As we near the peak of awards season with the announcement of the Academy Award nominees later this week, I find myself plagued by a particularly potent case of Oscar fever. We cinephiles have a fickle relationship with the Academy Awards: on the one hand, we spend countless hours tracking the critics circles and guild awards, speculating which films will be nominated and eventually win, and of course, watching the ceremony in droves. But on the other hand, we can’t seem to stop complaining about the results, particularly after the dust settles.
Every year around this time, articles start cropping up listing the “most overrated Best Picture winners” – films that were huge smashes the year they were released and gathered enough support and momentum to eventually win Best Picture, only to go on to be all but forgotten in the years following their big win (in all honesty, does anyone actually remember Slumdog Millionaire anymore, or The Artist?) However, there is one film* that consistently shows up on such lists that I simply couldn’t disagree with more: Gladiator, which won Best Picture at the 73rd Academy Award ceremony in 2001.
Why is this film so derided? Perhaps people haven’t seen it in a while, and are feeding off of the strong-voiced opinions of the film’s detractors. Perhaps it’s because other films from that year have proven themselves to be more culturally significant in the decade that has past since their release (films such as Requiem for a Dream and Memento – neither of which received Best Picture nominations that year).
Whatever the reason, in this article I hope to try and change that opinion, burst the bubble of negativity, and maybe even convince one or two people to give the film another look, and hopefully see in it what I think makes it not only deserving of its Best Picture Oscar, but also one of the best films of our time.
*another film that often appears on these lists is American Beauty, which in my opinion is actually the forgotten masterpiece of the 90′s and one of the best films of all time. But that is a whole other article.
This article was first posted on January 7, 2013