February 20, 2008

The 21st Century Academy Awards

Do the Oscars matter ? Do they nominate the right movies ? Do the right movies win ? All of these have been discussed recently and I’m here to say…I have nothing new to add to the conversation. But I thought it’d be fun to look at all of the nominees of the 21st century, and pick out who would be nominated, and who would win, if it was all one long year. So with 35 possible nominees for each category, here’s what I came up with:


Nominees---Benicio Del Toro (Traffic- ’00); Chris Cooper (Adaptation- ’02); Ed Harris (The Hours- ’02); Alec Baldwin (The Cooler- ’03); Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby- ’04)

Honorable Mention---Clive Owen (Closer- ’04); George Clooney (Syriana- ’05)

I thought that out of all of the categories this would have a slew of worthy candidates, and as you can see, I was wrong. Freeman, Harris, and Baldwin are all the best in the world at playing exactly what they play here, which would be wise, conflicted, and douchey, respectively. Cooper stole the show in Adaptation, which just so happens to be one of the most original movies of the decade. But the winner is Del Toro in a role that there is nothing supporting about. He is front-and-center in a remarkable movie, and his performance here made his every subsequent movie a must-see. He has since disappointed, but the bar had been set pretty high.


Nominees---Kate Hudson (Almost Famous- ’00); Meryl Streep (Adaptation- ’02); Cate Blanchett (The Aviator- ’04); Amy Adams (Junebug- ’05); Adriana Barraza (Babel- ’06)

Honorable Mention---Julianne Moore (The Hours- ’02); Natalie Portman (Closer- ’04)

This was by far the weakest category, as evidenced by the non-creative choices that I have made here. The only note I would make is that Adams’ nomination represents a rare occurance of the Academy thinking outside-the-box. And since none of the other four are all that noteworthy, I’ll just name her the winner. If you haven’t seen her hilarious performance in Junebug, do yourself a favor.


Nominees---Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (’00); Amores Perros (’00); Amelie (’01); Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (’05); The Lives of Others (’06)

I usually go out of my way to see foreign films, but I had only seen less than half of the 35 nominees. I am guessing that this has something to do with the ridiculous process that pervades this category. I don’t know enough about how it’s done, but I know that there can be no argument for a list of rules that doesn’t allow the nomination of City of God, which make all five of these look like a Paul Walker movie with subtitles. I might be exaggerating, but the point remains. Back to the point, I would say that these five movies are every bit as good as the five that are listed for best picture below. For a winner it has to go to Crouching Tiger which, though a touch overrated, was a phenomenon that’s success hopefully led to a number of people opening their minds to foreign films.


Nominees---Traffic (’00); LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring (’01); Adaptation (’02); City of God (’03); Before Sunset (’04)

Honorable Mention---Ghost World (’01); The Hours (’02)

This is one category that I don’t understand how someone can intelligently discuss without reading the source material. For winner I’ll give it to Fellowship, which managed to take a beloved book with a rabid fanbase, and the previously-held belief that it was unfilmable, and make it the movie event of the 21st century.


Nominees---Almost Famous (’00); Amelie (’01); The Royal Tennenbaums (’01); Memento (’01); Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (’04)

Honorable Mention---The Incredibles (’04); Syriana (’05)

This is my favorite category as it seems they consistently manage to throw a bone to the best movies of the year that would otherwise go unnominated. With no denial of being a complete Wes Anderson fanboy, I’m saying the winner is Tenenbaums, which had a great cast of characters and hundreds of new laughs upon every reviewing.


Nominees---Steven Soderbergh (Traffic- ’00); Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon- ’02); Martin Scorsese (Gangs of New York- ’02); Fernando Meirelles (City of God- ’03); Peter Jackson (LOTR: The Return of the King- ’03)

Honorable Mention---George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck- ’05); Paul Greengrass (United 93- ’06)

You couldn’t go wrong picking any of the five nominees here. My head says Jackson, but my heart and the award go to Meirelles, whose City of God might be the best movie listed in this whole post.


Nominees---Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream- ’00); Nicole Kidman (The Hours- ’02); Charlize Theron (Monster- ’03); Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line- ’05); Helen Mirren (The Queen- ’06)

Honorable Mention---Laura Linney (You Can Count on Me- ’00); Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- ’04)

This post is ending up a lot longer than I intended, so we’re cutting off a few of these mid-acceptance speech. While a lot of times a great movie is measured by how many times you’ve seen it, Requiem is so spot-on disturbing that one viewing is more than sufficient. And the best part is your winner…Ellen Burstyn.


Nominees---Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs of New York-’02); Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator- ’04); Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote- ’05); Forrest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland- ’06); Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson- ’06)

Honorable Mention---Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain- ’05); Ben Kingsley (House of Sand and Fog- ’03)

All seven nominees listed here were excellent, but this one isn’t even close. Day-Lewis’ performance here is top five all-time, and easily number one of the decade.


Nominees---Traffic (’00); Moulin Rouge! (’01); Gangs of New York (’02); LOTR: The Two Towers (’02); Good Night, and Good Luck (’05)

Honorable Mention---The Hours (’02);) The Aviator (’04)

I love Gangs, but my memory always focuses more on the greatness of Day-Lewis’ performance than on the greatness of the entire movie. Towers is the best of the LOTR movies, but it’s hard to give the award to a sequel. I don’t like musicals, Kidman, or McGregor, but I love Moulin Rouge!. And Good Night, and Good Luck is my obligatory dark horse selection. But the winner is Traffic for seamlessly intertwining three great stories into one great movie which is loaded with outstanding performances.

In conclusion, I would say that I was pretty underwhelmed by the nominees of the current decade. As far as which years are the strongest, I unintentionally gave at least five nominations to each of the seven years. The top years ended up being 2002 (10 noms) and 2000 (9). So what does it all mean ? Absolutely nothing.


  1. It might not mean anything, but this is a still cool wrinkle on the endless Oscar pontificating that has been haunting the various sites lately (mine included).

  2. It would be cool to know who actually did win in the years of your so-called winners. I know Day-Lewis didn't win that year, I even remember arguing with you about it, an argument I believe I eventually lost. I thought he did win but you said nope, he only won an MTV award. Cool Pardsy!!!

  3. OSCAR POOL!!!! OSCAR POOL!!!! Also, can you put up a new voting forum. Those are way fun. Thank you! OK. Bye.

  4. This was a fun post. I'm with you on the Original Screenplay. I'm of the opinion that the five that get nominated here are usually the five best of the year, or at least will have the longest lasting power. Obviously, there are exceptions (The Godfather is a glaring one, Fight Club is a favorite adaptation of mine as well), but greats like Eternal Sunshine almost always get ignored when it comes to the major categories, but are usually a sure lock for Orig. Screnplay.

  5. Traffic got beat by Gladiator for Picture. Day-Lewis got beat by Brody for "Holocaust Movie." Burstyn got beat by Roberts as "environmentalist with a heart of gold." Del Toro actually won supporting actor. Adams was beat by Rachel Weisz (???). Wasn't expecting Adams to win, but don't recall Weisz taking home honors for Meirelles' dissapointing follow-up. The same Meirelles lost to Peter Jackson (Fellowship) for director. Fellowship lost adapted screenplay to Beautiful Mind. Tennenbaums (along with Memento and Amelie) lost original screenplay to Gosford freakin' Park. And Crouching Tiger did win foreign film.

  6. Sweet, I'm off the hook for an original idea and you're 2/2 for posts so far.

    First things first: any unresolved argument we've ever had regarding movies is hereby forgiven as you've righted the "Snub of the Century" - Ellen Burstyn. Maybe I'll write an entire post about that one day. You're wholly accurate mention of City of God doesn't hurt either.

    How did you decide on the nominees, anyway? Your favorites or what you think would have taken one of the five spots? The math on this, of course, is insane since there could be a 13th grade number of possible combinations. Better that you narrowed it down, but it has to be mentioned.

    Of the ones that you made available, I agree with 6 of your 9 winners. I'll take Hudson over Adams, Amelie over Tiger, and Memento over Tenenbaums. Day-Lewis and Traffic just barely sneak through.

    Some notable exclusions:
    Jackie Earle Haley, Supporting '06
    Water, Foreign Language '06
    Crash, Best Picture '05 (Yup.)
    Joaquin Phoenix, Actor '05
    Crash, Orig. Screenplay '05
    Tsotsi, Foreign Language '05
    Jamie Fox, Actor '04
    Sideways, Adapt. Screenplay '04
    Downfall, Foreign Language '04
    In America, Orig. Screenplay '03
    Salma Hayek, Actress '02
    Y Tu Mamá También, Orig. Screenplay '02
    Wow, nothing in 2001.
    Ridley Scott, Director '00

  7. I have Thursday off and I'm sitting here drunk, but completely ready to defend my picks. I threw possible nominees into a spreadsheet and narrowed them down. I will now react to your "winner" comments.

    I somehow thought that I had invited a storm of violence just by mentioning Hudson's performence, but I have no problem with you picking it as your own. I won't even stand in the way of Amelie and Memento.

    I'll take the rest of them one comment at a time:

    Jackie Earle Haley, Supporting '06 (eh)
    Water, Foreign Language '06n (never saw)
    Crash, Best Picture '05 (Yup.) (Can't think of a cliched punchline)
    Joaquin Phoenix, Actor '05 (really? good, but doesn't compare to these seven)
    Crash, Orig. Screenplay '05 (see above)
    Tsotsi, Foreign Language '05 (very overrrated)
    Jamie Fox, Actor '04 (there's a difference between acting and impersonating)
    Sideways, Adapt. Screenplay '04 (this was right on the cusp)
    Downfall, Foreign Language '04 (read above)
    In America, Orig. Screenplay '03 (One of my favorite movies of the last ten years)
    Salma Hayek, Actress '02 (Didn't see Frido)
    Y Tu Mamá También, Orig. Screenplay '02 (Eh again)
    Wow, nothing in 2001.
    Ridley Scott, Director '00 (Was in the argument)


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