Sunday, October 18, 2009

Best Picture of 2001

For the first time, I am as yet undecided as I sit down to write the verdict. Rather confusingly, my enjoyment level for most of these films shifted since first seeing them. Since the films themselves have not changed, I can only assume that my prior expectations infiltrated my open-mindedness. Two of the films, which I had previously held in high regard, suffered from this cruel phenomenon, while a third emerged with a more favourable opinion than I had originally placed upon it. Consequently, I'm in a bit of a quandary, and I will sort this mess out as I write.

The nominees for Best Picture of 2001 are:

A Beautiful Mind
Gosford Park
In The Bedroom
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Moulin Rouge

Most years, the slate of films nominated for Best Picture are quite diverse, but for some reason, it seems particularly evident for 2001. Comparing an epic fantasy with an internal drama is difficult at the best of times, but adding a musical gala, a period satire and a powerful biopic to the mix is just ludicrous. So, how to separate them...

Firstly, let me consider Moulin Rouge. On the plus side, this visual and musical feast is entertainment at its purest. Fun and beautiful. Conversely, there is a certain lack of substance underneath all that eye and ear candy. Similarly, The Fellowship of the Ring is a magical fantasy evoking awe and wonderment, but for all the spectacle, the emotional content is somewhat superficial. However, I won't preclude either of these films from victory just yet.

Then we come to Gosford Park, which is the film that I found more satisfying the second time around. A clever and insightful take on the British class system. And being a period piece, it is not without its own visual grandeur. Also impressive is its seamless combination of period drama and murder mystery.

Likewise, A Beautiful Mind mixes a dramatic character study with several thriller elements. However, on second viewing it loses some of its impact, a fate that also befalls In the Bedroom. Despite an intense mood of suspense and tension, it failed to live up to the expectations I developed from my first viewing of it. On reflection, though, my slightly lower opinion (and it is only slight) of these two films on their repeat viewings somehow seems irrelevant since the purpose of this project is to see these films in the light in which they would originally have been seen. With that in mind, perhaps it should be my initial response to each of these movies that should take precedence. But that also seems a bit bizarre.

Right, well... I don't think I'm any closer to making a decision after all that. I wish Memento had been nominated. But, alas, I must forge ahead. So, what to do, what to do...

Thinking about how I feel about naming each one my favourite, Moulin Rouge seems to be the only one that definitely doesn't sound right to me. So, let's knock that out. I've seriously considered each of the other four, however, so now what? In the Bedroom seems too small to be named the best, but that's just callous. Granted, it lacks some of the impressive production values of the others but it makes up for that in its thick subtext. Still, for lack of a better reason, I'll toss it aside as well. And I suppose Gosford Park kinda falls into that category as well.

Hmm, I didn't like doing that. I liked both of those films a great deal. But enough of the past. Onwards and upwards. Of the final two, The Fellowship of the Ring is the most spectacular, but I think, because of its one-dimensional characters, I just didn't feel as deep a connection with it as A Beautiful Mind. So, it seems I'm selecting the same film that the Academy chose. I was not expecting that. My favourite Best Picture nominee from 2001 shall be A Beautiful Mind.

Best Picture of 2001
Academy's choice:

A Beautiful Mind

Matt's choice:

A Beautiful Mind

Your choice:

Whew, that was gruelling. I'll be very interested to hear everyone else's opinions on this year. I'm still unsure of my pick so I'm looking forward to seeing which film leads the poll. For our next review, we will be heading to 1956, a year with quite a few grand films in competition.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1956 are:

Around the World in 80 Days
Friendly Persuasion
The King and I
The Ten Commandments

Plus, not only will I be watching the Best Picture nominees, I will also be making some guest comments on another blog - one which is not dissimilar to this one - on the Best Supporting Actress nominees of the same year. But more on that next time...


  1. I'm glad you hemmed and hawed first Matt, because after all, it's your blog, and I gladly defer that responsibility to you. Now its my turn ... to hem and haw.

    I've decided to approach this project of yours from the perspective of how I would vote today. While this gives me the benefit of hindsight, my reasoning is that I probably didn't see all five Best Picture nominees in a given year at least until the 60s. So this probably accounts for more than 50% of the years. In your case Matt, it may be closer to 90%. Even though 2001 is recent enough to check my original rankings, I'm reevaluating before voting.

    Originally, my rankings were Lord of the Rings: #3, Gosford Park, #4, In the Bedroom, #5, Moulin Rouge!, #7 and A Beautiful Mind, #8. As I mentioned before, #1, Memento, #2 Mulholland Drive (also #6, Artificial Intelligence) are not under consideration.

    On revisiting the 5 nominees, here's how I'd rank them today
    #5: Moulin Rouge!
    #4: A Beautiful Mind
    #3: In the Bedroom
    #2: Gosford Park
    #1: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

    A very, very close contest. Today, any of the top four could be reshuffled. Frankly, because I already know that LOTR Parts 2 and 3, are not my highest rated nominated films for 2002 and 2003, and not likely to be selected, I don't mind giving The Fellowship of the Ring my vote. Truthfully, it is my favorite of the three parts. Maybe it's because its the first, maybe because I felt the story became portentous and too death-obsessed, even though they became more spectacular.

    1956 is going to be a different challenge - not one of stronger years in my opinion, and nearly 15 hours to get through these long movies. At least it has one of my guilty pleasures - so let it be written, so let it be done.

  2. considering LOTR makes my Top 10 ever, I'd go with that

  3. I've got to go with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring here. Even though The Return of the King won a couple years later, that was more a reward for all three films (as evidenced by it going 11 for 11 in wins.) The first one had far and away the hardest job to do. It had to convince people to take a fantasy story seriously and it succeeded beyond all expectations. It is the best of the three films and easily outdistances the other four nominees.