The Worst Best Picture Nominees of the 2000s

With the Oscar nominations only a little over a week away, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the last ten years and see not where the Academy has done a good job, but where they have fucked up the worst.

Everyone understandably has their share of problems with the Academy, but to be fair, they more often than not do a solid job. Do they nominated the five or ten best films of every year? Of course not. Do they generally nominate five or ten very good films? Most of the time, yes.

But there are some real stinkers in the rest past, as well. In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t seen every single nominated film (missing Chocolat, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Hours, and Ray), but of what I’ve seen, these are the ten worst.

10.) Gosford Park
Not a bad film at all. In fact, I feel a little guilty putting it on this list. Robert Altman’s direction is quite good, and the enormous ensemble is quite impressive. But I found the film to be a bit wanting emotionally. “Easy to admire, tough to love” is a phrase I like to use for films like this. For all of Gosford Park‘s strengths, it’s not the kind of film that leaves a strong impression.

Should have been nominated: Christopher Nolan’s terrifically trippy thriller Memento or Wes Anderson’s dark family dramedy The Royal Tenenbaums

9.) Sideways
Alexander Payne’s love letter to wine is a fun little film. It’s funny and well-written. But I find it a bit shallow for the Best Picture category.

Should have been nominated:
Mike Nichols’s searing drama Closer or Michael Mann’s old-fashioned thriller Collateral

8.) A Beautiful Mind
The only Best Picture winner on the list, Ron Howard’s biopic of mathematician John Nash is a bit too schmaltzy for my taste. The acting is dynamite, but too often, the film feels overdone. It tries to move you, but instead, I found myself groaning on occasion.

Should have been nominated: See #10

7.) The Aviator
It’s a very competent biopic, and Scorsese and DiCaprio both do great work, but, like Gosford Park, there’s just little about the film that makes you jump for joy.

Should have been nominated: See #9

6.) Seabiscuit
Though my memories of this one are a bit fuzzy, I remember even at the age of 14 feeling this to be just a totally average uplifting sports movie. Secretariat did this sort of thing better (and is being completely ignored by the Academy as a result).

Should have been nominated: Quentin Tarantino’s samurai sword revenge epic Kill Bill, Vol. 1 or Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s grim intersecting-character drama 21 Grams.

5.) The Reader
This film is just riddled with problems, both in terms of its narrative and execution. Oscar’s love affair with it is even more frustrating when you take into account that The Dark Knight was left out of Best Picture as a result.

Should have been nominated: The Dark Knight, Jonathan Demme’s heartbreaking family drama Rachel Getting Married, or Pixar’s charming robot romance WALL-E.

4.) Babel
From top to bottom, I think 2006’s Best Picture field was the worst of the decade, though Babel is the only film to land on the list. It features fine acting, but I find it pretentious. Of its three main story lines, I connected with one (the Adrianna Barraza material), but .333 is not the batting average of a Best Picture nominee.

Should have been nominated: Alfonso Cuaron’s bleak futuristic drama Children of Men or Paul Greengrass’ United 93, my choice for the best film of the 2000s.

3.) The Blind Side
Mediocrity in every sense of the word. There’s absolutely nothing remarkable about this film, including Sandra Bullock’s Oscar-winning performance. Hundreds of these films have been made before, and thanks to the overwhelming and inexplicable success of this one, thousands more will be made.

Should have been nominated: The powerful dolphin-poaching doc The Cove or Wes Anderson’s charming venture into animation—Fantastic Mr. Fox.

2.) District 9
The first half-hour is brilliant. The rest of the film goes off a cliff. The anti-apartheid rhetoric is totally overdone, and the action scenes are incomprehensible and repetitive. It’s Transformers on a shoestring budget.

Should have been nominated: See #3

1.) Juno
While I adore Jennifer Garner’s work and enjoy the soundtrack, everything about this film is undone by a truly dreadful screenplay (that somehow won an Oscar!) Overwritten doesn’t even begin to describe Diablo Cody’s dialogue. It’s nails-on-a-chalkboard bad, with it’s ridiculous pet names and catch phrases, as well as its annoying references to obscure pieces of pop culture. I tried to like this film. I really did. But every time I watched it, I liked it less and less, and now, whenever it’s on cable, I want to rip my ears off.

Should have been nominated: Sidney Lumet’s twisty family thriller Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead or Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone.

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