Friday, March 1, 2013

Ranking the Best Picture Winners: 10-1

10. Schindler’s List (1993)
What Should Have Won: They picked right for once!
What Was Snubbed: Altman got a nomination for director, but his film Short Cuts should have been nominated as well. And Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence deserved more attention as well.
Review: Spielberg’s Schindler’s List is that one of a kind that everyone seemed to agree should win the best picture Oscar. There is hardly a prize it didn’t win, and it’s not difficult to see why. Magnificently well made, well acted, well written, emotionally gut wrenching and important filmmaking doesn’t get any better than this. It truly was the only choice they could have made the year.

9. The Departed (2006)
What Should Have Won: The Departed was clearly the best of the lot, so they did themselves proud.
What Was Snubbed: Todd Field’s Little Children and Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men were masterworks that deserved more love. And while I know it’s pie in the sky thinking, I do love David Lynch’s Inland Empire.
Review: The Departed is an intricately plotted, violent crime movie set in Boston that moves at lightning quick pace. It is also a morally complex examination of wounded machismo, making it fit in effortlessly in the Scorsese oeuvre. Like they would do the following year, the Academy gave its top prize to a movie that normally they wouldn’t look at twice, and did themselves proud. One of the best choices they ever made.

8. Annie Hall (1977)
What Should Have Won: Star Wars would have been a more popular choice, but I’ll stick with the Academy on this one.
What Was Snubbed: Robert Altman’s Three Women was amazing, and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind should have been nominated as well.
Review: The Academy so rarely goes for comedy, and when it does, it usually picks wrong. Not this time. Woody Allen’s Annie Hall is a film that seemed to define a generation of relationships. Allen has never been better as an actor, and in Diane Keaton he found the only woman who could have done Annie justice. The rare comedy that never gets old no matter how many times you watch it. You can say Star Wars deserved the award more, but I’ll stick with Annie.

7. On the Waterfront (1954)
What Should Have Won: They picked the right movie.
What Was Snubbed: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Rear Window was released this year, and should have got a nomination.
Review: On the Waterfront contains one the best screen performances in history from Marlon Brando playing Terry Malloy, the former boxer turned dock worker who feels the need to stand up to the corruption that surrounds him. The film is that rare movie that stays with you, haunting your dreams for weeks after seeing it. The entire cast is great, and it is probably director Elia Kazan’s greatest achievement – whatever his motivation for making it was.

6. No Country for Old Men (2007)
What Should Have Won: There Will Be Blood was my favorite film of the year, although No Country was second, so I shouldn’t complain.
What Was Snubbed: Todd Haynes’ brilliant I’m Not There, David Fincher’s Zodiac and Andrew Domink’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – if they had nominated these three along with Blood and No Country, it would have been the strongest nominee slate ever.
Review: The Coens are geniuses, and No Country for Old Men is one of their masterpieces. A dark crime drama, with moral undertones, No Country for Old Men is one of the darkest, most violent films to ever win the Oscar – and I couldn’t be happier. This is the type of film that normally, the Academy may give a nomination to, but they never hand it the win, but this year they did themselves proud by selecting this film. My guess is that this will go down as one of the Academy’s best choices.

5. Unforgiven (1992)
What Should Have Won: Unforgiven was clearly the best film this year.
What Was Snubbed: Spike Lee’s Malcolm X deserved a whole lot more respect than it got from the Academy.
Review: Perhaps my favorite Western of all time – I film can watch repeatedly and never grow tired of, and Clint Eastwood’s greatest accomplishment as both an actor and a director. This is the film that finally, and totally, demystified the Western, looked seriously at the consequences of violence. Quite simply, one of my favorite films ever.

4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
What Should Have Won: All five choices are great, so any of them could have one, but I’ll stick with the Academy and say they made the right call. No, they should have given it to Jaws. No, they made the right call. Okay, I admit it, I find it impossible to choose.
What Was Snubbed: Surprisingly, no one. This is the only year in Oscar history where the five nominated films, were also my five favorite films of the year.
Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of my favorite films of all time. It is the film that gives us the definitive Jack Nicholson performance in the rebel, RP McMurphy, who shakes up a mental institution. Nurse Ratched remains one of the calmest, yet scariest, screen villains of all time, and the eccentric supporting cast is all wonderful. The film is at turns funny and tragic, and director Milos Forman somehow captures just the right tone. This is one of the best novel to screen adaptations of all time, and quite simply a great movie.

3. Casablanca (1943)
What Should Have Won: How could anyone argue with Casablanca?
What Was Snubbed: Shadow of a Doubt is one of Hitchcock’s greatest films, but the Academy ignored it.
Review: For once, the Academy picked the audience pleasing film over the more “important” films, and got it exactly right. Is there a more beloved film ever made than this one? A more imitated? Is there a better romance in cinema history? I don’t think so. Every element in this film works perfectly – the pitch perfect performances, the most quotable dialogue of any movie ever, the excellent visuals, everything. No matter how many times I see it, it just keeps getting better.

2. The Godfather (1972)
What Should Have Won: The Godfather. Duh!
What Was Snubbed: The Heartbreak Kid is a minor comedy classic.
Review: Francis Ford Coppola’s first gangster epic is one of the most popular films ever made, and it’s easy to see why. The performance by Marlon Brando is perhaps the most iconic in cinema history – and Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, John Cazale et al do brilliant things as well in the movie. This is a brilliant, violent, family epic that is also one of the great gangster films ever made. How anyone could argue with this choice is beyond me.

1. The Godfather Part II (1974)
What Should Have Won: The Godfather Part II, not even close, and that’s saying something considering how good Chinatown is.
What Was Snubbed: Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage is a masterpiece – but it may not have been eligible. A Woman Under the Influence was however.
Review: Francis Ford Coppola’s second Godfather film is probably a greater achievement than the first. The scope is grander, the acting more powerful, and the tragic downfall of Michael Corleone packs an emotional wallop. It is a perfectly constructed film that does the exact opposite of the first film, and remains the only perfect sequel in cinema history. A truly towering achievement, and the best film to ever win the Best Picture Oscars.

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