Oscars in Retrospect: The 2004 (77th Annual) Academy Awards

March 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

As we sit here now (you’re sitting probably right now you internet-loving freak) we’re looking back at the winners and losers of the 2011 Academy Awards and judging them for how good or bad they are.  But is that really how it’s supposed to work?  Isn’t our opinion more relevant after we’ve let the dust settle and have had time to process what just happened?

Seriously, process it!  Maybe years from now you’ll chuckle at one of Billy Crystal’s opening lines.

The true test of a great film is how it holds up over time.  Avatar held up for about a day until you forgot what the 3D experience was really like and all you were left with was a live-action Pocahontas featuring hair and tail sex.  I’m all about sex scenes, but this one just felt wrong and it always will.

Will The Artist be worth a damn to any of us in five years or will we look back and see that it won simply because it was so much different than the other nominees and not because it was a great movie?  Did it win the award only because the other eight movies weren’t all that spectacular and was it rewarded just because it entertained the members of the Academy in such a surprising way that they were just like “Fuck it.”?

I don’t know the answer to that as of yet.  We won’t know the true answer to how it holds up over time until time has passed.  So, what can we do today?  Use passed time to look back at old entries of the Oscars and ask ourselves again, “Was that the right decision?”  Not only that, but it can be fun to look back at some of the winners and losers and see how it changed their lives, if it did at all.

Enough with the introductions though (Got that Billy?), let’s get on with the show, starting with 2003:

What Happened to the Best Live Action Short Directors?

I was asking myself this the other night… what the hell is going to happen to these people that got nominated for Live Action Short?  Does it change their lives?  Do they go onto an awesome career of making short movies that nobody will ever see?  Or are they given the opportunity to step their game up and try their hand at Live Action Features?

Winner – Andrea Arnold for Wasp

Arnold is a former British actress that decided to try her hand at directing.  Wasp was her third short and she won an Academy Award for it.  I still find it weird that we have short films.  After all, they’re really not made for anyone to watch.  I mean, sure, you want someone to watch them, but at their heart you know that only a handful of people ever will.  Yet, it’s a gateway and it’s the perfect way to practice your skills.  It’s a necessary part of becoming a director.

Wasp ran 26 minutes long and was apparently about a woman going out on a date.  I don’t freaking know, I have obviously never seen it.  But the Oscar was a catapult into Arnold directing the feature film Red Road which opened the door for the well-acclaimed Fish Tank and her latest feature, Wuthering Heights.  She is basically a full-time working director that probably won’t have to worry about starving any time soon.

Gary McKendry was nominated for the short Everything in This Country Must.  He had no other credits on his resume until 2011 when he directed the action film Killer Elite.  I don’t know what causes a seven year gap between an Oscar nomination and your first feature, especially a feature starring Jason Statham and Robert DeNiro, but McKendry seems to have caught his break.  He’s working next on a trilogy called Joseph and the Girl.

Ashvin Kumar was nominated for Little Terrorist.  He is currently a critically-acclaimed documentary filmmaker in India, trying to get past the countries censorship laws.

Since his own nomination in 2004 for 7:35 in the Morning, Nacho Vigalondo made several more shorts until writing and directing the very good Spanish film Timecrimes.

Finally, Taika Waititi of New Zealand was nominated for Two Cars, One Night and is turning in a very diverse and prolific career.  He directed Eagle vs Shark, several episodes of The Flight of the Conchords (and now his buddy Bret McKenzie has an Oscar), and he directed the pilot episode of the new MTV show The Inbetweeners, the US version of the British series.  His film Boy was a New Zealand smash hit, and he even had an acting part in the film The Green Lantern.

Best Documentary Feature

This was the year that Michael Moore famously stated that he wanted Farenheit 9/11 to be considered for Best Picture and not Best Documentary.  It was not nominated for Best Picture, so it was not nominated.

This was also the year that Morgan Spurlock ate a shitload of McDonalds, which made him famous.  It only made me fat.  What the fuck?

The winner, and probably deservedly so, was Zana Briski for Born Into Brothels.  Today, Briski is doing a bunch of charity work to make sure more kids are born into nurseries and shit, which is a good thing.  It is her ONLY credit.

Best Actor – Jamie Foxx for Ray

2004 was kind of the year that Foxx went from “Maybe this guy can be a funny leading man” to ” maybe this guy can be a serious actor.”  He had sort of started the jump with roles in Ali and Any Given Sunday, but his previous starring credits were in Bait and Breakin’ All the Rules.  Bait got him no nominations, but in 2004 he starred in Ray and co-starred in Collateral with Tom Cruise, both were great performances and he was double-nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.

Did it solidify him as a serious leading actor?

Well, he made the not-so-wise decision of co-starring in the terrible Stealth in 2005, had a small part in Jarhead, then co-starred in the forgettable Miami Vice.  He was actually much more successful as a singer in 2005 when he released Unpredictable, which debuted at number two on the charts.

His next “This is an Oscar movie kinda movie!” was The Soloist, and it was weird and sad more than good or Oscar-worthy.  Followed up with more forgettable parts (Law Abiding Citizen, Valentine’s Day, Due Date, Horrible Bosses) and it doesn’t seem like his Oscar win really vaulted him into Tom Hanks territory.

However, he’s starring in the title role of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained this year as a slave that becomes unchained.  I’m looking forward to it and maybe it’s an acting decision that finally steps in the right direction again.

Best Supporting Actor Nomination - Thomas Haden Church

Lowell is back!! Lowell is back!!

I admit that I was really excited to see THC make a comeback when he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in Sideways.  It’s always nice to see a surprise story or a comeback story, especially from someone you enjoyed watching so much on television as a kid.  As Lowell Mather on Wings, THC was a treat to watch play the dimwit alongside all those other dimwits.  But he was the dimwittiest!

(If you watch the first episode of Wings and the final episode of Wings back-to-back, it’s like a mini-movie.  Except that Lowell turns into Antonio, played by Mr. Monk, Tony Shalhoub.  Available on Netflix Instant so you can do it tonight!)

When he left Wings in 1995, Church sort of fell out of the view of most of the public’s eye.  But he was still working consistently on TV and Film, just not in any major parts and not in many major movies.  Until Alexander Payne hired him for Sideways and he played a womanizing fun guy that’s about to get married and go on a wine trip with his depressing, sad-sack buddy.

Per Wikipedia:

During the audition, Church stripped naked to read the audition scene, later saying “To me it was painfully obvious… I was reading the scene where Jack comes in naked and there has to be in-born vulnerability in the scene.”[6] (He later found that he was the only actor to strip down for the audition).[7] Sideways earned acclaim for Church, for which he won an IFP Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

He didn’t win the award (That went to Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby) but it should have given him enough cred to show that he’s “not Lowell Mather” anymore.  Did it?  Sorta!

Church is working way more consistently in film and even in a lot of high-profile movies.  Most of them aren’t very good (Spiderman 3, Easy A, All About Steve) but work is work!  He’s co-starring in John Carter, which I’ve been told is the “first blockbuster of the year!”

I’d like to see him get some work that’s actually really good, but it’s good to see THC back where he belongs.

Best Picture – Million Dollar Baby

This is the most important question of all: did The Best Picture hold up better than the other nominees over time?  Baby was up against The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, and Sideways.

Full disclosure; I watched most of Finding Neverland and didn’t care that much for it.  Okay, you’re not Peter Pan but you’re about the writing of Peter Pan.  I get it.  That’s cool.  I’m sure it has it’s fans (a lot of them) but not in a million years would I have named remembered this as a Best Picture nominee.

Ray.  Neat movie.  Watchable.  I watched it a couple of times.  Jamie Foxx is good in it.  It’s the one about Ray Charles, right?  Yeah, I remember when he goes blind and his mom is like “oh no!” and he’s like living in the South in 1920 and there’s a trough and his brother dies or something, right?  That was sad.  Then he becomes a famous musician and then a drug addict.  And it stars Joaquin Phoenix.  Right?  Oh, that’s another movie?  But it’s very similar?  My bad.  Ehh… Biopics.  They are what they are.

Sideways.  What a good little movie.

The Aviator.  I think a lot of people look back at The Aviator and say it was really underrated.  I’ve heard a lot of people say they like it.  I seem to remember back then, a lot of people said that they didn’t like it.  I think it has improved with age.  It actually has the lowest score on IMDb (7.5) of any of the Best Picture nominees.

Million Dollar Baby still has the highest score at 8.2.  I guess against these four movies, it could still hold up as the Best Picture.  That’s why it is a damn shame that the Best Picture of the Year wasn’t nominated for Best Picture of the Year.

Kill Bill: Vol 2 was not only better than Kill Bill (which is GREAT) but it holds up on it’s own as a film and is actually a much different film than the first.  Did you know that only three people die in KB V. 2?  It’s not that violent.  It’s artsy.  It tells an amazing story that’s spread out over years.  It’s perhaps the best thing that Tarantino has ever done.  But unfortunately, a lot of people hate on Quentin Tarantino.

I am obviously not one of them.

He’s very polarizing, so it’s not often that he’ll get nominated for Best Picture or Best Director, at least not often enough.  Personally, I think he’s shown such a wide range of directing style that he’s one of the best living directors today.  He’s much more like Martin Scorsese than he is as “some guy that always does the same movie, over and over again.”

How does Inglorious Basterds look like anything else he’s ever done?  How does Kill Bill 1 even compare that much to volume 2?  Is Death Proof anything like Reservoir Dogs?  Yeah, they’ve all got “Tarantino dialogue” but stylistically they’re all very different.

At the very least, it should have been nominated for much, much more.   In fact, it was nominated for zero awards at the Oscars.  David Carradine rightfully got a Golden Globe nomination, as did Uma Thurman.

Follow me on Twitter or something, whateva, whateva, #dudesweat

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