FROM MY OWN PRIVATE COLLECTION "Monster's Ball" (2001)

How fitting is it that at the 2000 Primetime Emmy Awards, Halle Berry won Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for playing the first black woman to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress, and two years later, she became the first to win?

Well, as anyone who's seen her performance here can tell you, she deserved it. But she wasn't the only good thing about this film. While Berry did deserve the lion's share of the acclaim, Monster's Ball is, first and foremost, a great ensemble piece.

Billy Bob Thornton had a good year with 2001, showcasing his range as an actor in both the areas of comedy (Bandits) and the quiet, pensive drama (The Man Who Wasn't There). His most understated (and shamefully unrecognized) work of the year was present here, playing an unlikable yet interesting racist police officer, in the same vein as Matt Dillon's character from Crash, but way worse.

The late greats Heath Ledger and Peter Boyle were fascinating to watch, too. Ledger made the most of his short screentime with his portrayal as the unloved son of a deeply prejudiced family, and Boyle, not exactly the hilarious grandpa from Everybody Loves Raymond, was no less engaging as the one person more despicable than Thornton's character.

Singer-turned-actors Mos Def and Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy aka P. Diddy) fit right in with the rest of the group as well. Like Ledger, neither man had a gigantic amount of face time, but they each made an impact regardless.

One thing the cast and crew praised when interviewed was the originality of the script. And there's a reason for that: it's good. Screenwriters Milo Addica and Will Rokos both earned a well deserved Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay with a story that seems easy to relate to, yet it never fails to surprise you just when you think you know what's around the corner.

Behind the Scenes with Producer Lee Daniels proves to be an interesting inside look into how the film came about. Firstly, if that name sounds familiar, it's probably because Daniels is the director behind the much buzzed about drama, Precious, which based off the trailer alone, seems to have a similiar feel to this.

Some interesting tidbits he speaks of are the many hands the film passed through before settling on its outstanding ensemble (Sean Penn was set to direct Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Wes Bentley; Oliver Stone was once attached with Tommy Lee Jones).

He also talks of how, initially, neither he nor director Marc Forster wanted Berry to play the lead role. Both thought she was too pretty to fit the part. Clearly, that worked out for the best.

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