THE VERDICT – Best Motion Picture: 2005

And just like the previous years, it took me forever to finish this, but here they are!

I kept on switching # 5 and #4, but upon rewatching, #4 really grew on me. #3 and #2 were actually what I was expecting to be the possible winners, but #1 really surprised me, thanks again to rewatching.

You can just click on the titles for their profiles.

2005

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5. Munich

Appropriately rid of sentimentality, this might simply be Spielberg’s toughest film to date. And with his impeccable execution, he does not disappoint. It gets a bit too hard to watch at times, but the dedication to this unflinching retelling of a dark past makes for a really discomforting cinematic piece.

4

Best Performance: Eric Bana as Avner Kaufman
Best Scene: Avner making love to his wife as he recalls the massacre

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4. Good Night, and Good Luck

With a high level of craftsmanship present in its strong sense of style, the film substantiates it with a gripping story of the fight for the truth. Strong performances from the ensemble make the film much more involving.

4

Best Performance: David Strathairn as Edward Murrow
Best Scene: That long take when we first see the TV station

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3. Brokeback Mountain

The film gets this rating and this spot not because of the ‘landmark film’ status which I do not necessarily subscribe to, but because it has a very rich emotional core. The film is not just a compelling love story of two men, but it is also a multi-dimensional societal examination that feels personal and intimate.

5

Best Performance: Heath Ledger as Ennis del Mar
Best Scene: Ennis and Jack reunited

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2. Crash

An extremely engaging and fascinating look at how the space between people eventually becomes their connection. Energetic and ultimately relevant, the film fearlessly pinpoints what has become of the people to itself and to the bigger whole where it is a part. Strong performances populate this great film.

5

Best Performance: Michael Peña as Daniel Ruiz
Best Scene: The shop owner accidentally shooting at the locksmith’s daughter

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1. Capote

How this film reached this spot still surprises me. It is not as flashy as the other nominees. In fact, the film is told in a subtle but intensely disquieting manner that has affected me more than any of the other movies in this roster. Its exquisite filmmaking is very evident, and the film contains one of the greatest male performances ever in cinematic history. It is a film that must be given more notice.

5

Best Performance: Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote
Best Scene: The prisoner retelling the murder

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Like I said, I am also surprised that I ended up with Capote as my choice. 🙂 That’s why I love doing this project – I discover my love for films I never thought I would.

Clues for the next year (which I will introduce tomorrow):

  • “Huuurts….. huuurts….. huuurts…..”
  • “____ fuck yourself.”
  • “Look down, look down!”
  • “You’re harassing me! He is harassing me!”

What’s you pick? Do you agree with the Academy, or with me, or you have a different choice?

 

Best Picture Profile: Crash

Crash_ver2

Directed by: Paul Haggis

Written by: Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco

Produced by: Don Cheadle, Paul Haggis, Mark R. Harris, Bobby Moresco, Cathy Schulman, Bob Yari

Runtime: 113 minutes

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Was it an easy win?

Even its supporters will say it did not have the easy way of winning it. Maybe because it’s not as well-received as the other nominees (though it definitely has some passionate audience) that some members have hesitated, but there is one thing that made its victory almost impossible: Brokeback Mountain.

That film took home every Best Picture available across the whole United States (except Chicago, where Roger Ebert heavily lobbied for Crash), but let’s just say it was easier to vote for a film tackling racial prejudice than homosexuality (a term so wrongfully associated with Brokeback. Ennis and Jack were bisexuals, for whoever’s sake!), topics that have been boggling Hollywood’s conservative community since time immemorial.

But, of course! It’s not just that. The film had some brilliant and very dedicated campaign, together with several screenings and even DVD screeners. The film has a lot of actors in it, and if you can get the actors’ vote in the Academy (the biggest part of the membership), then it would really be a big help. Roger Ebert surely added the extra kick the film needs for heightened buzz. It earned the vote of the cultural minorities inside the Academy, for some obvious reasons. And lastly, it’s a message movie – playing with the conscience of the audience does help a lot.

So surely, it was not an easy win, but for some reasons, it did.

The review:

The film starts with a car accident and a dead body at the side of the road, then the story jumps back to the day before the incident.

A Black investigator is having a relationship with a colleague he thinks is Mexican. He is asked by his mother to look for his son. He also gets involved with the district attorney whose car was stolen by two Black thugs. This causes panic to him as he might lose the vote of the Black community. This also terrifies his wife who immediately raises suspicion with the locksmith that fixed their door knobs. The locksmith had a rough time securing a deal with a naturalized Arab who owns a store because the man has doubt that he just cheats on him.

The two Black thugs run over a Chinese man, forcing them to leave him just outside a hospital. They have no idea that the man was in for trafficking Asians who were caged inside a van. One of them, the one that always carries a figurine of St. Michael, hitchhikes with a police officer. He was just had a new police partner because he cannot take his former partner who had molested a Black woman in front of his husband, a television director who has problems with some racial issues with the sitcom he handles. The police officer has a father suffering from urinary tract infection.

These different characters and stories collide with each other in the city of Los Angeles.

crash

Crash is composed of storylines that might seem to be lacking in complexity, with each characters composed of stereotypes and two-dimensional characters, but it is used by the story to push forward the insightful tragedy of all of the characters: that we all take each other granted, whether we know the person or not, whether he is the person of the same race or not. It is that tragedy that the film stages with utmost rawness that it is actually understandable if there are people who will see it as an oversimplification of racism.

Alas, those reviews are mere oversimplifications of what the film is. Yes, it uses racism as the instrument to channel the theme of prejudice to one another, but it was able to move away from that, introducing to us scenarios that exposes us the truth that we are distant from each other in ways beyond racism. The screenplay skilfully composes these said scenarios with the feeling that it puts the topic right in front of us for us to confront it with immediacy. The tension between the exchanges of words is perfectly executed with a very strong sense of urgency in each scene. There is a rousing energy that drives each scene to the next scene. It is a feeling that is too exhilarating to put to words. Either way, the film is excellently directed.

Upon repeated viewing, I realized the intelligence put in the cinematography. With almost each scene composed of heightened contrast of the dark and the bright, we are put to an uncomfortable position where the difference between the two are really in front of you, but it pushes the theme of differences forward, and it does so very effectively.

The editing aids the storytelling with specificity, making sure that each cut adds to the clockwork structure of the film. It is as if there is no turning back when you are already watching the film because each scene really leads to the next scene without any time to be wasted. It relentlessly pushes the film forward without making the film a tiring experience. It is also worthy to note that the music used in the film effectively conveys the ethnic diversity and the universality of the subject matter of the film.

As the film is an ensemble piece, the actors prove their worth by giving some really strong performances around.  Don Cheadle as the investigator who is missing a part of himself, Brendan Fraser as the district attorney whose political fears transcend to his own, Sandra Bullock as Fraser’s terrified wife, Matt Dillon as the abusive police officer, Thandie Newton and Terrence Howard as the harassed couple and especially Michael Peña as the hardworking locksmith, among others, all provide credible performances which populate this story.

Now, we reach the bottom line: the film is admittedly a message movie. It is all obvious in the film that it wants to say something about out misunderstandings and loss of connection even with the people that we live with, and it uses the topic of racial prejudice to channel this issue. And does it bother me? No. As long as I see a good movie, I will recognize it as it is no matter what it is about. But I even buy the whole “message”. I do think it is a great film and I hope that people will give this a second try.

For this, the film gets:

5

So, agree of disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Good Night, and Good Luck

Goodnight_poster

Directed by: George Clooney

Written by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov

Produced by: Grant Heslov

Runtime: 93 minutes

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Chances of winning?

With the film being George Clooney’s directorial debut, maybe it attracted votes from the actors’ branch. It is also a good year for Clooney, also starring in the also well-received Syriana, where he himself earned a Best Supporting Actor, so that’s a plus. But aside from Clooney’s star persona, the film also looks sophisticated, cool, and politically important, factors that may have affected the voters in the process.

The critical reception to the film is also enough to encourage more voters to vote for it, but what exactly gives the film the edge from Capote and Munich? The film is George Clooney’s directorial debut. You know how fond they are in critically-acclaimed films directed by actors, especially if for the first time. With that, I’m thinking it has the third highest number of votes.

The review:

The threat of communism hits the United States during the 1950s. In reaction to this, Senator McCarthy started tagging many known people as communists or has communist sympathies even if some of these are not even proven. With this, CBS reporter Edward Murrow and producer Fred Friendly courageously stood up against this move of Senator McCarthy, exposing the effects of his actions to several people.

First of all, I must take note how sophisticated the film is in every level possible.

The screenplay is top-notch excellence with the thrilling exchange of dialogue at times make the scene near breathtaking. Rapid-fire conversations bring the already smartly written movie to pulse-pounding intensity and undeniable relevance.

good night

The cinematography is a masterwork – bringing the old-fashioned era to life with its stark and slick camera moves and zooms that add to the film’s urgency and atmosphere. It is crucial for making the film an absorbing beauty. It transports you to this certain setting that you can only penetrate with your senses. With that, the cinematography maximizes the potentials of the sense of sight to completely evoke the time, the place, the space, and the aura the film has. It is a creative choice that serves the film to a high extent.

The sound goes hand in hand with the cinematography to inflict to us the whole experience of being right there in the scenario. It comes off as raw, but also clean cut and refined. The choice of the sparsely placed music adds up to the experience the movie provides with full attention to detail.

The editing propels the whole movie, giving each scene a gripping speed, almost racing with time that suddenly upsets us with moments of silence that makes the movie a lot more thrilling to watch.

Also worth noticing are the impeccable production and costume design and the brilliant hairstyling that validates each actor as a real person who did exist in the time the story was set. When you watch the movie, one can’t help but notice the specificity of each character’s hairstyle – how well-combed, shiny, and firm they are.

But above all this is the genius found in George Clooney’s direction. He makes the film a highly fascinating pursuit of gutsy technique. There is a certain amount of fearlessness present on how he controls each scene with a steady hand and, at the same time, invigorating confidence. There is always an undeniable force that pushes each scene forward, a strong voice that lets both style and content flourish in each shot with full harmony and grace. Add to that is the engrossing quality that the film earns for having total focus on the characters and on the subject matter that puts the film’s pace into a sense of unpredictable rhythm.

With that, the cast does great to serve this startling vision. Familiar faces of Jeff Daniels, Frank Langella, Robert Downey Jr., and Patricia Clarkson populate this movie with restrained conviction, adding the humanity in the story.

David Strathairn gives Edward Murrow an understated blaze that becomes the film’s core. He gives Murrow a slow burning quality beneath the quiet exterior painted with controlled stress. He sacrifices the easy way out of showing all of the character’s dimensions by shedding it to give a mysterious center to the story that serves the film’s purpose. He projects an interesting mixture of reserved strength and hinted sensitivity. George Clooney gets the somewhat showier character of Fred Friendly, though he still gets to be reserved for most of the time. He engages in each scene in full throttle as he completely inhabit the character, letting his cool control each scene with ease.

The film is a stylish film, a commendable product of all the cinematic elements come together. It helps that the film is easy to watch, but is filled with heart-stopping dialogue and quiet moments of coldness. It is a masterpiece of stylish restraint. It is a film with evident craftsmanship executed with smoothness and authenticity. It is a movie that’s easier to admire than to fully love, but it is an extremely admirable movie that deserves to be seen. In my case, again.

For this, the film gets:

So, agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Munich

Munich_1_Poster

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Written by: Tony Kushner, Eric Roth

Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Barry Mendel, Steven Spielberg, Colin Wilson

Runtime: 164 minutes

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Chances of winning?

Being a Steven Spielberg film, I’m sure it had its fair share of fans that made this film a nominee, though the tough subject matter of it may have also put some members away from it. Unlike the other nominees, there isn’t much buzz about the film. I mean, Brokeback Mountain has the media craze, Crash is very much an actor’s picture, Good Night, and Good Luck is George Clooney’s directorial debut, and Capote is all about Philip Seymour Hoffman, but how about Munich?

There isn’t a single element in the film that could possibly cause the Academy to go gaga over it. Maybe the success of Spielberg’s another movie of that same year War of the Worlds have earned the film some support, but aside from that, there isn’t much going around with the film being a real contender, and no one really thinks it’s Spielberg’s time again to take it, so it sits just fine as a ”pleased-to-be-nominated” film. It’s fifth in the ranking of votes.

The review:

The event that shook the world in 1972 – the murder of the eleven Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics. To avenge the said murder, the Israeli government employs five men to trace the ones involved in the murder and then exterminate them afterwards.

The film was tough to watch, I admit. Right from the start of the film, the discomfort is very much present with its bleak cinematography. It captures the very threatening atmosphere the movie needs for the film to work on a higher level. This continues for the rest of the film where the choice of shots demonstrate an evident knowledge and control. The editing pushes each scene forward with threatening energy and discomfort. It works for the film that the experience is discomforting because it makes the film work as a visceral work of film.

munich

The sound adds a lot in the tension present in the film, forwarding to the senses the dread that the characters feel in each scene. One scene where it works a lot is the bomb explosion at the hotel. It is a terrifying scene, a sudden moment where the heart almost stops, a point where you know the film got you into the scenario. The sound work consistently displays clarity throughout the film. The musical score puts an ethnic dimension that furthers the daring vision of the film. Again, it made the film tough to watch, but it worked for the film.

The movie is really a director’s movie, but this does not lessen the work of the screenplay. It provides the film a solid unfolding of events that continually asks the “what could happen” scene after scene without making the film too tiring to watch. And much to my delight, the suspense present in the film is actually hinged on a thought-provoking foundation that the screenplay provides.

The acting of the cast is good, but is somewhat limited by the fact that the characters are used more as plot devices to drive the film. Notable faces here and there blur to this complete vision of the story, and they effectively deliver their scenes. Eric Bana is given more tension to contain than emotions to carry, but he still was able to make a channel to the audience. His love scene near the end of the film is a terrifying illustration of how the terrorism inflicted to him damaged his lost self, and Bana handles it with a scary touch of what is more horrifying – the truth.

But the film is all about the director’s vision. In each scene, it is executed with an assured control and consistency that makes the film an enthralling experience. There is a striking amount of intelligence that the film needs for it to work. No scene is dull. Every scene is thrilling to watch. The gripping movie is the result of the boldness in storytelling visible through the strong use of violence to make a work of total precision and unpredictability. Also, the vision fleshes out a completely personal story filled with sensitivity while setting it to an atmosphere that is planted on an epic and vast milieu. It is a movie that feels complete and fulfilled.

The film is a gritty movie, a movie that is too difficult to watch at times. It worked for the film and that is what the film needed for it to work, but I guess it was too rough on the edges. The film is a noticeable piece of work, but I doubt that I am going to be able to love it. Again, this is the kind of the treatment the story deserves, but it gives a discomforting movie experience that might prove to be unbearable at times. A tough movie to watch, sure it is, but the film is great.

For this, the film gets:

4

So, agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback_mountain

Directed by: Ang Lee

Written by: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana

Produced by: Diana Ossana and James Schamus

Runtime: 134 minutes

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Chances of winning?

Way back the 2005 awards season, everyone was pretty  quite sure this will the top prize. It won every Best Picture award available in the awards circuit, critical praise for the film was unanimous, it was an unexpected box-office hit, and it feels important enough to get the prize. And yet, that significance of the film also became its biggest struggle. While everyone (notable exception is respected film critic Roger Ebert) already hails Brokeback Mountain as the best picture of 2005, the Academy chose to go a different way and award the win to the long shot, but quite possible Brokeback’s contender Crash.

Several factors could have induced this film’s loss: the alleged homophobia is a possibility, members of the Academy could have been tired of the media frenzy of this film, Crash’s intelligently directed campaign is undeniable, among others. I don’t buy the argument that Crash won because it was shot in Los Angeles; honestly, who cares?

The Academy chose to do a very daring move of going against the hype, costing this film’s allegedly deserved title. But honestly, I think it was just a few votes away from winning, making this second in the voting.

The review:

The film is about two men, Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, that were employed to manage a herd of sheep in Brokeback Mountain. There, they slowly build a friendship that led to unexpected romance. Now, being separated from each other was the thing that they least wanted, but as they were no longer needed, the two parted ways, albeit with deep regrets.

They went on with their lives. Ennis married and had two daughters. Jack also married, and had one son. Despite all this, their connection never stopped, leading them to an adulterous relationship. It destroyed Ennis’ marriage, but not Jack’s. As they go on with their lives, they find that all they have got is each other even if it is against the society’s stand on their sexuality.

It is quite surprising that this film created such big impact in the movie industry scene. Aside from the direct treatment of the sexual politics which is not a first in cinema history, there is not much to talk about this film in that aspect. Maybe because it is a movie discussing a long-time taboo with two big Hollywood stars. I do not think it is revolutionary or earth-shattering in the sense that it changes a lot of things.

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And yet, it is a very emotionally weighty film. The film has such richness in it that the story has completeness in the story and the characters. The tenderness of the romance feels genuine, and the rawness of the married life, both in the life of Ennis and Jack, feels so true. The wonderfully written screenplay illustrates the aches of each character, the pain of the circumstances, the tragedy that resulted from long-lasting love, the sorrow embedded in every pleasure, the regret in every mistake committed, and the things that make us humans live a life of complications.

That is what makes the movie such a powerful and moving experience. It provokes us to react to these people because we get to see the rich characterization of each person in the story, making the movie a compelling emotional ride. The screenplay is brought to life with the subtle but assured direction moves the story with very effective pacing. It lets the scenes take their time for the film to come to life, making the story more absorbing.

The film does not go for stylized gloss. Instead, it strongly relies on the performances and the story itself. One notable technical aspect is the music that, by its use of a sad guitar as its primary and notable instrument, creates an emotional restlessness that furthers the power the movie inflicts in each viewing. The music conveys what the story is all about – the simple things that we feel and the emotions that cannot be put into words.

Of course, what makes the film work a lot is the acting by the strong cast of actors. Anne Hathaway’s character is rendered with warm toughness whose gentleness goes in conflict with her steel femininity. Michelle Williams sheds all vanity and glamor for a role that demands her to fulfill a role that is full of modesty and to project the unspoken sadness in her unsatisfied life.

Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent as the eager Jack Twist whose craving for satisfaction and the longing for connection with Ennis feels authentic. Heath Ledger is best in show as the suppressed half of the forbidden relationship. His reserve does not come off as fake whatsoever. Instead, it completes his character, making us feel him more. Together, Gyllenhaal and Ledger share a natural chemistry that makes us root for this couple.

If you may have noticed, I have used the word emotion a lot in this review because that is what I got from this film. I still do not get the noise surrounding the film, but the emotional content of the film is not to be challenged. The film is a powerful story of love and loss that crosses time, society, and gender. Emotion – that’s what I will come back for in this film.

For this, the film gets:

5

So, agree or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Capote

Capote_Poster

Directed by: Bennett Miller

Written by: Dan Futterman

Produced by: Caroline Baron, Michael Ohoven, William Vince

Runtime: 114 minutes

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Chances of winning?

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s much acclaimed performance surely earned the film some decent number of votes for Best Picture. It’s a highly respected film, but it’s a film that could have been hard to love due to the film’s very bleak nature and atmosphere, and the project itself did not seem to be one of those films obviously aiming for the top prize. The hype for Hoffman was indeed enough to give him a Best Actor, but maybe not enough to give the film some considerable amount of steam it needs to become a threat for the win. I guess it had the fourth highest number of votes.

The review:

The film starts with the Clutter killings in Kansas, Texas. In the murder, all of the members of the family involved were murdered. This gets the attention social and literary icon Truman Capote. With the help of his friend Nelle Harper Lee, also a writer, they go to Kansas to ask around the town for information regarding the murder, as Truman finds the murder rather interesting and it could possibly be the topic of an article that he will write.

Upon the search the police holds, they have caught the two men responsible for the murder. With his interest furthers, he decides to meet with them, especially with Perry Smith. He helps them appeal for them to be able to stay longer, but that s because Truman is so attached to his work; he decided to make his research from the originally planned article to a nonfiction novel, the first of its kind. He keeps them alive, but simply because he simply needs to gather more information from Perry.

Without Perry’s foreknowledge, Truman publishes his novel, making it his most successful work. He was able to gain fame from the book he wrote but at expense are the lives of the two men who were eventually executed by hanging. Even with his newly claimed glory and prestige, the damage that his relationship with Perry cost him peace of mind for the rest of his life.

The fascinating thing about the film is that, it was so quiet and so subtle, but there is always so disturbing and bleak on the way the story was executed that it is just undeniable that you’ll be at the edge of your seat, and a lot of that is to be owed to the masterful and precise direction. Serene but very disturbing, the film is all about atmosphere.

The almost sterile cinematography effectively suggests the unsettling nature of the story, allowing the continuous inching in of the grit beneath the pristine quality of the images. Another thing to notice is the specificity in the work of the production design. It enhances the mood of the film, filling each scene with the gloom of the past held with the unusual placement of lights to further heighten the restrained melancholy. Also worth noticing is the impeccable costume design.

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The supporting actors are very impressive.

Chris Cooper portrays the detective Alvin Dewey with steel determination and warm interior. He works out the simple situations he is in to put forward a full character that is filled with certainty and doubt.

Catherine Keener makes an exciting character out of a very tactful woman Harper Lee. She is the life of the film, almost the conscience of Truman, but she is no angel. She gets to showcase the humor of this woman that supplies Truman the necessary energy from a friend to keep him from being somber. But even if she plays with the character with the fun in it, she does not neglect the restraint the character demands.

Clifton Collins, Jr. fares better with a performance that demonstrates the delicate and wounded soul of a man that is nowhere near being a saint but nowhere far from being a real human being. His rendition of Perry Smith is a powerful weapon that makes the movie work on a higher level. He is threatening enough for his character of being a criminal be credible, and he does not lose that, but when he slowly bears his soul to us in the scene where he retells the night of the murder, he knocks it out, making us feel the emotions the character have. He does not validate the sin he committed, but he merely places us in a position where we could see his side. In every facial gesture, he paints the painful facade in his face that he desperately covers with the regret and uncertainty he experiences. He is the film’s secret weapon.

But the one to watch with all its glory is Philip Seymour Hoffman as the titular character Truman Capote. The role itself looks extremely difficult to pull off because the character itself is larger-than-life and it would be very easy to resort to mimicry, but instead, Hoffman pulls all these strings together to create a fully rounded character that puts his performance among the masterclasses of film acting. The voice could have been easy to mimic, but Hoffman delivers each line as if he owns it, providing a very realistic and disturbing person. Surprisingly, amidst all the requirements demanded to the actor to be the character, the performance itself is very much reserved. It is all buried inside – the ambitions, the certainties, the uncertainties – and he lets the audience discover it as the story unfolds. Hoffman is not self-aware, and that makes the performance even more deserving of notice. The transformation itself is haunting, a true virtuoso work.

It is clean-cut filmmaking that surprisingly marks a very strong effect even after the credits roll. The film is a tragedy for Truman, for Perry, for the victims. It illustrates how we humans inflict damage to each other with us not even noticing it. It shows of a sterile front, but beneath that is the startling, thrilling, and intense tale of danger in our society. Deliciously crafted with care, the film delivers greatness.

For this, the film gets:

5

So, agree or disagree?

INTRODUCTION – Best Motion Picture: 2005

The next year…..

is probably the most controversial year of the last decade. Not only that the winner was an upset winner, but the surrounding circumstances regarding the voters suggest that there was some politics involved in it. Homophobia? Racism? Hometown vote? Who could say?

So, here they are. The nominees for this year are:

Brokeback_mountainCapote_PosterCrash_ver2Goodnight_posterMunich_1_Poster

Brokeback Mountain

Capote

Crash

Good Night, and Good Luck

Munich

What film would win this race?

Would it be the unconventional romance drama? Or the quiet drama biopic? Or the multi-narrative saga? Or the stylish historical drama? Or the historical action-thriller?

The arrangement of the profiles will be by lottery, then the last profile would be the Best Picture winner Crash.

By the way, the 3rd TFO Awards for 2011 in film is further delayed because I still haven’t seen a lot of films from that year. 30+ movies that I still need to see, so long way to go.

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So there you go.

Would I go with the Academy? Or would I go with an another nominee?