Notes on the Atrocities Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...
Sunday, February 29, 2004
In the four years I've been doing the Jeffies, the Grand Jeffy has always been a struggle. Not so this year. Although all four candidates were excellent films, one was a monumental accomplishment. It stood so far above the others in terms of complexity and scope that it was not hard to select. I'm speaking, of course, of School of Rock. Oh wait, I mean Return of the King.
If I have any reluctance (and I do), it's because my desire to advocate for films that should get more attention. For instance, Lost in Translation is the kind of film I enjoy most--an intelligent, understated meditation on human behavior. I cherish small films like this because they're rarely done, and when they're done, few are as good as Lost.
Absent LOTR, I would have chosen American Splendor, which isn't just a rare kind of film, it's unique. Rare is the American movie that celebrates the little guy, the unheralded scrapper, but Splendor goes a step beyond that, literally fusing documentary, biography, and art into one amazing film. American Splendor deserves far more attention that it is getting.
Goodbye Lenin is a dark horse in my Petit Jeffy pool. I included it because it was so wholly un-American. It actually had the temerity to suggest that capitalism isn't all goodness and light; communism not all demonic evil. It approached politics in a way that no American movie ever could--gently, glancingly, directly. If for no other reason than to fly a middle finger at Hollywood's ignorance, I might have selected it (Lenin didn't even get a nod for best foreign picture, despite winning a wheelbarrow of prizes in Europe).
But in the end, Return of the King was a singular achievement. Although many movies were good this year, if you asked directors to reflect honestly on Peter Jackson's achievement, I think they'd tell you he deserves to win. Jackson is unlikely ever to mount such an amazing epic, with such spectacular results, ever again. Sofia, Peter Wier, Clint--none of them could honestly say that about their own pictures. Rarely does a movie project like Lord of the Kings come along. It deserves to win all the awards.