Second Chance Oscars: 2005 Best Picture
Everybody deserves a second chance. In this series, we’ll be traveling back in time (ten years or more) to look at Academy Award Best Picture nominees through the lens of Flickchart to see how the results hold up. We’ll examine how the official nominees are regarded now, and which films should have been nominated according to Flickchart. For good measure, I’ll throw in some honorable mentions that the Academy and Flickchart both overlooked. I’ll also add perspectives from my wife (she is a big fan of Cary Grant and John Cusack and her favorite movies are Before Sunrise and The Princess Bride).
It’s been ten years since the films of 2005 competed for the title of Best Picture at the 78th Academy Awards. I still remember the shock I felt when Crash was announced as the winner. My wife and I turned to each other in disbelief. Ang Lee had just won Best Director for Brokeback Mountain and it’s not often that a different film is awarded Best Picture. We all have our own ideas about what makes a Best Picture, but in the years since, when talking to friends and movie-lovers I haven’t heard much vocal support for Crash. Using Flickchart as a guide, let’s see how the nominees would stack up today.
None of the five nominated films are in the top 10 for 2005. All fall within the 15-30 range (When we look at other years, it will be interesting to see if that trend continues). Technical note: Crash is listed as a 2004 film in the Flickchart database because it was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2004 before it premiered in Beverly Hills in April 2005. Academy Award rules stipulate that a film must be shown for at least one week in a theater in Los Angeles County to be eligible for that year’s Oscars.
Here are the five nominated films in order of their rankings on Flickchart:
Flickchart Second Chance Oscar Winner! (1149 overall, 15th for 2005)
Why it was nominated in 2005: A gritty political thriller that explores the human cost and complexity of fighting terrorists with terrorism.
How it holds up in 2015: Munich works best as a thriller but is also quite effective in probing the lives of the men involved and the impacts on their lives, minds, and families. Munich was my introduction to the tragic events of 1972, but anyone here in the USA who lived through September 11 has thought about terrorist attacks and their appropriate response. The story is ostensibly pro-Israel but in the telling it tries to voice multiple viewpoints with some honesty.
My wife’s take: She would rather watch Schindler’s List and The Bourne Identity back to back. (She has a known allergy to films made in, set in, or styled like the 70s.)
Comparison films: The Constant Gardener, Syriana, A History of Violence
Ben’s Personal Second Chance Oscar Pick (1159 overall, 16th for 2005)
Why it was nominated in 2005: A stylish historical drama with strong acting performances and an investigation of journalism that resonates.
How it holds up in 2015: David Straithairn‘s stellar performance as Edward R Murrow still shines. The choice to shoot in black and white allows the film to use actual footage of Joe McCarthy during his anti-Communist campaign. This provides authenticity and historical accuracy. The supporting cast (including George Clooney and Robert Downey Jr.) flesh out the perils of practicing journalism in a politically charged era. I came away from the film thinking that journalists have an obligation to represent the truth as clearly as possible — despite the personal cost — or there is little point to their efforts.
My wife’s take: Also her pick. (My wife and I agree – alert the media!) She thinks the film’s message may be even more relevant today than it was ten years ago.
Comparison films: Network, All The Presidents Men
Actual Oscar Winner (1445 overall, between 19 and 20 for 2005)
Why it was nominated in 2005: A well acted, competently written film about racial and social stereotypes in Los Angeles.
How it holds up in 2015: I’m a fan of multi-story films by Robert Altman and others but Crash was a near miss for me. It was inspired by the real-life carjacking of writer/director Paul Haggis. The characters of the film feel like a pantheon of stereotypes chosen for their diversity rather than authenticity. The plot weaves together many story threads to distract us from the fact that they aren’t strong enough on their own. The actors do a fine job of executing the material they’re given, but the film doesn’t have the nuance and complexity needed to elevate the whole into something meaningful and compelling.
My wife’s take: She doesn’t remember much about this one – was someone driving and it was dark? Clearly didn’t make much of a lasting impression.
Comparison films: Short Cuts, Grand Canyon
(1482 overall, 20th for 2005)
Why it was nominated in 2005: A sweeping romantic drama with moments of stillness and beauty. Lots of buzz regarding the homosexual love story.
How it holds up in 2015: Brokeback Mountain follows a pair of young men as they stumble into love on the trail while herding sheep and carry it with them for the rest of their lives. Heath Ledger as a ranch hand and Jake Gyllenhaal as a rodeo cowboy play their roles with a sincerity and earnestness that endears us to their characters throughout the film. Not strictly a western (or a “gay” film), this love story travels from place to place as the cowboys try to settle down and make peace with their lives. The film effectively explores the pressures that society and family place on their relationship.
My wife’s take: Impactful at the time, but mostly due to the gay relationship, which would cause less buzz now. If the main characters were not gay, would this have been Legends of the Fall 2?
Comparison films: Boys Don’t Cry, Red River, The Ice Storm
(2002 overall, 28 for 2005)
Why it was nominated in 2005: A compelling investigation of both an infamous true-crime incident and its most famous account’s celebrity author.
How it holds up in 2015: The film plays more like the study of a serial killer than a writer bio-pic. As Truman Capote, Philip Seymour Hoffman carries the film with charm and wit amidst the unfolding gruesome details of the murders and their aftermath. Capote is driven by his need for the details of a story that he hopes will win him a Pulitzer prize. He is unscrupulous in seeking the truth and using those around him, which leaves him conflicted and ultimately looking for redemption. Catherine Keener as Harper Lee is delightful.
My wife’s take: She would prefer more charm (and wit) and fewer gruesome details.
Comparison films: Kinsey, The Silence of the Lambs
Flickchart’s Top 10 Films from 2005
- Batman Begins (110 overall)
- Sin City (418 overall)
- Serenity (422 overall)
- Brick (483 overall)
- 40-Year-Old Virgin (560 overall)
- Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (579 overall)
- A History of Violence (885 overall)
- Walk the Line (921 overall)
- Lady Vengeance (930 overall)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (946 overall)
(1194 overall, 18 for 2005)
A fascinating documentary about a man who became convinced that if he behaved enough like a bear they would respect him as an equal. It is exhilarating to see the footage of close interaction with the bears–a combination of living vicariously and knowing tragedy could strike at any moment.
The Squid and the Whale
(1215 overall, 19 for 2005)
A compelling and authentic depiction of a family disintegrating due to divorce that hits moments both comic and dramatic. An excellent cast and true-to-life humor are the highlights in Noah Baumbach‘s best film.
Hustle & Flow
(1822 overall, 25 for 2005)
A heartwarming tale of a pimp who tires of his life and aspires for more. With the help of his prostitutes, he follows his dream to become a rapper. Unexpectedly great music underdog story.
(My wife thought she would hate this one and really liked it, although doubts there is a huge heartwarming pimp genre to explore from here.)
(2430 overall, 39 for 2005)
A charming and quirky meditation on growing old and looking back in the form of a road trip to visit old flames and find a possible long lost son. Bill Murray‘s understated performance is the centerpiece of this minimalist comedy by Jim Jarmusch.
(My wife thought she would like this one and really hated it. Oh, look! — another shot of him driving.)
(2929 overall, 50 for 2005)
A transgender woman takes a road-trip with her long lost son. As they cross the country together, they both discover much about themselves and each other. Felicity Huffman shines in a sensitive role with nuance and subtlety.