If an alternate version of Michael Mann‘s The Insider had been made with different actors (but ones just as good as those who acted in the 1999 version, and if it was directed by Mann and written by Eric Roth) and released in 2011, it would win the Best Picture Oscar…hands down. 2011 has been a good-but-not-great year, and I don’t think there’s any question that Mann’s film would sweep aside The Artist, The Help and War Horse like so much seaweed.

Especially if it had a distributor smart enough to throghly explain to everyone that The Insider is not about the evils of tobacco and tobacco-company executives (which Jason Reitman still believed two years ago) but about corporate interests smothering the integrity of corporate-owned journalistic organs like 60 Minutes.

I explained it all in a January 2010 post, but I happened to watch The Insider earlier today on DVD and it hit me all over again how good it was.

The Insider was nominated for Best Picture but lost to American Beauty.

I’d forgotten that The Green Mile and The Cider House Rules were actually nominated for Best Picture that year. The Green Mile! The death row electric-chair movie with Tom Hanks and the cute mouse! What were Academy members thinking?

Put it this way: If you think a 2011 version of The Insider still would have theoretically lost to The Artist or The Help or War Horse, what pre-2011 film could come along and kick the asses of these three in this year’s Best Picture race? if it hadn’t been released before, I mean, and had magically arrived fresh this year?

In 2000 The Insider was nominated for seven Academy Awards — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Sound…but not Chris Pummer for Best Supporting Actor despite his having won awards for hsi Miek Wallace performance from the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics.