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74th Annual Academy Awards
NPR's Bob Mondello: Oscar Raves and Rants

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Bob Mondello

NPR Film Critic Bob Mondello

Five Reasons the Oscars Make Bob Mondello Cranky:

1. The voters are always... um... misguided
Either that, or I am. Most years, nothing on my 10-best list gets nominated, a record that’s been so consistent that when Oscar and I agreed on three of the five Best Film nominees this year, I started worrying about my standards.

2. The show
Remember Rob Lowe serenading Sleeping Beauty? The streaker and David Niven? Jack Palance doing one-arm pushups? Grotesqueries used to be everywhere at the Oscars, but decorum and restraint have lately been promoted so vigorously that virtually the only remaining hope for excitement is the acceptance speeches.

3. The acceptance speeches
Cuba Gooding Jr.’s enthusiasm was contagious a few years ago, but Roberto Benigni’s kissy-huggy thing seemed rehearsed (maybe because he’d already done it at the Golden Globes), and why nominees think an international audience of one billion people needs to know they like their agents escapes me.

4. The banter
Listening to famous people messing up scripted jokes is about as much fun as listening to people with no sense of comic timing at a party.

5. The fashions
Okay, Bjork’s swan gown was fun -- but that was two years ago. Last year, the biggest news was the tie-less tuxedo. Where’s Cher when we need her?

Bob Mondello's Top 10 (Plus 9) Movies of 2001

Though 2001 was Hollywood's biggest year in box office history -- with movies bringing in more than $8.3 billion -- NPR's Bob Mondello says there weren't very many high-quality movies among those blockbusters.

Still, he found more than enough other films to fill his own personal 10-best list.

Shrek -- "In a year when observers not only can't find a front-runner in the Oscar race but can't even settle on a field of probable contenders, there is still one thing on which everyone can agree, from small children to the most jaded critics: Shrek was a hoot. A humane and very funny family film about a lovable ogre who sets out to make the world safe for fairy-tale characters, Shrek marked notable advances in computer animation."
click for more Shrek review by Kenneth Turan, May 18, 2001.

Lord of the Rings -- "There may be a box office battle between the two big wizard franchises, but there's no question that Lord of the Rings is the better movie. Imaginative, well-acted and frequently thrilling, its three hours fly by in a whirl of adventure that leaves audiences panting for more. Alas, we'll have to wait a year for the second installment."
click for more Lord of the Rings review by Bob Mondello, Dec. 18, 2001.

Memento -- "Smaller films also offered adventure, none more so than a movie that took the unusual tack of telling its story backwards as a way of putting the audience in the same predicament as its hero. Memento is about a guy who's trying to solve a crime but who has suffered an injury that keeps him from forming new memories, so every time he meets someone it's as if it's for the first time."
click for more Memento review by Bob Mondello, March 16, 2001.

Amores Perros -- "This Mexican film told three interlocking stories involving dogs, blending Tarantino-style action with a lively surrealism. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu even used the film's structure to examine class issues, cramming everything he could into the movie as if he realized being a first-time director that he might not get a second chance."
click for more Amores Perros review by Bob Mondello, March 30, 2001.

Divided We Fall -- "Another foreign language film, Divided We Fall took a more measured, realistic approach to chronicling the efforts of a Czech couple to hide the son of a Jewish neighbor from the Nazis. By being carefully non-judgmental in its treatment of a host of complicated characters, the film worked new wrinkles on familiar subject matter."
click for more Divided We Fall review by Kenneth Turan, June 8, 2001.

Amelie -- "If you don't like subtitles and are using that as an excuse not to see Amelie, you're depriving yourself of the year's sweetest romantic comedy."
click for more Amelie review by Bob Mondello, Nov. 2, 2001.

What's in a Number?

When it comes to "best-of" lists, says Mondello: "Ten is an arbitrary figure, so let's ignore it."

Also terrific among the film offerings of 2001, he says:

Startup.com

Ghost World

The Visit

Moulin Rouge

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

The Day I Became a Woman (Iran)

Gosford Park

The Man Who Wasn't There

Apocalypse Now Redux (Director's cut)

Previous Year's Picks:

photo gallery 2000

photo gallery 1999

photo gallery 1998

L.I.E. -- "The haunting, low-budget film L.I.E. -- which stands for Long Island Expressway, but also obviously for what those letters spell -- watches a bond forming between an essentially parentless adolescent boy and an older man who enjoys the company of adolescent boys more than society allows. The film's strength lies in how it makes audiences as queasy about their own reactions as about those of the characters."
click for more L.I.E. review by John Powers, Oct. 5, 2001.

In the Bedroom -- "A tragedy about parents who sense trouble brewing in their son's romantic life but feel they shouldn't interfere. Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson head a cast that never once strikes a false note."
click for more In the Bedroom review by Bob Mondello, Nov. 30, 2001.

Black Hawk Down -- "This film tells the story of a tragic 1993 U.S. military mission in Somalia, a quick surgical strike that was supposed to take 45 minutes and that instead turned into a pitched battle on the streets of Mogadishu when a Black Hawk helicopter was downed by enemy fire. Eighteen American soldiers and hundreds of Somalis were killed, and director Ridley Scott puts you right at the center of the action. It is not an easy movie to sit through, but it's certainly visceral filmmaking."
click for more Black Hawk Down review by John Powers, Jan. 11, 2002.

No Man's Land -- "If Black Hawk Down takes a painfully realistic approach to establish that war is hell, No Man's Land is every bit as effective, taking an absurdist approach. It places three soldiers in a trench in the Balkans and marvels at how no one can figure a way to get them out -- especially not the United Nations. No Man's Land is a cross between M*A*S*H and Waiting for Godot, at once funny and wrenching, with an ending that'll send you out of the theater with nerves jangling."
click for more No Man's Land review by Bob Mondello, Dec. 7, 2001.

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