I saw this when the movie first came out, but every time I went to watch it again I got distracted or decided I already knew everything about it. So I decided it was time to revisit this. For a movie with this many big names, it's odd that all of them, EXCEPT the Oscar winner, still have pretty amazing careers. But Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Danny Devito, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, are really a group of actors that can't be beat, and I suppose none of them stand out from the crowd or really create a supporting character with a great distinction, they're all so wrapped up in the complexities of the story that it's hard to single one performance above the rest. Also, since so many of them don't survive the end of the movie none get the obvious leading vs supporting role.
However, it's really the story that shines. A web of corruption in L.A. police department back in the 1950s all being exposed by a single crime that weaves together the film industry, the porn/escort industry and the mob. The reason this even shows up on a Christmas list is actually part of a real-life event woven into the story, Bloody Christmas. In the movie on Christmas Eve, when Guy Pearce is on his first night of being in charge, the men are all drinking and making merry in the station house. However, once they're all good and boozed up, it's rumored that the guys who beat up some cops have just been brought in. This brings all the drunk cops down to the holding cell, and they beat the crap out of some, likely, innocent guys. Many cops get involved, and it gets the publicity that the LAPD just can't handle, and heads roll. But this leads to more cops being available for the underworld corruption. You can't beat the complexity of the story - it really must be experienced from start to finish, individual scenes just bleed into one another and few completely stand alone. However, it's also not hard to understand and most things come down to money and power. Capturing the feel of the 50's is part of where all the technical awards must have come from - the look of the movie, the color, costumes, make-up, and sweeping views of LA all provide a strong atmosphere to give it an other-worldly feel that doesn't make for a scary movie, but rather a thriller. And honestly, the soundtrack brings you into that world almost as much as the clothes and makeup, including Christmas music and decorations to keep you in the holiday spirit. Kevin Spacey is my favorite character. Watching his obsession with the TV industry and then realizing he's also a cop who is supposed to be doing good things, just at the moment it's all taken away gets me every time.