While the five nominees for the Best Picture Oscar are just getting revved up at the box office, Road to Perdition just made its way to DVD racks last week. Released in the summer, the film dropped out of contention for the top Academy Award prize before opening day.
However, Road to Perdition has still been nominated for six Academy Awards — not bad considering Oscar voters’ typical short-term memory.
But in the six main categories, Road to Perdition was only able to garner one nod — Paul Newman is up in the Best Supporting Actor race. But why only honor him?
To only recognize Newman is to say he was the only good part of the movie. And then to not award him his second Oscar on March 23 is like saying his performance is no better than any other loser in this category.
Few doubt the quality of the film. As far as filmmaking is concerned, Road to Perdition is a marvel.
Sam Mendes and Conrad L. Hall, the Oscar-winning director-and-cinematographer tandem of American Beauty, construct a Depression-era Illinois in which organized crime runs cities and, in some cases, families. The story of Michael Sullivan and his son and the odyssey they take after tragedy hits is an inspiring tale about a father not wanting his boy following in his footsteps.
But beyond that, the way the story is told is where the real beauty lies. The audience is eloquently invited to take a slow, hypnotic ride with the two main characters and escape into the protagonist’s world, where he struggles to balance vengeance with protecting his son.
How is that story less important than The Hours, a fictional take on Virginia Wolfe’s effect on a woman and her son in the 1950s? Or Gangs of New York, for that matter? Perhaps it doesn’t carry the historical significance of a Polish composer on the run from Nazi Germany during World War II, but The Pianist and Road to Perdition seek the same goal and elicit similar responses from their respective audiences.
Of the three dramas that made the 2002 short list for Oscar’s top prize, Road to Perdition ranks right up there, which begs the question of why it wasn’t chosen to join them.
It was brought up in the mid-1990s that all the eventual big winners were films released late in the year — just look at Titanic and Shakespeare in Love. This year was the worst case of that.
In a year with so many good films — again we are comparing 2002 with the dismal 2001 — to only honor films that milked the awards-season calendar cow is a sign of approving the studios’ methods of shelving good films until December, thereby forcing the viewing public to watch trash for 11 months.
Road to Perdition is one of the best films of the year, and should be honored with a Best Picture nomination, regardless of the month it was released.
On the other hand, at least we don’t have to wait another six months to see it on DVD.
Contact Will Albritton at firstname.lastname@example.org