Tuesday, September 27, 2011


JOHNNY CHAZZ: Just what is it that makes a film the “Best” of the year? On what basis does the Academy Award analyze and assess the quality of each film? It is doubtful that we will ever find out the answer, but there are some trends that we can examine to determine which film is most likely to take home the award.

We have learned on Cinema: Counterpoint that there are so many factors that determine the overall merits of a high-quality film. These include (but are not limited to): The genre, the sets, the camera work, the script, the political statement, the performances, the sound and the editing.
Dramas and historical epics tend to be the most successful probably accounting for winning nearly two (2) years out of every three (3). Comedies, war-based films and musicals most likely comprise the other winners. Thus, we can sort-of “nutshell” the films that are nominated each year (ten of them now…..ahem) by pigeonholing each one into one of these categories.

Starting in 1995 and ending in 2005 there was a strange period (and that strangeness still lingers) where the winners of the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture were questionable to say the least. As a matter of fact, these ten (10) years probably represent the worst cluster of “Best Films” ever to have won in the history of the awards. Off we go -

JER: An excellent topic… I will share my views and counterpoints after each of JC’s remarks.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: It will be fun to see what Jer’s thoughts are in terms of this 10-year span of awards in which I feel the Academy voted incorrectly 80% of the time.

1995: “FORREST GUMP”: Possibly the most disappointing film to ever with the Best Picture award. The film was not unique, Hanks was a bore and all aspects of quality film-making were abandoned here. As outstanding a "Pulp Fiction" was, "The Shawshank Redemption" was the deserving winner this year - easily.

JER: This was a very strong year for films and the nominees proved that. With its contenders being PULP FICTION, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and QUIZ SHOW…(FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL?) I think that I personally teetered between FORREST GUMP and PULP FICTION with a slight tilt towards the latter. SHAWSHANK was a strong probable winner as well. FICTION was considered too extreme and modern for the pallets of the refined Academy member. There was a magic to GUMP that was felt by many and agreed upon by both audiences and critics. The film has been overly played today on all premium and locally- operated television channels... but the film was innocent and engaging: just like Forrest himself.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 1996: “BRAVEHEART”: This film had no business winning the award. The performances were marginal and the story was plain dull. As a matter of fact, it never should have been nominated. Finally, please note that a film titled “Leaving Las Vegas” is considered by many to not only be the best film that year, but a top-100 on many all-time lists. The Academy chose incorrectly.

JER: Here is where I say the Academy chose correctly! Slim pickings in the other 4 nominees which were APOLLO 13, BABE, IL POSTINO: THE POSTMAN and SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. I think that BRAVEHEART had all the right elements: drama, a tragic love tale, action and taken right out of the pages of History. Mel Gibson’s portrayal and directorial double- duty roles were actually top- notch in my book! If it weren’t for this win, I would have gone with APOLLO 13 that year.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 1997: “THE ENGLISH PATIENT”: An outstanding film that definitely deserved to be nominated, but should not have won. “Fargo” was not only deserving of top honors for 1997, but should be on every critic’s top-100 list and perhaps even higher than that. The Academy chose incorrectly yet again.

JER: JC, I disagree with your statement, “an outstanding film that definitely deserved to be nominated”… um, no it didn’t! My opinion of this movie rests on your review of BRAVEHEART: “This film had no business winning the award. The performances were marginal and the story was plain dull. As a matter of fact, it never should have been nominated.” Now there is a quote I would stand behind, it was referenced to the wrong film, that’s all. FARGO would have been my choice within the other forgettable nominees, which were: SHINE, SECRETS AND LIES and the overly- bloated JERRY MAGUIRE.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 1998: “TITANIC”: This was simply ridiculous. Somehow “Titanic” makes people’s top-10 list of all-time and was a slam-dunk for the top honors during 1998. The box office revenues were the reason for this film’s success…..period. This critic has a hard time placing the film in my top 1,000 and always felt that the performances, the soundtrack and the length of the film were simply unbearable. Two films stood out this year: “L.A. Confidential” and “Eve’s Bayou” (which was not even nominated for some bizarre reason). One could also make a case for “Good Will Hunting”. The Academy chose incorrectly once more.

JER: TITANIC was a long- shot for me since day one. For its time, this 200 million dollar production seemed ready to sink and fail with its fictional tale of love on a tragic non- fictional event. Director James Cameron had failed previously with another underwater and pricey production: THE ABYSS. Cameron’s bet paid off! An incredible box- office hit with audiences that returned several times to the theaters and with a huge win at the Academy Awards… it was the year of TITANIC, no matter how you looked at it. As great as L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is, it just couldn’t compete with this luxury liner. Forget about AS GOOD AS IT GETS, THE FULL MONTY or GOOD WILL HUNTING even standing a chance of a win. Dare I say that you totally ‘missed the boat’ on this one!

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 1999: “SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE”: An overrated film surrounded by four (4) others that were lucky to have been nominated. This film simply won by default and the show should have been cancelled this year.

JER: Finally! I will agree with Johnny Chazz on this one. Overly- hyped, nearly- forgotten rubbish that actually beat out my favorite for the year, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Other contenders that year included ELIZABETH, THE THIN RED LINE and the tragic, but humorous LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. My choice was a clear vote for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, hands down. See, we can see eye- to- eye on occasion.

 JOHNNY CHAZZ: 2000: “AMERICAN BEAUTY”: The Academy had a tough choice this year as there were three strong films in the running including “The Green Mile” and “The Sixth Sense”. The choice of “American Beauty” was probably the right one in this critic’s mind and the Academy chose correctly this year….can you believe it?

JER: Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed AMERICAN BEAUTY, which I clearly need to revisit again, since I feel THE SIXTH SENSE and THE GREEN MILE were far more superior to the win. THE INSIDER was ok and I didn’t care for CIDER HOUSE RULES. This would have been a tough call, but I think AMERICAN BEAUTY would have ranked a possible third choice for me.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 2001: “GLADIATOR”: Perhaps one of the most embarrassing awards ever given to a film. The fact that it won over the likes of “Traffic” (a film we dedicated a blog topic to a while back), “Chocolat” and the amazing “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was simply a slap in the face of American audiences. The Academy missed the beat by a long shot here.

JER: Johnny Chazz, it amazes me how often we agree with each other and it surprises the hell out of me with the times we disagree. I will have to say that I am in 100% total disagreement on this one! The first viable threat would have naturally had been CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON… no doubt about that. I would have been worried about TRAFFIC and felt less of any kind of worries with both ERIN BROCKOVICH and CHOCOLAT. GLADIATOR’s win reminds me of the Golden Age of Hollywood when films like THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, SPARTICUS and BEN- HUR dominated the screen. GLADIATOR doesn’t compare within the same caliber of those giants, but it does deserve a seat amongst them with its win!
2002: “A BEAUTIFUL MIND”: The right choice. Amen.

JER: Let’s face it… an absolutely horrible year for films, so much so, that the only film I was rooting for was LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING! The first of the trilogy, the film opened strong and I was begging for more immediately. A bold and well- crafted film that deserved the nomination… and possibly the win. I didn’t care for A BEAUTIFUL MIND and was greatly disappointed with the win. There was no threat in place with IN THE BEDROOM, GODSFORD PARK or MOULIN ROUGE causing an upset in taking Oscar home.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 2003: “CHICAGO”: Here is an example of the musical genre winning and probably only won based on that aspect. What was amazing was that this film generated only 20% of the box-office revenues in respect to “Lord of the Rings”, but even that film was ill deserved based on a plethora of reasons. This leaves us with either “The Pianist” or “Gangs of New York” which both deserved to win over “Chicago”. “The Hours” was also a beloved film that year but one that this critic felt was vastly overrated on numerous levels. The Academy missed again.

JER: Again, I disagree! What are you talking about? You love the genre and musicals, JC… what is there not to like about CHICAGO? This was a win, hands down. Although I enjoyed the second chapter to the LORD OF THE RINGS series, I didn’t feel it was as strong as its first film. GANGS OF NEW YORK wasn’t director Martin Scorsese’s best or strongest film and I didn’t think THE PIANIST had a shot with the continued controversy that continues to plaque director Roman Polanski. THE HOURS just didn’t deserve to be in the category and was a dark- horse from the start.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 2004: “THE LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING”: Was this a joke? “Mystic River” and “Monster” were definitely films that deserved to be in the running (although “Monster” was not even nominated), but “Lost in Translation” offered an original screenplay that was second to none combined perfectly with emotion, passion, feeling, a gripping story, amazing imagery, creative and intimate interiors, a limited space, strong sound, vibrant editing and a documentary-style of film-making that places it in the top-20 of all-time for this critic. The Academy was way, way off this year and how sad that is.

JER: This week’s topic has continually caused an on- going clash of opinions… how could LORD OF THE RINGS not win? I know how you feel about LOST IN TRANSLATION, but it was a snooze- fest lining up to be executed with the epic story and backdrop of LORD OF THE RINGS! LOST IN TRANSLATION is a great film on its own, but if it is going to go face- to- face with a contender like LORD OF THE RINGS, it is going to lose, especially with this being the stronger of the trilogy with plenty of closures and satisfactions all around. MONSTER was a great character film, played by Award winner Charlize Theron, but the film itself was bland and not as interesting as it should have been. I don’t think it had the legs to carry a Best Picture nod…and the Academy obviously agreed with me for once! MYSTIC RIVER was fine, but I wouldn’t have gone as far as to allow it to take Oscar home.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 2005: “MILLION DOLLAR BABY”: No. “Sideways” deserved the award and some could even make a case for “The Aviator” or even “Finding Neverland” which was vastly underrated. The Academy is once again way, way off base.

  JER: I admit I was on the fence about this entry…I had enjoyed the one viewing I had of MILLION DOLLAR BABY, but that is all I can say about it. I can say that I enjoyed both SIDEWAYS and THE AVIATOR with the numerous viewings I have had on both. Kudos for a very satisfying FINDING NEVERLAND as well!

Well, these are my thoughts this week regarding the sad period of Best Picture awards between 1995 and 2005. There were two (2) films that I did feel well deserved (“AMERICAN BEAUTY” & “A BEAUTIFUL MIND).

Keep in mind Jer that this topic was focused on the films that we each feel "deserved" top billing - not the ones that were expected to win. Looking at 2004 would be a prime example as "Lost in Translation" which you referred to as a "snooze-fest" is a totally separate genre from "Lord of the Rings" - I simply found the film to be a far, far superior one to “Rings” on countless levels. Please note that I also mentioned that "English Patient" should not have won the award as “Fargo” was the most deserving that year...hands down. Still, "English Patient" deserved a nomination in my mind. Moving on, it is apparent that we will always agree to disagree on films such as "Gladiator" and "Chicago" (Musicals just are nowhere near what that used to be and "The Pianist" impacted me on a deeper level) and even "Titanic" - but that is what makes this topic intriguing.

Still, some terrific feedback here Jer - and I can see your angle on many of your own selections for "Best Film" during this bizarre decade between the ten-year span. It seemed like an interesting idea to bandy around - so let's leave the rest to our audience and see what their thoughts are. We might surprise ourselves to hear what they have to say.

Until next week when Jer pulls a rabbit out of the hat with a new Cinema: Counterpoint topic ***** Ciao all! SEE YOU NEXT WEDENSDAY!

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