Owen and Lisa debate the Big One: Best Picture
March 20, 2002 11:38 AM
Well here we are, Lisa, in the last of our Oscar debates. I have to say: It’s been great fun sparring with you, and agreeing with you (sometimes) too. As we go into the home stretch, one question dominates all others in this year’s Academy Awards, and I can’t wait to find out the answer. You know what I’m referring to: Who, exactly, was behind the campaign to smear ”A Beautiful Mind” with accusations of homophobia and historical whitewashing? Was it Harvey Weinstein? Matt Drudge? Wolfgang Puck? It’s anyone’s guess, though I do predict that all of this will be water under the bridge after Sunday, when ”Mind” walks away with Oscars for Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, director Ron Howard, and — the big enchilada — Best Picture itself. So, at long last, let’s talk about that ultimate category.
I already noted the merits of ”A Beautiful Mind” in our Best Director discussion last week, but just to reiterate: I think it’s a very good movie, but not remotely the best one nominated. My choice for that is ”In the Bedroom.” It’s a film of quiet power that sneaks up on you in more ways than one — in fact, I don’t think I even fully understood the film until I saw it a second time. As a portrait of a marriage spun into breakdown by tragedy, it’s clearly a drama of searing moments, but its true test as a work of art is that final section, in which Tom Wilkinson’s character builds up to an act of cold brutality. Is it revenge — a kind of refined American Playhouse ”Death Wish”? That’s what I thought the first time. On a second viewing, it became clear to me that Wilkinson was acting not out of hatred, or not simply so, but because he and Sissy Spacek’s character had both decided that they needed to destroy this man, lest his freedom destroy them. To me, that’s a perception that speaks to the true, hidden, intimate heart of how a marriage really works. And it’s the disturbing and galvanizing drama of that insight that makes ”In the Bedroom,” to me, the finest and most resonant of the five films nominated.