Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ranking the Best Picture Winners: 70-61

70. The Sound of Music (1965)
What Should Have Won: Another weak year for nominees, but I’ll take Doctor Zhivago over The Sound of Music any day. I may even go against the whole colorful epic thing, and pick A Thousand Clowns.
What Was Snubbed: Roman Polanski’s first English language film, Repulsion, was a masterful horror film. Orson Welles’ final masterpiece, Chimes at Midnight.
Review: Call me overly cynical if you must, but this film is just too sickly sweet and manipulative for me to truly like it. And it goes on forever. I enjoy Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in the film, but the kids can’t really act. By this point haven’t we heard all the songs so often that they’ve lost nearly all their impact. One of those films you don’t mind watching once, but if I had to watch again, I may shoot myself.

 69. Hamlet (1948)
What Should Have Won: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre won a whole lot of Oscars, but not picture. Come on! The Red Shoes would rank among the Best Winners as well, had they chosen it.
What Was Snubbed: Red River is one of the great Westerns ever made – and quite a gay romp too under the surface.
Review: Out of all of Oliver’s Shakespeare movies, Hamlet is my least favorite, which is odd because it is probably by favorite Shakespeare play. But the film manages the strange trick of being too stilted and too theatrical at the same time. Olivier cuts the guts out of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy by doing it in voice over as he looks longingly into the distance. I have never been of the opinion that he is the greatest actor ever, and this version of Hamlet certainly proves my case for me.

68. Out of Africa (1985)
What Should Have Won: Out of Africa was by far the weakest of the nominees, so while I would have voted for Prizzi’s Honor, Witness, The Color Purple or Kiss of the Spider Woman all would have been acceptable.
What Was Snubbed: Akira Kurosawa’s final masterpiece Ran came out this year, and no matter how good the other films of the year were, none compare to this one. Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, the Coens Blood Simple, and Paul Schrader Mishima all would have been on my list.
Review: Out of Africa is a long, slow romantic movie about a woman (Meryl Streep) married to someone she doesn’t love (Klaus Maria Brandeur) and finding love with someone else (Robert Redford). Streep and Brandeur are excellent, but Redford is miscast. I like director Sydney Pollock quite a lot, but he should have won for something else. This is one of the slower movies to win, and while it certainly isn’t terrible, it isn’t exactly good either.

67. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
What Should Have Won: In the Bedroom would have been my choice, although any of the other nominees would have made a far superior winner this year.
What Was Snubbed: David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive was the most critically acclaimed film of the year, but the Academy played it safe, and didn’t nominate the weird. And why do they never nominate Spielberg sci-fi – A.I. is one of his very best.
Review: A Beautiful Mind is a fine film, just nowhere near the best of the year. It is a by the numbers biopic, by a by the numbers director in Ron Howard. Yes, Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly are excellent in the film, but the movie never really rises beyond its limitations. It’s good, solid, grade B filmmaking, and as such, while it’s an ok movie to watch, it certainly doesn’t qualify as Best Picture material. This one is likely to look lost in the coming years, if it doesn’t already.

66. Braveheart (1995)
What Should Have Won: I don’t know, Apollo 13? Babe? Sense and Sensibility? All were better than Braveheart – none were among the best of the year.
What Was Snubbed: Leaving Las Vegas, Nixon, Heat, Casino, Dead Man Walking and the list goes on, and on and on – seriously possibly the worst best picture lineup ever.
Review: Braveheart does have some thrilling battle scenes, but the problem is that director/star Gibson never connects to all that crap that goes on around it. Gibson as a filmmaker is a sadist – he loves inflicting pain on his characters, and the audience, and is incapable of any subtly whatsoever. All that being said, I do enjoy this film more than it sounds like I do – it is never boring – but it doesn’t mean anything.

65. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
What Should Have Won: Crossfire touched on many of the same themes as Gentleman’s Agreement, and hasn’t aged nearly as poorly.
What Was Snubbed: Out of the Past is perhaps the best film noir ever made, so of course they ignored it. Black Narcissus also should have been in play.
Review: It’s easy to make fun of Gentleman’s Agreement now, but it’s also easy to forget how daring the film must have been seen at the time. Star Gregory Peck was told by everyone he shouldn’t make the film, because it would ruin his career, but he believed in it so much he did it anyway. Sure, this is a very simplistic view of anti-Semitism, but just two years after the end of WWII, it was a film that needed to be made. Not great cinema by any means, but fascinating as time capsule.

64. Ben-Hur (1959)
What Should Have Won: Anatomy of a Murder and Room at the Top were the best of the nominees.
What Was Snubbed: Some Like it Hot got nominated for a bunch, but not picture. Hitchcock’s North By Northwest and Hawks’ Rio Bravo were more completely ignored.
Review: Ben-Hur is the type of long epic that the Academy loves to honor, and while the film is at least mildly entertaining, it also goes on WAY too long, and suffers from Charlton Heston’s overwrought (though Oscar winning) performance. And while we’re at it, why did Hugh Griffth win for his mildly racist performance, instead of Stephen Boyd, who seems to be the only one who realizes that the film has all that gay subtext.

63. Crash  (2005)
What Should Have Won: Munich, although I know I was in the minority of that opinion, and so in the Crash vs. Brokeback Mountain dogfight, put me down for Brokeback.
What Was Snubbed: David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence was his best film, and hugely acclaimed, so it should have got a spot. Michael Haneke’s Cache is his best.
Review: Crash is a rather simplistic look at modern race relations. Yes, it is well acted, but it beats you over the head with its message too often. I am not one of those people who hate Crash, and ludicrously call it the worst choice the Academy ever made (seriously people, go back and watch some of the shit that won this prize in the past), but no, I don’t think Crash should have come close to winning the Oscar this year.

62. My Fair Lady (1964)
What Should Have Won: Dr. Strangelove is the one of the best comedies ever.
What Was Snubbed: Not surprisingly, they overlooked Hitchcock’s great Marnie.
Review: Rex Harrison is wonderful, and Audrey Hepburn is luminous, so I forgive some of the movies more blatantly obvious flaws, and the inherent sexism of the whole enterprise. While, some of it anyway. I don’t think My Fair Lady represents the pinnacle of great musical movie making as many do, but it certainly is an entertaining movie. I just wish it weren’t at least an hour too long.

61. Gandhi (1982)
What Should Have Won: They should have went with their hearts and gave it to ET. Or hell, Tootsie. Or maybe even The Verdict.
What Was Snubbed: Blade Runner is perhaps the quintessential sci-fi movie of the era. Too bad they didn’t see that.
Review: Gandhi is actually a fine biopic, and Ben Kingsley is quite outstanding in his “debut” performance as the Indian leader. But it’s one of those “important” movies you see once and then never really feel the need to watch again. It would fine for the classroom, but as cinema, it is merely good, not great.

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