Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ranking the Best Picture Winners: 50-41

50. The Sting (1973)
What Should Have Won: The Exorcist was the best. Or maybe Cries and Whispers.
What Was Snubbed: Last Tango in Paris was thrilling, and Mean Streets was brand new, but the Academy didn’t nominate them.
Review: It’s not tough to see why audiences fell in love with this movie. Two of the most charming movies stars of all time – Robert Redford and Paul Newman – are both at the top of their game, and Robert Shaw is excellent as “the mark”. And director George Roy Hill keeps it all moving remarkably quickly. Certainly an entertaining movie, but I can think of many films from that year that are better.

49. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
What Should Have Won: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was my favorite of the nominees, but I also would have taken Milk.
What Was Snubbed: My personal preference was Synecdoche, New York, but that was never going to happen. But The Dark Knight, Wall-E and The Wrestler were all way better than anything that was nominated.
Review: Although many thought that picking Slumdog, which after all was a film set in India, with no stars and in another language for much of its running time, was daring for the Academy, it really wasn’t. This is the type of underdog story that the Academy loves. And it is a very well made film, and almost too entertaining for words – at least on the first time through. I’ve seen it three times now, and have to say, I don’t think I’ll watch it again any time soon.

48. Argo (2012)
What Should Have Won: Michael Haneke’s Amour was the best film nominated – but Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained or Lincoln would have been better choices as well.
What Was Snubbed: Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master was too complex and strange for them I guess.
Review: Argo is an expertly crafted caper film, and quite a fine Hollywood comedy to boot. It is entertaining for start to finish, and works even a second time through. There really is nothing in Argo I can complain about, because for the type of movie it is, it pretty much nails it. Having said that, it doesn’t really have much weight to it – and it’s easy to forget once it’s over. The most recent best picture winner isn’t an embarrassment, but there were better options out there.

47. Titanic (1997)
What Should Have Won: LA Confidential was the best film nominated by a mile.
What Was Snubbed: Boogie Nights was a masterpiece, and Jackie Brown and The Sweet Hereafter are certainly better than anything nominated aside from LA Confidential.
Review: Titanic gets a bad rap simply because it was the biggest movie of all time. Sure, the writing isn’t the best – it is a clich├ęd story and has some clunkers in the dialogue, along with the awful Billy Zane performance. But the movie is still rather thrilling in an old fashioned way. The last hour is action filmmaking at its very best. Wouldn’t have gotten my vote, but this is hardly the embarrassment some make it out to be.

46. Terms of Endearment (1983)
What Should Have Won: The Right Stuff is probably the best movie ever made about astronauts.
What Was Snubbed: They gave a lot of nominations to Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny & Alexander, but not for Best Picture. But at least they didn’t completely ignore it like they did with Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy and Brain DePalma’s Scarface.
Review: Even though I like a number of films more than this one from 1983, it’s hard to argue with the choice, as it’s one of the few times they ever gave an Oscar to a movie about women. Shirley Maclaine is wonderful as the difficult, aging mother, and Debra Winger matches her as her dying daughter. Jack Nicholson also earned his Oscar as the astronaut Maclaine falls for. True, since the movie came out it has been copied so many times it isn’t funny, but watching the film reminds you just how good “chick” flicks can be – even if, like me, you don’t really care for the genre that much.

45. Rocky (1976)
What Should Have Won: Taxi Driver was the best film of the year. But Network and All the President’s Men also would have made a better choice.
What Was Snubbed: Brian DePalma’s Carrie is probably his best film, and one of the best about being a teenager ever made.
Review: Stallone has done his best to sully the reputation of Rocky over the years making five sequels, but the original film still holds up remarkably well. The Rocky formula, which was pretty well worn terrain when this movie got there, has essentially been the template for every sports movie made since, but this film is still inspirational every time you see it. It’s possible to see why people thought Stallone would go on to even greater things when the film was released. As it stands, this was his apex, but he’ll always be remembered for it.

44. Forrest Gump (1994)
What Should Have Won: I like Gump, but Pulp Fiction should have won this one hands down. Or Quiz Show. Or Shawshank Redemption. But at least Four Weddings and a Funeral didn’t win.
What Was Snubbed: I know many hate Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, but it is a masterpiece. I also love Tim Burton’s Ed Wood.
Review: Forrest Gump has gotten a lot of slack over the years for being a right wing parable, which hates the 1960s counter culture, but truly, that’s a load of crap. Gump is a fine film, one that never fails to draw me in whenever it’s on TV. Few heartwarming films get to me, but for whatever reason this one does. No, it shouldn’t have won, but I certainly don’t hate it as many do.

43. From Here to Eternity (1953)
What Should Have Won: Personally, I have always loved Julius Caesar, one of the best Shakespeare screen adaptation, although I also think Roman Holiday was better.
What Was Snubbed: Another great Hitchcock film, I Confess, was overlooked, but why didn’t they even nominate Stalag 17?
Review: From Here to Eternity is a fine romance, with a little war stuff thrown in for good measure. The entire cast is wonderful, especially Montgomery Clift, who I think has the best role in the film, although he’s often overlooked. While it would not have been my choice, it is a solid, respectable one for the Academy.

42. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
What Should Have Won: Top Hat may well the best of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies, and one of the best musicals of all time, and should have taken this one.
What Was Snubbed: James Whale outdid himself with the wonderful Bride of Frankenstein, which built upon the original, but genre basis kept it out of the race.
Review: Mutiny on the Bounty is Hollywood filmmaking at its best. Three great performances by Charles Laughton, Clark Gable and Francois Tone (that amazingly, all got nominated for best actor) and exciting action sequences make this one of the best movies of its sort and still quite exciting all these years later. A worthy winner, if a rather unimaginative one.

41. A Man for All Seasons (1966)
What Should Have Won: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is the vastly superior stage to screen adaptation.
What Was Snubbed: It’s hard to fault them too much, since all the great films of 1966 were foreign, and as such, may not have even been released in American that year, but Blowup and The Shop on Main Street were eligible, and should have found their way into the race.
Review: Paul Scofield commands the screen in a recreation of his Broadway role as Thomas More, who refuses to give King Henry VIII what he wants – his permission to divorce his latest wife. The film may be a whitewash of More who was no Saint (wait a second, did the Church make him a Saint? I’m not sure), but as drama it is quite good and riveting. Unlike the best movies though, I’m not sure it really lends itself to multiple viewings. Despite two Oscars for Best Director, Fred Zinneman never was the most imaginative person behind the camera.

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