Every now and then I think of how we drove Editman away with our incessant Chocolat slams. And today? Chocolat would likely find itself recipient of how many more nominations? And while I’m certainly a fan of several other far more worthy films that failed nominations, does anybody look to 2000 as a year of great omission injustice?
To be fair, there are a few depending on whom you ask. For me, Almost Famous is a film that I get endless pleasure revisiting. Its failure at the box office remains mystifying (save for its far too inflated budget) and after nominations and wins from the Golden Globes, the SAG, the DGA, and the PGA, that voters could pass it over remains a bit baffling. While its not the most structured script in the world, content comes first and if like me you respond to the journey that Almost Famous takes you on, it’s really the only choice. The closest runner up would have to be You Can Count on Me, which like The Savages and The Squid and the Whale was a screenwriting juggernaut at the critic’s award that seems to have faded a bit from view. I haven’t revisited it in some time but doesn’t it seem a bit quaint for such hozzannahs? I suppose the others I just mentioned are as well are as well. It’s a very well-written, exceptionally acted film that never quite elicited much enthusiasm from me. Steven Soderbergh’s involvement with Erin Brockovich seems to be more quality control than innovation. I forget how many screenwriters were involved with the film but it’s certainly a good version of something we’ve seen countless times before and much of it is due to the witty writing. I have nothing to say about Billy Elliot or Gladiator, both of which survive their writing, although to be fair I haven’t seen Billy Elliot since Stephen Daldry became easily the dullest filmmaker alive and I have seen Gladiator since Ridley Scott became his runner up.
Call it blasphemy but just as Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland improved upon James Ellroy’s excellent novel, I’m inclined to say Steve Kloves made Michael Chabon’s novel even better as well. And while Steve Kloves’ screenplay is a masterful distillation, Curtis Hanson’s direction might be even better. One of the most toxic decisions of that Oscar season was pushing it into the dramatic category at the Golden Globes. A charming speech by Michael Douglas could have more than easily pushed his brilliant performance within grasp of a nomination. The Coens’ O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? nomination was rightly seen as a lark, but it’s more evidence of how exhaustively they think out their odysseys (pardon the pun). Traffic hasn’t aged well. It wasn’t profound in 2000 and it isn’t profound now. It’s nothing that you can’t find on television but it was bracing at the time to see Soderbergh take what David O. Russell did with push-processing (?) and take it one step farther, admittedly to less results.
My choices for Best Screenplay of 2000
1. Steve Kloves, Wonder Boys
2. John Cusack, D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, & Scott Rosenberg, High Fidelity
3. David Mamet, State and Main
4. Cameron Crowe, Almost Famous
5. Edward Yang, Yi Yi (A One and a Two...)
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver