Oscar time!

Get enough theater people together and invariably the conversation will steer into the subject of film. Make it Oscar season and your odds are greatly increased. That’s not to say theater people are any more likely to talk about movies than other folk, but we tend to be a more hyper-critical bunch given our collective understanding of acting from an inside perspective. Like a lot of my fellow thespians, I will often find myself in one of these Academy Award conversations uttering the following phrase: “I usually try and see all the movies which get nominated for Best Picture so I can make my own decision.”

Really? “Usually”?

I’m not sure it qualifies as a blatant lie, but it is most certainly an untrue statement from the perspective that I hardly ever actually DO see all the Best Picture nominees, despite my desire to do so. Looking back over the last two decades when I was a pretty frequent moviegoer, I see that there exist only two years in which I’ve managed to eventually see all five nominees, and in neither case did I do the deed while the films were in the theater or before the ceremony had actually taken place. My point? I really should stop saying that I try to see them when I so clearly don’t.

* * * * *

To date I’ve seen two of this year’s nominees and enjoyed them both. “Juno” is for my money the best film I saw this year, although considering I’ve seen like five in the theater and maybe one or two more on video/cable, that ain’t saying much. But still, I’d find it hard to believe I’d like anything more. I also really like “No Country For Old Men”, but as I stated in an earlier post, I found myself missing a lot of important info when it was over and had it not been for some reviews I read after the fact, I might not have “got it”. I’m curious to see “Michael Clayton” and “There Will Be Blood”, but of course every time I try and plan to, something comes up. I’m on the fence about “Atonement”, which falls in line with the fact that there’s usually one film of the five every year that I’m only mildly interested in.

* * * * *

Because I’m that bored, here’s a look back at the last 20 years of Best Picture nominees. Films I’ve seen are in bold. Best Picture winner is listed first in each year. My vote for Best (of those I had seen) gets an asterisk. Quickie thoughts on each year follow. Feel free to debate.

2006
The Departed
Babel
Letters From Iwo Jima
*Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

I thought The Departed was slightly overrated, as Nicholson was too over-the-top for me, and the whole bit with the cellphones seemed kinda sloppy (are cops really that dumb?). Little Miss Sunshine was just f’n brilliant. Would have liked to have seen Iwo Jima (especially since I found it’s companion film Flags Of Our Fathers to be such a convoluted mess). Not really interested in the other two.

2005
Crash
*Brokeback Mountain
Capote
Good Night, And Good Luck
Munich

Phillip Seymour Hoffman was spectacular in Capote, but Brokeback was just such a gorgeous looking film with an interesting story. Kept meaning to see Crash and Munich, but never did. Gotta get my ass on NetFlix I guess.

2004
Million Dollar Baby
The Aviator
Finding Neverland
Ray
*Sideways

I liked Million Dollar Baby, but it seemed to try to hard to be “epic”. Sideways was so much more than a comedy. I guess I should be happy it was even nominated.

2003
The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
Lost In Translation
Master And Commander
*Mystic River
Seabiscuit

Can’t say as though any of this year’s films blew me away. They were all exceptional, but trying to pick one above the others is tough. I go with Mystic River, but it’s not really a convicted selection.

2002
Chicago
Gangs Of New York
The Hours
*The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers
The Pianist

Wow, I don’t think I even *wanted* to see any of the other four at the time. I actually own a video of The Hours but I haven’t got around to watching it yet.

2001
A Beautiful Mind
Gosford Park
*In The Bedroom
The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
Moulin Rouge!

I tend to like smaller films, or at least, I tend to be more impressed when they’re done well. In The Bedroom was so freakin’ good, whereas Beautiful Mind was a little too polished for the story it was telling.

2000
Gladiator
Chocolat
*Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Eric Brockovich
Traffic

Loved Traffic, but Crouching Tiger blew my mind when I saw it. Not only because of the amazing fight choreography, but the story was epic and moving and so well told. How Gladiator won a Best Picture Oscar I’ll never know.

1999
*American Beauty
The Cider House Rules
The Green Mile
The Insider
The Sixth Sense

I liked American Beauty so much I saw it twice in the theater, something I almost NEVER do. Sadly, I saw the Sixth Sense after knowing “the secret”, so it was kinda ruined for me.

1998
Shakespeare In Love
Elizabeth
Life Is Beautiful
*Saving Private Ryan
The Thin Red Line

My personal feeling is that Saving Private Ryan is one of the greatest films ever made, so it’d be hard for me to pick anything else in this year. I did like the other three quite a bit although Thin Red Line was kinda choppy.

1997
Titanic
As Good As It Gets
The Full Monty
Good Will Hunting
*L.A. Confidential

This would be the second of the two years I managed to see all five nominees, although I didn’t get around to Monty until well after the fact. I LOVED Good Will Hunting at the time (still do), but I still think L.A. Confidential was a better overall film. Saw Titanic, liked the effects, drooled over Kate Winslet, thought it was too flippin’ long.

1996
The English Patient
*Fargo
Jerry Maguire
Secrets And Lies
Shine

Fargo blew the rest away. Not my favorite year.

1995
*Braveheart
Apollo 13
Babe
The Postman
Sense And Sensibility

Okay, now THIS was a bad year for me, as I didn’t see any of these in the theater and wasn’t necessarily awestruck by either of the two I did eventually see.

1994
Forrest Gump
Four Weddings And A Funeral
Pulp Fiction
Quiz Show
*The Shawshank Redemption

Ahh, 1994. The first year I managed to see all four nominees. I only actually saw Gump in the theater though, and didn’t see the rest for a couple of years. That being said, Shawshank is my hands down, all-time favorite film, so it has to win here.

1993
*Schindler’s List
The Fugitive
In The Name Of The Father
The Piano
The Remains Of The Day

Schindler’s List was brilliant (duh) and is the only movie I ever actually forced my parents to watch, even though I knew it would make them uncomfortable. Certain films people should be made to see. This is one of them.

1992
Unforgiven
The Crying Game
*A Few Good Men
Howard’s End
Scent Of A Woman

I’m not sure I ever got what the big deal was about Unforgiven. Maybe I need to see it again. A Few Good Men was so much more interesting.

1991
The Silence Of The Lambs
Beauty And The Beast
Bugsy
*JFK
The Prince Of Tides

I’m slightly biased against Silence Of The Lambs because I was a big fan of Manhunter, and I thought Lambs tried to hard to make the jail cell creepy by making it dark and cold, whereas the cell in Manhunter was blinding white, making Lector just that much freakier to me. JFK was such a staggering film to watch, even if you didn’t quite believe *all* of what was being thrown out there.

1990
Dances With Wolves
Awakenings
Ghost
The Godfather Part III
*Goodfellas

I’ll be able to add this to my list of complete years soon, as I have Godfather III on tape and just haven’t watched it yet. Meanwhile, Goodfellas is just off the hook, as the kids say.

1989
Driving Miss Daisy
*Born On The Fourth Of July
Dead Poet’s Society
Field Of Dreams
My Left Foot

Really? Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture? Wow, I so don’t remember that. Ah well, Born on the Fourth was phenomenal. Yes, I’m a big Oliver Stone fan, so what of it?

1988
*Rain Man
The Accidental Tourist
Dangerous Liaisons
Mississippi Burning
Working Girl

In retrospect I should have stopped at 1989. I *liked* Rain Man, but I didn’t love it. My guess is when I finally get around to seeing Mississippi Burning I’ll like it more. Of course I’ve been saying that for 19 years.

Anybody care to comment?

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