Drew:  I have to say, I LOVED the diversity of our personal feelings on these winners.  Like, this year was so much fun to talk about.

Jeffery:  I think I’m the only The Hours fanboy, but still…I am OK with the Best Picture winner.  Inspired Animated and Doc winners.  Foreign was a little dry but a decent film.

Kevin:  Jeffery, I should’ve commented during the original discussion, but I loved The Hours.  And the novel is even better.

Wendell:  A little uneven for me.  A great Doc and Animated, but good not great Best Pic and Foreign.  Still baffles me that the Best Animated flick was also a Foreign Language Pic better than the winner in that category and couldn’t get a nod.  Hell, if I had my druthers, Bowling for Columbine would also be up for Best Pic.  Sooooo…the Academy might have dozed off at the wheel a time or two.  That’s the Best Pic award that probably should have went to Y Tu Mama Tambien, another Foreign Language Film that didn’t get a nomination.

Kevin:  Dude, Y Tu Mama Tambien is one of the perfect movies out there.  I mean, truly perfect.

Wendell:  Tell me about it.

Britt:  Y Tu Mama Tambien is so wonderful.

Drew:  Thinking about Spirited Away and the fact that it wasn’t nominated for Foreign Film just proves that these categories, while great for rewarding films, can also be a hindrance, since I’m sure Spirited Away’s snub there had a lot to do with it competing in Animated, and AMPAS hates to mix categories (Japan did not submit the film, but I also have a feeling that this was why).

Wendell:  That makes no sense to me.  If a movie deserves to be nominated in multiple catgegories, then nominate it in multiple categories.

Drew:  I completely agree, but I don’t think the voting branches do.

Wendell:  And that’s a shame.

Drew:  I mean, The Golden Globes have a RULE that not that the Animated Film category exists, animated films cannot compete in the Best Picture categories.  AMPAS doesn’t have that rule, but I think the mentality is there.

Wendell:  So stupid.  That implies that it isn’t a ‘real’ movie because it’s animated.

Drew:  Yup, ridiculous.

Let's Get TRENDY!

So last week we settled on a hashtag to support out discussion on the Twittersphere.  This week that hashtag is #ShapeThis because, well, the reason is obvious.  So, please Tweet about our discussion, spread the word, and when you link this post please use the hashtag #ShapeThis and made us trendy!

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. Great post! Recently I've re-watched "Chicago" and I've to say that I like it more than before!

    1. Chicago was one that actually grew in my opinion the more we talked about it and I realized that I couldn't criticize anything about it outside of Gere. Like...that was all I had negative to say. Outside of that, it's pretty perfect.

      And it's so much fun!

  2. I saw Bowling for Columbine a long time ago, so I don't remember everything you were discussing. But I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. The thing that sticks with me the most about that film was the exploration of the cultural differences between the U.S. and Canada and how we -- here in the U.S. -- have become such a paranoid culture. The media nurtures that mentality, and then you add all these guns to the mix. So true. And BTW, Wendell's comment on buying a boxed set of Planet of the Apes was my first laugh-out-loud moment of the day. :-)

    Nowhere in Africa sounds very interesting, despite its flaws.

    I LOVE Spirited Away, almost as much as Totoro. My 11 y/o loves it too. I like the confusing, "cluttered" aspects of it -- for me it contributes to the dreamlike quality and helps convey how confusing this experience is for the little girl and that a big part of her journey is making sense of it all. I totally did not get anything about prostitution, though. Maybe you could share the links to that article?

    Great post! I am lucky to know such smart, articulate people online. ;-)

    1. Thank you for laughing at my comment AND your own comments on Spirited Away. That's exactly how I feel about it.

    2. Irene, here's an article where they talk about the parallels. They also link to another one from the director.


    3. YES, the parallel between the US and Canada was really eye opening. Like I said in our discussion, I really felt like we could have just talked about Bowling for Columbine all week, it had that much information to process.

      And check out the link Britt posted. It's an eye opener as well!

      And thank you so much for the kind words. This blogging community is so rich. I love all of you guys :-D

  3. Spirited Away for life!! That Eggplant is terrifying, my emoji was less threatening. haha.

    Also I realized I say "fascinating" too much. Don't let me do that this week.

    1. That eggplant gave me nightmares...which is why I had to post it!

  4. Thanks for all your hard work putting these posts together. It looks great, once again! Very fun to relive these conversations, especially on Spirited Away. 90/100 for BfC is going to be tough to beat.

    1. Yeah, Bowling for Columbine is sitting pretty up top. There are only like maybe three films I can think of that could dethrone it. We'll have to see how that pans out. To get some sort of variation of an A from all five of us is pretty impressive.

      And yes, reliving these discussion when compiling these is so cool!

  5. Another great read!

    Michael Moore has gotten a reputation as a propagandist as opposed to documentarian, but frankly the topics he chooses to address often NEED the edge of propaganda, and Bowling for Columbine is perhaps one of the most essential docs out there. The "stunt" aspect of a lot of his films is toned down a bit here, and he's more selective about the propaganda tactics he uses to make his point (the "What A Wonderful World" montage is BRILLIANT). It's rare that documentaries are made with as much emotion and fire as are present in Moore's films, and that's what allows them to stand the test of time. Of course, the fact that American culture is still so far behind on those issues helps with that as well.

    I am a HUGE fan of musicals, and of Chicago specifically. I think it's pretty much unimpeachable as a stage-to-screen adaptation, and handily the best of the crop of nominees that year. It is a tremendous feat of editing and cinematography, a triumph of star power (Gere is the only weak link, but I appreciate what he was going for and don't find his singing to be cringe-worthy), and an incredible directorial vision. The field that year was weird to say the least, but I'm glad this one won, and it's another one that has only gotten better with age; no musical since has felt this modern. Chicago is one of those rare occasions where everything (director, material, stars, and crew) fits together perfectly and creates something indelible. Not perfect, perhaps, but probably better for it.

    I'm with Kevin that Lilo & Stitch should have won the Animated Oscar that year, but Spirited Away does come very close to breaking through my apathy towards animé.

    1. Daniel! I really want to snag you for the next Roundtable! Tell me you'll be game!!! You always have such insightful things to say, and I love how opinionated you are. It makes for great conversation.

      I'm intrigued by your apathy for anime. I'm not a huge fan of it, overall, but there are some perfect entries; Totoro being one of them.

    2. I would be honored to participate! :)

      As for anime... I just have a REALLY difficult time getting over the lips not moving in sync with the words, which I find happens in the original versions just as much as in the dubbed versions. SIGH. There are some that I've enjoyed (Princess Mononoke) but mostly I just... can't do it. And I honestly feel kind of bad about it.

    3. Yeah, I know what you mean. I liked Princess Mononoke a lot too, but like I said, I'm not a huge fan of the genre. Don't feel bad...we like what we like :-P

      You on Twitter?

    4. I am not (mostly because I lack self-control and fear it might become a black hole from which I will not be able to escape), but I will BE THERE for film conversation with you lovely people if I must!

    5. Hehe...once this roundtable project wraps up, I'll get a hold of you on your blog with a way to get you details on the next one :-D

    6. Well I enjoyed all the discussions but once again the only one I've seen is the BP winner. Columbine is something I've thought about watching but I just haven't gotten to yet.

      As for Chicago it's a good adaptation of a musical I have no great affection for. I'm also indifferent to the source film, the 1942 "comedy" Roxie Hart with Ginger Rogers, though that likewise was a version of the original stage show. Chicago is Marshall's one success in the musical genre. It's unfortunate that its success seems to have made him the go to director when they attempt musical adaptations, Vincente Minnelli he ain't. I haven't watched it in a while because the two leading ladies are among my least favorite actresses, CZJ-who is truly excellent here, is a decent enough actress but her frosty bordering on glacial screen presence is distancing. Zellweger I simply can't stand though she's the best she's ever been or probably ever will be in this film. I thought both Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly were terrific. As for Richard Gere he gave it his best shot but wasn't an ideal choice. Hugh Jackman was offered the role first and for some reason turned it down, a shame he would have been much better.

      Speaking of different casting, in the 70's a version was planned and proceeded as far as casting before falling apart. Liza Minnelli was set as Velma with Goldie Hawn as Roxie Hart and Mick Jagger as Billy Flynn, now THAT is a movie I would have liked to have seen!

    7. That's 70's cast sounds incredible!

      Yeah, Marshall showed such potential, but he has not been able to recreate what he did here, and it's a shame.

      Columbine is brilliant. Truly...truly brilliant!

    8. OMG that 70s version sounds AMAZING. I wonder who was going to direct, though...

      I forgot to say earlier that, depending on the day, I might give CZJ's Oscar to Queen Latifah, who is just explosive in her big number. Not that Zeta-Jones doesn't earn every damn bit of that Oscar, though.

    9. HOLY

      I just looked this up, and Bob fucking Fosse was poised to direct with Minnelli and Hawn in the leads and Frank Sinatra as Billy Flynn! OMG! That would have been incredible!!!

    10. Fosse would have make sense in many ways including his history with Liza on Cabaret. It was a long aborning project, Liza and Goldie were always attached but at various times a host of creative people were lined up, at different times Kander & Ebb with Scorsese directing, I believe this is the one where Jagger was in as Billy Flynn, then Allan Carr with Sinatra aboard as Flynn, Ann Miller and Carol Channing as competing reporters and Nancy Walker as Mama, then Lewis Gilbert picked up the reins with Liza still mentioned with either Michelle Pfeiffer or Madonna. I think the closest any of them came was with Fosse around 1980 when Liza and Goldie did a TV special together, a quite good one, that was a sort of screen test of their compatibility but it was not to be. Aside from Madonna, who I've never been a fan of, any of those combinations would have been amazing.

    11. I would have pretty much taken any of those variations, Madonna included.

    12. I am OBSESSED with the ideas of Sinatra as Billy Flynn and Pfeiffer as Roxie. Madonna actually might have made for a pretty interesting Roxie in her early days, although it quickly would have been difficult to see her in that part instead of Velma (though she's never had what it takes to pull off that role). But she was probably always too modern a figure to fit into this material.

    13. Liza, Michelle, Sinatra and Fosse would have been incredible...simply incredible!

    14. SERIOUSLY. I need to go back in time and make this fucker happen. NOW.

    15. Yes that combo sounds pretty sweet, though I think Goldie would have done well too, not a great singer but a decent one and she started out as a dancer.

      All this talk reminded me of this clip of Ann Miller, who in the 70's or 80's would have worked as Mama Morton, she certainly had the brass. This is from the late 80's and the picture quality isn't great but keep in mind she's 66 here!!


    16. Wow, could she move for 66!

    17. LOVE Ann and she would be a very fun Mama Morton, but having her in a role where she doesn't tap is a CRIME. Maybe Fosse would have her do the "Tap Dance" for Sinatra? I also love the thought of Elaine Stritch as Mama, but she probably wasn't a big enough name at the time for it. Carol Burnett would also have been great (although was she old enough then?).

      Goldie would also make a killer Roxie, probably even better than Pfeiffer (no one but NO ONE does ditz like she does).

      ...I LOVE playing the Casting Game. Can you tell? ;-)

    18. I find it pretty awesome that as all those names kept getting shuffled around, Liza was ALWAYS Velma. Like, for real!

    19. It's too bad that for something that she was so ideal for, a thought obviously shared by all the different film makers who came and went, and was attached to for so long that she ultimately didn't get to play the role. She was never a conventional leading lady so those perfect roles were few and far between.

    20. Yeah, she was hard to cast, I can imagine, which is a shame since her talent was so evident. UGH, she was such a light!

  6. Nice job, guys! Your collective thoughts are really interesting, and I didn't realize I had already seen 3/4 films (although it's been a while). Glad to see Bowling for Columbine ranked first (does this mean it deserved the gold statue over Chicago?). Looking forward to the next installments!! :)

    1. Yeah, Bowling for Columbine was a real surprise for me, since it was a first time watch and I really didn't expect to love it or even be moved by it like I was.

      It would probably rank in my Top Five of the year, to be honest!

  7. I love Bowling For Columbine and think Moore really knows how to deliver and not just pizza to his mouth. I always wonder why many Americans think it is perfectly aok to have a few hundred rifles, guns bazookas just because the Constitution, written when there were only muskets, state the right to bear arms. To be a devil's advocate, Charlton Heston had Alzheimers. This was before he was diagnosed, at least from what we know. He could have been showing the early signs of dementia since the first to go is short term memory. he would be all for Guns but may have truthfully forgotten what happened that week prior...just wondering and could be wrong. I have not seen the animated film nor do I care to. I am not one for heavy-handed animated message films that sounds like it is trying too hard. I probably won't see the foreign film unless it comes on TV and I catch a glimpse of it. As for Chicago-This is Bob Fosse all the way. Michael Jackson stole many of his moves from Bob Fosse! Bob Fosse helped bring Chicago to Broadway so the dance style is all Fosse. I enjoyed this film even Gere although he can't sing all that well but much better than me. Christine Baranski is under-used always. I love Zeta-Jones and Zellweger is ok but for some reason, I always feel like slapping her face even the new one she has now

    1. Heston certainly looked like he couldn't remember what it was they were talking about five minutes after they started talking, so he possibly was suffering from Alzheimers at that point.

  8. Great post!

    Spirited Away is one of my favorite animated movies. I didn't pick up on the whole prostitution point of it immediately, I merely thought it was about the girl. Knowing that now I'm going to be watching this film in a new light. Chicago was an amazing musical - it really nailed the whole 'stage to screen' factor right. This was Catherine Zeta-Jones's best performance to date (or at least from what I've seen).

    I haven't seen both documentary and foreign picture, but from your discussions both sound very interesting.

    1. I can't recommend Bowling for Columbine enough. Out of all the films I had to first time watch for this project, it was the best!

  9. Bowling for Columbine was pretty good while Spirited Away is a fucking classic. Chicago had its moments in Richard Gere and John C. Reilly but that's it. It's overly-edited and isn't very engaging.

    The best film of 2002 is.... Morvern Callar.

    1. I hate that I still haven't seen that one!

    2. What the fuck are you doing? SEE IT NOW!!!! NOW MOTHERFUCKER!!!!!!

  10. Love these discussions! I MUST check out Bowling for Columbine soon! I think I'll skip Nowhere in Africa for now though. ;)

    I haven't seen Chicago in years, but I've always liked it. I saw it in theaters and on stage, and Marshall did a great job capturing the energy of those musical numbers. So much flash and so much fun! A- with slight reservations, since I really need to give it another look.

    Spirited Away was my first Miyazaki film, and it blew me away. Though it clearly isn't a film for everyone, I think it's beautiful, strange and GLORIOUS. A+. That said, I'm really close to giving Road to Perdition the Best Picture win that year, since it's a formalist masterpiece in the vein of something like The Immigrant. Like, every aspect of that film is perfect!

    1. YES, you must see it!

      I am really anxious to watch Road to Perdition again now, considering your high remarks on it and the fact that I've always really liked it...but don't remember much about it other than how pretty it was to look at.

    2. Don't skip Nowhere in Africa! lol

    3. @Brittani: Oh, I'll watch it eventually. :)

      @Fisti: You should watch it again. I rewatched it before I made '02 images, and it's masterful filmmaking. Like, on some days I'd put it in my top 100.

  11. Interesting discussion guys! Is it sad to say that I saw Chicago in theatres like a dozen times? Against other musicals, I feel like it stands the test of time (at least for now haha). It gets a lot of slack as the Oscar musical who tried too hard but I feel like other musicals don't try hard enough. Getting audiences interested in characters singing their emotions/thoughts is difficult, and I felt like Marshall handled the characters' inner monologues/obsessions with fame/narcissism extremely well - better than many stage productions I've seen. The performances and music are a powerhouse. My only big complaint with the Academy is that Renee should've won for Roxie instead of Cold Mountain. :)

    1. I'm with you 100%! I loved Zellweger here, even if I personally wouldn't have given her the Oscar over Lane or Moore (but certainly over Kidman...like SO MUCH over Kidman). She nailed this character.