Saturday, February 23, 2013

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 2001

Russell Crowe may be getting hit over the head with the wrong end of the telephone these days, as everybody and their brother continues to skewer his singing voice, but he has plenty of Oscar cred to wipe all those negative reviews away.

Two years in a row Crowe was flying high at the Academy Awards, with one win for Gladiator and  another Best Actor nomination the following year. Not that Crowe should be ungrateful, but it does appear that he won in the wrong year, as his performance in A Beautiful Mind is a triumph.

After never really paying too much attention to Crowe over the years, the last month has felt like the 24 hour Russell network.  Watching his leading roles in Best Picture wins back to back and Les Miserables, all while loving every moment he was one screen, it's a wonder I never took notice of how fantastic he can be before.

The rousing film, detailing the life of mathematical genius John Nash, relies on Crowe's capabilities of pulling off all his idiosyncrasies, which are many. Flawlessly directed by Ron Howard, the entire film and Crowe's performance subtly build on Nash as a graduate student into the intense personal dramas of his battles with paranoid schizophrenia.

Oscar voters, who the year before had cast their ballots for Crowe as a beefy gladiator, probably wouldn't have believed he could pull off playing a bookish type. At any rate, from the socially awkward student to the mental hospital, and ending as the statuesque honored mathematician winning a Nobel prize, Crowe pulls off all the elements of Nash to perfection.

Hollywood has made an art out of bringing those stories of fictitious characters and real people to life for us all to enjoy. Howard's film draws beauty out of every moment in Nash's life, and most compelling, does an incredible job at literally showing how Nash saw the world.

Numerous times throughout the film sparkling light highlights things Nash may be analyzing, or jumbled numbers and words fly off the pages whenever he is frantically scanning documents, and the jubilant James Horner score ebs and flows as he scribbles equations on windows and breaks down in frustration over his need for an "original idea". The title says it all and letting the audience partake in how a mind like his worked brings new life into the typical Hollywood bio pic.

There is a lot of debate (especially this year with nearly half of the best picture nominees based around historical events) about movies involving real people and facts. However, A Beautiful Mind, and films like it, are not documentaries. Even though viewers may wonder what facts are missing, it in no way hinders the films quality. We go to the movies looking to be wowed with an absorbing story, told well by actors, filmmakers, and other creative technicians. Some truth gets lost in the process, but it can spark interest into a topic, where more research can then be done later.

All those factors make A Beautiful Mind well deserving in all its Oscar glory. Had there been musical numbers involving mental patients and Crowe bursting into song about Game Theory, then critics wouldn't have been so kind. Just kidding, get over it people, he's not that bad of a singer!

Look for Ron Howard's next project, which is making a documentary about Jay-Z! Also, Crowe is a part of the excellent cast filling out Zach Snyder's dreamy new take on the Man Of Steel.

Next Up:  "Should have been my name, Mister cellophane. 'Cause you can look right through me, walk right by me, And never know I'm there..."

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