|Oscar Wrapup 2002|
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|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Monday, 25 March 2002|
"It’s an honor just to be nominated." Although the phrase has become a cliché about the Academy Awards, it is nevertheless true – to be voted as one of the five best practitioners of one’s respective craft by one’s peers is surely one of the most gratifying acknowledgements any artist can receive. Of course, being elected as the single best in such impressive company in any given year is still more gratifying. Here’s how AudioRevolution.com sees the winners of The 74th Annual Academy Awards for 2001 films, presented March 24, 2002:
Best Picture – "A Beautiful Mind" producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard won. While they made an extremely good – indeed, excellent -- movie, it still shouldn’t have won over the superlative "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" or even the incredibly inventive "Moulin Rouge." "A Beautiful Mind" is expert filmmaking, but it didn’t have either the technical complexity or the breadth of vision of either of the other pieces named above. This isn’t comparing apples and oranges, this is comparing a box of apples to an entire orange grove.
Best Actor – Denzel Washington won for his performance as a corrupt, charismatic cop in "Training Day." Of the three nominated performances seen by this reviewer (Washington, Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind" and Tom Wilkinson in "In the Bedroom" – Sean Penn in "I Am Sam" and Will Smith in "Ali" have not yet been viewed), no one was undeserving. Washington’s win is heartening insofar as it indicates that the Academy is willing to share the glory among many different films – common wisdom would be that, because "A Beautiful Mind" won Best Picture and Best Director, Crowe should have had a lock on the acting prize. "Training Day" itself was regarded as a commercial rather than a "serious" film, so it’s also nice to see the Academy acknowledge that it takes as much (or maybe even more) skill for a performer to work in mainstream entertainment as in a more lofty endeavor. Finally, Washington did terrific work – there’s no sin here.
Best Actress – Halle Berry’s status as the first African-American woman to win leading lady Oscar honors may or may not signal a change in the way African-American women are perceived in movies. Since her character in "Monster’s Ball" is being ground down by racism and sexism, poverty and ignorance at every turn in the film – in short, she could hardly be less threatening to the status quo – this is an especially tangled question. Berry certainly gave a profoundly felt, emotional performance that warrants critical and professional acknowledgement. Of the other nominees seen by this reporter (I haven’t viewed Judi Dench’s work in "Iris" yet), Nicole Kidman’s turn in "Moulin Rouge" was probably the most entertaining and arguably the most strenuous (she broke a rib doing one of the dance numbers), Renee Zellweger in "Bridget Jones’s Diary" was the most endearing and Sissy Spacek in "In the Bedroom" was the most nuanced. All things considered, Spacek should have won – her work was the equivalent of effective microsurgery in places – but she wasn’t robbed.
Best Supporting Actor – Jim Broadbent’s work "Iris" went unseen by this reporter (see above), as did Jon Voight’s turn in "Ali." However, Broadbent has been so consistently magnificent in every movie in which he’s appeared that it’s hard to imagine the Academy called it wrong here, even in the very worthy company of Ben Kingsley’s ferocious psycho in "Sexy Beast" and Ian McKellen’s indelible Gandalf in "The Lord of the Rings." (Ethan Hawke was fine in "Training Day," but not Top Five of the year, in this reporter’s view.) McKellen has already won eternal pop culture icon status for his work as Gandalf, Kingsley already has a Best Actor Oscar for "Gandhi" and Broadbent should have won a Supporting Actor trophy this year for "Moulin Rouge" anyway, so all’s well that ends well here.
Supporting Actress – Jennifer Connelly’s win for "A Beautiful Mind" is only questionable because this seems to be one of those situations where she could easily have been put in the leading category. Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith in "Gosford Park" were both great, Marisa Tomei in "In the Bedroom" was very affecting and Kate Winslet, although her work in "Iris" is so far unseen by this reporter, is generally an excellent actress. However, Connelly managed to hold focus while going toe to toe with Russell Crowe, maintaining audience attention while playing the usually thankless role of sane anchor to his mentally unbalanced lead. On balance, the Supporting Actress Oscar went to the first among equals in this year’s category.
Director – Did Ron Howard do a good job on "A Beautiful Mind"? Of course. A great job? Probably. Is it comparable (let alone superior) achievement-wise to the Herculean task Peter Jackson achieved with "The Lord of the Rings" or even what fellow director nominee Ridley Scott accomplished on "Black Hawk Down"? We-ell … Howard is an expert filmmaker deserving of recognition, but the work of Jackson, Scott and unnominated "Moulin Rouge" director Baz Luhrmann this year were all even more deserving.
Animated Film – This reporter personally found "Monsters, Inc." more imaginative and appealing than "Shrek," but there’s no denying that film’s achievement in pure animation terms. Ultimately, the right nominee won here.
Original Screenplay – Julian Fellowes’ "Gosford Park" had the most elements to juggle in terms of characters and details, so in technical terms, perhaps the award is warranted, though the movie has parts that don’t seem to fit together (the police inspector out of a farce is jarring). Christopher Nolan’s remarkable "Memento" script, with its unusual format and disturbing throughline, would have been this reporter’s choice.
Adapted Screenplay – Akiva Goldsman won for his adaptation of "A Beautiful Mind." See all complaints above about "A Beautiful Mind" being extremely worthwhile, but nevertheless getting awards that should have gone to "The Lord of the Rings," in this instance, the screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson. Ah, well, the "Ring"-makers do have cultural hero status and two more movies to sustain them (and give solace to their partisans).
Cinematography – Andrew Lesnie won for "Lord of the Rings," and rightly so, although the work of Donald M. McAlpine on "Moulin Rouge" and Slawomir Idziak on "Black Hawk Down" is of sterling quality.
Art Direction – Catherine Martin (art direction) and Brigitte Broch (set decoration) won for "Moulin Rouge." Although Grant Major and Dan Hennah did awe-inspiring things on "Lord of the Rings" and Stuart Craig and Stephenie McMillan likewise came up with truly magical images for "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone," Martin and Broch are worthy winners.
Costume Design – Catherine Martin (again!) and Angus Strathie for "Moulin Rouge" stand out as the unquestionable champs of this category. Good to see the Academy did right by them.
Film Editing – Pietro Scalia’s work on "Black Hawk Down" is truly admirable, though it’s hard to say it’s quantifiably better than John Gilbert’s cutting of "Lord of the Rings" or Jill Bilcock’s editing of "Moulin Rouge." Realistic battle vs. heroic epic vs. musical semi-real-world fantasy is probably comparing apples to oranges to bananas. The apples won – so be it.
Makeup – Peter Owen and Richard Taylor won for "The Lord of the Rings." Justice served with no surprise here – although Rick Baker’s work on "Planet of the Apes" ought to have at least received a nomination. (Sheesh.)
Original Score – Howard Shore’s compelling, many-hued music for "The Lord of the Rings" is the best film score of the year. Most civilians know this – good to see the Academy agrees.
Original Song – Randy Newman’s work is so smart and so apt that it’s hard to argue with handing him the statuette for "If I Didn’t Have You" for "Monsters, Inc." The lyrics are inarguably the best of the nominated batch – the music may be a matter of taste, but in this instance, after 15 previous nominations, it’s high time the songwriter took home the gold.
Sound – "Black Hawk Down" made battle so real and so scary that Mike Minkler, Myron Nettinga and Chris Munro definitely warrant recognition, though it’s a shame to see "The Lord of the Rings" and "Moulin Rouge" not fare better here.
Sound Editing – For some reason, the nominees in this category are "Monsters, Inc." (not nominated at all for Sound) and "Pearl Harbor" (a nominee but not a winner for Sound). George Watters II and Christopher Boyes won for "Pearl Harbor." If someone would like to do a guest editorial explaining why the sound editing on "Pearl Harbor" is so superior to that of "Black Hawk Down" that the latter wasn’t even nominated in this category, it might be illuminating – from here, the matter is perplexing.
Visual Effects – Jim Rygiel, Randall William Cook, Richard Taylor and Mark Stetson properly triumphed for their work on "The Lord of the Rings."
Not enough foreign-language films, documentaries or shorts were seen by this reporter for any kind of informed opinion to be offered here. It is hoped that the best work prevailed – but if the other categories are any indication, the odds are mixed.