The talent from down under shines in The Two Towers: David Wenham, Karl Urban and, of course, Miranda Otto.

My Top 20:

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  2. Gangs of New York
  3. Spirited Away
  4. The Hours
  5. The Pianist
  6. Talk to Her
  7. Minority Report
  8. Y tu mamá también
  9. Chicago
  10. Adaptation
  11. Solaris
  12. Road to Perdition
  13. The Quiet American
  14. Catch Me If You Can
  15. Lilo & Stitch
  16. Heaven
  17. 8 Women
  18. 24 Hour Party People
  19. Sunshine State
  20. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

note:  The first year where they all reach ****.  In my opinion, one of the best years in film history. The top three spots have pretty much remained unchanged since I saw those three films in the theater.  But the next few spots have moved a lot – including after this list was first written.  There are just so many great films, it kills me to to round out my top 5.

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Pianist
  • Best Director:  Roman Polanski  (The Pianist)
  • Best Actor:  Daniel Day-Lewis  (Gangs of New York)
  • Best Actress:  Julianne Moore  (Far From Heaven)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Chris Cooper  (Adaptation)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Catherine Zeta-Jones  (Chicago)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Adaptation
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Talk to Her
  • Best Cinematography:  Road to Perdition
  • Best Animated Film:  Spirited Away
  • Best Foreign Film:  Nowhere in Africa

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Chicago
  • Best Director:  Roman Polanski  (The Pianist)
  • Best Actor:  Adrian Brody  (The Pianist)
  • Best Actress:  Nicole Kidman  (The Hours)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Chris Cooper  (Adaptation)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Catherine Zeta-Jones  (Chicago)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Pianist
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Talk to Her
  • Best Cinematography:  Road to Perdition
  • Best Animated Film:  Spirited Away
  • Best Foreign Film:  Nowhere in Africa

The best animated film of pretty much any year and the Top 1000’s top film of the year.

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. Spirited Away  –  #428  (#5)
  2. Talk to Her  –  #646  (#10)
  3. Punch-Drunk Love  –  #766  (#21)
  4. Y tu mamá también  –  #797  (#11)
  5. Russian Ark  –  #851  (#61)
  6. Far From Heaven   –  (#14)
  7. Adaptation  –  (#34)
  8. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers  –  (#57)
  9. The Pianist  –  (#63)
  10. About Schmidt  –  (#101)

note:  Because so much of the focus for the Top 1000 is on classic films, because they have had a longer time to sink into the critical consciousness, they have a separate list called the Top 250 of the 2000′s.  The first number is for those films that actually make their Top 1000, the second number in parenthesis is for their rank in the Top 250 for the 21st Century.  I don’t know their precise methodology, so I can’t explain why some films rank higher on one list than on the other.  But, since the Top 1000 is the more definitive list, a higher rank there is the trump.

Top 10 Films  (2002 Best Picture Awards):

  1. The Pianist
  2. Chicago
  3. The Hours
  4. Gangs of New York
  5. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  6. Far From Heaven
  7. About Schmidt
  8. Adaptation
  9. Road to Perdition
  10. My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Top 10 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. Chicago  –  2032
  2. The Hours  –  1617
  3. Gangs of New York  –  1601
  4. Far From Heaven  –  1505
  5. The Pianist  –  1505
  6. Adaptation  –  1441
  7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers  –  1213
  8. About Schmidt  –  914
  9. Road to Perdition  –  612
  10. Catch Me If You Can  –  573

note:  Chicago crushes the record for most points by a film that fails to win any critics awards (a record which still stands).  On the flip side, Far From Heaven sets a new record for highest percentage of its points coming from critics awards (71.20%) (which would stand until 2011).  Far From Heaven would also set a record for most points without any BAFTA points, but that would only stand for two years.

$400 million – but within a decade to be rebooted? Really?

Top 10 Films  (Domestic Box Office Gross):

  1. Spider-Man  –  $403.70 mil
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers  –  $339.78 mil
  3. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones  –  $302.19 mil
  4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets  –  $261.98 mil
  5. My Big Fat Greek Wedding  –  $241.43 mil
  6. Signs  –  $227.96 mil
  7. Austin Powers in Goldmember  –  $213.30 mil
  8. Men in Black II  –  $190.41 mil
  9. Ice Age  –  $176.38 mil
  10. Chicago  –  $170.68 mil

note:  This is the first year where 3 films break $300 million.  Because of that, the year’s Top 10 easily sets a new total record, even though the films at the bottom of the list make less than the year before.  Interestingly, films 2 through 4 are all second films in a series with a built-in audience.  Clones made over $100 million less than Phantom and Chamber made over $50 million less than Sorceror, but Towers actually improves on Fellowship by $26 million.  I saw these films a combined 20 times in the theater – 7 (Two Towers), 6 (Clones), 3 (Spider-Man), 2 (Chicago) and 1 (Harry Potter, Greek Wedding).  Greek Wedding becomes, by far, the highest grossing film to never hit #1 at the box office.

Christopher Lee looking out over all the money The Two Towers made in the international box-office market.

Top 10 Films  (Worldwide Box Office Gross):

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers  –  $923.3 mil
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets  –  $879.0 mil
  3. Spider-Man  –  $821.7 mil
  4. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones  –  $640.9 mil
  5. Men in Black II  –  $441.8 mil
  6. Die Another Day  –  $432.0 mil
  7. Signs  –  $408.2 mil
  8. Ice Age  –  $383.3 mil
  9. My Big Fat Greek Wedding  –  $368.7 mil
  10. Minority Report  –  $358.4 mil

note:  Harry Potter has the highest international percentage of its gross (70%), but that will be par for the course for the series.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding barely earns 1/3 internationally and Goldmember only brings in 28%.  But just lower down the list is Spirited Away, which made $274.9 million, only $10 million of which came in the States.  The only film to gross over $200 million worldwide and earn a lower percentage in the States is Miyazaki’s next film: Howl’s Moving Castle.

Ebert Great Films:

  • Adaptation
  • Ripley’s Game
  • 25th Hour

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Why did they use an image from the first film as a poster for the second? Who knows, but it’s still cool. And, oh, it’s the best film of the year.

Drama:

  • Best Picture:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Director:  Peter Jackson  (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)
  • Best Actor:  Daniel Day-Lewis  (Gangs of New York)
  • Best Actress:  Nicole Kidman  (The Hours)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Jude Law  (Road to Perdition)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Julianne Moore  (The Hours)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Hours
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Talk to Her

Comedy:

  • Best Picture:  Chicago
  • Best Director:  Rob Marshall  (Chicago)
  • Best Actor:  Nicholas Cage  (Adaptation)
  • Best Actress:  Renee Zellwegger  (Chicago)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Chris Cooper  (Adaptation)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Meryl Streep  (Adaptation)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Adaptation
  • Best Original Screenplay:  8 Women

The best supporting performances of the year: Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep in Adaptation.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Director:  Peter Jackson  (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)
  • Best Actor:  Daniel Day-Lewis  (Gangs of New York)
  • Best Actress:  Nicole Kidman  (The Hours)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Chris Cooper  (Adaptation)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Meryl Streep  (Adaptation)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Hours
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Talk to Her
  • Best Editing:  The Hours
  • Best Cinematography:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Original Score:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Sound:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Art Direction:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Visual Effects:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Sound Editing:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Costume Design:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Makeup:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Original Song:  “The Hands That Built America”  (Gangs of New York)
  • Best Animated Film:  Spirited Away
  • Best Foreign Film:  City of God

Let’s see – not worthy of a Foreign Film nom in 2002, but good enough for a Director and Adapted Screenplay nom in 2003 – way to go Foreign Film committee.

Top 10 Foreign Films:

  1. City of God
  2. Talk to Her
  3. Hero
  4. 8 Women
  5. Nowhere in Africa
  6. The Man Without a Past
  7. El Crimen del Padre Amaro
  8. Man on the Train
  9. The Warrior
  10. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

This is one of the best years for foreign films in a long time.  In fact, I rank it as the second best year for Foreign Film behind 1957.  And in one sense, the Academy did right by it.  They nominated four of my top 7 films, with one of the best slates they have ever nominated for Best Foreign Film.  On the other hand, they also screwed it up.  How is that?  Well, because two of my top four were submitted but not nominated, and City of God, a truly brilliant film, the best Foreign Film in a magnificent group, is passed over, and the rest of the Academy basically pointed out how stupid the Foreign committee is by nominating it the next year for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.  And the rest of the Academy this year was basically mocking the process once again.  Like in 1985, when Japan didn’t submit Ran, so the directors nominated it, here, Spain doesn’t submit Talk to Her, so the directors and the writers nominate it and the latter give it the Oscar.  Man on a Train isn’t submitted, but that’s because France submitted 8 Women, so that’s understandable.  So we have the Oscar winner (Nowhere in Africa), 3 nominees (Hero, The Man Without a Past, El Crimen del Padre Amaro), 2 films submitted but not nominated (City of God, 8 Women), a film submitted but not accepted for submission by the Academy and replaced (The Warrior), and 3 films not submitted (Talk to Her, Man on the Train, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance).

Maribel Verdu gives the sexiest performance of the year in Y tu mamá también.

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Line (comedic):  “His destructive programming is taking effect. He will be irresistibly drawn to large cities, where he will back up sewers, reverse street signs, and steal everyone’s left shoe.”  (David Ogden Steirs in Lilo & Stitch)
  • Best Line (dramatic):  “But for those of us what lived and died in them furious days, it was like everything we knew was mildly swept away. And no matter what they did to build this city up again… for the rest of time… it would be like no one even knew we was ever here.”  (Leonardo DiCaprio in Gangs of New York)
  • Best Opening:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Ending: Gangs of New York
  • Best Scene:  “Toss me.”  (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)
  • Best Use of a Song (dramatic):  “The Hands That Built America” in Gangs of New York
  • Best Soundtrack:  24 Hour Party People
  • Best Original Song from a Bad Film:  “My Stepdad’s Not Mean, He’s Adjusting”  (Death to Smoochy)
  • Best Ensemble:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Funniest Film:  24 Hour Party People
  • Most Over-Rated Film:  Far From Heaven
  • Worst Film:  Sorority Boys
  • Worst Film I Saw in the Theater:  Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
  • Worst Sequel:  Stuart Little 2
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  Death to Smoochy
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Jennifer Westfeldt in Kissing Jessica Stein
  • Sexiest Performance:  Maribel Verdu in Y tu mamá también
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio:  Halle Berry in Die Another Day
  • Watch the Film, SKIP the Book:  About Schmidt
  • Read the Book, SKIP the Film:  The Time Machine
  • Star of the Year:  John C. Reilly  (Gangs of New York  /  Chicago  /  The Hours)
  • Coolest Performance:  Steve Coogan in 24 Hour Party People
  • Best Trailer:  Adaptation
  • Best Tag-line:  “When it comes to love, sometimes she just can’t think straight.”  (Kissing Jessica Stein)
  • Best Cameo:  Brad Pitt and Matt Damon in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
  • Sexiest Cameo:  Gwyneth Paltrow in Austin Powers in Goldmember
  • Best Animated Character Performance:  David Ogden Steirs in Lilo & Stitch

Film History:  Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones becomes the first major Hollywood film shot entirely without film.  For the first time, three films gross over $300 million in the United States.  Spider-Man becomes the first film to make $100 million in its opening weekend.  Billy Wilder dies on 27 March.  The Pianist wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes.  Rod Steiger dies in July.  Katrin Cartlidge dies suddenly in September.  Richard Harris dies in October, prompting a search for a new actor to play Albus Dumbledore.  The release of Phone Booth is delayed because of the Beltway sniper attacks.  Far From Heaven wins 5 Independent Spirit Awards including Best Picture, Director and Actress.  Swept Away wins 5 Razzies, icluding Worst Picture, Director and Actress.

“I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag,” Adrien Brody said after winning the Oscar for Best Actor and planting a big wet one on Halle Berry’s lips.

Academy Awards:  We get one of the best Oscar moments ever (see picture on right).  Chicago becomes the second film in three years to win Picture but not Director or Screenplay, but also only the second to do so since 1949.  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers becomes the only film between 1991 and 2011 to get a Picture nomination without a Director, Screenplay or acting nomination.  Talk to Her becomes the first Foreign film to win a Screenplay award since 1966.  Gangs of New York earns 10 nominations with no wins – the most since 1985.  Chicago, which doesn’t have an eligible Score, is the first Best Picture winner not to be nominated for Best Score since 1992.  It also becomes the first Best Picture winner to get nominated for Best Original Song but not win since 1976 (and only the second ever).  For the first time in 14 years, all five Best Picture nominees are released in December.  John C. Reilly is in three Best Picture nominees, including the winner (Chicago, Gangs of New York, The Hours).

On the one hand, they didn’t nominate Peter Jackson for a director driven film, probably because they knew he would win the next year.  They also gave the Oscar to Eminem rather than U2.  And because they actually had enough animated films they nominated 5, which meant a lot of dead-weight (Spirit, Treasure Planet).  And they somehow decided that Time Machine was more worthy of a Makeup nomination than Attack of the Clones, Two Towers or Chamber of Secrets.  But, this is a year with a lot of plusses.  It has the best Best Picture lineup in Oscar history (the first year I rank them all at ****).  They have the best Foreign Film lineup in Oscar history.  They have the best Best Actor lineup in history (so good that Tom Hanks gives one of his best performances in Road to Perdition and there legitimately is no room for him).  In a year where a great film wins Best Picture and is the weakest of the lineup, well, that’s one hell of a year and its reflected in the Oscars.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Editing for Chicago
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Far From Heaven
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Director for Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Unfaithful
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Solaris
  • Best Foreign Film Submitted but Not Nominated:  City of God
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Makeup
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Actor
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Actress, Supporting Actor, Visual Effects, Sound Effects Editing, Animated Film

Golden Globes:  Chicago becomes the first film nominated for the big 7 awards (Picture, Director, Screenplay, all 4 acting categories) since Reds in 1981.  It is the last year to date where the none of the winners of the three drama awards (Picture and Actress for The Hours, Actor for About Schmidt) go on to win the Oscar.  About Schmidt becomes the first film in 7 years to get nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay and not get nominated for any of them at the Oscars.  Jack Nicholson wins his sixth Golden Globe while Meryl Streep wins her fourth.  Chicago earns 8 nominations (the most since Titanic in 1997 and tied for second all-time) and 420 points (the most since Ordinary People in 1980 and sixth highest ever).  For the second time in three years (but also only the second time since 1991), the two Picture awards, Director and Screenplay award all go to different films.  Four films are nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay: Chicago (8 noms, 3 wins), The Hours (7 noms, wins Picture – Drama and Actress – Drama), Adaptation (6 noms, 2 wins – both supporting awards) and About Schmidt (5 noms, wins Actor – Drama and Screenplay).  Gangs of New York and Two Towers are both nominated for Picture and Director with Gangs getting 5 noms and winning Director and Song and Two Towers receiving no other noms (making it the last film to date to get Picture and Director but no other nominations).

Awards:  Far From Heaven is by far the biggest winner among the critics – setting a new record at the New York Film Critics with 360 points (Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography) and coming just short of Silence of the Lambs‘ record at the Chicago Film Critics, earning 420 points (Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Score).  Though it wins awards from all six groups, it only manages more than two awards in two categories – Actress (NY, Chicago, LA – where it shared the award with The Hours) and Cinematography (which swept the four groups that gave the award – New York, LA, Boston, Chicago).  The Pianist dominates the National Society of Film Critics (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor) – tying the record of 340 points set by Atlantic City and the Boston Society of Film Critics (Picture, Director, Actor).  The LA Film Critics go with About Schmidt (Picture, Screenplay, Actor).  The National Board of Review split its major awards among The Hours (Picture), The Quiet American and Rabbit-Proof Fence (sharing Director).  The other big winner is Adaptation – winning four Screenplay awards and three supporting acting awards.  For the second straight year, the eventual Oscar winner wins no awards – the first time that happened in back-to-back years since 1951-52.

Thanks to the introduction of the Visual Effects Society Awards, The Two Towers shatters the record for most nominations at the guilds (24 – still stands) and most wins (12 – tied the next year).  In spite of that, Chicago with 15 noms and 9 wins, finishes with more points (725 to 685).  They are followed by Gangs of New York (13 noms, 4 wins), The Hours (8 noms, one win) and Adaptation (8 noms, no wins).  At the SAG Awards, Chicago earns 5 nominations (tying Shakespeare in Love‘s record), wins 3 awards (tying American Beauty‘s record) and earns 295 points (breaking American Beauty‘s record) – all of which still stand.  Chicago wins the biggest awards – the SAG Ensemble, PGA and DGA while The Hours and Bowling for Columbine win the two WGA awards (making it the only time since 1984 that the WGA and Oscars disagree on both awards).  Chicago is the only film nominated for the big 4 awards (PGA, SAG Ensemble, DGA, WGA).  Two Towers misses the WGA, Gangs misses the SAG and The Hours misses the PGA and Adaptation misses the DGA.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding is also in the mix, earning WGA, PGA and SAG Ensemble nominations.  For the fourth straight year, all five Best Actress nominees at SAG go on to earn Oscar noms, though for the second straight year only one SAG winner repeats at the Oscars (Catherine Zeta-Jones).  For the first time in six years, all five eventual Oscar Best Picture nominees are nominated at the DGA – the first of four consecutive years.

The Pianist wins Best Picture and Director at the BAFTA’s but those are its only wins – the only film in BAFTA history to win Picture and Director but nothing else.  For the first time, the BAFTAs and Oscars agree completely on Best Picture.  All five films also earn Director nominations with 12 nominations for Chicago (2 wins) and Gangs of New York (wins Actor), 11 for The Hours (2 wins, including Actress), 9 for Two Towers (2 wins) and 7 for The Pianist.  The wins are scattered – for the first time since 1979, no film wins more than 2 awards and 13 different films win awards.  For the first time in 5 years, a film (The Hours) is nominated for Best Picture and Best British Film and loses the latter to a film (The Warrior) that isn’t nominated for Best Picture.

The Broadcast Film Critics Awards, having expanded to nominees the previous year, we now have the first film nominated for Picture and Director (and winner of the latter – an award it shares with Minority Report) to fail to earn a Best Picture nomination from the Oscars – Catch Me If You CanAdaptation is the biggest film – getting a Picture and Supporting Actress nom and winning Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor.  Also winnings multiple awards are Catch Me If You Can (Director and Score, with a Picture nom), Chicago (Picture and Supporting Actress) and Minority Report (Director and Score).  About Schmidt ties Adaptation with the most nominations (4), tying for Best Actor and getting Picture, Screenplay and Supporting Actress nominations.  Gangs of New York also shares for Best Actor and is nominated for Picture and Director.  The other film nominated for Picture and Director is The Pianist.  For the first time, all 10 of the Best Picture nominees get at least 2 nominations.

Best Director:  Heading the Consensus list is Roman Polanski, winner of the Oscar, BAFTA, NSFC and BSFC and a nominee from the DGA and BFCA for The Pianist.  He’s followed by Martin Scorsese for Gangs of New York (Globe winner, DGA, Oscar, BAFTA, BFCA noms), Todd Haynes for Far From Heaven (NYFC, CFC, Satellite, Indie Spirit winner), Rob Marshall for Chicago (DGA winner, Oscar, Globe, BAFTA nominee) and Stephen Daldry for The Hours (DGA, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, Satellite noms).  My own list begins with Peter Jackson for The Two Towers (DGA, BAFTA, Globe, Satellite noms), then continues with Scorsese, Polanski, Daldry and Steven Spielberg for Minority Report (BFCA winner).  My 6 through 10, many of whom would be nominees in a normal year, are Pedro Almodóvar for Talk to Her (Oscar, Satellite noms), Alfonso Cuarón for Y tu mamá también, Sam Mendes for Road to Perdition, Marshall and Spike Jonze for Adaptation (Globe nom).

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Adaptation easily wins the Consensus – though it was a big question for a while as to whether it would be considered adapted or original.  It won four critics awards (NYFC, BSFC, NBR, CFC) and also won the BAFTA and BFCA and earned Oscar, WGA and Globe noms.  It’s followed by About Schmidt (Globe, LAFC wins, WGA, BFCA noms), which was a surprising Oscar snub.  The Hours would win the WGA but only get nominations from the Oscars, Globes and BAFTA.  The Pianist would actually win the Oscar and the NSFC award but only add a BAFTA nom.  The final Consensus nominee would be Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, also penned by Charlie Kaufman, and sharing the award with Adaptation from the BFCA and NBR.  The slate is so packed (and varied, because of what films are nominated by the awards groups) that About a Boy and Chicago become the only two films in film history to earn 3 noms for Adapted Screenplay (Oscar and WGA for both, BAFTA for About a Boy, Globe for Chicago) and not make the top 5 Consensus list.  And yet, I still disagree.  The Hours is my #1, followed by Adaptation, with The Pianist at #4.  But my #3 (The Two Towers) and my #5 (The Quiet American) get overlooked in the wealth of great scripts.  The same for my #6-8 (Minority Report, Solaris and Catch Me If You Can, though the latter film gets a BAFTA nom).  Then comes About a Boy and About Schmidt, which would be Nighthawk nominees in a weaker year, round out my Top 10.  And that doesn’t even leave room for Road to Perdition, Confessions, 25th Hour, Chicago or El Crimen del Padre Amaro.

Best Original Screenplay:  There isn’t much of a consensus.  The only original script to win a critics award is Human Nature, as part of the award for Charlie Kaufman from the NBR while the only original script among the globe nominees is Far From Heaven.  The winner of the Oscar and BAFTA – Talk to Her, fails to earn WGA or Globe noms.  It wins the Consensus, but is the first Consensus winner with less than 3 wins since Ghost in 1990 and the first with less than 3 noms since The Candidate in 1972.  It is followed by Gangs of New York (Oscar, WGA, BAFTA noms), Far From Heaven (Oscar, WGA, Globe noms), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Oscar, WGA, BFCA noms) and a fifth-place tie between Bowling for Columbine (the surprise WGA winner) and Y tu mamá también (Oscar and and BAFTA noms).  It is not a great year – this often seems to happen – when one side of the Adapted / Original ledger is great, the other is weak.  My top 5 are Talk to Her, Y tu mamá también, Spirited Away, Gangs and Sunshine State.  My next 5 are all good scripts, but mostly ignored – 8 Women, 24 Hour Party People, Heaven, All or Nothing and Kissing Jessica Stein.  That Far From Heaven (whose script I absolutely hated – I felt it fake through and through – but I also don’t like the Douglas Sirk films this was making an homage to) and Greek Wedding (which is a cliched romance) were nominated over some of these is painful.  But either way, it became clear that the best scripts were foreign – as evidenced by the first Foreign win in this category at the Oscars since the 60’s.

Best Actor:  Four groups have the same list here.  The Nighthawks, the Oscars, the BAFTAs and the Consensus list all have Daniel Day-Lewis for Gangs of New York, Adrian Brody for The Pianist, Jack Nicholson for About Schmidt, Nicholas Cage for Adaptation and Michael Caine for The Quiet American, with all of them except the Oscars having Day-Lewis winning.  The order I have listed them is the Consensus list – I put them in this order: Day-Lewis, Caine, Brody, Cage, Nicholson.  It is, I think, the best group of five the Oscars have ever nominated for Best Actor.  My #6, though, is nowhere to be found: Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition.  In fact, neither are my 7 through 10: Edward Norton for 25th Hour, Tom Cruise for Minority Report, George Clooney for Solaris and Steve Coogan for 24 Hour Party People, underappreciated performances, all of them.

Best Actress:  Julianne Moore wins the Consensus Award for Far From Heaven, winning the LAFC, CFC, NBR and BFCA and earning SAG, Oscar and Globe noms.  In second is surprisingly, a tie between Nicole Kidman for The Hours (Oscar, BAFTA, Globe wins, SAG, BFCA noms) and Diane Lane for Unfaithful (NYFC, NSFC wins, SAG, Oscar, Globe, BFCA noms).  The final two spots are Renee Zelwegger for Chicago (SAG and Globe – Comedy winner, Oscar and BAFTA nominee) and Salma Hayek for Frida (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA noms).  I think Hayek’s performance is a bit over-rated and that Lane’s is way over-rated.  My only explanation for the exclusion of Meryl Streep for The Hours is category confusion – she was nominated by BAFTA and the Globes but didn’t get nominated at SAG for this or Adaptation.  My own top 5 are Kidman, Streep, Moore, Cate Blanchett for Heaven and Zelwegger.  My 6 through 10 are Sigourney Weaver for her strong, yet subtle performance in The Guys, Maggie Gyllenhall for Secretary (Globe – Comedy nom), Jodie Foster for Panic Room, Maribel Verdu for Y tu mamá también and Samantha Morten for Morvern Callar.

Best Supporting Actor:  Chris Cooper makes up for getting ignored in American Beauty by winning big here for Adaptation – taking home the LAFC, NBR, Oscar, Globe and BFCA (though he loses SAG and the BAFTA).  Christopher Walken, in his most subtle performance in decades, wins the SAG, BAFTA and NSFC for Catch Me If You Can and earns an Oscar nom as well.  Dennis Quaid does not get an Oscar nom for Far From Heaven though he does win the NYFC and CFC and earns SAG and Globe noms.  The final two Consensus nominees are Ed Harris for The Hours (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe noms) and Paul Newman for Road to Perdition (Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA noms), but they both miss out on my top 5 in favor for more over-looked performances from the same films.  Cooper and Walken are my #1 and 2, but my next two are Jude Law as the menacing assassin in Road to Perdition and Stephen Dillane as Leonard Woolf in The Hours.  My #5 is Andy Serkis for The Two Towers, a performance that does so much without ever appearing on-screen.  My 6 through 10 are Newman, Harris, Alfred Molina for Frida (SAG, BAFTA, BFCA noms), Quaid and Brian Cox in 25th Hour.

Best Supporting Actress:  Catherine Zeta-Jones wins for Chicago, taking home four awards (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, BFCA), and only losing Globe – Comedy because she is placed in the lead category.  Meryl Streep wins the Globe and CFC for Adaptation (and earns Oscar, BAFTA and BFCA noms).  The rest of the Consensus list are Kathy Bates for About Schmidt (NBR win, SAG, Oscar, Globe, BFCA noms), Queen Latifah for Chicago (SAG, Oscar, Globe, BAFTA noms) and Patricia Clarkson for Far From Heaven (NYFC, NSFC wins).  My own list is Streep, Julianne Moore for The Hours (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA noms), Zeta-Jones, Bates and Toni Collette for About a Boy (BSFC award, BAFTA nom).  My 6 through 10 are Latifah, Clarkson, Samantha Morten for Minority Report (meaning that three actresses make my Top 10 list in both categories), Edie Falco for Sunshine State (LAFC win) and Miranda Richardson for Spider.

Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris – those who saw it hated it, but what do they know?

Under-appreciated Film of 2002:

Solaris  (dir. Steven Soderbergh)

People hated this film.  They viciously hated it.  It had some of the worst audience grades of a year that included Master of Disguise, Sorority Boys and Benigni’s Pinocchio.  So who gets the blame for that?

Well, let’s start by not blaming the film-makers.  The film itself is extremely well-made at every level.  Soderbergh gives us one of his most subtle directing jobs, a reminder that the director of the Ocean’s films started with sex, lies and videotape.  Then there is George Clooney, giving a strong, yet introspective performance (perhaps defining the notion of the strong, silent type).  This was the role that started to bridge the gap between the aura of cool that marked his rise to film stardom in Out of Sight, Three Kings, O Brother and Ocean’s 11 and the more mature performances that would make him a mainstay at the Academy within a few years.  This is the thoughtful intelligent Clooney – a lot more like he had been on “E.R.”.

But it doesn’t end with Soderbergh and Clooney – that team supreme that works time and time again.  There are the technical parts of the film, most notably the sound that is so well engineered and the editing that is the key to the flow of the film.  They work in conjunction in a film that, like Tarkovsky’s original version (I say version since they are both adapted from Lem’s novel), works much more on the 2001 level of science-fiction rather than Star Wars.  There are also the strong supporting turns from Jeremy Davis and Viola Davis (one of the performances that would eventually lead her to the Oscars as well).

This brings us back to the question of whose fault it is that such a good film found itself so savaged by word-of-mouth.  The mixed critical reviews weren’t enough to have it plummet in the second weekend at the box office.  And we can see it’s not the quality of the film – true, it is not as good as the Tarkovsky film, but how many people who saw this film had ever even heard of the first film?  So what was it?  It’s unlikely it was Soderbergh’s name – he’s never been a big enough name to draw people in.  So what about Clooney?  Would people see him on the poster and assume it would be more entertaining and less philosophical?  This was kind of the start for Clooney to follow Soderbergh into Orson Welles territory – balancing smaller, more artistic and personal films with the popular movies that would pay the bills.  But, looking at the numbers, Clooney himself has never drawn huge crowds.

So maybe this is about marketing.  Look at the trailer and you’ll see a love story – one that doesn’t lead you to expect the slow moving film that it actually is – one with a lot less romance than the trailer (and the poster) would seem to indicate.  Or maybe there really wasn’t a way to market it – or they marketed it and brought in more crowds and the people who understand film-making liked it and the audiences who couldn’t be bothered to slow down and think were turned off.

Either way, this is one of those rare re-makes that actually works.  It works because Clooney is the right actor for it (just look at that devastating look in his eyes when he sends off the pod).  It works because of some of the great subtleties (she’s not really his wife – the absence there is because she comes from what Clooney remembers and he never really knows why she died, so neither does she).  It works because Natascha McElhone is a greatly under-utilized actress who has all the things needed here – an ethereal beauty (at least to me – she has the same kind of look as Kelly MacDonald, and my wife doesn’t understand my strong attraction to either one), an air of mystery (that also worked so well in Ronin – another under-appreciated film), and a mysterious depth that we can never really know how far down it goes.

And if you see all of this and you still don’t like it?  Well, hell, I don’t know.  But I grew up with the Star Wars films and I still have a love for great slow-moving introspective science-fiction films – give me 2001, Solyaris and Solaris over Avatar any day of the week.

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