Tuesday, May 19, 2015

4 Ways a Best Picture Bloggers Roundtable: 2003

I'm a few hours late with this one.  I got in late last night from a five day weekend (the best kind) and have had so much catch-up (work wise) to deal with today that compiling these conversations into a post for this AM was just not going to happen.


Alas, here it is, and it's a good one!  If you're unfamiliar with this series, please catch up with our 2002 and 2001 discussions.  With this series, we're taking the four films from each year that won a Best Picture Oscar (Animated, Documentary, Foreign, Best) and discussing them, grading them and giving our thoughts on the year in film (and in Oscar) in general.

This week is all about 2003.

Before we start, here is our panel:

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

Drew:  Last week was AWESOME!  I have a feeling there will be some strong opinions this week too.  It’s time for 2003!  We’ll start with The Fog of War.

Britt:  The Fog of Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Drew:  OMG!  I almost posted that as my first comment!  I’m not lying!  I figured I’d wait and see what y’all said first, but that was what I wrote down for my ONLY note!

Kevin:  Even if it’s boring at times, it is still one of the most interesting stories ever told.  It helps that I’m both a Vietnam and Kennedy junkie.  Robert McNamara has led an incredible life.  I really love this movie.  Like, a lot.  I had a lot harder time with several of the other docs.  And that Phillip Glass score though!  Man, that’s good.  The stuff about his relationship with Kennedy vs. his relationship with Johnson.  I couldn’t stop watching.  I was sucked in.  We should have never been in Vietnam.  McNamara (all pomposity aside) knew that.  And he is a bit pompous and full of himself, but I think that’s why Errol Morris seemed so interested in him.  He’s more into hearing the way people talk about things than anything else.

Britt:  I just couldn’t get into this one.  However, I do give them props for not turning this into a two hour talking head.  Comparing this to Murder on a Sunday Morning, that was a doc that was very interesting, but poorly made.  This one was very well made, but not that interesting to me.

Drew:  Honestly, outside of the score…I didn’t really care.  I did like when he cried about Kennedy, because I felt something…it was genuine.  But other than that I felt like this was so clinical in its delivery that I felt so detached from it.

Jeffery:  I am kind of with the ‘clinical’ description.  The doc is very, ultra-cleanly made.  Made me feel detached from it.  Agree that the score is fantastic, of course.  I agree with Brittani that this is a better-made film than Murder, yet the subject matter felt less riveting.  I had gone into this one with high expectations but was a little let down.

Kevin:  Man, I just care so much.  I find it sort of beautiful.  Did I zone out some?  Sure.  I’ve seen this movie twice.  It was better this time.

Drew:  I love your passion here, Kevin.

Britt:  I’m glad you liked it too, Kevin.  That’s the hard part about docs sometimes.  If the subject doesn’t interest you beforehand, there’s a good chance it might not now.  That was definitely my problem.

Kevin:  Thanks, both of you.  I know this flick can come off as dull.  I totally can’t argue with that.  I won’t get intense about it.  I think this really is a ‘you either are into it…or not’ sort of thing.  I think the goings on of the time (2003) with the invasion of Iraq and the Bush administration, etc., really made this movie relevant then.  It is not so much now.

Jeffery:  I could see why this film was especially potent in ’03, the year of the Iraq invasion.

Drew:  I think that in itself is an issue with these kinds of docs as far as their longevity is concerned.  They are so ‘moment specific’ that once that moment passes they lose a lot of their impact.  It’s funny, because we were just talking about Bowling for Columbine last week and how it is still, sadly, so relevant and while this is still an important aspect of history, it feels better suited for history books, IMO.  Oscar has this tendency to gravitate towards awarding documentaries about social or political controversy, and that’s cool, I guess, but these docs show their age so quickly.

Kevin:  So true.  This movie really created a nice political allegory at the time.  It doesn’t stand as strongly now as, say, something like Bowling for Columbine.  My passion for Kennedy history and Errol Morris’ work really helps here.  It’s sort of niche I’d say.

Wendell:  I have an odd relationship with this one.  Fell asleep on it the first two times I tried to watch it.  I just felt bored the crap out of me 20-30 minutes in.  The third time, something clicked and I got into it.  McNamara’s life is heavily intertwined with 20th century American history.  His insider point of view was really intriguing to me.  At the same time, the lack of storytelling flair still had me zoning out on occasion.  It was just too straightforward in its approach to really take off.  There were pockets where it was as compelling as anything I’ve ever seen.  There are also pockets where it couldn’t be any duller.

Drew:  The montages bored me.  It’s funny, because I quite liked the talking head parts.  His voice is very commanding…it draws you in.  But, for me, the actual footage just took me out of everything.

Wendell:  That’s the weird part.  You’d think the montages would liven things up, but it was the opposite.  Him sitting in a chair and talking was far more interesting than actual footage from the era he’s talking about.  The stuff about Kennedy and LBJ was the highlight for me.  I imagine this is a gold mine for true history buffs.  With 9/11 still strong in the air in ’03, this certainly has the air of relevance the Academy likes.

Kevin:  I agree that this movie is best when McNamara is talking, Morris shouting questions from behind the camera.  The footage Morris weaves in is disjointed, yet oddly fascinating, especially with the Phillip Glass score.  And, yes, Wendell!  This movie words on me simply because of my LOVE of this part of American history.  The many hats McNamara wore in 20th century American history is astounding.

Wendell:  No doubt he was a key figure throughout the last century and it is astounding how many hats he wore.  However, his story is one I’d rather read where he has more time to go into greater detail.

Jeffery:  The Cuban section, I thought, was the strongest.  Things were much more muddled with Vietnam, though I think the filmmaker and this film in particular, as well as the subject, is about ambivalence (hence the title).  Errol Morris is absolutely a master of the doc form but in a way I prefer docs to be less masterly and a little messier/rough-around-the-edges to get a more visceral feel.

Drew:  I like that point about preferring them less masterly.  I get like that with certain films that are deemed masterpieces.  Sometimes something can be so perfect it’s off-putting.  Schindler’s List, Grapes of Wrath and 12 Years a Slave are films I feel that way about.  They are unquestionably great and yet…I’m cold.  They are too perfect.  I like to see a struggle, to see a flaw, to feel it’s human.

Kevin:  You guys are all right.  This is a very clean documentary.  It is planned and orchestrated and ever pretty in its construction.  I love that about it.

Jeffery:  I see what you mean.  I think my favorite docs are the ones that are a little bit ‘all-over-the-place’, that don’t feel so neatly packaged.  I feel that’s a reason why Bowling for Columbine hits a nerve.  It’s a little messy and uneven and perhaps questionable in its fact presentation yet it delivers emotional/comical punches.  Morris is a very different filmmaker; I find his work a little too chilly despite fascinating material/subject matter.

Drew:  yeah, Bowling for Columbine was talking to us…The Fog of War is talking at us.  It sits much differently on a viewer.

Wendell:  Great point about talking to us rather than at us.  That really illustrates the difference between the two. 

Wendell:  Really great when it works, really boring when it doesn’t.  I’ll give it a C+.

Drew:  Yup, you said it all!  C+ for me as well.

Jeffery:  This gets a solid B from me.

Britt:  C.

Kevin:  While I have some of the same boredom issues as the rest of you, I admire this movie for its craft as much as its fascinating subject.  After all, if you’ve seen Morris’ other films, that is his MO.  What do interesting people say and HOW do they say them?  A-.


Drew:  I should have loved this.  Like, a French film about a dysfunctional family with a dying patriarch.  Fuck, this was MADE for me…and yet, I didn’t care…at all.  Despite the fact that Remy Girard is charming as fuck, this movie was boring as fuck.

Britt:  I felt the same way.  I was excited at the prospect of this film, and it just didn’t do much for me.  I didn’t like any of the characters.

Jeffery:  I wonder if I’d appreciate this film more had I seen the previous one in the series.  The dialogue and characters are pretty caustic, the film style is flat and the acting, details in the movie, often lack distinction.  But, the scenes with distinct details are strong.  My favorites would be the opening long take shot through the crowded hospital corridors and the scene with the priest with the religious statues.

Kevin:  I agree with Jeffery on the opening scene.  This movie begins and ends with some good filmmaking.  In between is very hit and miss.

Wendell:  OMG, was this boring.  Found myself checking out and having to force myself to pay attention.  I didn’t find Remy charming.  I thought he was a pompous ass constantly trying to show everyone how smart he is.  I can appreciate Sebastien wanting to keep his dad from suffering, but could he have been more stupid?  His doctor buddy tells him there was a program where they used heroin as a pain killer and to check into it to see it it’s still active, and apparently all he heard was “get heroin” because this moron’s first step is to show up at a police station asking if they know where he can make a score!  I was done with him right there.  I was so hoping they would throw his ass in jail just for being dumb.  He then hires a junkie to be his dad’s personal nurse and leave him alone with her like she’s a fine, upstanding citizen that he’s known all his life.  UGH! 

Drew:  UGH is right!  Thank you!  I was sitting there thinking, “this can’t be something anyone would really do”…none of Sebastien’s decisions felt honest.  I don’t mind suspension of disbelief when it’s warranted, but this isn’t the type of film that should warrant it.

Wendell:  When Sebastien was sitting there talking to the cops, I literally said out loud “WHO DOES THIS?”  I feel like the whole movie is trying to make some sort of grand statement and doing it poorly.  I couldn’t tell if it was trying to slam the Canadian healthcare system, capitalism, both or just making a case for euthanasia.  In any event, I hated it.  Watching this guy pontificate on all the great things he’s done while his buddies stand around laughing and drinking wine is not my idea of fun.  I might feel differently if I was actually in that room having a glass of my own, but watching it on a screen…just…no!

Drew:  I loved Remy here.  I felt like, despite GLARING flaws, I could completely buy his draw on everyone around him.  He sold that almost condescending charm, like you know he thinks he’s better than you but his presence is almost endearing because he’s just trying to get you to like him.  It didn’t hurt that he’s the only character that felt rooted in something.  He’s the only one that actually had some sort of backstory.  Everyone else felt so random.  LOL, the whole, “strangers can’t go to our lake house” felt so out of left field and just dishonest.  No one, outside of Remy, felt like a real person.

Wendell:  People who have to stroke their own ego out loud to impress others are a turnoff for me, so I just felt like Remy was trying way too hard.  I was like, “Dude, I get it.  You’re brilliant and flaunted your intellect all over the globe.  Feel free to shut up at any time.”  In other words, he is the only one who feels like a real person, but it’s the kind I typically don’t like.

Britt:  It lacked focus.  It has a very specific plot, but it felt disjointed and all over the place when it shouldn’t have.  I’m also very confused on how this nabbed a screenplay nomination as well.

Drew:  Yeah, AMPAS obviously liked this one.  2003 was weird, though.  There are some strange noms/snubs that don’t really make much sense.

Jeffery:  Overall, I think the movie is a bit wan and cold, thought I think that’s the point.  The wordlessness probably helped lend it it’s script nomination.  It sort of has that dry, nihilistic, ambivalent feel to it.

Wendell:  Nihilistic is a great word.  I was feeling that way towards this movie.

Kevin:  I have to say I really liked this one a bit more than y’all.  I don’t quite know about a screenplay nomination, but I get it.  The dialogue in this movie is brilliant.  Smart characters talking about smart stuff.  It did have a sense of nonsensical to it.  Hiring a junkie to be a heroin caregiver…weird, but interesting.  This movie is very obviously an indictment of the Canadian healthcare system and really bureaucracies in general.  A couple of you said you didn’t like anybody but the Remy characters.  I loved the son character.  He is exactly how I would be in that situation.  I agree with Wendell though for sure.  This movie is boring at times, especially with my high expectations involved.  To explain:  Also in 2003, Tim Burton directed Big Fish, one of the only movies of his I can say I love.  As a devotee of Roger Ebert’s reviews, I went straight to it.  He hated Big Fish.  He compared it to this one.  He touted this as the superior film on the same theme.  I then always had this movie in my head.  “I should really see it.”  Then, this project came along.  My chance.  It did not meet my expectations at all.

Drew:  For me, Big Fish is a much smarter film and one that earns the suspension of disbelief.

Kevin:  I so agree, Drew.

Wendell:  I loved Ebert, so I did search for his review after watching this, too.  I saw he gave it 4 stars, shook my head and didn’t bother reading it.  Maybe another day when I finish seething over it.  Nope, no magic.  No symbolism.  I agree completely with Drew on Big Fish vs. The Big Miss.

Kevin:  The Barbarian Invasions really is a movie, grounding itself in reality, that wants us to believe unrealistic situations.  The tone doesn’t match the goals, if that makes sense.  Where the magic?  This movie, even with the same script, could be better with just plain better production values.  I wanted some visuals, some through provoking symbolism.  I also, and this is the biggest thing, wanted to feel some real emotion.  I had been so removed that I just didn’t care.  I wanted tears.  It didn’t happen.  The very last scene, though, is masterful.  I loved it.  Also, if I’m ever dying of a terminal illness, I want to be surrounded by my old friends and lovers, drinking and talking and remembering.  What a way to go!

Drew:  I’m all for that!

Jeffery:  I don’t think it’s that relevant, but LORD the clothing/color scheme in this movie is drab city.  Does everyone really need to be wearing Land’s End clothing in shades of olive, brown and oatmeal?  It adds to the zzzz-ness of this visually.  But, I agree Kevin…the dusky final shots are quite effective.  I also like the song.

Wendell:  I’ll say there are two redeeming qualities for this.  1) the ex-wife and her passive-aggressive hatred for Remy.  You could totally tell she was only there because it was the right thing to do.  She easily could’ve not been there at all.  And how does he repay her?  By bragging about all the hot babes he banged and the ones he masturbated to right to her face and laughing with a couple of his mistresses who came for the party.  2) this might sound contradictory, and a bit sleazy, but I’m going with the rather well-endowed mistress.  I’ll bet she was hell in her day.  Sorry, that’s all I got for good stuff.

Drew:  Lol, the French are supposed to be full of life!  This, was not.  C.

Kevin:  I’m going B-.

Jeffery:  I’m a B for Barbarian.

Wendell:  F for Fuck It.

Drew:  Oh my god!!!  That’s my favorite grade so far (and I have one of those coming soon)!!!

Britt:  “F for Fuck It” is amazing.  I’m going with C.  I’m already forgetting about you, Barbarian Invasions.


Drew:  So now we can talk about how perfect Finding Nemo is!  You are not allowed to have a different opinion!  So, I’ll get this one rolling.  Besides Toy Story 3, which on any given day sneaks ahead, this is leaps and bounds my favorite Pixar film.  The way that the relationship between father and son is nurtured is so authentic and I love how balanced it is.  This isn’t some ‘father realizes he’s been wrong all along and his son was perfect’ kind of stories.  It’s a story about communication and compromise and the bond of family that cannot be broken.  Another thing I love is that this comes from a father’s point of view, and that’s rare.  We often talk about how so many films are male centric, and they are, but very few films about parents and children focus on the father, and all too often I think fathers are considered the lesser parent, which is not true.  Here we have a beautiful film that richly develops a father’s love for his son.

Wendell:  Not sure how much I have to add to this other than, “What Drew said.”  One of my all-time fave animated flicks and so far you’ve been spot-on.  Us dads must stick together.

Drew:  Add to all that the BEAUTIFUL animation, superb voice work and the sharp dialog and you have, in my eyes, a perfect film.

Wendell:  What Drew said.

Britt:  I worked at a movie theater when this came out.  All the shows were sold out, our theaters were trashed, there were kids everywhere.  Fucking horror stories and even that can’t rain on my Finding Nemo parade.  I love this movie!

Drew:  OMG!  If this movie wins the whole thing my heart may explode!

Wendell:  Just to add even a little, I will say that as much as I love the father-son aspect of it, the character that makes it all work for me is Dory.  She’s so funny and adorable.  Ellen was perfect, here.

Drew:  Best voice performance in an animated film, period!

Britt:  Ellen was absolutely perfect for Dory.  I also liked the message they gave with Nemo and his little fin, that in the end it didn’t hold him back.  I think that’s why I like films like this and How to Train Your Dragon so much.  Those things set them apart. 

Kevin:  Yes, Britt!  My wife and I are both teachers, and she goes on about the importance of this movie all the time as a cautionary tale for parents, especially parents of special needs children.  You have to let them grow the same as other children.  You can’t shield your children from the world no matter how scared you are.  Children with disabilities so often become stricken with “learned helplessness”.  Marlin loves Nemo more than anything, and this movie is an enchanting adventure.  But, at the heart of it is that Marlin has to learn how to truly let go.  This movie is amazing!  All the voice work is great.  You are all right on about Ellen.  Perfection attained!  The bro turtles.  Perfection!  “He touched the butt.”  Perfection!  The colors, the flawless animation, the music, the seagulls, Jacques the lobster and all the tank fish.  I love every second of this movie every time I watch it, and I’ve seen it 20 times.  Oh, and I cry, Drew.  The happy tears flow.

Drew:  Yes, so many happy tears!  I also love the disability point, Kevin.  This movie touches so many important themes, and in such a lovely and accessible way.

Jeffery:  Agree with Wendell that Ellen is such a standout here.  Overall the voicework is charming, which is rare for modern animated movies.  Also, it’s a fun ride/adventure story.  Gorgeous animation too.  Nice, complex characterizations.  My favorite Pixar movie by a country mile.

Britt:  Finding Dory comes out next year, right?  I wonder how that will be all these years later.

Drew:  I’m scared for Finding Dory, simply because she’s such a great sidekick and I’m afraid her shtick might grow old.

Britt:  I think we need to take a moment of silence for all the clown fish bought and sold to millions of homes because of this movie.  HA!

Wendell:  I really did just observe a moment of silence for those clown fish.

Drew:  Yeah, I’m straight up A+

Kevin:  A+.  Powers out.

Britt:  Definitely A

Jeffery:  A

Wendell:  As far as my grade:  What Drew said.


Drew:  Um…  Meh…  Now, I watched all three films back to back to back for this, since I hadn’t seen any of them…and that was just a lot.  My literal notes were ‘nine hours of running then fighting then running some more’.  This was so much of the same over and over.

Kevin:  Back to back to back is the only way.  I watched the Extended Edition just recently.  Got it on BluRay for my birthday.  It took five nights.  These movies work for me only together and over a period of days.  I have never and would never watch Return of the King in isolation but only after the others have come before.  I love The Lord of the Rings as a whole.  It’s award worthy, but the only single movie of the trilogy worthy of an Oscar by itself is The Fellowship of the Ring.  A Best Picture Oscar I should say.  This movie deserved every one of the technical awards it won and then some.  Totally groundbreaking filmmaking at the time.

Drew:  Fellowship was certainly the best of the bunch, but I just couldn’t really get into this as a whole.  I understand the desire to reward Peter Jackson for taking on such a beloved story in such a completest fashion, but so much of this, especially as the second and third films continues, felt gratuitous.  I’ve never read the books and generally don’t care for ‘fantasy’, so I know I’m not the target audience for this, but I felt drained after watching this.

Wendell:  I’d seen this several times, but not in a whole and never without having watched the other two within a few days beforehand.  Since it won Best Picture and that’s what we’re discussing, I watched it without re-watching the others to see if it stood up on its own.  It’s a fun movie, but it really doesn’t.  It’s definitely one-third of a much larger picture, absolutely necessary to the completion of that picture, but not great enough on its own to merit such praise.  I’m on the record somewhere, maybe on one of you guys’ sites, saying this is the best of the trilogy.  I’m officially retracting that statement.  The Fellowship is clearly the better movie.  Like Drew said (ha!), much of this feels gratuitous, and I’ll add repetitive to that.  This error is compounded by the way of too many false endings.  It’s like Jackson just didn’t want to let the series go and kept saying good-bye over and over.  I counted four of them, including the one where the credits finally rolled.  Because of this, way too much time was added after the climax of the action.  I’ve always felt he needed an editor that would fight with him to rein him in, someone he respected enough to listen to and who wasn’t a sycophant.  All of the LOTR movies run too long (I know, all you who love the thousand hour extended editions, UGH) and so did King Kong.  If he chopped 30 minutes off the front end of Kong, it wouldn’t been perfect.  So yeah, this was a total ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award for the entire LOTR franchise rather than this one movie being a worthy winner.  The same might be true of Jackson’s director win, too.  I agree this, and the whole franchise, is a visual masterpiece.  All the technical wins are well deserves.  Sadly, the only other Best Picture nom I’ve seen from this year is Mystic River.  I know it’s become a polarizing film, but I like it and prefer it as a standalone to this.  I prefer Finding Nemo to both of those, though.  The great Kill Bill, vol. 1 was also better than both. 

Kevin:  I couldn’t agree more, Wendell, with pretty much everything you said.  This is nowhere near the best movie of that year.  All the movies you listed are better.  Mystic River would’ve been my choice.  Or Lost in Translation…that’s a little powerhouse of a movie.  I was a cool college film buff in ’03.  I scoffed at the idea of watching a ‘fantasy’ franchise.  I never saw LOTR in the theater and made fun of people who did.  I came at them later and really got it though.  They are really beautiful and cool and entertaining and iconic.  The Extended Editions are major overkill, though I do enjoy some of the added scenes.  The documentaries on those discs are incredible.  Peter Jackson is one of those who can really teach people things about filmmaking, and really loves too.  He’s like the chubby, Kiwi version of Robert Rodriguez.  Jackson is definitely one of those who needs someone to tell him “no” at times.  The famous false endings are just ridiculous.  After the men bow to the Hobbits at Aragorn’s coronation and I cry, the movie should end.  Again, I love these movies as a whole.  I’ve never watched them any other way.  Even so, I still admire the final act enough to give it a high grade. 

Britt:  I love LOTR, and Return of the King is my favorite.  Yes, it’s a lot of walking and fighting, but I think it works on so many levels.  The actors were great, excellent cinematography and score, I love getting lost in the LOTR world, those extended cuts are the way to go.  The false endings are more amusing to me than anything now, Jackson not wanting to let go is an excellent way to explain them.

Drew:  Everyone talks about these false endings and I’m wondering if I just zoned out because by the time I to Return of the King I literally thought it was never going to end.

Kevin:  Oh, and doesn’t Elijah Wood sort of suck here.  His fake accent is atrocious.  I’ll never understand that casting.  Sean Astin (I love me some Samwise Gamgee) though, and pretty much everyone else, is incredible.  The cast in this movie is unreal.

Wendell:  Wood was always the weak link, but he was not bad enough to bother me.  Astin is excellent, as are a number of others.  For me though, acting in this serious is all about 2 people; Sir Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis.  Everyone else is just trying to catch up.

Kevin:  Word.  Serkis is ridiculously good.  Viggo ricks it as well.

Drew:  I must be the only person who kind of felt like Ian McKellen didn’t do much.  Serkis ALL THE WAY, and I must say he was the most noteworthy aspect of the whole trilogy for me.  Just incredible performance.  But, at least I’ll finally get all the film references and jokes my friends constantly shoot back and forth.  They gave me my man card back after they found out I finally saw these.

Britt:  Serkis and Astin were the strongest, IMO.  Miranda Otto as well.  I loved her.  And you know, the ridiculousness of Legolas surfing down the elephant’s trunk always makes me laugh.  I’m also a sucker for the ‘Into the West’ song.  It’s so lovely.

Kevin:  That shot is the shit!  The music is beautiful, Britt!  Both Howard Shore’s score and the original songs.

Jeffery:  It’s difficult for me to judge this movie because it’s just not my wheelhouse at all.  I am unable to connect with the broad humor, the ponderousness, the over-CGI-ed landscapes, the weak acting (I guess I agree that McKellen and Serkis are standouts).  It’s always hard to hate on a movie (and a series) that has brought so many people a lot of joy and it’s nice to see the Oscar recognize something in a genre that’s usually marginalized by them.  I’m with Wendell.  Kill Bill, vol. 1 was amazing.  Also loved Mystic RiverMaster and Commander was fascinating I thought.  I still haven’t seen City of God.  I’ve heard great things.

Kevin:  I’m not a huge fantasy guy either, Jeffery.  But these really are cornerstones of the genre.  I have to really just let myself get sucked in and totally lose any of my always present cynicism.

Jeffery:  I know, I tried but I can’t!

Kevin:  I hear you, bro.  My trouble is always with animated movies.  And I really need to see Master and Commander

Britt:  I was bored with Master and CommanderKill Bill, vol. 1 was my favorite film of that year, but Return of the King is close behind.  I also love that a fantasy film like this cleaned house at the Oscars.  That never happens.  Kill Bill, vol. 1, thirteen, Return of the King, Lost in Translation, Finding Nemo – the best of that year.  But, if Return of the King made one big mistake, it was leaving Saruman’s falling death out of the theatrical cut.  That shouldn’t been in there.

Kevin:  That scene was horribly shot and acted though.  I’m pretty sure that’s why it was cut.  It didn’t fit at all for me when I watched the Extended Cut.

Britt:  It was cut poorly, but I still think they shouldn’t touched it up and left it in.  I don’t think Lee knew it was cut until he saw the film.

Drew:  I stand beside Jeffery!  Also, Master and Commander is a treasure, but Lost in Translation is one of the most beautiful movies…EVER!

Kevin:  I think I already said it, but I’m going B+ on this one.  I would give the whole trilogy together an A.

Drew:  C+, out of respect for Jackson’s vision.

Britt: I give it an A.  Love this one.

Jeffery:  It’s just not my thing at all.  C.

Wendell:  This is a really good way to close the franchise, but not Best Pic worthy on its own.  It is very worthy of all the tech awards soooooo…I’ll give it a B-.


YEAR SCORE: 255/400


1) Finding Nemo (96 Points)
2) The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (62 Points)
3) The Fog of War (57 Points)
4) The Barbarian Invasions (40 Points)

Closing Comments

Drew:  Animated stomps this year out, because outside of Nemo’s perfection, this year was steaming ‘meh’ for me.

Jeffery:  Super meh sweep of ROTKFinding Nemo was def. the best of the winners.

Britt:  This year was half and half for me.  Underwhelming foreign and doc., excellent animated and Best Pic winners.

Kevin:  I feel like I liked all of these movies a little bit better than most of you.  I was hovering around B+/A- on all of these.  The conversation about The Barbarian Invasions actually ended up driving my original grade down.  But, no doubt, every one of these winners pale in comparison to Finding Nemo.

Wendell:  This year was all over the map for me.  Nemo was clearly the best and really is one of the best animated flicks of all time.  I liked the doc, but it wasn’t great.  The foreign language winner totally sucks.  Finally, the Best Pic is good, but practically useless without the two other movies in its franchise except as a collection of pretty visuals.

Let's Get TRENDY!

#FforFuckIt won out this week, but I mean, how could it not!  So, make sure you talk about us on Twitter, link this post and use our hashtag.  

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. Enough cannot be said about the perfection of Finding Nemo, but outside of that and being ever-so-slightly underwhelmed by The Fog of War (EXACTLY the kind of documentary that makes critics wet but is simply unexciting to watch for the average person), I don't agree with you guys a lot this time.

    Granted, it's been a while since I saw The Barbarian Invasions, but other than that guy being unbelievably stupid, I remember loving it. It's a rather quiet film, but that's fitting for a film about a dying man, and if I remember correctly, it's also funnier, and in a sharper way, that I had expected. It doesn't allow anything to go down easy, which is usually the case with films of this ilk. A B+ for me.

    And while it's true that Fellowship is the only truly Best Picture-worthy film of the trilogy, Return of the King is still majestic, imaginative filmmaking on an epic scale that even today does not happen very often. And when it does, it's NEVER done as well as this. I haven't seen the whole theatrical cut since I saw it in theaters, but I never understood the "too many endings!" complaint. There's a LOT of characters, and each of them deserves an ending. Basically, ROTK is how to properly end an epic fantasy trilogy (sorry, Return of the Jedi). When so many trilogies fumble at the finish line, it's worth honoring one that doesn't. Not a single element is out of place, and it all comes together beautifully. I usually have it at a B+, but would give it an A- here.

    1. Love this! This is why we're doing this, to spark conversation and drag out everyone else's opinions (and this is exactly why I want you on the next panel).

      Seems like you're with Britt on Return of the King. I just wish I loved the trilogy more as a whole. I just...felt so underwhelmed. I wanted more. It felt like so much of the same over and over...the same film three times just longer with each go around. My eyes were SO TIRED!


  2. Replies
    1. Yeah, we were harsh on this one.

  3. Excellent work once again, Drew! Still having a blast working with everybody on this. It's crazy how divided we were on the three non-Nemo movies this week. So cool.

    1. I love how just last week it looked like Bowling for Columbine was going to possibly walk away with this whole thing because it received a VERY impressive 90/100 score...and now Finding Nemo has bested it!

  4. I watched Fog of War specifically so I didn't have to say again that I had only seen the BP winner this week especially because of my feelings about that particular winner.

    I really liked Fog of War, like Kevin I'm a big history buff which in this case would be the main crowd the doc would appeal to. I didn't like it as much as Morris's The Thin Blue Line nor as much as The Weather Underground, which made me see red but was a compelling documentary and I would have preferred to see win, but I would rate it a solid A-.

    Now to the best picture winner, Return of the King. I LOATHED it!!! I made the mistake of seeing the first film, which I also hated, and then got rooked into seeing the others with the argument I needed to see how it turned out. I almost didn't see this after the agony of The Two Towers but when it won the BP I figured unlike the second it had to have an ending, I hoped that it would finish the series on a better note...I was so wrong. My boss at the time said that the films took life away from her, I couldn't agree more.

    I wasn't crazy about any of the films in contention this year, although I've yet to see Lost in Translation-I know, I know it's a gap. I liked Master & Commander and Seabiscuit but see neither as best picture material and Mystic River left me underwhelmed. I would have preferred to see the unnominated Love, Actually win.

    The Barbarian Invasion sounds completely missable and as I've said many times I am not an animation fan but I know Nemo is beloved-my nieces and nephews adored it until Frozen took over the planet.



      Also, I'm with you on Mystic River...didn't like that one at all...and I thought Seabiscuit was TERRIBLE. That being said, like I mentioned, Master & Commander and especially Lost in Translation are treasures, absolute treasures!

      I need to see more of Morris' documentaries!

  5. Apparently I was so bored with The Fog of War I didn't even make it through the discussion of it.

    1. LOL, I think that was the night you were busy rage-tweeting about Agent S.H.I.E.L.D. or something like that. I was shocked when I was copying the transcript that you only made like two comments. I was like...this isn't like Britt!!!

  6. I only need to see The Fog of War, but I'm a fan of the other films.

    While The Barbarian Invasions kinda feels like an acquired taste, I loved it. Girard was great, and the film is much better than its predecessor, which was charming but slight. I even support the screenplay nom, but I know I'm in the minority in this case. Weak A for me.

    Finding Nemo is also my favorite Pixar flick, Drew, so I've no problem with this win. It's hilarious, thematically rich, visually stunning, and features probably the best animated performance of all time by DeGeneres. I love this movie! Can't quite go with an A+, but a strong A.

    Return of the King is good, as is the whole trilogy. I'm totally fine with how the Academy rewarded Jackson's accomplishment (especially since Coppola did have her moment with a screenplay win). I've never really LOVED the films, just liked them. My favorite was always Two Towers, but I'd go with The Fellowship now as well. Though, I do think Return of the King is a perfectly respectable winner. I'm somewhere between an A- and a B+ for the LOTR films.

    Overall this year is pretty... *shrugs* Still, we've had a lot worse to deal with.

    1. UGH, Two Towers was VERY hard for me to sit through when Serkis wasn't on the screen (really, that was a tremendous performance).

      I really wanted to love The Barbarian Invasions. It sounds so up my ally...but I just couldn't.

  7. Great discussion! Looks like a divisive year. I think you all said what there is to say about Finding Nemo, which I am in agreement with. Return of the King is a great movie and a fantastic ending to the trilogy. There were a lot of almost-endings but I still like how everything turned out. It's an unusual choice for the Oscars as based on what I've seen they usually gravitate on dramatic films. The win seems like a win for all three movies as ROTK is a part of a bigger picture.

    1. Yeah, that BP win was certainly a consolation for the entire trilogy, and I get that and kind of even respect it even if I personally didn't like the film (or the trilogy) very much.

  8. This discussion was especially fun to take part in thanks to all the divergent viewpoints this time around. Really keeps me looking forward to the discussions to come.

    1. Yes! I love that we all come at these films from different places and opinions and that, as we talk, I can see some viewpoints (sometimes even my own) changing. It's all the power of discussion and I just LOVE this!

  9. I have no feeling to seethe foreign film, never did and my feelings for the film seem to be justified. I am a history buff and this is where the documentary can suffer. Why? We are human beings and so we are subjective-if we enjoy a genre we will gravitate more towards that than another. I can see where this documentary might be like an extended version of 60 minutes. If people love history of this period, they will enjoy it while other we look at the inside of their eyelids. I LOVE all LOTR. If you are not into fantasy then no matter what, this film is not for you. You will appreciate it for what was done but you simply can't give it its due. This is like me with an all out romance flick. I found the entire trilogy exceptional. The music is bar none THE best and I love the song from the first "May It Be". Tolkein suffered after WW1 and saw the destruction of nature from the industrial age. This was a statement about the loss of nature for progress more than anything and how War can change people so they can never be innocent again. I love the ending because it shows how much Frodo can never go back to his idyllic life. As for Finding Nemo-I agree-simply wonderful and a great father-son bonding movie even if they are separated for most of the film

    1. Yeah, I certainly agree that disliking or having no real feeling towards the genre itself will hurt a viewing of LOTR. I wanted to care, but I couldn't. I wish that I saw all the things you mention about Tolkein's influence here, because I saw none of that.

  10. I've only seen Finding Nemo and it's such a good film. Not just a good animated film, but in general. Not only does it look beautiful and the voice work are perfect, it's got SO much heart. It's hilarious too, so yeah, basically A+ in my book.

  11. I need to "do school" with my daughter, but Ill be back to read this later. :-)

    1. Can't wait to read your thoughts!

  12. Yall didn't like my favourite film of all time (ROTK). *weeps*

    1. Favorite...of all time!?!?! Wow, but you're not alone. That series has SERIOUS supporters, and we're in the minority a bit (although half our panel did like it a lot). Jeffery and I are just not the target audience for this :-P

    2. Yes, I unabashedly love this film. Holds a special place in my heart.

    3. Very cool. I love hearing about others 'favorites'. There is such range in them. That's what makes loving film and loving film lovers so awesome!