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It’s not uncommon for Oscar to simply crown the Best Director’s film as Best Picture. At least, that was the case in 15 out of 16 years between 1982 and 1997 (and five years ago, with a Ron Howard/A Beautiful Mind daily-double). Makes some sense, too. After all, the director is generally credited as the visionary, the auteur. Lately, though, Oscar has just as often split the two marquee awards between two different films (Last year, Crash won Best Picture and Ang Lee won Best Director for Brokeback Mountain), lending a greater appreciation for the collaborative nature of film. I tend to agree, so hold the Rouge!.
Upon Further Review: Refreshing. Contagious, A frenetic orgy of styles and imagery. I know, I know, Moulin Rouge! is all these things. But. All that glitters is not gold, because Rouge!’s storyline has all the weight of a feather boa. Memorable? Certainly. Meaningful? Not so much.
You might think fantasy films like Lord of the Rings aren’t meaningful either, but that’s only because you never watched Fellowship in a dark theater sitting next to a man dressed as Gimli. The Rings trilogy possesses a rabid following, which might be loath to admit that Fellowship’s pacing has some yawning lulls, which all the faux panoramic splendor can distract from but never fully correct. Plus, despite being two hours and 58 minutes long, it’s still just a marathon prologue lacking any satisfactory resolution.
When A Beautiful Mind won the Oscar for Best Picture, the film dodged controversial accusations — some called them smears — that it had omitted scandalous aspects of John Nash’s life. True or false, the charges were emblematic of the studios’ shameless jockeying for Oscar gold, but ultimately, they had little effect. A good thing, because A Beautiful Mind is a timeless story of love and inspiration, told within the fractured mind of a mathematical genius. Witnessing Crowe become the bookish Nash one year after slaying Commodus in Gladiator is as impressive a 1-2 acting punch as any in Hollywood history, and his supporting cast rose to his level. Director Ron Howard fends off saccharine theatrics until the end, finding authenticity in what could’ve been a Hollywood cliché. If it’s 2002’s most conventional Best Picture nominee, it remains its most remarkable.