Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ranking the Best Picture Winners: 60-51

Yesterday I started the countdown with the worst 25 films to ever win the Best Picture Oscar - and no, I'll continue my looking at the next 20 over these two posts. The last couple of films of yesterday's lists (Gandhi and My Fair Lady) probably belong more in amongst this group of films -in that none of these films are really an embarassment unto themselves that they won (although in some case what they beat out make them seem worse), but none are really a feather in the Academy's cap either. They are all fine films - some are really quite good actually, but none are really truly great either. We'll get into some of those films on tomorrow's lists.

60. You Can’t Take it With You (1938)
What Should Have Won: Grand Illusion is an absolute masterpiece, but it was in French, so you have to be glad it was nominated, but the Academy would have picked a more enduring, popular film with The Adventures of Robin Hood.
What Was Snubbed: Bringing Up Baby is the best screwball comedy of all time – but then no one realized that in 1938, so it’s hard to get too mad at the Academy.
Review: It’s hard to believe that this is one of the Frank Capra films that won the best picture Oscar, because comparing it with films like Mr. Deeds, Mr. Smith and It’s a Wonderful Life, it pales by comparison. It is still a fun little movie, about the evils of money, etc and quality “Capra-corn”, but really, this is the best that 1938 had to offer? I don’t think so.

59. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
What Should Have Won: Apocalypse Now is the best film ever made, so it should have won.
What Was Snubbed: Woody Allen’s Manhattan and Hal Ashby’s Being There are two of the best comedies of the decade, so of course neither got nominated for picture, despite several nominations for each film in other categories.
Review: It seems odd to me that Hollywood finally made a movie about divorce and being left alone to raise the children, and had the main character be the husband who gets left with his son, and not the other way around. It is still a fine drama – and Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep who both won Oscars playing the Kramers are excellent – but in a year that they could have given it to any number of better films, it is slightly disappointing.

58. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
What Should Have Won: Saving Private Ryan would have been the most popular choice, but I’ll take Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line.
What Was Snubbed: Okay, I know no one but me likes Todd Solondz, but Happiness really was good enough to get a nomination.
Review: It was shocking when Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan for the best picture win. It made them look stupid then, and in retrospect, it makes them look even stupider. And yet, Shakespeare in Love is still an expertly written, acted and directed little comedy. It’s something that a lot of best picture winners are not – fun. It’s one of those movies – like Ordinary People or Dances with Wolves – that gets beat up not because of the movie itself but because of the movie it beat out for the Oscar. And that’s not really fair is it? No, it shouldn’t have won best picture, but yes, I would gladly watch it again, which is something you can’t say for a lot of best picture winners.

57. An American in Paris (1951)
What Should Have Won: A Streetcar Named Desire, one of the best stage to screen efforts in history.
What Was Snubbed: Two masters made two of their greatest films this year – Hitchcock with Strangers on a Train and Wilder with Ace in the Hole – both were overlooked.
Review: I enjoy Gene Kelly musicals as much as the next guy, and this certainly a good one, but it isn’t a great one. What’s odd is after giving this one the top prize; they would almost completely ignore Singin’ in the Rain, a true masterpiece, the next year. An American in Paris is certainly a fun film – bright and colorful with great dance numbers – but it pales in comparison to some of the best musicals of the era.

56. Rain Man (1988)
What Should Have Won: Honestly, this is a rather weak slate, but I guess I’d go with Dangerous Liaisons for lack of anything better.
What Was Snubbed: Martin Scorsese got nominated for directing The Last Temptation of Christ, but the film didn’t – for shame – and The Unbearable Lightness of Being was also masterful, as was Dead Ringers.
Review: Rain Man is an enjoyable movie, in its rather predictable way. Dustin Hoffman is in fine form, and Tom Cruise is even better (he has a much more complex role than Hoffman). It’s a heartwarming little film, and one I enjoy quite a bit – it’s just not good enough to be an Oscar winner.

55. Chicago (2002)
What Should Have Won: As flawed as it was, I’ll take Gangs of New York any day.
What Was Snubbed: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love, and Spike Jonze’ Adaptation were the best comedies of the year – so of course they got ignored.
Review: Chicago is a fun musical and it is actually very well staged by director Rob Marshall, doing very interesting things with the musical numbers. The performances are appropriately larger than life, and even Richard Gere, who isn’t that good a singer, is fine. My own problem with the film is that it is too slick, too stylish, meaning that it never does quite connect emotionally. Still, it is a fun movie, but as for Best Picture of the year, I think not.

54. Wings (1927/28)
What Should Have Won: Two of the greatest silent films – The Crowd and Sunrise – were nominated in the Unique and Artistic category (the only year they had it), and both were better then Wings.
What Was Snubbed: Buster Keaton’s The General is perhaps the best silent comedy of all time, and it didn’t get noticed. Also, Metropolis and The Passion of Joan of Arc are two masterpieces, but I’m not sure either was eligible (they are both foreign films).
Review: In some ways, Oscar’s first winner became the prototypical winner. An audience friendly film, with lots of action, lots of romance, and big stars, that is also quite well made. Yes, Wings has aged a bit more than some of the other films they could have given the first Oscar to, but it is still a hell of a war movie, with exciting aerial battle scenes. Not a masterpiece, but not an embarrassment.

53. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
What Should Have Won: Citizen Kane – that was easy.
What Was Snubbed: The Lady Eve is one of the best comedies of the studio era – and should have got a nomination.
Review: How Green Was My Valley is probably best remembered for being the film that beat Citizen Kane at the Oscars – forever marring it in the eyes of some. But the film can’t be blamed for not being as good as “the greatest film ever made”. It really is a fine film, about a poor Irish family struggling, all told through the eyes of their young son. No, it wouldn’t make my list of John Ford’s best films, but it really quite good – just not as good as Citizen Kane.

52. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
What Should Have Won: Born on the Fourth of July was the best of the nominees.
What Was Snubbed: Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is probably the best film on race relations in history, and certainly puts Driving Miss Daisy to shame.
Review: As much as I would love to rag on Driving Miss Daisy, I really can’t. Yes, it’s view of race relations is simple (although not quite as simple as some would have you believe) but it is also such a touching film about two people, brought to life in wonderful performances, that I have a hard time criticizing it too much. It certainly isn’t the best film of the year, but it’s a fine film nonetheless.

51. The King’s Speech (2010)
What Should Have Won: The Social Network was clearly the favorite film of the critics that year – and should have been. It was the best film of the year.
What Was Snubbed: Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is one of the most gut-wrenching stories about divorce ever filmed.
Review: I enjoyed The King’s Speech when I watched in 2010, but have no real desire to ever watch it again. Yes, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are both excellent in the film – they are really the reason to watch the film, and as someone who has had his own issues with stuttering, it was inspiring. But it’s also a rather by the numbers biopic, with the main character overcoming adversity, etc. A good film, but not a great one.


No comments:

Post a Comment