Thursday, March 1, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks - Oscar-Nominated Movies That Should Have Won

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join us by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them - it's easy and fun!

Well, as I mentioned just yesterday, the most wonderful time of year is upon us: OSCAR NIGHT! I wish I were a little more excited for this Sunday's ceremony, but... well, this season has turned into one of those years where all the precursors are in lockstep, and this year is so much richer than having the same winners over and over would have us believe.

But, in order for somebody or something to win an award, others must lose, and that's what we're focusing on today: movies that were nominated for an Oscar that should have won. In my opinion, of course, since it's my blog. For the purposes of today, I'm focusing solely on Best Picture just to lessen the list of potentials a bit. And look, even narrowing it down to just the big award, there were PLENTY I could have picked. But let's be honest: In one of the early years of this new millennium, the Academy made one of their worst choices for Best Picture when they instead could have made one of their best. Just imagine looking at a ballot with ANY of the following three films on it and saying, "Nah, A Beautiful Mind was better than that!"

Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001) Quite brilliantly taking the piss out of the classic British Manor House Murder Mystery on its head, Altman works his customary magic with perhaps the best ensemble he's ever had (after Nashville of course, because nothing is better than Nashville). Julian Fellowes's screenplay is just delectable, the performances are indelible (witness the genesis of Downton Abbey's Dowager Countess in Maggie Smith's Oscar-nominated performance), and the costumes and sets are, of course, gorgeous. It's one of the best films of Altman's career, and given his filmography, that's saying something!

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001) Stupid, silly Academy "waiting until the third LOTR film to honor the whole trilogy." This is even sillier in hindsight, since the first of the trilogy is still the best. The world-building here is just jaw-dropping, expanding outward throughout while somehow never overwhelming the whole endeavor. That the film works as both first chapter and as a stand-alone film as well as it does is a testament not only to Tolkein's source material, but to Peter Jackson's meticulous, gorgeous direction: This is a big gosh-darned MOVIE movie, one that latches onto the ability of cinema to transport us to new worlds and then goes full-speed ahead, completely immersing us in Middle Earth. Gorgeously designed, flawlessly edited, beautifully scored, and powerfully performed, this is the greatest fantasy film ever made. (It's also the first movie I saw more than once in theaters, so you can probably guess which of these three was my pick to win...)

Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) Baz Luhrmann's dizzying whirligig of a musical is certainly the MOST movie of 2001, but it's also the most visionary. A bit of Old Hollywood razzle-dazzle by way of the ADD-afflicted MTV generation, Moulin Rouge! throws a century's worth of pop culture and cinematic tropes into a blender, mixes it all up, and comes up with an elemental story (penniless writer falls in love with consumptive courtesan-with-a-heart-of-gold) in phantasmagorical gilded-age dressing and an almost punk-rock attitude. It's too much at first, but by the time Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman are singing a medley of love songs at each other on top of a giant elephant as CGI fireworks explode all around them, the film has swept you off your feet into its mad embrace, causing an intoxicating head rush you won't ever want to escape.


  1. I actually had Moulin Rouge on my own list until I swapped it out for something else last minute. I never saw Gosford Park, but I did like FOTR and MR more than A Beautiful Mind, even though I did like that one too.

  2. I also went with Lord of The Rings, but with Two Towers. Moulin Rouge is one of my favorite musicals; I really liked Nicole Kidman there.

  3. Never seen Gosford Park but I agree about LOTR. Moulin Rouge is one I have to rewatch. I hated it when I first watched it, thought it was so corny. But I was a teenager and thought Ned Kelly was a good movie, so... yeah, I'll probably change my mind.

  4. Nice job focusing on one race. I totally agree on Gosford Park which would have been my choice. It's just wonderfully involving and rewatchable. I'm less of a fan of Moulin Rouge!, it was visually dazzling but once was enough for me. I'm sure I've stated my loathing for the entire LOTR trilogy before, it still holds.

    SO many alternates to what actually won through the years that I could only get down to four picks, two of which competed in the same year.

    I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)-Just after the end of the First World War vet James Allen (Paul Muni) decides to ramble around the country working odd jobs before settling down. Striking up a casual acquaintance with another drifter he is implicated in a robbery and despite his innocence sentenced to several years on a Southern chain gang. Faced with intolerable conditions he manages to escape and over time build a new and successful life but fate intervenes. Powerful indictment of prison conditions and man’s inhumanity to man with brilliant work by Muni and a haunting ending. There is no way in hell this should have lost to the ponderous Cavalcade.

    A Tale of Two Cities (1936)-Solid extremely well-acted version of the Dickens story of the French Revolution and some caught in its web. Handsomely mounted with Ronald Colman a strong Sydney Carton, Blanche Yurka a terrifyingly unhinged Madame De Farge and a lovely small performance by Isabel Jewell as a doomed seamstress. Again vastly superior to the corny and lumbering winner of its year-The Great Ziegfeld.

    Grand Illusion (1938)-Eloquent treatise on the futility and senseless of war defies easy synopsis without sounding trite but the basic story is of two French fliers shot down during WWII and their relationship with their cultured German captor. Gripping and profound.

    The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)-Spirited, lively, colorful and flat out fun version of the legend pulsates with vivid colors and a sense of joy. Masterfully lead by director Michael Curtiz with performances full of joie de vivre from Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, the Warner’s stock company and Olivia de Havilland but driving the entire enterprise is the perfectly cast Errol Flynn who is obviously having a great time. You will too. Either this or Grand Illusion should have emerged triumphant over the ultimate winner, the scattered and foolish You Can’t Take It With You.

    Double Indemnity (1944)-Rapacious Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) ensnares hapless insurance man Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) into killing her husband in such a way that they can collect the double indemnity policy on him. As Neff’s boss and mentor Barton Krebs (Edward G. Robinson) begins to suspect foul play things spin out of control and the depths of Phyllis’s maliciousness rise to the surface. Seminal noir that is expertly written and directed by Billy Wilder and memorably performed by Stanwyck and MacMurray in huge breaks from their established personas at the time. The winner this year was the genial but flyaway Going My Way, a pleasurable watch but nothing compared to this trendsetting masterwork.

  5. Any of those 3 films were better than A Beautiful Mind. That movie sucked. It was dull as fuck and had all of the bullshit elements expected in an Oscar-bait film. Plus, it's written by douche-bag who wrote the lines "I wanna a car! Chicks dig the car!" "This is why Superman works alone" and "Hi Freeze, I'm Batman!"

  6. I've only seen The Lord of the Rings and A Beautiful Mind from that year but LOTR was a better movie.

  7. Due to your raves about Gosford Park along with it being a murder mystery a la Agatha Christie, directed by Altman and written by Fellowes, I saw this film last year. I can say I thoroughly loved it and thought everything was great and I think, that dim-witted police detective is my favourite. I love that you picked LOTR because I love the whole trilogy. I find Moulin Rouge a bit...noisy and just a bit too much. I love musicals-and thought the leads did a great job s8nging but it’s not for me. I have to go with LOTR to win It that year even though I didn’t mind A Beautiful Mind winning.

  8. This is the year I picked too.

    I adore Gosford Park.

    I tend to love the first movie in a trilogy best...but yes! Yes! The Fellowship of the Ring was the best. I was in awe of it the first time I saw in the theater. It was as if Middle Earth truly existed.

    And Moulin Rouge was spectacular!