I make it a point to see every movie nominated for the top categories at the Academy Awards. Most of the time I concur with the voting but there are times when I don’t. And then there are times when I’m left scratching my head. While I don’t claim to have a remote understanding of nominating a movie for Best Picture, I do have an expectation of what a Best Picture Nominated movie should be: better than most.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
It wasn’t a bad movie and the action was good enough. What killed this movie for my was Jessica Chastain’s character, Maya. I didn’t like much about her and for some reason, she seemed pained throughout the movie. Maybe that’s the point considering they are searching for the author of the worst terrorist attack on American soil. But I didn’t buy her and although the suspense was good enough, the tension in Argo was far more compelling than was depicted in this movie. Good movie, worth watching for sure but not Oscar worthy.
2012 Winner: Argo
Beautiful graphics, terrible story; maybe I should say, typical story. It was a cowboy and Indian movie with blue people. Here you have humans extracting minerals from the planet without regards to its inhabitants, blah, blah, blah. I’ve seen it a thousand times but admittedly, never in such amazing graphics. The movie was a technological marvel. Even more impressive is that James Cameron had to wait for the technology to catch up to his vision before he could make the movie. I can’t take anything away from him as a director. I just wish he had done something more with the story.
2009 Winner: The Hurt Locker
Michael Clayton (2007)
When it comes to legal dramas, The Firm is by far my favorite. While George Clooney was Clooney in this role, the film was not memorable. I actually have to think hard to remember plot points. The acting was good, the directing was good, it was stylish and had its moments, but 2007 was not a good year because I can’t even find a movie that I would nominate in place of this one.
2007 Winner: No Country for Old Men
Gosford Park (2001)
Someone needs to explain to me why they enjoyed watching this. It bored me. It took me three attempts to get through the entire movie. I didn’t particularly like the acting and I didn’t like the story. I don’t have much to say about this movie, in my opinion, there wasn’t much to see. This is by far my least favorite movie on this list.
2001 Winner: A Beautiful Mind
District 9 (2009)
In 2005, the crime thriller, A History of Violence, hit theaters with critical acclaim. I saw it, didn’t’ get it. I even had a screenwriter friend sit down and explain to me why critics loved the film. I still didn’t get it. A decade has passed since its release, I’ve seen it three or four times, and I still don’t get it. District 9 falls into the same I DON’T GET IT category. The movie is aliens in a junkyard. When the movie ended I looked over to my wife, who was just my girlfriend at the time, and she had the same I DON’T GET IT look on her face. We didn’t get it. Is it a horrible movie? No. But when you hear the hype of Oscar nominations, it raises your expectations and the disappointment can be palpable, especially when you don’t get it. When I left the theaters after watching Birdman and Black Swan, I got it. District 9, I don’t get.
2009 Winner: The Hurt Locker
Gangs of New York (2002)
Let me start by saying I loved the movie. In fact, of all of the movies on my list, this one is my favorite. But in 2002, I would have nominated About a Boy or even Antwone Fisher before I got to Gangs of New York. Hell, 8 Mile would have gotten a nod before this movie. Again, I loved the movie and maybe this should have been the year when the academy expanded the list of nominees. If I have five nomination slots to fill, Gangs of New York does not make it. If I have eight slots to fill, then I can make a case for its nomination.
2002 Winner: Chicagoby