14. Adaptation (2002)
A fictional Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is struggling to adapt the non-fiction book “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) into a screenplay. He is resentful that his twin brother Donald (Nicolas Cage) has moved in.
Donald decides to be a screenwriter, despite not having any experience writing a script for a clichéd Sci-Fi film, he is offered a large amount for it. Charlie, suffering from writer’s block as the book is unfilmable, tried to talk to Orlean about it, but finds she is having an affair with the protagonist of her book. This leads to intrigue and attempted murder.
The real Charlie Kaufman actually wrote this to triumph over his writer’s block. He created a fictional twin brother, Donald, to add intrigue to the script. Donald was also given credit for the screenplay.
The reviews for the film were excellent, particularly Roger Ebert who added the film to his “Great Films” collections. Nicolas cage is excellent in his dual role, as is Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean, the writer of the book. The film won one Academy Award for Chris Cooper as Best Supporting Actor, and was nominated for three more, but because it was billed and played as a comedy, it did not receive a Best Picture nomination.
13. Training Day (2001)
Starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, the movie recounts a day of two LAPD officers. Officer Jake Hoyt (Hawke) is being evaluated by Detective Alonzo Harris (Washington) as they work in South Central and North West Los Angeles to clean up the gangs and drugs. Harris is not what he seems, as he insists on showing Hoyt on how to work the system outside the law. Hoyt is aghast at Harris’ dealings and tries to do what he thinks is right, which leads to a harrowing conclusion.
Denzel Washington worked against type to play the corrupt Detective and won the Academy Award for Best Actor. He was matched scene for scene by Hawke, who gave a performance of steely determination. Members of real LA gangs worked on the film in exchange for filming on their turf. Cameos by well know rappers heightened the realism. Possibly too intense and graphic for Academy voters, it did not receive a Best Picture nomination, but should have.
12. Walk the Line (2005)
The film starts in 1968 as Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) is about to go onstage at Folsom Prison, when he sees a table saw which reminds him of growing up. His father was a sharecropper, and his brother Jack dies as the result of an accident with a power saw. This causes a rift between Johnny and his dad, Ray (Robert Patrick).
Johnny enters the Air Force and learns to play guitar while stationed in West Germany. When he comes home, he marries his girlfriend Vivian and goes to work as a salesman in Memphis. He starts a band and gets a contract at Sun Records.
On tour he meets June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) who he falls in love with. She refuses him and he becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol. After becoming clean he divorces Vivian and starts dating June. He plays at Folsom prison because he identifies with the inmates. The next concert on tour, he tries to talk to June, who says she will only talk to him on stage. On stage during a performance of Jackson, he stops the song and proposes to June. She accepts and they are married a week later.
The reviews for the film were very good, with raves for Reese Witherspoon. Joaquin Phoenix got mixed reviews. Most critic felt he didn’t sing like Cash, but definitely had his mannerisms, many critic said the writer stayed too close to inspirational biography and should have loosened up more.
The film was a very respectable hit. Nominated for five Academy Awards, winning Best Actress and including nominations for Best Actor, Film Editing, Costume Design and Sound Mixing, it did not receive a Best Picture Nomination, probably because the director was not nominated either.
11. Big Fish (2003)
Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) Is at his son Will’s (Billy Crudup) wedding, telling one of the fantastic tales that he has repeated for years. Will tells his new wife that after so many years of these tails, he no longer trusts his father.
Edward and Will are estranged for three years, when Edward’s health starts to fail, Will and his wife go back to Alabama to be with him, with Will telling his wife about his father’ supposed exploits when he was younger (Ewan McGregor). When Will reaches his father, he finds that the tales, somewhat embellished are true. He and Edward form a new bond, and after Edward’s death, Will continues his father’s storytelling.
The film opened to good reviews on the whole, with a couple of dissenting reviews by major critics. Many of the supporting actors were mentioned for their work in the reviews, especially Marion Cotillard as Will’s wife, Jessica Lange as Edward’s wife and Helena Bonham Carter in two different roles.
Despite the reviews and partly due to the fact it did not make back its costs, as well as the fact it was perceived as a fantasy, which normally is ignored by the Academy, The only award it was nominated for was Best Score, which it did not win.
10. In Bruges (2008)
Hitman Ray (Collin Farrell) and his partner Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are sent to Bruges, Belgium by their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to await further instructions. Ray is worried because he accidentally killed a child during their last hit. Ken loves the city but Ray is bored, going off on his own to find some amusement. He comes upon a film set and strike up a romance with Chloe, a production assistant, they go on a date to a restaurant and Ray beats up a couple there.
While this is happening, Ken gets a call from Harry to kill Ray as he killed a child for which Harry is against his code of ethics, Things don’t go as planned and Harry goes to Bruges to finish the job. He kills Ken who warns Ray before he dies. Harry shoots Ray, and then kills a dwarf with a hollow point shell. Believing he killed a child, Harry kills himself. Ray is rushed to hospital.
The film received generally good reviews as this thriller actually played as a dark comedy. The director received praise, not only for his directing, but for his wickedly funny script. Several critic said it was Collin Farrell’s best performance. They also talked about the great chemistry between the two leads.
Made on a relatively low budget, only $15,000,000. It only made half that in the USA as it was released mainly in art houses. Still it did receive one Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, but it was not nominated for Best Picture, despite being nominated at the Golden Globes for Best Comedy/Musical.
9. Cinderella Man (2005)
James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) Is a New Jersey boxer who is forced to give it up due to a broken hand. His wife, Mae (Renee Zellwiger), is glad because she hates the violence but is also worried about how he will have an income. During the Depression, James works as a longshoreman, but it is not steady every day work. His longtime manager and friend Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) offers him a fight for one night only for cash.
To everyone’s surprise James wins, even with his bad hand. He continues to win and is given a title bout against the champion, Max Baer, who has killed two men in the right. Max is smug and overconfident. James beats him in the title bout and is able to buy his wife a home where they live comfortably.
The reviews were excellent with some saying it was Russell Crowe’s best performance. He has said it was his favorite. Renee Zellwiger, according to some critics, was miscast. Paul Giamatti received wonderful reviews and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards. Cinderella Man was also nominated for two other awards, namely Film Editing and Make Up.
But despite good reviews, it was not nominated for Best Picture, mainly according to critics due to the portrayal of Max Baer, which was very removed from his real life temperament and the fact the film failed at the box office.
8. Before Sunset (2004)
Taking place nine years after the events in “Before Sunrise” (1995), American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and French Celine (Julie Delpy) had had a brief meeting in Vienna, They were supposed to meet back in Vienna six months later, but it never happened, Now Jesse has written a novel,
As he signs autographs and talks with his readers, he looks up and sees Celine smiling at him. Despite only having an hour before his flight leaves, Jesse and Celine go off together reminiscing, they walk through the streets of Paris and go to her apartment. This time Jesse knows he will miss his flight.
The film received overwhelming reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. The film was considered to have universal appeal. Hawke and Delpy were acclaimed for their performances, and considering that the two leads helped write the screenplay, they added several elements of their own lives.
That paid off as the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Based on the fact that it was considered a “small” film, basically an art house film, it did not receive a Best Picture nomination.