Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

31 Days of Oscar – Recant This! Recasting Oscar’s Picks: the 90s

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The blogathon masters PaulaKellee, and Aurora are at it again. They’ve come up with the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon. Their blogging goal is to get down in writing any and everything on the subject of film and Oscar for those wishing to participate. The following is my blathering contribution.

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We’re less than a week to Oscar’s big night. And it’s building. Don’t you feel it? What’s going to come out of those envelopes? Who’s going to make everyone watching stand up and cheer with the result? Pulses everywhere spike just hearing,

and the oscar goes to…

Then it goes to what’s-her-name. Or him (also thunderstruck with the news), sitting right over there. And we all have to live with it. Some of us not quietly…

the-oscars-and-social-media-by-the-numbers-630dfbfb1c

With that, this is the next part in my series for the run-up to Oscar Night. What I’d righteously overturn within each of the decades I’ve been watching movies. Oscar’s misjudgments. We’ll turn it back to the laden 90s’ today. Drum roll, please:

1990 Best Director

robert_de_niro__martin_scorseseFor the second decade in a row, Oscar had to go right off the rails with a biggie for the start of it all. And by coincidence they once again snatched the statuette from the same filmmaker. Why is it ten years later the mighty Academy had another actor-turned-director beating Martin Scorsese for this award? I’m not going to put down Kevin Costner for the film he directed here. But just because Dances With Wolves was nowhere near the vicinity of Waterworld or The Postman, means I’m not lauding it either. Not by a long shot. Every evaluation since that fateful night by moviegoers, fans, and critics, Goodfellas has only grown in admiration. It was an exceptional film by one at the height of his prowess, and Scorsese really deserved this. Unfortunately, this and the next pick echoed throughout the decade.

1990 Best Picture

Goodfellas

Re-read the above paragraph. It really came down to only two pictures that year. As a longtime Western fan, it was great to see the genre represented here with Dances With Wolves. But this really should have gone to Goodfellas.

1992 Best Actor

Denzel-Washington-then-now---Malcolm-XYou may recall that I thought Al Pacino should have won this for his Godfather Part II performance, or the handful of his earlier roles. But this was the classic make-up call by The Academy for selecting his role in Scent of a Woman. The outcome of which only encouraged Al’s bad tendencies and excesses. Who really earned this? Denzel Washington for Malcolm X. It was a singular, significant performance that should have been recognized at this moment. Then things could have been different… but I’m getting ahead of myself. In a word, making award amends merely perpetuates bad choices, folks.

1993 Best Actor

SchindlerI like Tom Hanks. I really do. He was very good in Philadelphia. However, I daresay Liam Neeson was the better actor that year in his role as Oskar Schindler. In a much stronger movie, too, which Schindler’s List surely was. For me, Liam’s was the key contribution in the most substantial, powerful film in this span. And he still managed to stand out in a production filled with great acting efforts all around. I’ll stand by this reversal to my dying day.

1994 Best Picture

Pulp_Fiction_Shawshank

“I want that trophy, so dance good.”

I’ve enjoyed a number of films by director Zemeckis, Forrest Gump among them (some of his later work is a bit iffy, though). However, again, I feel the members of the Academy played it too safe and ignored the true best picture for ’94. I hate the cop-out, but it’s a tie. I can’t pick between them. Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. Tarantino’s second film was unexpectedly edgy, trippy, absolutely provocative and bloody good fun. Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s wonderful novella was sheer perfection, in my mind. Gump had some good aspects, don’t get me wrong. Having said that, both of these were better.

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

1996 Best Picture

FargoI can’t tell you how much The English Patient frustrated the Hell out of me. Still drives me crazy. The film had far too many ‘why are the characters doing that?’ moments for my taste. Without question, it was this decade’s Out of Africa for me. So, I would have awarded what should have been their first Best Picture trophy to the quirky Coen Brothers and their unconventional film, Fargo.

1996 Best Director

Should be no surprise that I’d pick Fargo‘s Joel Coen for this award over Anthony Minghella. God, The English Patient movie grates on me. Move on, people. Nothing to see here.

1997 Best Actress

Mrs BrownRemember Art upsetting Al back in the 70s? Similar happened here. Helen Hunt over Judi Dench? Helen Hunt?!? The only thing I appreciated was what her As Good as It Gets character said about HMOs. But, come on! Yeah, yeah the Academy made up for this the very next year with the 1998 Best Supporting Actress to Dame Judi. Typical. Regardless, the Best Actress award this year should have gone to Skyfall‘s M for Mrs. Brown.

1997 Best Picture

la_confidential_badge_and_gun

Funny thing, though. Still and all, I’d award James Cameron the director’s award for what he achieved with his film. I know, I know.

I’ll admit it, here and now, at the time I wanted Titanic to win. But, Curtis Hanson’s film adaptation of L.A. Confidential remained much-loved. Alas, the romance couldn’t last with the former. Over the years, I can count the instances on one hand I’ve re-watched Titanic since. And L.A. Confidential? I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve re-screened the most outstanding neo-noir of the era — it’s annual viewing in my house. Sometimes more than once in a year. I’d rectify the mistake for the Academy and myself. Bud, Jack, Edmund and company without a doubt should have won this award that year. Oh, and by the way, “Hush, hush.

1998 Best Picture

Saving-Private-RyanGreat marketing by the Weinsteins’ should not trump good filmmaking. Period. While it may have had a formidable Judi Dench for supporting, and some clever writing and dialogue, Shakespeare in Love was not this. That honor belonged to Saving Private Ryan. Though, the film was not without its faults. The bookends being the weakest of the film — but that Normandy landing sequence alone made up for that, in spades. I’d still pick this today.

Now we’ll put the 90s out of its misery by setting the last slip-ups right…

1999 Best Supporting Actor

haley joel osmentI love Michael Caine. Versatile. Talented. British. He may have even been the best part of that annoying Cider House movie. Just don’t get me started on that New England accent of his. I don’t even live in the area, but even I knew it was crap. For all that, the best supporting actor that year, bar none, was an extraordinary 9-year old. Haley Joel Osment of The Sixth Sense. Too many forget the kid was pretty damn remarkable in this role that year. No question.

1999 Best Actor

Crowe was also robbed of a ’97 acting nomination for L.A. Confidential.

the insider_russell croweKevin Spacey’s unique acting talents were justly rewarded in 1995 for The Usual Suspects. Wouldn’t change a thing there. But making him a double Oscar winner for American Beauty was not only mistaken, but wrong. Doubly so. Russell Crowe’s performance was head and shoulders above them all in 1999 for Michael Mann’s The Insider.

1999 Best Picture

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One could say both are unique films. Still, American Beauty remains in ‘the love it or hate it’ category. I’m guessing you already know where it lands for me. I even re-screened the film last weekend to give it another appraisal for this series. Nothing changed. The Academy historically loathes giving its highest to popular films, or even those outside the realm of dramas. But the best that year was the totally unexpected, unusually touching, and decidedly super-natural, The Sixth Sense.

1999 Best Director

M_night_shyamalan_awfulNo shock then for this. M. Night Shyamalan deserved the directing honors for his work with The Sixth Sense. It may have spoilt his and our expectations going forward, however. Regardless, he deserved it (but let’s not speak of what he’s done lately). Sorry, Sam Mendes. You were really and royally robbed by the Academy this year. Best Director and Picture nominations should have happened for Skyfall. No doubt whatsoever. Yet, this unfortunate result may well have roots back to this decade. An odd make up call in the negative for the last of the 90s sad selections. Told you these never work out. American Beauty continues to be a tiresome film. History has not be kind to this winner, either. The film simply was not as smart as fans claimed it to be. There, I said it.

PREVIOUS: THE 80S
ON DECK: THE 00S

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54 Responses to “31 Days of Oscar – Recant This! Recasting Oscar’s Picks: the 90s”

  1. pgcooper1939

    I agree with most of these choices you’ve made but I diverge greatly in 1999. I’d have given Best Supporting Actor to Tom Cruise for Magnolia, Best Actor to Spacey for American Beauty (though I haven’t seen The Insider), and Best Picture to American Beauty (at least of the nominees). I like The Sixth Sense, but ultimately American Beauty speaks to me much more.

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    • le0pard13

      Tomcat was very good in ‘Magnolia’. I do very much recommend checking out ‘The Insider’ (coming to Blu-ray, if that further tempts). Many consider it Michael Mann’s best. I do understand ‘AB’ would speak to a number of people. Just not me. Always good to have your thoughts here, Daniel.

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  2. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop

    Great piece, really enjoyed reading it. The 90s really did throw us some amazing films, the ’94 Oscars in particular was really strong having those Best Pic noms. I do agree that Gump wasn’t the best choice there, by the way.

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  3. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael and company:

    Excellent piece!

    Denzel Washington was robbed for his portrayal of Malcolm X. His absolute best work to date.

    Can’t complain about ‘L.A. Confidential’. Though, outside of its opening 20 minutes, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is nothing more than an extended episode of the ABC television series ‘Combat!’ from the 1960s. It’s a well detailed and executed film, but short of Oscar worthy.

    Great perspective on Russell Crowe and ‘The Insider’. Cannot and have never been able to understand the hoopla over M. Night Shyamalan. Who sees things differently and once executed them well, but over time has become another Brian De Palma.

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    • le0pard13

      Yeah, Denzel as ‘Malcolm X’ was quite something. The journey of the character (and for the audience) in his hands was extraordinary. You makes good points about Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Wonderful and clear thoughts, as always, Kevin. Many thanks.

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  4. ruth

    YES YES YES on Crowe in The Insider!! He was robbed, big time!! I think his Oscar for Gladiator was well-deserved, but he should’ve gotten it more for playing Jeffrey Wigand!

    Agree on Liam Neeson as well, superb and so emotional as Schindler. I also think M. Night should’ve been nominated for Unbreakable, I don’t know if he was or not, but Sixth Sense was indeed excellent.

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    • le0pard13

      We’re on the same wavelength re: Crowe & Neeson, Ruth. And it’s great to find another fan of ‘Unbreakable’. One of the most unique super-hero films like ever. Quite different from ‘The Sixth Sense’, which was good. But it’s box-office failure only made him want to recreate his first film’s ‘twist’ at the end for the next few productions (which was bad for him, and career). Thank you.

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  5. janderoo92

    Nice recanting! I also thought Haley Joel Osment’s performance in Sixth Sense was unsurpassed, the Tom Hanks nomination was a bit of a head-scratcher (no offense to him but Russell Crowe was decidedly better) and I am an anti-fan of The English Patient as well. You are so right comparing it to Out of Africa.

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    • le0pard13

      You’ll get no disagreement from me, janderoo92 :-). Many thanks for adding to this discussion and look back at the 90s, my friend.

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  6. Morgan R. Lewis

    I haven’t seen Goodfellas yet (I know, it’s on the list), but I have to say it’d have steep competition with Dances With Wolves for my vote. That wasn’t just “not Waterworld“, that was a great film.

    With 1994 I feel like I’m on pretty solid ground, as the only BP nominee I haven’t seen is Four Weddings and a Funeral. I can see why the Academy gave it to Forrest Gump, I can see why other people wouldn’t. For me, it’s easily The Shawshank Redemption, and I would probably pick Quiz Show over “Gump” as well. Pulp Fiction is a lot iffier, though. I enjoyed it, and it’s definitely different, but I don’t know that I would actually say it’s absolutely better than Forrest Gump. When I was watching it, it didn’t strike me as an exceptionally well-crafted film. It’s just unusual.

    With 1999, my choice for Best Supporting Actor might have been Michael Clarke Duncan. I don’t disagree about Osment’s performance, though I don’t think it’s quite as strong as Duncan’s. Though to be honest, I think the categorization here was a bigger miscarriage than the award; Osment was only a “supporting” actor if you subscribe to the theory that only one person of each sex can be in a lead role. I’d pick The Green Mile over The Sixth Sense for both best picture and director as well. You’ve mentioned the re-watch argument a few times, and I can’t picture ever wanting to watch The Sixth Sense again.

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    • le0pard13

      I do understand, Morgan. DWW was a fine film (it’s in my video collection, upgraded to Blu-ray just last year in fact). As I said it really came down to two films that year for this award. I do recommend you check out ‘Goodfellas’. See John DuMond’s comment below as to why he and I favor it.

      Excellent choice about Michael Clarke Duncan. If Joel didn’t win this back then, I was pulling almost as hard for MCD. Probably only added to my disappointment with the Academy when neither won. Big time. ‘The Green Mile’ was another wonderful Frank Darabont film. I’ve no complaints. There seems to be two camps as to what is Darabont’s best film. ‘Green Mile’ or ‘Shawshank Redemption’. I still have Shawshank a smidge higher.

      Great to hear from you about this decade of film and Oscars, my friend. Many thanks.

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  7. Naomi Johnson

    I wouldn’t argue with anything here. Well, I’d argue about Goodfellas over DWW but I still haven’t seen the former. There’s something about the American love affair with gangster films (Godfather, Goodfellas, Scarface, Carlito’s Way, et al) that eludes me. Even going back to the early gangster films with Cagney and Raft and Bogey — I love those actors, but their gangster films will never rank among my favorites.

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    • le0pard13

      I do understand your point about the gangster film. If you’d see one from that group, check out ‘Goodfellas’. Coppola really brought the genre forward with ‘The Godfather’ and sequels. Scorsese de-romanticized it with his film. Thank you very much, Naomi :-).

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  8. Ted S.

    Great stuff Michael, I’m still piss that the Oscar voters gave the statue to Costner and his average western film. Scorsese should’ve won that year and Goodfellas was the BEST film of 1990.

    Also, agree on 1994, Forrest Gump was okay but seriously, Pulp Fiction and Shawshank were great films.

    Crowe should’ve won for The Insider not for Gladiator the next year. LOL, good fine on that Newsweek cover of M. Night, I think after that magazine came out, it got into his head that he can make any crappy film and people will go see it. I used to think M. Night was talented but now I think he’s actually a hack. I haven’t seen any of his films since the awful Lady in the Water.

    I’m sick of these voters decided to give actors/directors the statue to film they don’t deserve so they can make it up for missing the boat the first time around. Scorsese won for The Departed, a great film but it wasn’t as good as Goodfellas. It’s the reason why I don’t pay attention to award shows anymore, especially the Oscars.

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    • le0pard13

      I love these detailed comments! Well said, Ted (and I wasn’t trying to rhyme, btw ;-)). My main complaint of ‘Forrest Gump’ is what seemed clever, maybe even breakthrough with its interweaving of historical moments with the character, back then seems so dated now. Its re-watch factor is pretty much nil for me.

      And boy ‘o boy did the mighty fall with M. Night. We’re in total sync with this filmmaker. Loved his first two films. Then, Each successive one after just went down from the one before it.

      Speaking about Scorsese, yay for ‘Goodfellas’. Loved ‘Casino’, too. That’s all I’m going to say as my thoughts on ‘The Departed’ come tomorrow, Ted ;-). You’re so right about the folly of the make-up Oscar. Great to have your thoughts for all these, my friend. Many thanks.

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  9. Fogs' Movie Reviews

    I’m with you on almost all of these.

    Dont worry about Al getting his mulligan Oscar and Denzel not winning. Theyd give Denzel his own mulligan Oscar later. LOL. Like you say, it just perpetuates!

    I’m with you on Haley Joel Osment, but American Beauty deserved every other award it won that year. Thats a great film.

    I also dont know about Neeson beating Hanks… Hanks was awesome in Philadelphia. Neeson was great, but… I dont consider that one an Oscar flub.

    I agree with the rest for the most part. The Academy was NOT on their game in the 90s at all. Especially Dances with Wolves over Goodfellas, come on!

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    • le0pard13

      I know. ‘AB’ has its fans. It just has its critics, too ;-). A couple of them here. Well, Ruth and I will take Mr. Liam ‘Badass’ Neeson out for drinks and toast him on what should have been his that year. But, say ‘hi’ to Mr. Hanks for us, and maybe tell him he should send one of his Oscars over to our table ;-).

      We at least agree the Academy was not on its game in the 90s. As always, your comments are so much fun, Fogs. Love ’em. Many thanks, my friend.

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  10. Eric @ The Warning Sign

    Whoa, new design! Very nice, Michael, I like it a lot.

    It’s amazing just how many Best Picture winners the Oscars screwed the pooch on in the 90s. I’m with you on most of these — 1990, 1994, 1997 and 1998 are especially glaring. I just rewatched Goodfellas the other day, and it blows my mind that it didn’t win that year.

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    • le0pard13

      Yeah, isn’t ‘Goodfellas’ somethin’? Scorsese at the top of his game. ‘Casino’, too, only added to his greatness that decade. Thanks for the comment, and good to hear you like the new theme.

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  11. mummbles

    Thank you so much for saying Private Ryan should have won over the way too much hyped up Shakespeare In Love. I feel this was one of the worst best picture choices of the 1990’s, of course in my own opinion.

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    • le0pard13

      Cute, clever movie ‘Shakespeare in Love’. Had little or no business as a Best Picture nominee, let alone winning it. Thanks for your thoughts, mummbles. If I haven’t said it before, I do appreciate your comments and support, my friend.

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  12. Anonymous

    Great piece!! I wonder who’ll get the “feel good” Oscar this year over the most deserving. There already have been rants about those who were shunned for nominations this year. Politics! Politics! Politics! — right from the very FIRST Oscars ceremony. Check out 1969’s “The Oscar”, a really bad film with an all star cast that takes a look at the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing. Milton Berle and Tony Bennetth are alone worth a pint of razzies. Remember, it’s a REALLY bad flick but timely viewing.

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    • le0pard13

      Welcome :-). You brought some great thoughts with you, too. I think I did see ‘The Oscar’ long ago. Perhaps, I need to screen it again this weekend. Many thanks.

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    • jackdeth72

      Welcome, Anonymous:

      Excellent point and perspective regarding your commenting on ‘The Oscar’! A film that could have risen to the heavens under more competent hands. Yet fell victim to pompous writing, miscasting and terrible execution.

      And yes. Berle, Bennett, Boyd did stink on ice!

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  13. Teepee12

    Shawshank was better than almost everything and American Beauty was a pretentious bore. But then, there’s the big win of Hurt Locker, so clearly, pretentious and boring = great cinema … to someone. Just not me. Or you. Or anyone else I know. But someone.

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    • le0pard13

      Great to have you here, Teepee12 :-). When the double-feature of ‘American Beauty’ and ‘The Hurt Locker’ comes around, I’ll buy the tickets and get bring the popcorn. We then can talk about ’em without mercy ;-). Thank you very much for the comment and the reblog.

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  14. John DuMond

    Agree 100% on GOODFELLAS vs DANCES WITH WOLVES. DWW was a fine addition to the western genre, but GOODFELLAS went beyond that. It was actually transformative, showing us the ugly underbelly of the mafia, as opposed to painting its members as “men of honor”, as earlier mob movies did. While the movie was loaded with talented performances, it was Scorsese’s deft direction that brought it all together and transported the audience into the moment, making even repulsive characters strangely sympathetic.

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    • le0pard13

      Ah, man! Best damn description and reason ‘Goodfellas’ stood head and shoulders above the nominees that year. Great comment, John! Love this. Many thanks, my friend.

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  15. jcalberta

    On most any year I’m not qualified to have an opinion (on anything) – having not seen half of the nominees. but it seems to me that on occasion there’s isn’t much to vote for. Is this one of those years? Lincoln may well win, but i’d be hard put to watch it twice. I liked Argo, but is that Oscar worthy?? Maybe they should have a PASS option on the Academy ballot and wait for next year. On the other hand there could be a ton of small movies that are worthy – that nobody watched.

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  16. Le

    The 90s were full of big mistakes. All mentioned movies that won Best Picture were big hits, and just stand important because of this winning. Not that The English Patient or Forrest Gump don’t have qualities, but it’s mindblowing the films they’ve beated.
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂
    Greetings!

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  17. Aurora

    Michael,
    I read this entry several days ago and couldn’t comment so here I am. I agree with you across the line – for the most part. I was just getting over my anger at last night’s awards and the musicals tribute I was so upset about when you re-angered me with the Scorsese & Goodfellas loss. REALLY? Sometimes their heads are up their butts, I swear. I mean, that’s as “no brainer” as it can get.

    The only instance I disagree wholeheartedly with you is I still would go with Hanks for Philadelphia over Neeson – both extraordinary performances but I’d choose Hanks.

    AND, finally, since I seem to have gotten up in a bit of a combative mood today – I didn’t like Titanic all that much when it was released. And I don’t like it all that much now. I watch and cannot wait for Jack to drown! SO THERE! L.A. Confidential, like Goodfellas, WAS ROBBED!

    😀 Thanks so much for your support and enthusiasm for the blogathon. Wonderful entries across the board.

    Aurora

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    • le0pard13

      Always good to have you and your thoughts here, Aurora. Glad you returned.

      Loved you remarks re: Sunday’s results, btw. I do understand your disagreement with Hanks and ‘Philadelphia’. I think both films were momentous for the time when they arrived. Fans of each continue to hold them most dear.

      You can bring your feistiness here anytime, my friend. Most appreciated. Thank you, my friend.

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  18. Atonement Film Review | It Rains... You Get Wet

    […] Did it ruin the film for me? No. I can’t say it did. Not entirely. Joe Wright is an obvious talent. A filmmaker that continues to gather notice (last year’s Hanna certainly grabbed my attention). His war scenes offered uncommon contrast (“Where character often tops action…“, as Kevin stated). Ronan’s guest review of his latest film earlier this year being another motivator to view more of the man’s work. No surprise this gathered BAFTA’s highest award that year. Though, coming up short around Oscar time, especially for Christopher Hampton’s writing and McGarvey’s cinematography. For all one knows, the Academy and me not giving Atonement a higher return or more praise was conceivably our (slash) their (slash) my lack of understanding for the outstanding British method of film and romance. Or maybe being distracted by the fact that Keira needs to eat more than a salad, for chrissakes. But, at least the film was not The English Patient! […]

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