Sunday, January 27, 2008
1. Evening 26: Meryl Streep 14, Toni Collete 1, Vanessa Redgrave 6, Glenn Close 5
2. Stardust 19- Robert De Niro 6, Peter O’Toole 8, Michelle Pfieffer 3, Ian McKellan 2
Rendition 19: Meryl Streep 14, Alan Arkin 3, Jake Gyllenhall 1, Reeee Whitherspoon 1
4. Lions for Lambs 18: Meryl Streep 14, Tom Cruise 3, Robert Redford 1
5. Bucket List- 16: Jack Nicholson 12, Morgan Freeman 4
5. Harry Potter & the Order of Pheonix 16-Emma Thompson 4, Ralph Feinnes 2, Imadela Staunton 1 Maggie Smith 6, Helena Bohman Carter 1, Julie Walters 2
5. Ocean’s 13-16: Al Pacino 8, Matt Damon 1, Brad Pitt 1 George Clooney 1, Don Cheadle 1, Elliot Gould 1, David Paymer 1, Andy Garcia 1, Oprah Winfrey 1
8. National Treasure 2 14: Ed Harris 4, Jon Voight 4, Helen Mirren 3, Nicholas Cage 2, Harvey Keitel 1
9. Charlie Wilson’s War 10: Tom Hanks 5, Amy Adams 1, Julia Roberts 3, Philip Seymour Hoffman 1
9. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead 10-Albert Finney 5, Ethan Hawke 1, Marissa Thomei 2, Philip Seymour Hoffman 1, Rosemary Harris 1
9. Bourne Ultimatum 10-Matt Damon 1, Joan Allen 3, Albert Finney 5, David Strathain 1
Elizabeth and the Golden Age 9: Cate Blanchett 3, Samantha Morton 2, Geoffery Rush 3, Clive
Prairie Home Companion 20: Meryl Streep 13, Kevin Kline 1, Woody Harrelson 1, Virginia Madsen 1, Lily Tomlin 1, John C Riley 1, Tommy Lee Jones 2
Ant Bully 20: Meryl Streep 13, Julia Roberts 3, Nicholas Cage 2, Paul Giamatti 1, Lilly Tomlin 1
Departed 16: Leo DiCaprio 2, Jack Nicholson 12, Matt Damon 1, Alec Baldwin 1
Good Shephard 16: Robert De Niro 6, William Hurt 4, Joe Pesci 2, Alec Baldwin 1, Matt Damon 1, Angelina Jolie 1, Timothy Hutton 1
All the King’s Men 15: Anthony Hopkins 4, Kate Winslet 4, Jude Law 2, Sean Penn 4, Patricia Clarkson 1
Devil Wears Prada 13: Meryl Streep 13
Venus 13: Peter O’Toole 7, Vanessa Redgrave 6
Inside Man 12: Jodie Foster 4, Denzel Washington 5, Clive Owen 1, Willem Dafoe 2
Stranger than Fiction 13: Dustin Hoffman 7, Queen Latifah 1, Emma Thompson 4, Tom Hulce 1
Children of Men 11: Clive Owen 1, Michael Caine 6, Julianne Moore 4
2005 is the weakest year on record:
1. Prime 14-Streep 13, Uma Thurman 1
Baman Begins 13-Wattanabe 1, Freeman 4, Caine 6, Wilkinson 1, Niesson 1
Bewitched 13-Kidman 2, Caine 6, MacLaine 5
4. Robots 11-J Broadbent 1, H Berry 1, J Earl Jones 1, G Kinnear 1, D Weist 3, R Williams 6
5 Corpse Bride 10-Emily Watson 2, Helena Bohman Carter 1, Jonny Depp 2, Albert Finney 5
5 Racing Sripes 10-Dustin Hoffman 7, Michael Clarke Duncan 1, Whoopi Goldberg 2
5. Harry Potter 10-Miranda Richardson 2, Maggie Smith 6, Ralph Feinnes 2
8 Two for the Money 8-A Pacino 8
8 Weatherman 8-Cage 2, Caine 6
8 Hide and Seek 8-Robert De Niro 6, Elizabeth Shue 1, Amy Irving 1
1. Lemony Snicket 22-Hoffman 7, Streep 13, Jude Law 2
1. Manchurian Candidate 22-John Voight 4, Denzel Washington 5, Meryl Streep 13
3. Meet the Fockers 15-Dustin Hoffman 7, Robert De Niro 6, Barbara Streissand 2
3. Finding Neverland 15-Jonny Depp 1, Kate Winslet 3, Julie Christie 3, Dustin Hoffman 7
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azhkaban 15-Maggie Smith 6, Julie Christie 3, Emma Thompson 4, Julie Walters 2
6. I Heart Huckabees 13-Lily Tomlin 1, Dustin Hoffman 7, Jude Law 2, Someone whose name I can't remember 2, Naiomi Watts 1
6. Ocean's 12 13-Catherine Zeta Jones 1, Albert Finney 5, Julia Roberts 3, Andy Garcia 1, Matt Damon 1, Brad Pitt 1, Elliot Gould 1
6. Shark Tale 13-Will Smith 1, Rene Zellweger 3, Robert De Niro 6, Angelina Jolie 1, Peter Falk 2
8. Troy 11-Peter O'Toole 7, Brad Pitt 1, Julie Christie 2
8. Stepford Wives 11-Glenn Close 5, Christopher Walken 2, Nicole Kidman 2,
10. Merchant of Venice 9-Jeremy Irons 1, Al Pacino 8
10. Aflie 9-Jude Law 2, Susan Sorandon 5, Marissa Thomei 2
10. Aviator 9-Leo DiCaprio 1, Cate Blanchett 1, Alec Baldwin 1, John C Riley 1, Ian Holm 1, Jude Law 2, Wilhem Defoe 2
Thursday, January 24, 2008
OK, let me lay it out for you, film buffs and oscar enthusiasts because I'm already beginning to sense this humongous divide:
Annointing "No Country for Old Men" as the film of the year is going to come off a slap in the face to ordinary movie going Americans who don't watch movies as a hobby like you do.
Basically whenever all the critics' groups anoint the picture or pictures of the year, it's your way of telling them that if they perfer staying within the safe confines of National Treasure 2 and I Am Legend, this holiday season then they're cultural buffoons for missing the truly rich and cinematically enduring works in the form of whatever you pick, and in the case of No Country for Old Men, you're sending them to a very unconventional and sparse film that will leave them scratching their heads at the end and complaining to their spouse, "This is what you dragged me to instead of National Treasure? All because you wanted to be culturally enlightened?"
Bottom line: No Country for Old Men will have film students salivating at its masterwork, but it will have regular filmgoers scratching their heads, and if you can't anticipate that regular filmgoers might not particularly enjoy it, then you can reach two conclusions: 1) regular filmgoers are stupid and 2) you're out of touch with regular filmgoers. Both conclusions are correct, but don't just ignore conclusion #2.
I certainly wouldn't recommend people waste 10 dollars and 2 hours of their time on No Country for Old Men on non-film buff friends of mine, because it's not a particularly lifechanging or englightening experience if you're not thoroughly engrossed in the art of film.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
When I think about it, Rio Bravo is very much a prototype to the kinds of buddy cop films and action spectacles we see today. The action sequences in Rio Bravo are brief but they are gripping, and more importantly masterfully and carefully choreographed. The scene where Chance ducks out of the way while Stumpy shoots two guys dead in the jail room, seems like a power play pulled out of a Jean Claude Van Damme film.
That kind of masterfully planned out violence combined with the light-hearded camaraderie is so prevalent on modern filmmaking and in Quentin Tarantino's own stuff that I'm surprised it's not more obvious.
To be honest, Rio Bravo is one of the few Westerns I've seen where a lot of white people are getting shot at and killed and none of the characters seem to think much of it and I don't think the camera/director wants us to think much of it either.
Let me try to compare this to the Westerns I've seen: In Shane, how many deaths were there in the film? Jack Palance kills someone and that's made a big deal of because he's been humanized, there were people in the community who cared for him. Then Shane shoots i think 3 people in the final showdown (maybe 4).
In High Noon, a big deal was made out of this sheriff killing 4 people and no one would risk their lives to help defend him because that meant not getting killed either.
In films like The Searchers and Stagecoach there's a lot of aimless shooting but at Indians, which were kind of marginalized in the films. When someone is killed in The Searchers, be it Lucy or Ethan's sister-in-law, then it's treated with a lot of gravity.
Then there were later pictures like Wild Bunch and Leone's films which had a lot of killing but Wild Bunch was like 10 years later. Dean Martin shoots one guy dead when he's checking to see his shoes, they shoot 2 or 3 more in the prison and at the final showdown they shoot another 10 people dead without thinking much of it. This is the kind of stuff I'm used to seeing in a James Bond or Death Wish film but not a 1959 Western.
In any case, I thought Rio Bravo was a truly delightful film. Although not particularly significant in the evolution of the genre, it has an incredible sense of fun to it because the characters, all of whom have nicknames such as "feathers," "stumpy," "Colorado," and "Dude," are so colorful. One could observe that Walter Brennan's "Stumpy" is the comic relief in the group, but one stroke of genius is that every character has a little bit of humor in them. Dean Martin (playing the alcoholic sidekick "Dude"), at times, plays the straight man to Stumpy or John Wayne, like he often did on the Dean Martin show. Martin is an unlikely choice but I think it's pitch perfect casting. Angie Dickinson and John Wayne made a good comic pairing as well. Watching Stagecoach and Searchers it's hard to fathom Wayne having a lighter side, but he does.
If I had to think of a theme to Rio Bravo it might be that of having to act in the present. Wayne's doubled by Colorado as the naive kid who he used to be, Dude as a reminder of how he could have turned out if he had so easily fallen into temptation, and Stumpy as the old crippled man he will turn into one day and the responsibility falls on Wayne to act decisively in the moment as opposed to those whose moments have not yet arrived or whose moments have passed.
I also see a reverse of the classic discourses in the Western as shown in films like Stagecoach and Shane, where civilization is neatly divided between the civilized, the wilderness, and the Western hero who has to mediate between them. In Stagecoach, the civilized characters (i.e. the banker, the Southern gentleman, the cavalry man's wife) turn out to be useless, while the town drunk, the prostitute and the fugitive are the ones who save the day. In Rio Bravo, the day is metaphorically saved. Civilization has been built and the rough-and-tumble fugitive (played by the very same actor) is now sheriff of the town, and he slowly arrives at herosim by sifting through the people around him and recognizing the value of the town drunk (Dude) and prostitute (Feathers). The allusion to the fact that Feathers was a prostitute at the end is the exact opposite of Stagecoach where we learn that Dallas is a prostitute first and a maternal woman with motherly and domesticated instincts second.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Film critics sometimes fail to grasp, that people aren't always going to drop everything every time someone tells them a film is the must see film of the year. They generally have a limited number of times they can get away to a movie theater, even in a packed holiday season such as this and based on box office figures this past holiday season, those trips might be taken up by films that might not be as cinematic ally rich but which assure the viewer of a good time, like I Am Legend or National Treasure, and God Forbid, they'll miss the film everyone's telling them to go see.
Well, American public, if you chose something over "No Country for Old Men," didn't get a chance to see that and probably won't get to it by the time it's out of theaters, not to worry, it's not the life changing experience they make it out to be. Don't let the critics guilt you into thinking you were a cultural buffoon for missing it.
In reality, the film is one that would make every film student's jaw drop in amazement at the fluidity in editing and economy of tone. For average Joe moviegoer, it's not too much of a life changing experience, however. In fact, it's little more than a run-of-the-mill action flick with a little bit of a higher ambition to be a homage to the Western. There's almost no character development and very little subtext or content.
Am I the only one who feels that it would be a drastic mistake that the critical community anointed this the best film of the year in their quest to keep cinema from being overrun by the action genre with crap like Rush Hour, Die Hard, and yes, Bourne Identity (not saying it's crap but it's low on character) from reproducing into sequel upon sequels with clones like Shoot 'em Up and Shooter popping into the theater each year? Am I the only one who feels that a picture that wins best picture should have a little more than well-choreographed action scenes to it? French Connection was the one exception i'm willing to live with because it was novel at the time, not anymore, especially when last year's winner was an action winner. Now, i'm rooting for There Will Be Blood (or Charlie Wilson's War if it makes the cut).
No Country for Old Men
Into the Wild
There Will Be Blood
I don't want Atonement, so that's wishful thinking. Juno's more suited to the screenplay categories and it's too Little Miss Sunshinish, i'm hoping for variety. American Gangster is the only one of the ten pictures being considered (Diving Bell, Sweeny Todd, Juno, Atonement, and Charlie Wilson's War are the other 5) that killed at the box office and it's good to have a picture that connected to the general public on the list. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that if American Gangster isn't on the list, there's no reason for the average American to follow the Oscars. No Country and There Will Be Blood are locks. Into the Wild, I think is in. I'll concede Michael Clayton even though I don't know what a good #5 is because a) I like the film a lot and feel it transcended its genre and b) George Clooney's star power shouldn't be underestimated
Sidney Lumet, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead
Ridley Scott, American Gangster
Joe Wright, Atonement
PT Anderson, There Will Be Blood
J & E Coen, No Country
Runner-Up: Mike Nicholls, Charlie Wilson's War
Ok, I'm starting to get more on the wishful thinking list than accurate predictions list.
I'm hoping against Schnaebel because I don't really want a guy to be nominated out of obligation to include a foreign director, which is the way the sendiment is seeming to run, unfortunately. Sean Penn, I'm gonna say no, because he's very vocal about his opinions and he'd probably show up with a picket sign and not be much fun at the Oscar party. PT Anderson and J&E Coen are critical darlings. Jason Reitman or Joe Wright are both decent choices. Mike Nicholls and Tim Burton are directors who are well-respected and people would be happy to see them get more recognition, but honestly, what could be cooler than 83 year old Sidney Lumet getting the nod. Lumet is my super high-risk prediction.
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Jonny Depp, Sweeny Todd
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild
Denzel Washington, American Gangster
Runner-Up: Virgo Mortgensen, Eastern Promises
Sunday, January 06, 2008
2. Florida Gators-Showing that sports wasn’t about money, players Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Al Horford brushed aside millions of dollars and unapolegetically dove back into amateur status for another year at the University of Florida on a mission to make their squad the first back-to-back NCAA champions in over a decade. Their reward? Top 10 picks in the NBA draft the following year. Showing that money wasn’t everything, Coach Billy Donovan reneged on an NBA contract he hastily signed with the Atlanta Hawks because he realized his heart was with the Gators. His reward? A probable blackballing on future NBA coaching positions, but on the flipside, the loyalty and cheers of his fans in Gainesville, and the respect of anyone who can appreciate integrity in a world where selling out is just a multimillion dollar contract away.
3. Sidney Crosby-The city of Pittsburgh got to see hockey's next great hope enter the NHL and play alongside Mario Lemieux, and now they've seen him surpass him. Crosby broke Lemieux's NHL records for most points and assists by a rookie and became the youngest player to reach 1000 points. Seems like Pittsburgh hockey fans and the NHL has a lot to look foward to from the sport's new saviour.
4. Tony Dunghy-Overcoming great adversity with the death of his son, Dunghy became the first black coach to win a superbowl.
5. Colorado Rockies-The Red Sox might have won the World Series but it is hard to forget the Rockies' unforgettable run, having won 14 of their last 15 regular season games, beating the Padres in a playoff, and riding that heat all the way to the World Series and the series produced new household names in Todd Helton, Kaz Matsui and Matt Holliday it was caree
6. Chicago Fire/Cahutumec Blanco-David Beckham might have been the bigger newsgetter, but this highly seasoned and entertaining midfielder from the US's biggest rival crossed the Rio Grande this year to empower Chicago's soccer fan base in a way never seen before. While he's raised some controversey for his dirty style, he's been highly effective for the Fire helping them reach the MLS Eastern Conference Finals and with Beckham only appearing in 5 games, he's been MLS's more consistent star attraction this past year.
7. Kevin Durant-The player of the year honors aren’t usually supposed to go to a freshman but by being one of the nation's leading players in points, rebounds, and blocked shots, one has to wonder if there's ever been a more dominant freshman in history. Durant was also an ideal poster boy for the high school hoops prodigies forced to endure a year of college under the new bargaining contract, fully embracing college life and his team and has set the bar pretty high for the class of '08. His transition to the NBA thus far has been smooth as he's settled into command as the go-to guy on the Supersonics.
8. Don Nelson & The Golden State Warriors-Revenge is a dish best served cold for Nelson who left the Dallas Mavericks only to have their number come playoff time. Nelson and the perennial lottery entrants the Golden State Warriors squeezed into the playoffs the last night, and with the new acquisitions of Stephen Jackson and Othella Harrington proceeded to turn the 1st ranked Mavericks inside out. When the sports media treats the NBA playoffs as a story of one winners and fifteen losers, it was a breath of fresh air to see a team uplift themsleves and their city just by breaking through to the second round in an improbable upset.
9. John Papelbon-It wasn't sluggers Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz saving the day for the Red Sox, but the closer who held under pressure. Papelbon finished off five of the Red Sox last seven games, logging three saves in the World Series where he allowed only five scattered hits. Upon recording his last out to end the season and give the Red Sox their 2nd title in four years, Papelbon was too excited to celebrate, but he'll have the rest of his life to relish being a legend in Boston folklore.
10. Ryan Hall-Hall finished third at the national high school championships his senior year and he has spent much of his running career since being eclipsed by the two guys who finished ahead of him, Olympians Alan Webb and Dathan Ritzenheim, who have long been hailed as the future of American distance running. This year, Hall might have emerged as the one to carry the torch for the cause. He became the first American to break an hour for the half-marathon in January and four months later he finished 6th in a highly competitive field at the London Marathon, setting records for the fastest time for a Marathon debut record and fastest time ever run by an American-born citizen.
So, I thought I'd call upon Anthony Gullino, an acquaintance of mine who is a former film critic for the Dusquene University student newspaper and intern at the Pittsburgh film office, to contribute to my his predictions:
Ok gang. The new year is here, and the award season is upon us. Many critics groups have already handed out their prizes for the best in film of 2007 (notably, No Country for Old Men took the top prize from the National Board of Review). I'd feel confident in saying right now that No Country is a lock for a Best Picture Oscar nomination and a frontrunner for the win.But before we can get to the Oscars, the Golden Globes come first. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the group who decides the Globs) announced their nominees for this year's awards early Thursday morning. The Golden Globes honor both film and television, but in this blog, I'll look at the film nominations only. So.. here they are!
Best Picture - Drama
The Great Debaters
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
No, your eyes do not deceive you. The HFPA nominated SEVEN films in the Best Picture - Drama category, as opposed to the usual five. (Ok, they nominated six in that category for the '04/'05 awards). I think this one is a four-way race. Michael Clayton, Eastern Promises and The Great Debaters are far off the pace for the win. At this point, all signs would point to No Country as the frontrunner. But there is something to be said for the fact that Atonement was the most nominated of all the films (with seven). I expect buzz to grow significantly for There Will Be Blood once it opens nationwide. And never count out a box office smash like American Gangster.
Best Picture - Comedy/Musical
Across the Universe
Charlie Wilson's War
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
This is a pretty open race with no real surprises here, except perhaps the exclusion of Waitress. Based on what the buzz is now and the recent critics awards, I'd say that this one is between three: Charlie Wilson's War, Juno and Sweeney Todd. The reception for all three of these has been overwhelmingly positive. That's not saying that Across the Universe and Hairspray have no shot whatsoever, but I think their only prize is the nomination itself.
Best Actor - Drama
George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy - Atonement
Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises
Denzel Washington - American Gangster
The only surprise here is Mortensen's inclusion. And the biggest injustice is the exclusion of Emile Hirsch for his dazzling performance in Sean Penn's Into the Wild. Out of the five, I think this one is between Clooney and Day-Lewis. Again, if Atonement's seven nominations are any indication of growing momentum for the film, we could see it sweep. But for now, I'll put McAvoy on a second tier with Washington, with Mortensen just off the pace from the other four.
Best Actress - Drama
Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie - Away from Her
Jodie Foster - The Brave One
Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart
Keira Knightley - Atonement
Right now, this one is Christie's to lose. She and Marion Cotillard (who is nominated in the Comedy/Musical category, even though her film is neither a comedy nor a musical) have been receiving all of the critics awards, and they have the most buzz. Who could be the spoiler in this one? Only Knightley. Blanchett has more attention for I'm Not There, and Foster and Jolie have absolutely no shot. Sorry ladies.
Best Actor – Comedy/Musical
Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Ryan Gosling – Lars and the Real Girl
Tom Hanks – Charlie Wilson's War
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Savages
John C. Reilly – Walk HardI think it's safe to say this award is Depp's to lose. His stiffest competition could come from Hanks, but overall, Sweeney Todd is receiving much more praise. Reilly's nod is a bit of a head scratcher, but he's always been excellent, so in this case, he's being awarded for his talent rather than the movie itself (probably). And I must say, what an inspired and delightful choice they made in nominating Gosling.
Best Actress – Comedy/Musical
Amy Adams – Enchanted
Nikki Blonsky – Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Marion Cotillard – La Môme
Ellen Page – Juno
This one goes to Cotillard, almost definitely. Not only was she triumphant as the late singer Edith Piaf, but the film is French, and this is the Hollywood Foreign Press after all.
Still, surging support for Juno puts Page right in this race. I think it's also safe to say that Adams and Blonsky, though both fantastic, are not in the running here. But within this category lies what is perhaps the biggest shocker of this year's crop of noms: NO LAURA LINNEY. Linney has been receiving rave reviews for her turn in The Savages (Some critics call it her career best performance), and her less buzzed about co-star Hoffman was nominated. If Linney is snubbed by the Screen Actor's Guild, then it's safe to say she's out of the Oscar race. But I wouldn't count the lovely Linney out quite yet.
Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson's War
John Travolta – Hairspray
Tom Wilkinson – Michael Clayton
This one pretty much looks like a no-brainer. This is Bardem's to lose, and I'd be shocked if he did lose. The one performance that could cause an upset is, shockingly, Travolta. It's unlikely, but if anyone is going to upset the frontrunner, it will be John Travolta in drag. Ugh.
Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett – I'm Not There
Julia Roberts – Charlie Wilson's War
Saoirse Ronan – Atonement
Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton
This is such a tough category to predict. There are three strong contenders who could all win this one: Blanchett, Ryan, and Swinton. For months, Blanchett had enormous (and deserving) buzz for her mind blowing portrayal of Bob Dylan. But once the critics started handing out their awards, Amy Ryan gathered up a few awards and some serious momentum. Still, we can't count out Tilda Swinton. Buzz for Michael Clayton has been mounting since the nominations were announced, and if the HPFA loves it enough to reward Clooney, they may just reward his co-star too. Roberts and Ronan – no shot here.Well thanks for reading my rambles.
Anyway, I've got just a few more pictures to go.
Best Picture Winners I’ve Seen:
No Country for Old Men (2007)-Massively overrated film. I know the Coens have been in kind of a slump with Intolerable Cruelty (good but not great and even worse, not ambitious), Man Who Wasn't There (technically good but had no soul), and Ladykillers (misguided and crass) but let's not award them for the first thing they do that's good. But that's assuming that this is a good film. If it has a plot, the film doesn't really care much about it. Or characters. It basically offers three things: 1) an innovative choice for the villain's weapon 2) a couple very good actiing performances (Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem) and 3) cool scenery.
Departed (2006)-I wrote about Departed so much in other entries that just click on departed down below for a couple interesting posts on Departed and the Indiscriminate Nature of the Gun and how I think as a genre film, Departed might be in danger of not having a long shelf life because it's such a straight genre film. Departed, though, was my third favorite picture of the year (behind Little Miss Sunshine on Flags of Our Fathers)
2003-2005-Haven’t seen any of these three best picture winners but I have seen 10 of the 12 other best picture nominees from these three years. I’m not ashamed of it either. A picture has to appeal to me to get me to see it. I rarely see a picture that I don’t want to see unless I like it. I gave up on Lord of the Rings after Part I.
Chicago (2002)-Chicago won because it successfully revived a lost genre that was very integral in the history of film. Some might argue that Moulan Rouge did that the year before, but Moulan Rouge was more like a musical on crack. It was a lot of glitz and glamour, songs burst out of characters with little motive, and the average shot length was a disorienting 1.5 seconds in the musical numbers. To me, Chicago was much more in the spirit of the film musical and worked a lot better.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)-2001 was a very week year and A Beautiful Mind was deservedly the best of them. I felt that despite being at the center of the film’s marketing campaign (as in the love scenes were featured in the trailers) the romantic subplot between Connelly and Crowe was pretty weak, but other than that it was a film I liked. It dealt with issues of how to deal and cope with life after success. Most of the movie wasn’t about a man’s rise to greatness. He accomplished the greatness early in the film, and he had to deal with rediscovering himself.
Gladiator (2000)-Gladiator had everything that I like to see in a best picture or a best picture for that matter: an epic feel, a grand ambition, big production values, a marquis star, pathos, and theme that’s relevant to the present. Gladiator’s theme was about perceptions of power and how power through the masses is dependent only on what those who are in power chose to filter to the masses. The emperor and Aerelius derived their power through a mandate from the masses and that was dependent on what the people saw in the arena. You could have somewhat easily drawn parallels between the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and the Colliseum with Bill Clinton, Kenneth Star, and CNN. Traffic might have been a more innovative picture and when that happens it really hurts the legacy of the best picture and inspires hatred never before seen by movie buffs (see Forrest Gump, English Patient, Dances with Wolves, Shakespeare in Love).
American Beauty (1999)-I lost my objectivity as a film critic when I saw this. I wasn’t a film critic back then, of course, but just the same. The film was just depressing beyond belief and affected me to the point where I really couldn’t make a judgement on it. It captured the uniformity and despair of suburban life to such a realistic extent it was scary and gave me less hope in finding meaning of my own suburban existence. Some might think that’s silly to become so affected by just a movie, but if I didn’t get so much into movies in the first place, than I wouldn’t want to be a film critic. Ironic.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)-Like Gladiator, my film professor told me it had a very poetic theme: that love can exist on stage and be created through art. It’s a self-reflexive postmodern romantic comedy so it can be seen as the evolution of the post-modern comedy. It’s a good film, but in terms of grandeur, I felt it lacked the greatness of a best picture oscar winner.
Titanic (1997)-While something like L.A. Confidential was hailed by film critics as the better picture in retrospect, Titanic was just a massive unstoppable phenomenon at the time, and I like it today in retrospect. It broke every box office record conceivable and was just something like “The Ultimate Movie.” At the same time, it wasn’t really included on many “best of the century” lists in the next couple years and a lot of mega blockbusters have come along since then with equally big production values. The closest big budget blockbuster in recent years to have a chance of getting the attention of the Oscars as a picture (not just a technical awards extravaganza) was King Kong and it only won the technical awards, and wasn’t even considered for anything like story, actor, director, or picture. The times are now different than when Titanic was around: You can be a big budget high money grosser or an oscar winner, but not both.
Forrest Gump (1994)-Forrest Gump is a sentimental favorite that plays on emotion and nostalgia rather than innovative reworkings of genre material. A critic who thinks with his head will favor Pulp Fiction 9 times out of 10 over Forrest Gump. The problem with Forrest Gump is it’s not a film people want to see twice which is why its shelf life withers in comparison to Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction, but we have to put ourselves back into 1994 when Forrest Gump was both the must-see movie of the year for the movie going public and an enormous critical hit. I’ve written about this in other posts and have even published an article on this.
Schindler’s List (1993)-“The Color Purple” aside, Schindler’s List was Spielberg’s coming out party as a serious filmmaker. The truth though is that among the academic community and art house types, Spielberg is considered the #1 person to blame for the supposed decline in the state of film because it can be argued that his enormous commercial success (mainly Jaws & Indiana Jones) had the accidental effect of restructuring Hollywood towards relying more on one big blockbuster to carry studios’ loads and leading to this sequelitis-infected blockbuster-oriented era we’re currently living in. Schindler’s List was Hollywood’s way of saying, “You know, you really are a good filmmaker after all.” The art house community still hasn’t caved in despite the fact that Spielberg made the two most revered films of the 90s in Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, but oh well.
Unforgiven (1992)-This could arguably be considered the only Western ever to win a best picture Oscar. Most sources will tell you that three Westerns throughout film history have won best picture awards: 1930’s Cimarron, and 1990’s Dances with Wolves (which I’ve seen about 2/3 of) are frontier stories but aren’t really true Westerns in my opinion. This is a shame, considering The Searchers and High Noon are the two best Westerns ever made, and there are a small handful of Westerns that might be considered better than Eastwood’s film, but it’s a very small number. Eastwood’s picture stands out as a great personal statement from a former actor reflecting on the genre that made a name out of him. It’s a very intelligent and concise film on many levels.
Silence of the Lambs (1991)-This film is the reason I didn’t follow the Oscars in any capacity whatsoever until approximately 1999. During the 1992 Oscar ceremony, I was 8, and my mom said I was not adult enough to watch the Oscars but I did and the short clips of Silence of the Lambs the ceremony showed were enough to scare the hell out of me. From there, I concluded that the Oscars were about terrifying and disturbing movies that I was too young for. Nevertheless, this movie still scares the hell out of me and is a film I find disturbing on a base emotional level, but I suppose that’s a testament to the power of the film, I suppose. I have more of a Frank Capra attitude on films and prefer their power to uplift people, rather than scare the shit out of them with disturbing images of guys who want to eat and torture each other, but, yeah, I suppose there’s a wide range of films out there, even the films on the darker end of the spectrum and it’s better than a film like Sin City that’s dark and nihilistic just because it’s cool. I would just find it odd that in the glamorous eternally optimistic Tinseltown, people would vote for a film about a disturbed cannibal of all things. If Silence of the Lambs won an Oscar, what’s next? Resident Evil?
*Dances with Wolves (1990)-I’ve seen about 2/3 of the film, so I’m not the true expert, but it looks like a film that’s like a serious evening at an upscale theater where you pay upwards of $100 a seat: a rich cinematic experience provided you’ve got the patience to stay with it. It’s essentially an epic. If you watch it on TV, you’d probably call it boring because you’re not getting the full experience. For his part, Kevin Costner, knew it was a risky project, but he said he liked the epic and I applaud him for that. Of course, people will always compare it to Goodfellas and it will suffer for that, but now that Scorsesee has his Oscar, can’t we put it all behind us?
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)-This film certainly doesn’t feel like a best picture winner and raises the question of whether there’s a certain requirement of a picture to deserve the honor of best picture. History has shown that there’s an incredibly wide range of pictures to get the honor and no real formula. Still, I tend to think that all the best pictures have a boldness in vision which includes a certain thematic gravity. I feel like Driving Miss Daisy brushes on ageism and interracial themes but at too much of a distance to feel like a profound statement has been made. I am pretty sure that in this decade’s Oscar-oriented November and December templates, Driving Miss Daisy would never have stood a chance at a nomination. It would be considered a pleasant character-driven film that would get some good reviews but would get drowned out by more ambitious films. Matchstick Men, Interpreter, The Weatherman, and Secondhand Lions are films that come to mind in this category. This is made all the more odd when we consider how great of a year 1989 was with Crimes and Misdemeanors, Henry V, Dead Poets’ Society, and Do the Right Thing.
Rain Man (1988)-I think this film also lacks a little bit of the ambition I spoke of with Driving Miss Daisy but the acting is so impeccable here that it puts the film on a different level. Dustin Hoffman gives the performance of a lifetime and Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman have such convincing chemistry. Another thing to consider is that Barry Levinson was on a role at the time with hits like Diner and Good Morning Vietnam, and in a decade increasingly oriented toward testosterone-laced blockbusters, Levinson’s films brought a deeper exploration to the masculine hero.
*Platoon (1986)*-I’ve only seen parts of this film. We watched it during a couple periods of my 11th English class in the last week of the school year. It felt like a very gritty war film that put the viewer into his point of view.
Out of Africa (1985)-A good epic film that features one of Robert Redford’s great performances. Sidney Pollack is only the 2nd best director named Sidney from the last 30 years, and it’s a shame that the great Sidney Lumet never won an Oscar.
Chariots of Fire (1981)-I’ve reviewed this film before, but essentially I felt it was a film that didn’t get the credit it deserved. My theory: Too often we expect a sports film to feature characters set against each other, and the fates of the two protagonists, who were rivals to some extent, do not end up in a climactic moment where they must compete over the same medal. I felt the film was a great character study and the stylized tone made for a great period piece.
Annie Hall (1977)-Woody Allen never made a truly great film in my opinion. He made a number of very good films. Annie Hall isn’t my favorite film of his: I appreciated some of the innovative gimmicks he uses to tell his story, but I found the storyline annoyingly disjointed.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)-I’ve seen the film two or three times, and this time, I'm just going to nitpick: Somehow the ending doesn’t seem right to me. I mean, do we really think that Chief is self-conscious enough to know what he’s doing? Remember: everyone but Randall McMurphy was, in fact, retarded. In a symbolic sense, there’s a lot to be read into this story with themes of oppression of independent-minded people, but in practicality, does the story really make sense? What makes the evil Nurse Ratched tick? In real life, why would she care about lobotomizing Murphy?
French Connection (1971)-Well, if anyone’s going to accuse the academy of being high brow, don‘t forget they gave an Oscar to the movie with the most kickass car chase ever. It’s a neat movie and I once attended a Q & A with William Friedkin about the film, so having heard his opinions on what he was trying to do I now respect the film that much more. Nowadays however, stories about cops are a dime a dozen from Shoot ‘em Up to We Own the Night to Narc to The Recruit to Training Day to whatever, but Friedkin’s film stands out for being a product of its era, at the very least.
In the Heat of the Night (1967)-The film competed against counter-culture pictures such as Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate, which might have made In the Heat of the Night the less hip choice. I think, however, that this film marginally deserves to be considered one of the greats. Of the four Sidney Poitier films I've seen, it has his most meaningful performance. I don't say "best" because he's pretty much the same in everything but more that it's a great use of Sidney Poitier (Not to knock Poitier's acting, but I don't see him an actor giving a performance as a civil rights pioneer carrying the weight of African-American actors on his back and making choices designed to give blacks dignity on screen. That's at least at least how he's been framed historically). The film has a palpable sense of danger, two strongly defined characters, two great performances, and a chemistry between the two leads that is definitely something.
Sound of Music (1965)-Julie Andrews + Adorable Children + Sweeping vistas + Music + Backstory involving Nazis and WWII = Oscar. What else can you say?
My Fair Lady (1964)-With Born Yesterday, Bringing Up Baby and Philadelphia Story going unrecognized, I think My Fair Lady was a career achievement award for George Cuckor than it was recognition for an innovative film. The film has some great musical numbers and great performances by Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison but does fall a little short of the bar expected of an Oscar-winning musical. I also wonder if it is fair to judge My Fair Lady on the fact that the songs, one of the film’s main strengths, weren’t originally written for the film, anyway.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)*-An epic among epics. Peter O'Toole imbues Lawrence of Arabia with traits of an uneasy man who's been pinned for a loser his whole life but who's also taking the biggest risks of his life. It's a performance where you're just trying to think "What's making this guy's head tick." Let me just say, holy crap, is this a long movie. Watching it was like a marathon that I dropped out of at mile 21.
West Side Story (1961)-This is a film for the ages as far as I’m concerned and as the kind of musical innovative enough to break the mold of its genre to be deserving of a best picture (unlike My Fair Lady). For someone who isn’t in to musicals, I’m sure that they can appreciate the quality of the dance sequences even if it’s not their thing.
Apartment (1960)-According to Cameron Crowe’s book “Conversations with Billy Wilder,” When Billy Wilder accepted his Oscar, the guy handing it to him said “you know, you’ll probably never top this one” and he was probably right. The Apartment is not only an absolutely amazing film and personal favorite that I could go on for hours about, but it’s one of the few comedies to ever win best picture and that’s hard to do. I’ve also never seen a comedy that so effortlessly provided social commentary and satire. I'm not really someone who is strongly aware of mise-en-scene (the way the scene is framed in th camera) when I'm watching a movie, but this is one of the first instances where the art of it jumped out at me. Particularly, the way the cubicles in the Office call to mind a modern-day equivalent of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)-Like Apartment and West Side Story, I’m not judging them on the level of Oscars but films among the best ever made and this transcends the question "did it deserve an Oscar." For me, the question is can you possibly shower it with enough Oscars and praise? It is my second favorite war film (we’ll get to the first in a couple minutes) and easily one of my 20 favorite films of all time, approximately. The protagonists are so interesting, with Alec Guiness forming such an interesting contrast to William Holden and such startling similarities with Sessuye Hayakawa, (Guiness and Hayakawa give two amazing performances too). The score and scenery is top notch, the ending is one of the most shocking I've ever witnessed.
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)- I can't help but acknowledge the sentiments that the selection of this picture almost single-handedly strips the "best picture" club of its integrity, but I think in examining why this film was so unfit to join the ranks of Oscar-winning films, then we get somewhere in terms of establishing what we expect from the Best picture winner. Perhaps, the lack of a theme? The lack of importance? Was it too enjoyable? Too little dramatic tension? The cameos cheapen the experience? In any case, it's certainly an enjoyable film of considerable scale if you don't think too hard about what the award means. I think of it as a spectacle of places and people and there's the certain extravagance to it that classic film buffs might look back to the olden pictures for with nostalgia.
From Here to Eternity (1953)-My favorite war film. Some might dismiss too loose of a narrative with two stories that have little to do with each other, but I think it paints interesting portraits of five unique characters and it's a very captivating epic. Montgomery Clift's character in particular makes such a strong impression. What would prompt a man to that level of stubborness, that he won't box or play the trumpet unless he does it his way? I often think when I watch it, that that trait is parallels the entire military structure.
Greatest Show on Earth (1952) - Greatest Show on Earth is grouped in with Around the World in 80 Days as one of those films that should never be uttered in the same sentence with the other winners but I found it a very good story and I think there's a lot more to be remembered from the film than the train crash scene. It is somewhat of an ensemble piece and I'm not sure if the way that, say, James Stewart isn't really relevant to the story but takes up screentime in a pleasantly time-consuming way is what makes the film feel irrelevant.
American in Paris (1951) - American in Paris was pretty much MGM and the Arthur Freed Unit at the top of their game. Gerswhin's score, Minelli's escapist sensibilities, and Gene Kelly's charm are the perfect combination, and Levant and Caron are good additions as well, although the guy who replaced Maurice LeChavilier as the French man was really quite a pushover. The problem which couldn't have been anticipated back in 1951 was that in 1952, an even greater film came out, "Singing in the Rain," which is now remembered as the highwater mark of the MGM Musical era, but again they didn't have a time machine, so let's not fault them. Also, worth noting: 1951 was one of the most competitive years in film history with three other films from AFI's top 100 (A Place in the Sun, Streetcar Named Desire and African Queen) coming out that year, so American in Paris gets a bad rap for that.
All About Eve (1950) - A cynical and twisted picture that's so marvelously done. These days, to explore the dark side of human nature, filmmakers need to incorporate murder or some other crime into a plot. I love how All About Eve is so dark yet no one is really doing anything "wrong" in a sense. Anne Baxter stands out as the conniving Eve who's loved by everyone except for the one person who's career she is destroying. Ironic that this came out in the same year as Sunset Boulevard which is the only other dark satire of Hollywood that comes close to this one.
Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947) - I've seen this film twice and each time it hits me in a very funny way. I like the thematic content but the actual storyline becomes dull somewhere along the way. Gregory Peck might have given one of the best performances in cinematic history in To Kill a Mockingbird but he's a little dry and unconvincing here. When he talks about how someone's trying to pick a fight "with his girl," like he's John Trovolta in Grease, it just makes me cringe. It's a film with too much exposition and talking away as well. It's certainly curious how Elia Kazan never came under fire in the way Stanley Kramer did for having films that were overly preachy.
How Green was my Valley (1941)-Yes, it beat Citizen Kane, but it's actually one of John Ford's best films and shows the master at his best. Orson Welles revered John Ford and watched Stagecoach 30 or 40 times in preperation for making Citizen Kane, so I imagine if his masterpiece was going to lose out at the Oscars, he wouldn't have wanted it to lose to anyone but John Ford.
Rebecca (1940)-Hitchkock did stick entirely to one genre which was a self-created one, but in within his work he takes his Hitchkockian qualities and makes textbook examples of other genres with a Hitchkockian spin: Strangers on a Train is a perfect example of noir, Psycho is the precursor to all those horror movies that flood our theaters, and the lavish Oscar-winning book adaptation is Rebecca. In other words, I think that while other Hitchkock pictures might have been better, Rebecca might have been the film with the most grandeur to it. It also helps that Joan Fontaine and Lawrence Olivier turn in two of the best performances of Hitchkock protagonists I’ve seen and Mrs. Danvers is quite a villain. I’d probably rank Rebecca as one of my top five or six Hitchkock films.
Gone with the Wind (1939)-Gone with the Wind WAS the biggest picture ever. It outranks Titanic in terms of intake when you adjust for inflation and THEN you have to realize how little a ticket cost back in the day as well. It might be argued that until Gone with the Wind, movies weren't that big of a deal. All the things from Gone with the Wind, the music, the color, the scope and scale of the images on screen, the performances, and most importantly the impact of the story and dialogue took audiences to a level they'd never seen before. That doesn't mean it's the one must-see film we all should be dying to see in present day because it's so awesome, but it still gets plenty of commendation which is important because nothing really can compare to Gone with the Wind in terms of public impact. I notice that lists generated by users, like the 2 online top 100 polls polling internet critics and regular movie fans as well as the imdb top 250, it doesn't rank particularly high.
The Life of Emile Zola (1936) - A fairly run-of-the-mill 30's film. I wouldn't call it anything particularly special. I'd say it's interesting if you're interested about learning about the person of Emile Zola. Good crib notes for a history essay.
It Happened One Night (1934) - Like Gone with the Wind, it's impact on the general public can't be underestimated. This film single-handedly made Columbia Pictures and Frank Capra's career. The film was the pinnacle of screwball comedies: Through a romance of two different classes, it gave hope to audeinces struggling during the Depression but the movie didn't just connect to audiences back then, I think more than Gone with the Wind, even, It Happened One Night is timeless. It's handling of the battle-of-the-sexes theme still reads well today and it's a great deal of fun. Truly, an underrated film.
Grand Hotel (1933)-See "Grand Hotel" tags. I absolutely adore this movie.