Sunday, January 30, 2011

30 Days of Oscar: Day 3 - Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Movie: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Year: 2004
Nominations: Best Cinematography, Russell Boyd; Best Sound Editing Richard Kingst, Art Direction, Costume Design. Best Director - Peter Weir;  Best Editing, Best Makeup, Best Picture, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects
Wins: Best Cinematography, Russell Boyd; Best Sound Editing Richard Kingst.  Wow, for ALL the other nominations, Master and Commander was beaten by Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, including Director and Picture.  What an odd year when only 2 different films win all the non-acting awards for which they qualify. 

Based on a 21-book series of novels by Patrick O'Brien, this movie takes the characters from the whole series, uses the name of the first novel (Master and Commander) and some of the plot of the tenth book (The Far Side of the World) with elements from other books.  It easily could have been set up as a pretty awesome franchise, but given the presence of Russell Crowe and the technical and financial difficulty of recreating the high seas, and the fact that the movie barely made back it's $150 million budget, no sequel is planned. 

However, as an Oscar nominee, it was definitely deserving.  Russell Crowe plays Jack Aubrey, captain of HMS Surprise during the Napoleonic wars.  Paul Bettany plays his friend and the ships doctor and amateur naturalist, Stephen Maturin.  They're tasked with sailing across the Atlantic to prevent a ship of Napoleon's from taking the war to the colonies in the South Seas.  Lots of sailing, lots of naval battles with canons flying, and pretty amazing visuals through the movie.  As a scientist myself, seeing Maturin tramp about the Galapagos as the ship restocks supplies (water, food, etc.) is pretty amazing.  Bettany's intellectual curiosity and lack of naval background helps balance Crowe's "For King and Country" enthusiasm for war, particularly on a sailing ship.

There are many subplots between the crew, but the main focus is on the relationship between Aubrey and Maturin and the ship's mission to "burn, sink, or take as a prize" the French frigate they're hunting.  In another year, particularly the technical awards probably would have deservedly gone to Master and Commander, although it is also telling that there were no acting nominations for the film.  And something random I just realized rewatching this, there is only a single female on screen at any point and she has no lines, just smiles at Aubrey.  How many movies is that true?  What did you think of Master and Commander?


Anonymous said...

Part of me really liked this high-sea adventure, the other part of me kept being annoyed by Russel Crowe's acting. It's one of those films I watched during an awkward time before I actually bothered to think about movies, so I don't trust my memory of it. It's one I need to revist because of my love for Weir and high-seas adventures.

The Mad Hatter said...

Just how big was that $150M budget? Notice that three seperate studios show their logos at the beginning of this flick.

I count myself as a massive fan of this film, but see it as the sort of movie "They don't make anymore". Pity too, since were it not going head-to-head with Jackson's payoff film, it could have taken home many more awards.

One thing I'll never forget about it is the sound (where it won a well-deserved award). Seeing this in a theatre made it feel like you were on that boat, as creaks and moans seemed to be coming from every speaker in the theatre.

Such an underrated flick.