Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Academy Awards Best Picture Revisited: Moulin Rouge (2001)

In honor of Valentine's Day I decided to hold off on re-visiting the 2001 Best Picture Oscar discussion until today.  Today is the day people set aside to celebrate their love for others, why we need a specific day is beyond me, but that's my cynic speaking.  Moulin Rouge was one of my favorite films of the 2000s.The movie speaks to the definition of love and I am honored to talk about one of the best modem love stories on this day.

Moulin Rouge was the brainchild of famed Australian director/writer Baz Lurhmann.  Luhrmann career as a director started in 1992 with the film Strictly Ballroom, which is a film about a ballroom dancer who risks everything changing partners to do a new unique routine.  In 1996 Lurhmann tackled the modern day re-telling of  Skahspeare, Romeo + Juliet, which starred two young celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.  Romeo + Juliet started the rise of DiCaprio's career, as a leading man.  5 years late Lurhmann wrote and directed, and released another epic love story, this one-Moulin Rouge.  While many were excited for his post Moulin Rouge film, especially since he was bringing back his leading lady Nicole Kidman. Seven years later Lurhmann's 2008 major epic Australia was disappointing as a film and at the box office.  This year Luhrmann will be the third person to attempt The Great Gatbsy; he is re-teaming with Leonardo DiCaprio, and the film also stars Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Marguire.  Lurhmann appears to be in love with love; he centers all of his films around great love stories, but none are better than Moulin Rouge.

Moulin Rouge centers around two people Satine (Nicole Kidman) who is a courtesan at the Moulin Rouge and Christian (Ewan McGregor) a poet.  Christian is dragged by a group of artists to the Moulin Rouge to meet Satine to provide him with inspiration for their new play.  When Christian meets Satine he falls madly in love with her.  The only problem is that Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) who runs the Moulin Rouge has promised her to the evil Duke.  Christian believes in love above all, and he starts a secret love affair with Satine.  O, and of course this is musical.

This is not just any musical, but this is the musical that relaunched the entire genre that exists today.  I fell in love with musicals because of this film.  I love how the film blended modern popular/rock music in order to transcend to stuffy aspects of the genre.  This is one inherent quality that makes this one of the best films of the decade, not to mention that stylistically its well made.

While many film critics turned their noses up at this film, I applaud its bravery.  Moulin Rouge is funny, heart warming, beautiful, and sad.  The screenplay is the weakest aspect of the film, which can be a problem most of the time, but this film succeeds on every other level.  Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGroegor are magnetic, their chemistry is off the charts.  McGregor is a great leading man, and Kidman showed us that she was much more that Mrs. Tom Cruise (post their divorce).  Broadbent leaped to notoriety; he is terrific in this film and give my favorite supporting performance of the year in this film.  David McAlpine's cinematography is brilliant; he knows the material, and uses this trippy experience to help escalate the visuals.  Moulin Rouge was pick for Best Picture in 2001.

Who were the other actual nominees and the eventual winner?  The full list of nominees was A Beautiful Mind (winner), Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, Moulin Rouge, and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  This is not a bad list of nominees, but 2001 also produced some of the best films for the entire decade not just the year, that were left off this list of five.

I can count 8 other films that could have been considered for this category this year.  The first is Christopher Nolan's first film Memento.  Memento is brilliant film that chronicles a man with short term memory, as we follow his story backwards the pieces fall into place as to what happened, simple brilliant.  Mullholland Dr. is a masterpiece from the mind of David Lynch that chronicles the dark and twisted path of getting a film made in Hollywood.  One year after Gladiator director Ridley Scott made an even better film Black Hawk Down, which about 123 elite US soldiers dropped into Somalia. Wes Anderson's quirk was at it's best in The Royal Tenenbaums. One of the best graphic novel adaptations ever was Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World, which held an inate darkness and wit.  Jon Cameron Mitchell also made a musical film that year where he played a transgender singer in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  Foreign films rarely find a place in this category, but the French film Amelie, is one of the most charming films I have ever seen.  The first film to win the animated feature category was Shrek, and even though most of the sequels were sub par this first film was a true gem.  These other eight films are the reason why I like the concept of not limiting the Best Picture race to five nominees.  This opens the outside world to so many different films.

My taste is always different from the Academy, and they picked five this year so I guess I will as well.

My nominees for Best Picture would have been:
In the Bedroom
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Moulin Rouge (Winner)
Mullholland Dr.

The rest of of my top ten would be:
6-Ghost World
8-Hedwig and the Angry Inch
9-Black Hawk Down
10-Gosford Park

As you can see my picks are a bit different from the actual Academy Award nominations.  Even though Moulin Rouge did not win this award it was a major player in the award season.  It was nominated for 6 Golden Globes, and won three including Best Film (Musical/Comedy) and Kidman won for her performance. It had a lot of nominations and wins from the technical guilds.  It won the Producer's Guild, the American Cinema Editors, the Art Director's Guild, and the American Cinematographer's Guild Awards.  The film's ensemble was nominated for Outstanding Cast of a Motion Picture at SAG, and Lurhamm was nominated for Best Director at the Director's Guild Awards.  When the Academy Awards rolled around the film received 8 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress, but there was no director nomination, which usually means that the film had no chance at the top honor.

I was saddened by the film losing Best Picture, but to this day love experiencing this film. This is one of my favorite musicals of all time.  The film is about love and what love can bring to your world.  To wipe out the thoughts of the film The Vow from last night I may just have to watch this movie again. On a day about love let's celebrate and say "Come what May."

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