I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

American Beauty, 1999

Rated R

I pretty much hate this movie and I think I’m in the minority. I am a tough critic on this movie and realize there will be readers who disagree. Bring it on. ;)

I had seen “American Beauty” once several years after it came out and I remember thinking, it was okaaaay…. After having recently watched it again, I realize it’s the last fifteen minutes or so of the film that made me say that. The rest is shit. The last few scenes and dialogue redeem the movie and made me think the whole film was worth my time. But, a movie is not even okaaaay if you spend most of it cringing, offended, or uncomfortable.

I believe this film fooled the American public into thinking it was a different and enlightening film about an abnormal, but probably typical, family but it really was just a disturbing one championing self-interest. I don’t think a film is worthy of the term “masterpiece” just because it pushes boundaries or thinks outside the box. Other true classics have done that without the offensive language or nudity.

I don’t think it should be called “American Beauty” either. Maybe “American Crappy”. Another problem I have with it is that I think it was trying to be “realistic”. I think they tried too hard and overshot it. It depicts a contemporary but dysfunctional family in suburbia who probably expected the American dream at one point but instead lives a twisted nightmare. The husband and wife have found themselves in a loveless marriage. Kevin Spacey, who somehow snagged the Best Actor award for his role of the apathetic husband Lester, is basically in a mid-life crisis and starts lusting after his daughter’s best friend. Puke. As he finds a reason to be again, his wife starts an affair and his daughter has an unhealthy friendship with a girl who’s a tease and ends up finding comfort in the new boy next door who’s neo-Nazi homophobic Dad has him on watch. Don’t even get me started on the daughter’s “best friend” though. There is no way a teenage girl would put up with disgusting language about her own father from a best friend.

There is no happy ending here, but it has some poignancy, so I don’t really have a problem with it. Not everything ends perfectly or happily in real life. Fortunately, we see that the father has readjusted his way of thinking and seems to be almost grateful with his life.

But, the movie as a whole kind of reminds me of “The Breakup” with Vince Vaughan and Jennifer Anniston. While Vince is hilarious, and I did laugh out loud sometimes, I didn’t go to the theatres with my husband to see another couple fighting the whole time. I go to the theatres as an escape from reality, an escape from a stressful day/week/month, and to be entertained. Not to walk out feeling depressed, grossed out, or bored. That’s just me I guess.

The only character who I thought acted well and is the only character in my opinion with some interesting depth is the neighbor boy Ricky Fitts who has an obsession with videotaping. But even with that endorsement, seeing his footage of the floating plastic bag as “the most beautiful thing [he’s] ever seen”, prompted me to say, “You need to get out more honey”. He did say something very true, however, “Never underestimate the power of denial”. That, I can completely agree with and even relate to.

This movie was up against “Cider House Rules”, “The Green Mile”, “The Insider”, and “The Sixth Sense”. I saw that first nominee but barely remember it. I saw “The Green Mile” a couple times and enjoyed it. I’ve never seen “The Insider”, but I’ve seen and own the movie THAT SHOULD HAVE WON Best Picture: “The Sixth Sense”. Seriously Academy, what happened? For one, it was the highest-grossing film of the year, raking in more than double that of “American Beauty”. It was also the most successful that night among the nominees but somehow did not win the coveted award of Best Picture. That is a far better movie in my opinion, worthy of watching again and again.


See the beauty in the unexpected (and not somewhere or in someone inappropriate). If for you, it’s in a plastic bag floating on the breeze, then great. But I also encourage you to find the beauty in what our natural world has to offer.

Lester did have one thing right. The stuff in your home is just that- stuff. It reminded me of the Bible verse from Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

You are responsible for your own happiness. If you’re unhappy with yourself or some aspect of your life, do something about it. Don’t wallow in self pity or self-righteousness, and hopefully you will never find the characters of this movie too relatable.


  1. I think your critiques keep getting better and more enjoyable to read. I agree, I don't want to be offended by a movie, but that doesn't mean I don't mind a good challenge or thinker outside the boxer, as you said.

  2. I AGREE! I hated this movie. I thought it was gross and depressig and disturbing. I don't enjoy movies that try to cram all of the negativity of society into one family. I just think there is a little bit of good in most people. No one is this messed up.