Ah, the aughts. The new century started out with the terror of 9-11 and it ended with the collapse of the world’s economy. In between, a lot of films were released. Some of them were really good. A few of them were nominated for Best Picture. Most of them were not.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Should Have Won: I’m in a minority here but I’ve never particularly cared for Gladiator. Joaquin Phoenix is a good villain and I can certainly understand why some people have adopted it as a sort of a life manual but, for the most part, Gladiator just falls flat for me. If I was voting, I would have voted for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There was a time when I would have voted for Traffic but Crouching Tiger has aged with a bit more grace the Steven Soderbergh’s look at the war on drugs.
A Beautiful Mind
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Won: A Beautiful Mind
Should Have Won: A Beautiful Mind gets criticized for being too Oscar bait-y but it’s not a bad film. What it does, it does well. That said, I would have voted for Todd Field’s haunting In The Bedroom.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Should Have Won: As much as I love Chicago, this is the year that I would have selected to honor Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Two Towers is the darkest chapter in the saga and it’s also the best.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Lost in Translation
Won: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Should Have Won: Even while it was sweeping the Oscars, it was understood that Return of the King was being honored as a way to acknowledge the entire trilogy. Since I already honored the trilogy with The Two Towers, that frees me up to vote for Lost In Translation this year. Lost In Translation is a film that haunts me in a way that few other films ever have or ever will.
Won: Million Dollar Baby
Should Have Won: Million Dollar Baby is good but The Aviator is Scorsese at his best. It also features Leonardo DiCaprio’s first legitimately great performance.
Should Have Won: Oh God, don’t get me started on Crash. What should have won? Anything other than Crash. I’ll go with Brokeback Mountain.
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Won: The Departed
Should Have Won: Martin Scorsese finally won his first Oscar for The Departed. Sadly, The Departed is actually one of his weaker films. (Of course, a weak Scorsese film is still better than an average film from any other director.) Back in 2007, I thought Babel should have won but that’s just because I was going through a pretentious phase where I thought any film with multiple storylines was automatically brilliant. Today, I realize that The Queen was the proper winner.
Won: No Country For Old Men
Should Have Won: No Country For Old Men. The Academy got it exactly right.
Won: Slumdog Millionaire
Should Have Won: Of the nominees, I have to go with Slumdog Millionaire. This, of course, is the year that The Dark Knight was not nominated and the internet lost its mind as a result.
The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
Won: The Hurt Locker
Should Have Won: This is the year that the Academy went back to ten nominees. The idea was that this would lead to a more diverse best picture lineup and it certainly worked the first year they tried it. This is one of the strongest best picture lineups in Oscar history and I say that as someone who really disliked Avatar and who thought The Hurt Locker was a bit overrated. I could make an argument for honoring Up In The Air, Up, District 9, A Serious Man, and Inglourious Basterds but my final vote would go to the underrated but wonderful An Education.
Coming up in an hour, we wind up our look at the history of the Best Picture race with the 2010s!