There was no tragedy this past decade greater than the utter implosion of quality among the winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Some might point to the 90s as the time our troubles began, and I admit that Dances with Wolves and Forrest Gump were bad omens. (The 90s did end with the intolerable American Beauty!) But you also had Silence of the Lambs! Shakespeare in Love! And, OK, Schindler’s List, in all its retardedly black-and-white-and-oh-my-God-her-dress-is-red glory! There were glimmers of light, is what I’m saying; yes, 2007, sure;and that light of hope is shows what was missing in the awful aughts. Let me show you.
Gladiator is a long, boring piece of shit, and that hyperstylized slo-mo thing-you know, like that 300 nonsense?- is nails on a chalkboard but for the EYES instead of the EARS.
2001: A Beautiful Mind
I guess A Beautiful Mind might have made some weird consolatory sense just after 9/11. (Those scary guys trying to get you? They’re just figments of your imagination!) But there’s really just a lot of Russell Crowe squinting his eyes and looking very, very frustrated, and Jennifer Connelly looking drugged and sad. Ugh, remember when Russell Crowe starred in two Best Pictures in a row?!?! That’s the 00s for you!
It’s really stupid to cast a lead in a musical who can’t sing. And then it’s even stupider to make this lack of talent into a signifier of her “vulnerability.” It didn’t work in Lawrence High School’s 1995 production of Hello Dolly, and it didn’t work for Renee Zellweger.
2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
American cinema’s rise and fall, in one fact: The only two trilogies to have all three films nominated for Best Picture are The Godfather and The Lord of the Rings. Sweet Jesus.
2004: Million Dollar Baby
These three could do their performances in their sleep: Morgan Freeman in his treasured magical-Negro mode, Clint Eastwood as the grizzled, secretly kindly one, Hilary Swank as the quasi-lesbian. And then she gets paralyzed and makes him kill her, in a twist so cloying that it makes Terms of Endearment seem like Funny Games. This movie is for 55-year-old men what Something’s Gotta Give is for 55-year-old women.
Crash is one of the worst movies ever made, and the fact that it won the Oscar for Best Picture says something-I don’t know what-about our world. Actually, I do know what! It says that we are so scarred by globalization and atomization and Internetization and whatever that we just want narratives in which all these unrelated people and stories are “woven” (i.e., thrown) together in one big redemptive bundle and we can UNDERSTAND IT ALL.
2006: The Departed
THIS is what Martin Scorsese finally wins for?! Not for any of his legendary masterpieces, but for a watchable, unremarkable genre movie? And you know what, there was something way off about the plotting!
2007: No Country for Old Men
I phased out at the end cause I thought it was JUST ONE MORE CRYPTIC MONOLOGUE and then the movie was over and I feel like I missed the point. Or was there not a point? Also, everyone said that Javier Bardem and his air hose were scary, but I didn’t think they were scary.
2008: Slumdog Millionaire
SO GREAT…. that we can feel okay about poverty in India because wait! Poverty actually is not poverty at all, but in reality an intricately designed preparation to succeed at American-style capitalism. Fuck this crazyass Horatio Alger shit. “But it’s a FANTASY!” Right, and what we totally needed are more fantasies about how being desperately poor sets you up to win a lot of money!
Thanks, Oscars. I really do hope Up in the Air wins this year. That would be the rancid icing on a moldy ol’ 00 cake.
Zachary Woolfe has had it with your movies.