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  • Nate Lemann


Updated: Jul 16

For our inaugural alt oscars ceremony we look at the year 2000, first of the new century, and the films that kicked off the new era of filmmaking, from sweeping revenge epics to psychological time-bombs.

by Nate Lemann




Best Supporting Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator

While some of the other nominees are more transformative this year (DaFoe is unrecognizable in "Shadow of the Vampire"), Phoenix entered a new stratosphere in "Gladiator" as the evil and traitorous Emperor Commodus. It is a role that is so despicable yet Phoenix never loses the thread of his humanity with it. Masterful work and would serve as a taste of what was to come with his legendary career. Special shoutouts to Ford as the menacing Bricktop, Crudup as a charming and erratic '70s front man, and one of Mr. Jackson's most underrated performances and transformations in "Unbreakable."


Best Supporting Actress: Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream

With all due respect to the other nominees here, but Burstyn really runs away with the award here. Her performance is so painful to witness, in a good way of course. The desperation and the delusions of grandeur make this one of the saddest performances ever put to film. The risks and vulnerability she exhibits, especially for an actress of her already esteemed caliber by that time, is nothing short of miraculous. I do want to shoutout Robin Wright's performance in "Unbreakable": I still think about the doorway scene with her and Bruce Willis all the time. She doesn't get a lot of screen time but she really makes a meal out of what she is given, and I think she is given very little credit for it.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Mary Harron & Guinevere Turner, American Psycho

The challenge Harron and Turner had in adapting one the most polarizing novels of all-time was daunting but they rose to the task and delivered a dark but very humorous voice to this film. The narration alone would've won them this award but the satirization of yuppie culture on Wall Street in the '80s should be taught to all budding screenwriters in how to properly create perfect dark, twisted satire.


Best Original Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan, Unbreakable

I've long been of the belief that "Unbreakable" is Shyamalan's best movie. In an era where superhero movies leaned toward the ridiculous (i.e. more comic-faithful than today's CBMs), Shyamalan was able to ground his superhero fable in an all-too-real reality, really exploring what it would be like if a superhero really walked among us. Patient and restrained, he weaves beautifully detailed nuance into every scene of this movie and its structure and plotting are pitch-perfect in my opinion. His finest work.

Best Actor: Russell Crowe, Gladiator

The academy nailed the two lead categories this year. While Hanks certainly went through hell for his performance, Willis showed a vulnerable side he rarely got to show in his career, Oldman just being a goddamn chameleon as always, and Bale (who is my runner-up this year) announced himself as a serious actor, Crowe gave one of the best straight leading man performances ever committed to film. He doesn't need any gimmicks or tricks in this one. He commands the screen and demands your attention anytime he's on it. It's masterful old Hollywood stuff and rightfully won him the golden man.


Best Actress: Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

Aside from Michelle Yeoh in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", there is no competition in this category. Roberts is a force of nature in this performance. It's at times a movie star role but at others, so nuanced and human; just miraculous stuff she delivers here. She gets to play the humor and the drama so well and what I think really nails down her Oscar is in how she reacts to her other performers, especially the scenes with the affected clients of the class action. She goes from being this dynamo to being this genuinely compassionate mother who is making a true connection with another human being suffering through unimaginable trials. It is breathtaking work and a career-best performance.

Best Cinematography: Peter Pau Tak-Hai, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

This one feels like a no-brainer to me: while I love the work of the other nominees so much (Serra's work I feel is especially under-appreciated), "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is poetry in motion. It is quite possibly the most beautifully elegant and stunning films ever created and that is in large part is due to the otherworldly talent of Tak-Hai and his team. If you have never seen the film before, I advise you go and rectify that in hast. It will take your breath away what one can capture with a camera.


Best Director: Ridley Scott, Gladiator

Harron and Aronofsky were intriguing start-ups. Shyamalan delivered his best and most retrained work yet. Lee was a worthy challenger...but in the end the only correct choice here was Scott. What he achieved was monumental. A violent reimagining of the "Sword-and-Sandal" epics of old Hollywood that started filming with an incomplete script, Scott marshaled the most epic, crowd-pleasing, and just purely entertaining blockbuster of all-time. He likely should've won already for "Alien" or "Blade Runner" but the robbery he suffered back in 2000 may go down as the worst mistake the Oscars ever made, especially when we still have not given this man the Best Director Oscar he so richly deserves. One of cinemas greatest directors, a man who can marshal armies and can film the most elaborate, practical set pieces ever put to celluloid, this was his crowning achievement and the best film of his career.

Best Picture: Gladiator

What maybe one of the greatest lineups I've assembled in this project, 2000 was a great year for film. While each of the nominees are deserving in their own rights, I think the academy got this one right, with a powerhouse film that truly dazzled and entertained in the most profound ways. It is a film that will echo throughout the rest of film history.


NEXT WEEK: 2001 and the beginning of "The Lord of the Rings" years in Hollywood...

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Hi! I'm Nate and I love to talk all things movies. I'll be posting new reviews, recent rewatches, and much more on this site. So come on and let's talk movies! 

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