My 2001 Oscar Blindspots are finally complete. Let’s do a few capsule reviews of the other films I missed from that Oscar year.
Iris (first watch)
Sometimes, a film can be so well put together, a bad performance can be overcome by the surrounding competence. In the case of Richard Eyre’s Iris, the exact opposite is true. The primary performances of Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent and Kate Winslet are the only things worth caring about in the film. Every line of dialogue comes straight out of book of melodramatic cliches, but the actors are so good that you can move past it.
Dench and Winslet play the same character, and while they compliment each other while forging their own distinct performances, the same cannot be said for Hugh Bonneville, who portrays the younger version of Broadbent. While Winslet does not attempt to act like Dench, Bonneville seems to be doing a Broadbent impression.
The acting accolades are the only thing to write home about, especially the performance of Judi Dench, but the heavy nature of the film drags the film down and ends up with an anti-conclusion.
Ghost World (first watch)
Many films have been accused of being quirky for quirk’s sake, but Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World doesn’t act like everything odd is normal. Every time a character acts in an odd way or does something that is not commercially popular, they comment on the oddness of it. Zwigoff does such of good job of populating this world with odd characters but making them feel like actual people, as opposed to stereotypes.
Thora Birch is the star of the show and portrays her character with absolute confidence in who she is without laying it out for the world to see. Scarlett Johannson is also great as her best friend, but in a relationship that inevitably grows apart due to changing circumstances and mindsets.
Steve Buscemi steals the show as a man who you would expect to be a real out-there character, but turns out to have his eccentricities in a quieter way. He is not defined by his oddities, but attempts to hide them to fit in to the real world. The self-awareness of everyone in this film is off the charts. Of all the blindspots, this is the film I was the most surprised at.
I Am Sam (first watch)
The one film I was least looking forward to watching was Jessie Nelson’s I Am Sam. Any depiction of mental disability, especially one this broad is a bit of sore subject for me. Sean Penn was remarkably consistent with his characterization, but the entire idea of him not being able to care for a child seemed remarkably valid.
Many famous faces pop up for brief moments including Dianne Wiest, Mary Steenburgen and Laura Dern. Dakota Fanning lights up the screen in her breakthrough role, but my favorite performance was that of Michelle Pfeiffer. She is given no help by the script, but her split emotional state the entirety of the film is great to watch.
The film jumps through as many hoops as possible to portray its hero as wonderful while putting every possible roadblock in his way to happiness. He is either cosmically unlucky or people are out to get him. Though I did not hate the film like I expected, it is the film that made the me the most upset.
A Beautiful Mind (rewatch)
For the first 70 minutes, Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind really hums. There is forward momentum and the story zips along, but when the drama starts to deviate from the relatively straightforward narrative, things get messy.
Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly do a great job with their characters, but the film is a jumbled mess that can’t decide a visual style. Sometimes the film spins around Crowe and feels alive, while other times it is static and boring. As the film progresses, it drags out the drama and extends the story to unnecessary levels of melodrama.
In a great year for film, A Beautiful Mind‘s Oscar win feels oddly out of place. Almost any other film would have come across as more palatable.
That concludes my 2001 Oscar Blindspots series. Check out my entire “Best of 2001” list for all the films I saw and enjoyed